Thursday, April 29, 2010

Here a gun, there a gun, everywhere a gun gun

I'm glad The Losers was a box-office loser, with under $10 million in domestic grosses on its opening weekend.

Could that mean that audiences are finally wise to the studios marketing hip shoot-em-up movies to them like they were morons?

It seems hard to believe -- audiences are not usually wise to anything, which is why they are so easily manipulated.

But the makers of The Losers tried extra hard to make sure it would appeal to as many people as possible. They assembled a perfectly ethnically diverse cast. They peppered the trailer with pop culture references. They pictured knockout Zoe Saldana shooting as many weapons as possible, often wearing only her underwear.

Yet it did not appeal to many people at all. If you assume the opening weekend is a film's biggest weekend, and the box office takes giant steps downward from there, The Losers will be lucky to clear $25 million.

The thing is, my guess is that The Losers is not bad. It is probably highly watchable. But there's something about what it is, as epitomized by this poster, that makes it pernicious. It's got too much "cleverness." It's got too much "style." It's an action comedy, and therefore doesn't need to have much substance, but it's as though they didn't even consider for a moment giving it substance. It's just a collection of guns, quips, slow-mo, and PG-13 eroticism. The trailer certainly wouldn't be complete without Saldana leaping into that bathtub in her shape-hugging undies, a pistol in each hand.

And how about those guns? Everyone's shooting something in this poster, though that's not altogether surprising. A gun is probably the most commonly occurring prop in movie posters the world over. But the trailer just kicks it up a notch. An SUV and a motorcycle blow up. Two different people shoot bazookas. There's a crossbow. There's a military grade gun that shoots rounds rapidly from a tripod. There are all caliber of other guns, often one in each hand of the person firing them. There's even a guy who picks off several people with a gun he makes from his fingers -- with the help of a sniper sitting in the building across the way.

Maybe The Losers was the point when this kind of advertising stopped thrilling us and started making us yawn. We've seen it all before. And maybe even your average dumb moviegoer finally had that conversation with him/herself: "You know, this is just a commodity they're trying to sell me, nothing more." Forgive my assumption that the average moviegoer even knows what the word "commodity" means.

Now, if I could only poll those same moviegoers to see why Alice in Wonderland has cleared $320 million ...


Mike Lippert said...

"It's just a collection of guns, quips, slow-mo" that it is but it's also got something that action has been missing for a long time which is personality. It's a dumb movie but it's also a fun movie, like Peter Berg's the rundown (to my suprise this one was actually written by Berg). I'm sad that this movie didn't do better because it's a sign that Hollywood is actually smartening up and making action movies fun again instead of emotionaless and artificial. I hope The Expendables does better.

Vancetastic said...

I'd like to see The Rundown -- I'd heard it was good.

You make a good point. Action should be fun. However, I don't think The Expendables will be the movie to do it. Don't you think it's more likely that movie will take itself deathly seriously?

What I resent, and I guess I didn't state it clearly enough, is movies that try to use style to make the characters seem achingly hip and cool. I'm thinking of things like Domino and Smokin' Aces -- you know, movies that are trying to be a Tony Scott-Quentin Tarantino hybrid. (There is actually one such hybrid out there -- True Romance.) I'm worried that The Losers is in that category, but now that you've vouched for it, I may check it out.