Every so often in Hollywood people like to steal other people’s
ideas. Ok, so that’s a little bit of an understatement…it happens all the time.
But truth be told, it’s not about the idea, it’s all about the execution. When competing
Snow White films were announced, both “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White & The
Huntsman” jockeyed for position, aligned their fortunes, and neither backed
Usually, in pre-production, one of the projects tapers off,
but because of the billion dollar success that was Tim Burton’s “Alice in
Wonderland” every studio in town wanted a fairy tale ending, and neither
Relativity nor Universal—once upon a time bedmates—shied away from the
competition to become the fairest of them all.
Often when similar films go head-to-head there is a winner
and a loser. Just ask Sony Classic’s “Capote” and Warner’s Sandra Bullock flop,
“Infamous.” Both Truman Capote projects were released about a year apart and
while “Capote” flew off with $23 million, “Infamous” was a dud left behind in
the mud grossing just $1 million.
In headlines today, we’re seeing simultaneous productions for
Steve Jobs bio-pics. And while the Ashton Kutcher starrer looks like it will
hit theatres first, Sony has hired a big gun Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing,” “The
Social Network”) to pen a much broader version. Guess who will win that battle?
Two films can succeed though. Back in 1998 Hollywood launched
two epic asteroid disaster movies—released less than two months apart—and both ended
up finishing in the Top 10 for the year. “Armageddon” was the big winner with
$201 million even though it was released after “Deep Impact,” but that film was
no slouch, grossing $140 million.
And way back in 1989 there were actually three different
underwater monster (or alien) movies, with “Deepstar Six,” released in January,
“Leviathan” in March, and “The Abyss” in August. Each one actually made more than
the previous release.
We know how the story ended for “Mirror Mirror,” as Tarsem’s
comical fantasy has earned $62 million domestically and nearly $100 million
overseas—more than justifying its $85 million budget. But now comes Universal’s
turn—boasting an A-list cast with Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, and
Charlize Theron as well as a ballooning budget of $170 million—spinning the Snow
White story in a very lavish manner, and squarely aiming for the underserved
female demographic. The studio had better hope “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games”
audiences come-a-courting as this is a huge and ambitious gamble.
With great risk comes great reward. Yeah, well tell that to
the crew of “Battleship.” Universal has already had one misfire this summer,
and can’t afford another big budget blunder. The collective blockbuster pieces
of the puzzle are certainly there for “Snow White and the Huntsman,” especially
the bewitching costumes and sets and superb performances by Theron and
Hemsworth, but despite that the macabre PG-13 film comes off as a cliff notes
version of how to make a mystical big-budget popcorn movie—complete with the
overly cliché scene where the forces of good band together, hike up a pristine
mountainside, and listen to an ethereal jam inspired and/or produced by Enya. Yup,
that happens. You can almost see the studio notes on screen. Don’t blame first-time
director Rupert Sanders; I’m sure he had his hands bound.
Still, there are enough visual effects, monsters, and mayhem
to sustain throughout, and one cannot argue that it truly captures the dark
essence of The Brothers Grimm’s original tale. And while “Snow White” doesn’t
quite reach the majestic heights “Alice in Wonderland” did, when Burton so
brilliantly wove whimsical fantasy with the perfect dose of dreary delight, “Snow
White” is entertaining. However, modern day fairy tale will forever be compared
to Burton’s—that’s just how Hollywood rates films—and unfortunately “Snow White”
doesn’t quite deliver the fantasy the trailers promised. As Tim Burton’s
one-time muse Winona Rider once said: “Reality bites.”
Biting may be what Kristen Stewart does best, however, if “Snow White”
doesn’t live up to expectations, it may fall on the shoulders of the wispy waif.
With the sun about to set on the “Twilight” franchise, Stewart needs to show
Hollywood she is more than just a one-hit wonder. “Snow White” isn’t the movie
that does that, in fact her performance is more Bella Black than Snow White, and
just another nail in the coffin for her detractors. In all reality
though, thanks to the massive success of “Twilight” she never has to work again
if she chooses. Fandom has paved the way for her to be the William Shatner of
her generation…picking up a check from convention to convention and manning a
kissing booth when she needs extra scratch. And just think of the humanitarian
wonders she could do hosting blood drives across the country?!?
“Snow White & the
Huntsman” invades 3,772 theatres and will likely dominate the box office
landscape with an estimated $48 million, anything less and it will join the
growing list of films that have underperformed this summer outside of the
show-stopping cannonball run of “The Avengers.” Universal’s fortune will no
doubt be made overseas anyway, where it will likely be a much bigger hit. So, is
this the next “Alice in Wonderland?” The next “Twilight?” Nope. Those films
debuted with $116 million and $69 million, respectively.
In the mood for a historical war drama that isn’t “Hatfields
& McCoys?” Didn’t think so. In moderate wide release, Arc Entertainment
will go after that very market with Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria starring in
the R-rated “For Greater Glory.” What? You never heard of this? It’s opening in
757 theatres. If it does upwards of $1 million it will be fortunate.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that Weinstein is casting out its
sequel, “Piranha 3DD,” in just 75 theatres. With a theatre count like that…hook,
line and sinker…here’s a film that’s going belly up. Funny enough, the same
critics who hailed the original as a “fresh” take on horror-comedy and gratuitous
nudity, are calling this one exploitation and “rotten” to the core—currently at
just 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. The original was a whopping 74% fresh if you can believe
it!?! Hey, anyone know if Jerry O’Connell’s detachable worm makes a cameo? Too
bad you won’t be able to see this at a drive-in theatre where it belongs…I
suspect all 86 theatres are showing it in 3D.
1. Snow White & the Huntsman - $48M
2. MIB 3 - $28M
3. The Avengers - $22M
4. Battleship - $6M
5. The Dictator - $6M
(May 31, 2012) - Comments (20)