Which of This Year's Bombs Didn't Deserve to Flop So Hard?
2015 is being heralded as the Year of the Flop, because—as Dustin points out—it’s the year when audiences decided it was time to stop seeing shitty movies. That’s not true across the board, of course—Minions, Fifty Shades of Grey, and (your mileage may vary) Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron made bank—but there were a lot of movies that connected the dots to assumed box office success and still ended up in the red. Because they sucked. No combination of star power, name recognition, and “people like zombies and tits, right?” could save the likes of Fantastic Four, Jupiter Ascending, Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse, Aloha, Rock the Kasbah, Tomorrowland… the list goes on.
The downside of there being so many flops this year, though, is that some movies flopped that didn’t deserve to. They’re not all great movies, but even the worst among them aren’t that bad, and they don’t deserve to be lumped in with Terminator: Genisys.
Magic Mike XXL
Wall-to-wall unapologetic, joyous fanservice in the form of hot men and extremely positive depictions of feminine desire. This movie made almost exactly $100 million less than Fifty Shades of Grey did, domestically. America, why don’t you love yourself?
Universal marketing team, why did you hate your own movie? Guillermo del Toro just cannot catch a God damned break. I genuinely think that if he did a blockbuster movie that had positive critical reception and made a ton of money, he wouldn’t know what to do, like a dog that manages to catch its own tail.
I fully acknowledge that I’m in the minority here, but I fucking loved Chappie. After District 9 (excellent) and Elysium (horrible, and stop that Jodie Foster!), people expected Neill Blomkamp to deliver socially conscious sci-fi, and instead he gave us a movie where a robot watches He-Man and throws ninja stars, Hugh Jackman is a brojock with a ducktail mullet, and even the good guys are complete and utter shitheads. It’s weird, like an R-rated Saturday morning cartoon fever dream on crack. Between this and The Last Airbender, I’m starting to feel bad for Dev Patel.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Why did The Man from U.N.C.L.E. fail? Well, people don’t give a shit about “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” anymore, for a start. Warner Bros. went all Taylor Kitsch on Armie Hammer, trying to gaslight audiences into thinking that he’s a big enough star to open a movie when really, he isn’t. And when he’s out of the spandex undies, Henry Cavill hasn’t proven himself as a box office draw, either. And yes, Guy Ritchie giving us flashbacks to things that happened 90 seconds earlier was the most baffling movie decision since Mila Kunis didn’t know how Maxipads work in Jupiter Ascending. (Hint: If you’re going to use one for first aid purposes, maybe don’t put the sticky side specifically designed to to be waterproof against the wound). But dammit, U.N.C.L.E. was fun. I genuinely think if Warner’s had released it in March instead of at the tail end of an already spy-heavy summer, people would have shown up. It’s not perfect, but if we can’t appreciate the inherent value of watching attractive, charismatic people being attractive and charismatic for two hours, haven’t the terrorists already won?
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Did you know the guys behind the Wallace and Gromit movies and Chicken Run came out with a feature film this year? You’d be forgiven for not knowing, because it debuted in theatres stateside in August and, despite very favorable reviews, sunk like a stone. Shaun the Sheep Movie, which is based on an Aardman Animation TV show that’s very popular in the U.K., is much more “kiddie” than Wallace and Gromit or your average Pixar film. But, God dammit, Shaun the Sheep is cute and sweet, and the way it eschews dialogue to basically create a modern-day silent film is really cool. And yet it earned less than $20 million domestically. One possible explanation: By the time it came out here it had already been out in the U.K. for six months, so high-quality pirated versions were available to those who knew where to look.
I think Burnt was fucked over by its release date (like The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and its marketing (like Crimson Peak). Both those things positioned Burnt as some big Oscar push for Bradley Cooper—“Ohhh, super srs edgy chef! Such drama!” Burnt isn’t that. It never meant to be that. It’s fun and enjoyable and, if it’s packed with way too many storytelling cliches to approach the realm of Great Cinema, it’s still an eminently watchable movie. Not the highest praise, but fuck, it’s no Jem and the Holograms. Daniel Brühl is in it. What more do you want from me?
Unlike most of the other films on this list, critics loved Steve Jobs. It boasts an A-list cast (headlined by Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet), plus an Oscar-winning writer and director. It had a great few weeks in limited release. And then it opened wide and… crickets. Director Danny Boyle thinks it was because the film expanded nationwide too early. Another theory is that Steve Jobs was too niche to start with: Only Apple fanatics care enough about Jobs to watch a movie about him, and they’re not too keen on a depiction of their hero that’s, shall we say, more than a bit asshole-ish. Whatever the reason for Steve Jobs’ financial failure, and regardless of the Eau de Sorkin (I know, I know, but the man can write banter), it’s a good movie, and the fact that it’s only earned a smidge more than the Ashton Kutcher movie did after an equivalent amount of time in theatres is bullshit. The Ashton Kutcher movie, people.
Johnny Depp: Moustache Fiend get a bad rap, but really it—HAHAHAHAHAHAHA no. Can’t finish.
With a $17.9 million domestic gross against an estimated production budget of under a mil, you can’t exactly call this a flop. But Dope wasn’t able to translate its festival buzz into mainstream success in the way that, say, Little Miss Sunshine or Precious were in years past. In fact, none the Sundance films that got a large amount of critical attention in 2015—Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Tangerine, Diary of a Teenage Girl, and Slow West among them—really broke out of their indie niche. That’s a real shame for Dope, which has a high, fun, crowd-pleasing energy and really deserved to be seen by more people.