Why do we love to know what movies flopped? What is about knowing that many millions were spent, and many millions were not made back that give us such a visceral thrill? I only say this because when it comes to lists I really love to write, the thought of pontificating about why a film did or didn’t connect is irresistible.
As I said, I honestly don’t think the films on this list were designed to fail at the box office. Who knows, maybe some of these films will have second lives in the multi-platformed world of home entertainment. They could attain cult status and, perhaps, years from now produce other films that go on to erase the losses they wrought. Chances are slim for this but you never know, right?
With names like Shane Black, Peter Jackson, Robert Zemeckis, and Ron Howard feeling the sting of being on this list, that just further underscores how fickle American box office tastes can be. All the of the films on this list were thought to be potential box office hits. The kind of films that will spawn sequels, toys, books, and everything else in our 360 juggernaut world. This says nothing of the cachet these directors bring simply by being the helmers of some of cinema’s landmark films.
So, this list of 10 box office flops or misfires of 2018 isn’t meant to insult or demean. Rather, it is a study in behavior for the movies of 2018 . It looks at why some films connect and others do not. It strives to figure out what it was at the story level that ultimately made moviegoers spend their hard earned money elsewhere.
There was a time when Peter Jackson’s involvement with anything virtually assured box returns. Truthfully, his performance outside the world of Middle Earth is a bit spotty. The biggest example of that is the recent release of Mortal Engines. Okay, Jackson only wrote this film but it was based on a popular book and it still only has grossed around $15 million in the United States. The good news is that worldwide it is nearing $70 million. On a budget of $100 million, something tells us that the bean counters thought they were going to be getting more bang for their buck. Maybe in a time when viewers are very jittery about the future of civilization, a story about post-apocalyptic cities and conspiracies just wasn’t what they wanted for the holidays? Mortal Engines just might be the true definition of a misfire.
Welcome to Marwen is one of those movies that seemed to have everything going for it and then everything against it all once. It was based on a true story, it had a solid cast, and having a director (Robert Zemeckis) who is a legend, certainly couldn’t hurt things. Then people saw the film and the reviews were pretty brutal. This erstwhile tale of recovery certainly has ita heart in the right place. There is no dispute about that. It’s just that the execution seems odd and thus the film feels that way. On a budget of $40 million it’s made less than $8, however, maybe Welcome to Marwen was ahead of it’s time? Both a flop and a misfire, perhaps this is a movie to be appreciated when the world is in a different headspace.
The bar for the box office must be in an insane place when Solo: A Star Wars Story grosses $400 million and is considered either a flop or a misfire. This tale of how Han Solo became Han Solo was supposed to be massive. Instead, it was a $250 million problem child. Solo: A Star Wars Story is by no means a bad film. It just doesn’t feel like anybody’s film. The original directors were let go and even the brilliant Ron Howard couldn’t save it. Maybe the fault here isn’t even with Solo: A Star Wars Story? Disney may be pushing out too many Star Wars films? Couple that with all The Avengers movies they have to release and there’s going to be winners and losers. Unfortunately, nobody thought a movie about Han Solo would be one of them.
As a general rule, trailers that have copious shots of characters closing their eyes in acceptance and/or understanding generally aren’t good movies. Life Itself not only had that but it teased shots of people screaming, and other slow motion images in an attempt to give this piece gravitas. Reviewers, a notoriously fickle bunch, rewarded this effort with 14% on the Tomatometer. Worldwide Life Itself has amassed a paltry $6 million. At the time of this writing I can’t even find the budget on this film. So… more of a misfire than it was a flop, Life Itself presented itself as a movie about life but ultimately it wasn’t a life anybody really wanted to see on the big screen.
On a budget of $100 million this new retelling of the classic Robin Hood story has brought in $30 million so far in the US. It’s taken in $42 million overseas so it’s approaching break even territory as far its budget is concerned. However, when this movie was pitched to the executives (and when it attached a superstar like Jamie Foxx), “break even territory” was certainly not the goal. Chances are they could’ve really made some money if Foxx had been Robin Hood! That’s an idea, right? Maybe change things up to better reflect the audience that you hope is going to help you recoup your investment. Once all ancillary markets are factored in, Robin Hood will most like be seen as a misfire and not the missed opportunity that it was.
Gotti isn’t such a bad movie as it seems like a great actor, John Travolta, spending the entire Gotti movie doing a John Gotti impersonation. I have heard that the budget for this movie was $10 million. Thus far, at least in the United States, it has grossed less than $5 million. Most people know this story of the “Teflon Don” and how he led a life of crime on the East Coast that was unparalleled. The real story here is Gotti‘s relationship with his son and how he ultimately didn’t follow in his dad’s footsteps. The big issue is that Gotti seems like it only got made because it had John Travolta starring. Without that, Gotti becomes a made for TV movie. In fact, this whole tale may be better served as a Netflix series…
I refuse to think of The Predator as a flop. It did gross $160 million worldwide while the original Predator didn’t even do $100 million. However, it came close to that number and considering the films are decades apart that is certainly saying something. And there’s the little fact that Predator is much better than The Predator. It also doesn’t help that The Predator cost $208 million and the original cost $15 million. Again we can examine why The Predator didn’t connect with people in the way that studios had hoped. The reality is that the original film is a better movie. Period. The Predator had Shane Black at the helm but it also had to go up against it’s own history. I will say that with the exception of Predator 2, the misfire that is The Predator is worlds better than the other films in its canon.
A Wrinkle in Time certainly had its heart in the right place. However, when you have Oprah, Reese and Mindy in a film you expect that on a budget of $103 million, the film is going to make a bit more than $132 million. This sci-fi tale of young girl trying to unravel the mysteries behind her father’s disappearance really aspired to be an important movie. Maybe that worked against it? Perhaps audiences didn’t want to see a film that was going to call out how they were living? Some movies wear their hearts on their sleeves, A Wrinkle In Time attempted to be all heart but unfortunately ended up misfiring in the process.
Truthfully, Tomb Raider is really only a misfire in the US. It was made for $94 million and it only made $58 million here. This tale of Lara Croft battling all manner of baddies as she searches for her missing father just didn’t connect with us fickle Americans. Maybe people can only see Angelina Jolie in that role? Maybe people in the US just saw this as 1990s storytelling in a 2018 age? Whatever the reasons, Tomb Raider has done quite well for itself overseas. To date it is has made over $275 million which means that we haven’t seen the last of Lara Croft.
In this day and age where the US has for all intents and purposes become Jackass nation, why did Action Point bomb? This tale about one of the most dangerous water parks to ever be in existence (it’s actually based on a real water park called Action Park), is again the kind of movie that seemed to have everything in its favor. Johnny Knoxville starring in a movie about stunts seems like a slam dunk. Perhaps it was at $1-2 million. At $19 million the budget seems a bit excessive and that is why the $5 million that it did make seems so paltry. This movie is a flop but not the kind of flop that is going to put anybody out of work. We hope.