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Bloodbath: Which Films Risk Being The Blockbuster Casualties Of 2012?

by Oliver Lyttelton
February 2, 2012 4:09 PM
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"G.I Joe: Retaliation"
Who's In It And What's It About? Sequel to the 2009 toy-based actioner, with Channing Tatum the lone major returning cast member (although the trailer suggests not for long...), this time he's joined by Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis and a host of newcomers. "Step-Up 3D" director Jon M. Chu helms.
What's The Risk Factor? When J.J. Abrams wasn't ready to roll on "Star Trek 2" in time to make a summer 2012 release, it caused Paramount to have something of a tentpole gap, and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" got a promotion from its slated August slot. But here's the thing: it's a film that seems to exist only to fill that release date. The first did ok, but not brilliantly: $300 million worldwide on a $175 million budget. And do you know anyone who really liked it? Who was really, truly amped to see a sequel? Paramount have smartly added star power this time out with Dwayne Johnson, but his action fare, outside "Fast Five" has tended to underperform, and Bruce Willis isn't exactly a home-run every time at bat either. In a competitive summer, this could well be the one that falls between the cracks.
What's It Cost? Stephen Sommers went over budget on the first one, so Chu's hiring is likely in the hope of it being fast and cheap, although Johnson and Willis likely didn't come without hefty paychecks. Let's call it somewhere between $100-125 million, but don't be surprised if it's more.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Paramount likely figured that the film would end up with around the same gross as the original, hence the lowered budget, to amp up profitability, but the brand is already established on screen so chances are unless it's a major stinker, the numbers are going to climb. If it does end up exceeding the original significantly, Johnson will officially have inherited Arnie's mantle as an action star.
When? June 29th

"The Great Gatsby"
Who's In It And What's It About? Baz Luhrmann adapts F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, in 3D, no less, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher.
What's The Risk Factor? It's Oscar bait, for sure, but Warners were certainly thinking of the bottom line when they greenlit this one. However even with a starry cast, it's an expensive prospect. And that cast isn't bulletproof -- DiCaprio is the only real draw, but his Oscar-type projects tend to bottom out at around $35 million, like last year's "J. Edgar." The literary source material and the spectacle sure to come with a Luhrmann production should help things over that barrier, but don't forget that Luhrmann's last awards-baiting film, "Australia," didn't do much business, domestically at least; if the reviews aren't there, people won't go for the sake of it. December is very crowded (with "Django Unchained" opening on the very same day), and could the 3D element hurt more than it helps? There's no proof that audiences could be drawn to a three-dimensional film that's not action/fantasy led, and 3D receipts are dropping as it is.
What's It Cost? Reportedly around $125 million, which is an awful lot for a drama, even if it is a period one.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Despite everything we've said, we think the high-school favorite text paired with DiCaprio and Luhrmann will prove a big draw, and it should easily top "Australia"'s $200 million worldwide total, so long as the reviews are enthusiastic (not necessarily a given, with the source material being so well known, everyone has already made this movie in their heads). But given the cost, plus P&A and awards campaigning, we can still see this struggling to make a profit.
When? Christmas Day

"John Carter"
Who's In It And What's It About? Edgar Rice Burrough's classic pulp hero finally reaches screens, embodied by Taylor Kitsch, while Willem Dafoe, Lynn Collins, Mark Strong, Thomas Haden Church, Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton are also among the cast. Pixar grad Andrew Stanton ("Wall-E") makes his live-action debut.
What's The Risk Factor? Well, boy, at this point, what isn't? A tough sell to begin with (a relatively little known property, lots of weird looking aliens), it's been plagued both by production issues (THR had a story a week or so ago that the film had major reshoots, in part thanks to Stanton's live-action inexperience, and the budget has soared) and a truly botched Disney marketing campaign that suggested that the studio had little confidence in the project. On top of that, it's led by Taylor Kitsch, who between this, "Battleship" and "Savages," will either be the biggest star in the world by the end of the year, or the male Gretchen Mol. All that being said, the film's reportedly testing well, and let's not forget, many thought "Avatar" would flop a month ahead of release (although that film obviously had more novelty value when it came to its performance capture and 3D elements). Disney kicks the marketing campaign up again with the Super Bowl this weekend so let's see how it catches on across the next few weeks.
What's It Cost? Initially planned at $200 million, the reshoots are said to have pushed it closer to $300 million, which allegedly means the film needs to clear $700 million worldwide to guarantee a sequel.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? It's possible that this could be a "Mars Needs Moms"-level disaster, but we suspect the film has a few things on its side, principally being the first blockbuster in a marketplace that's been starved of such fare since Christmas, even if "The Hunger Games" and "Wrath of the Titans" could hurt its tail. But also don't forget the long-term success of "Tron: Legacy," which was hugely expensive, opened soft, but topped out at $400 million worldwide. It's possible that could serve as the model for "John Carter," but it's also not a semi-established franchise as "Tron" was, even if the sequel was super belated. It if catches on, it could reach "Tron: Legacy"-like numbers, but if it tanks completely, it could make a quarter of that.
When? March 9th

"Life Of Pi"
Who's In It And What's It About? An adaptation of Yann Martel's bestseller, which attracted the attention of directors like Jean-Pierre Jeunet and M. Night Shyamalan over the years, this sees the return of Ang Lee for a fable about a shipwrecked boy on a raft with a tiger. A cameoing Tobey Maguire is the biggest name in the cast.
What's The Risk Factor? Arguably the biggest dice-roll in a December full of expensive, risky fare, Ang Lee's 3D film might be full of CGI creatures, but it's closer to something like "Cast Away" in tone than to, say, "We Bought A Zoo." Lee is rarely a box office home-run, and the film's not exactly swimming in A-listers. We're intrigued to see how Fox sells the film, as it's far from the cutesy fare of "Marley & Me" or "War Horse" -- this is dark, scary, grown-up stuff, possibly too much so for pre-teens, and Lee is unlikely to have watered it down. Plus, with "The Hobbit" opening the week before, and "Les Miserables," "World War Z" and "The Great Gatsby" either side, it's got tough competition. Ultimately, this is one film that will really need awards love to make its money back.
What's It Cost?  Fox initially pulled the plug fearing that $70 million was too much. But still, it's probably around $60 million.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? The $400 million haul of, say, "Slumdog Millionaire" feels like a long way off without ecstatic reviews, but the book is beloved, and it could find itself striking a chord. The relatively low cost means it likely won't lose money, but it probably won't make a huge profit either unless it becomes a global surprise hit.
When? December 21st

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  • Damien | February 9, 2012 1:05 AMReply

    What does it matter whether The Help only took $35 million internationally? It still reigned in just over $200 million with a budget of $25 million. That's huge dollars.

  • padre | February 6, 2012 10:17 AMReply

    8. Love Will Smith. Like Sonnenfeld. Love the Men In Black movies. However, I'm strangely not feeling this sequel. The franchise just feels empty and "done" now. Maybe I'll get hyped for it later? Don't know. The whole thing feels off kilter. Smith seems like he is running scared back to this franchise, when there is no reason to be. He had a couple of flicks that mildly underperformed and he seems to have freaked out. There was no huge backlash against him, nor did any film of his truly bomb. But nevertheless, Smith seemed to be unnerved and avoided doing another movie for 4 years and then came back fleeing to a tired franchise. It makes no sense. 9. Even though she was cruelly snubbed this awards season, superstar and goddess Charlize Theron is set to have a VERY good year with the one-two punch of Prometheus and Snow White.

  • padre | February 6, 2012 9:46 AMReply

    4. Why is Judge Dredd even being made? Karl Urban deserves so much better than this. Hollywood has squandered his potential as the next Go To action star. 5. Gangster Squad looks tired and tiresome. And also in desperate need of a tailor since all the suits are hanging off the actors like potato sacks. Young Hercules is the real deal, potential superstar in waiting, but only if he quits clinging to this marginal indie stuff and embraces some mainstream, crowd pleasing movies. 6. GI Joe 2 looks more entertaining than it has any right to be and Channing Tatum seems to die early on. Bonus! 7. Are you trying to tell me that someone spent more than $125 million on The Great Gatsby?! LIES. That doesn't even make any sense. It's a dusty old book that puts all its readers to sleep, that is if anybody still bothers to read it anymore. There is nothing in that story that should cost more to film than Leo's lunch money.

  • padre | February 6, 2012 9:21 AMReply

    2. Nobody asked for a Spider-Man reboot. However, given that the beloved former franchise was pulling in near a billion dollars, they could show a blank screen, title it "Spider-Man" and still garner half a billion easy. 3. By the end of summer, Taylor Kitsch will either be the biggest superstar in the world or a pariah suffering a backlash the size of which not seen since the public rebelled against Jude Law being shoved down their throat in everything. (Note: I like Jude Law). Law's career never really recovered, nor similarly has Colin Farrell's.

  • Padre | February 6, 2012 8:58 AMReply

    Going to have to break this into parts, since 10 pages of text was stuffed into this article. Firstly: 47 RONIN is my MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIE OF THE YEAR!!! Your weak slights against SUPERSTAR Keanu Reeves leave you in ill favor with me and out of touch with current culture of worldwide Keanu lovefest. Even now he is in China conquering hearts and minds, plastered all over their local press and forging the One Ring: "All shall love me and despair!" If 47 Ronin, my most anticipated movie of the year, is anything less than thrilling and superlative, I shall be DEVASTATED! The entire year shall have been rendered null and meaningless! There would be no purpose or point to this year of cinema if 47 Ronin fails to live up to my hopes and desires. Don't let me down Carl Rinsch!

  • Olli | February 3, 2012 5:27 AMReply

    Funny that after changing the title from "John Carter of Mars" to "John Carter", they still use the JCM-Logo on every one-sheet and in every trailer.
    To me the JCM-trailers don`t look bad but they look kind of "been there - done that" which isn't the best way to lure me into my local multiplex.
    And for "Battleship" I don't have the slightest bit of hope that movie might be better than any "Transformers" film. Why? Because in the trailers it looks and sounds exactly like Tranformers. Only Peter Berg at the helm may surprise me as he did with "Hancock" and especially with "The kingdom".

  • brou | February 3, 2012 5:21 AMReply

    The new featurette for "John Carter" makes it look much more interesting :

  • Glass | February 3, 2012 3:06 AMReply

    If Transformers taught me anything about blockbusters with a laughable origin (toys/board games), it's that the whole thing is one killer trailer away from being a guaranteed smash. All it takes is one big trailer to give the word-of-mouth a 180°.

  • jimmiescoffee | February 3, 2012 1:52 AMReply

    'john carter' should be renamed 'bad investment from the company that brought you the sorcerer's apprentice, mars needs moms and prince of persia.'

  • Oogle monster | February 3, 2012 2:12 AM


  • Mony | February 2, 2012 10:43 PMReply

    Loved this, some parts were funny to read. Some of the films I agree are taking a huge risk, like John Carter - 300 million budget or more? that's crazy for a movie that looks weird. Mirror Mirror looks like crap, however, if they get the audience they are targeting for, it might do ok.

    Should be interesting to see what happens with these movies you have on the list.

  • Marko | February 2, 2012 10:32 PMReply

    So no possibility of Cloud Atlas bombing?

  • ter | February 2, 2012 6:13 PMReply

    The Great Gatsby will be a disaster critically, that's for sure. And I can't imagine the crowds coming out for a movie about the first world problems of the 1% either.

  • Nolan | February 3, 2012 2:51 PM

    I love the Great Gatsby, and would thoroughly enjoy a new, terrific film version, but the decision to film in 3D really leaves me questioning the integrity of the thing. What part of that book would need to be in 3D? What could possibly be enhanced by 3D? The opulence of Gatsby's mansion? Jordan's bad driving? It's just silly.

  • Oogle monster | February 2, 2012 10:40 PM

    Why are you so sure? When Baz is on point he really delivers... I think he will do a splendid job and prove all you haters wrong. And if all you got from The Great Gatsby is "first world problems of the 1%" then you should befriend Sparknotes or go back to high school- which ever is easier.

  • joshb | February 2, 2012 6:07 PMReply

    did you really just say, "let's not beat around the bush" right after commenting on Rhianna and Mrs. Andy Roddick's boobs?

  • Cde. | February 2, 2012 5:44 PMReply

    The article says that John Carter's budget was pushed by reshoots to a number closer to $300 million than the initial $200 million budget. As I understand it, they went above and beyond $300 million and it's closer to 400. Thus, the $700 million figure to make the studio consider a sequel.

  • Bryan | February 2, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    Jessica Biel's the other lead in Total Recall, not Eva Mendes.

  • Kendrick | February 2, 2012 10:41 PM

    Aren't they the same person? Talentless, boring, semi-hot, robots?

  • YOYOMA | February 2, 2012 5:45 PM

    Interchangeable, Bryan. 'TIS THE POINT.

  • sal | February 2, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    don't see why you have to be so hard on Battleship. Peter Berg always makes movies with dark humor.

  • Kert | February 2, 2012 4:57 PMReply

    "Furthermore, neither Stewart, Hemsworth nor Theron have ever been major draws outside their franchises." What franchises has Theron been a part of? Hancock was sold on Will Smith and Aeon Flux... well... lets not talk about that. Out of the three, Theron is the only A-list movie star who has managed to pull pretty good numbers for Monster and Young Adult, both of which capitalized on her name (she was the lead) and awards season. Young Adult will hit 20 mil soon and has already earned back its budget and hasn't even expanded overseas. I think it's only playing in 2 markets overseas.

  • Russell | February 2, 2012 4:32 PMReply

    Expecting Battleship to do well in the UK - Why? You think so little of us, as a nation of film goers, that we're all going to run off to pay to see that steaming pile - why playlist? WHY?!?

    ok, you're probably right

  • sp | February 2, 2012 4:25 PMReply

    I hope Benjamin Walker will have a huge hit with " Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. "
    He is very talented.

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