"John Carter" (Disney) - $282 million/Battleship (Universal) - $302 million
Poor Taylor Kitsch. No one faults you for taking two big sexy blockbuster paychecks. But it’s a bad year when they both have to fight an avalanche of bad buzz and end up being the victim of preposterous hubris from their ill-equipped filmmakers. “John Carter” was the ambitious live-action debut of Pixar surehand Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo”) and its early-year bellyflop was due to one of the worst self-sabotaging ad campaigns in blockbuster history, partially aided by an in-house opposition to any projects shepherded by former Disney chairman Rich Ross. As the underwhelming grosses piled up, the rumored post-reshoot $300 million production budget loomed that much larger
“Battleship” proved to be the afterbirth of the shotgun wedding between Universal and Hasbro, a partnership that dissolved when the studio willingly paid kill fees to extract themselves from the pressures of making $100 million-budgeted toy commercials. That decision wasn’t made until the studio saw the dailies on “Battleship,” a schizophrenic sci-fi blockbuster that not only ha d no relationship to the game, but seemed to be simultaneously advertised as a badass naval adventure, an alien invasion picture, and “Transformers.” At a cost of $200 million, they likely needed to make twice as much to break even.
"Cloud Atlas" (Warner Bros.) – $65 million
It can’t possibly be true that Warner Bros. knew they were taking a bath on the release of “Cloud Atlas,” a wildly-ambitious sci-fi parable from the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer (though technically the studio took almost no risk, as they only distributed the picture and didn't fund it). But somewhere along the line, this went from genre-defying blockbuster, to potential awards contender, to October dump. Somewhat logically, no one at the studio knew how to market a film containing so many storylines, characters, timelines and terrible haircuts, and it showed. Budgeted somewhere between $120-$150 million, “Cloud Atlas” carried several financiers, and it’s likely none of them saw a decent return.
"Total Recall" (Sony) - $198 million
Despite the original film being only a modest R-rated hit in the early nineties, Sony went ahead and remade the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic as a PG-13 actioner with a ridiculous $200 million budget. Apparently they had close to no recall as to how Colin Farrell fares as a leading man – even after his career-revitalizing Golden Globe win for “In Bruges,” the respected veteran simply added this faceless action adventure to a stack of flops that includes “Alexander,” “Miami Vice” and last summer’s instantly-forgotten “Fright Night” remake.
Teaming a superstar cast of comedians made tons of sense for Fox with what was then called “Neighborhood Watch.” Then the production allowed this group of funnymen to lazily improv as if this was the third most important film production of the year for them (which it likely was), as director Akiva Schaffer failed to find a movie in the editing room. This showed especially during a hard-to-place ad campaign that obscured the science fiction element of the film. Naturally, it only added insult to injury when the controversial George Zimmerman story forced Fox to alter their campaign for the worse, resulting in a film ignored both here and aboard.
Here Comes The Boom/That’s My Boy (Sony) – $59 million/$57 million
Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison banner finally showed some rust with this one-two punch of apathy. “Boom” played throughout November as a decent fourth option for desperate families, but it couldn’t quite overcome a dismal opening weekend and the audience’s general aversion to MMA-themed films. It was a better situation than 'Boy,' a rancid piece of filth that lines up Sandler to win a host of Razzies. There was more kindness shown overseas, but his latest in a long career of braindead time-wasters was borderline toxic to stateside fans. Both “Boom” star Kevin James and Sandler will reunite next year for Sony’s “Grown-Ups 2” so there’s a chance filmgoers will be able to wipe them both off our screens in one fell swoop. Don’t let us down, audiences.