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Do We Even Need One Steve Jobs Movie?

It’s a reasonable question because how many hours can you really spend on a guy screaming to his subordinates about getting the exact right shade of the color white? But there’s two Steve Jobs biopics coming up, because you can never have too many movies about a famous guy who just died. According to Aaron Sorkin, who is more qualified to pick up awards than he is to write scripts about anything involving technology, that’s okay because there’s room for multiple Steve Jobs movies.

“Steve Jobs is a big enough person, big enough life that there’s room for more than one movie.”

Maybe it can even be a trilogy. Or a miniseries. Maybe we can build a Steve Jobs museum on the moon.

According to Sorkin, Steve Jobs is just like the Beatles or something. But give the man his age. Back then everything important was compared to the Beatles. When JFK was assassinated, when man landed on the moon and when that stupid movie about Facebook got a bunch of awards, it was all just exactly like the Beatles.

You know who else couldn’t be kept down in one movie? Bob Dylan, who had to be played by Richard Gere, Cate Blanchett, a little black kid, also Heath Ledger and Christian Bale. As an eternal reminder of why this is a bad idea, here’s the trailer for “I’m Not There.”

The only difference between this and whatever Sorkin and his rivals will churn out to commemorate Steve Jobs is that at least “I’m Not There” is almost self-aware enough to know how ridiculous it is. That’s a level of self-awareness that Sorkin could not even begin to aspire to.

Pull back from all the hoopla over Jobs death and ask yourself whether Jobs would be getting a fraction of this attention if he had done everything he did in our universe until 1997, when Apple’s troubles allowed him to waltz back and the music industry and Microsoft’s incompetence allowed him to build a hardware business on an easy way to buy songs and some flashy interfaces? No, no and no.

Jobs pre-1997 would have been kindly remembered as a “pioneer” accompanied by Mac photos, the way Wozniak will be one day. Steve Jobs post-1997 is remembered for being successful. Not for being a genius.

An honest movie would pick up in 1997. It would focus less on his genius and more on the way that the incompetence of established industries creates openings for insurgents to revolutionize industries by exploiting opportunities. But instead we’ll get an actor delivering rapid fire dialogue while screaming about product demos and refusing to return calls from his family.

Does anyone actually need that?

Fletch Keeps Bouncing

With the Weinsteins moving around, the attempt to get back to Fletch movies has been taking a very long time, especially since back in the day when Kevin Smith was supposed to be involved in them (Kiss of Death! Kiss of Death) back when the Weinsteins wanted Kevin Smith involved in everything and Kevin Smith thought he should be involved in everything, up to and including Superman. Back then Chevy Chase still thought he should be in Fletch. Probably they should have just put him in there since no movie has yet to be made. Call it the curse of the Chevy.

So far they’ve tried their usual cast of loveable TV losers. The most horrifying prospect had Zach Braff up in the role, an idea right up there with viral dementia. It would be like casting Martin Lawrence to play Sherlock Holmes especially since Zach Braff, unlike Martin Lawrence, can’t do either funny or cool, just pathetic nerdy, which is enough to get him the blonds but not enough to actually make anyone want to watch him.

Jason Lee had been talked about for a while and would be a great choice. Ryan Reynolds would be a middling one Joshua Jackson isn’t old enough or doesn’t look old enough to pull it off. Five years from now he might be good but let’s hope Fletch isn’t still bouncing around unmade. And now we’ve got John Krasinski in the mix.

It’s inevitable that the stars of a popular TV show are going to take their shot at movie roles but the problem with John Krasinski is he isn’t a star. His personality works great within the confines of The Office but try and move him off that halogen lit reservation and the whole scheme falls apart, as License to Wed makes clear. And really, Jason Lee is a big enough star these days with My Name is Earl. And unlike Krasinski, Jason Lee is the real thing. He can do actual comedy and perform. Krasinski is basically Jerry Seinfeld. He can make sardonic reaction shots work but he can’t branch out into real performances.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Anyone who has a deep emotional connection to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise and is upset that Michael Bay is raping their childhood needs to move on. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began life as a parody and with continuing cartoon series on TV it can survive whatever Bay in his role as producer does to it. Probably.

Unlike John Carter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a reliable movie and TV brand. There have been TV shows and movies based on that title going back over twenty years. That makes it a compelling brand and raises the question of why anyone would buy a brand and then trash the name recognition for it.

The last turtles movie decided to jettison the title for the cooler and more compact TMNT. Its performance was decent enough, considering the budget, but not the kind of money Bay is hoping to pull from this. The title change, which depended heavily on image recognition probably didn’t help it perform.

What does changing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Ninja Turtles gain? It weakens the name recognition and doesn’t add anything. Ninja Turtles isn’t going to be taken any more seriously. If you’re going to make a movie about ninja turtles, whether they’re aliens or mutants, you might as well stick with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Michael Bay loves alien invasions like candy, but it’s just common sense that the version of the story that has been tested for over twenty years is the one that works. There’s no point in changing it, because there’s nothing to be gained from the change. You don’t make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into a movie because you want to make a serious story about alien invasions. Goofiness is the whole point of it. Take that away and there is no point.

But the Hollywood model now is to just snap up and develop every available IP into a movie. And then figure out what the movie should be. That’s how we got Battleship the movie. But it’s still a stupid approach to take with a viable active IP like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which isn’t just a board game sitting there waiting to be optioned.

Does it rape anyone’s childhood? Kids care very little about most of the movies being made today and adults too attached to the things they liked as kids need to move on. The Star Wars experience that many of them had isn’t going to be repeated for kids today and that’s the real crime. John Carter had a shot at doing that. Whatever crap George Lucas, J.J. Abrams and Michael Bay pump out won’t.

The Tragedy of John Carter

It’s easy to say that there’s something wrong when Avatar loads up with ridiculous amounts of money while John Carter seems doomed. A big giant Mars sized chunk of that can be put down to Disney’s dysfunction, but even its Clash of the Titans style ads for John Carter shouldn’t have sabotaged it that badly.

The name obviously does it no favors. It’s hard to say what John Carter stands for in most people’s minds, but it’s not this. And it hasn’t exactly been a good year for splashy adaptations of classic stories. Spielberg’s Tintin couldn’t even reach 80 million in the United States, but that also offers some hope. American classics are often better known abroad than in the United States. Burroughs has more of an audience in South America and Europe than he does in his homeland.

If the foreign arms of studios handle John Carter correctly, the movie can make more than enough money abroad. Just as Pirates 4 and Tintin did.

One more thing in John Carter’s favor is the lack of any real competition. In a weekend where the top competitor is the Lorax, where a trunk relic like A Thousand Words is being dug up, and Act of Valor is stumbling around as a mercy movie that’s the closest thing to being in the same category, John Carter may have a shot. Or not. I overheard Jersey Shore types chomping at the bit to see A Thousand Words, I doubt any of them had similar feelings for John Carter.

So what went wrong? The name. The confusing trailers. The ‘what the hell is going on here’ effect. Instead of hyping the special effects, presenting a somewhat coherent story in the trailer and keeping some of the goofier shots out, the marketing was botched badly. Which is a shame.

Success and Failure at the Box Office

As we all know Mission Impossible 4 or MI Ghost Protocol or MIGP was a huge hit. Sherlock Holmes 2 or SHGOS was a bomb. Fast forward a bit and MI4 has just barely cleared 200 million dollars domestic and Sherlock Holmes 2 made 20 million less than it. Since Holmes 2 or SH2GOS had a 20 million dollar budget, the performance is close enough to say that both movies performed sub par, with MI4 or MI4GP getting the worst of it since it had the bigger star and the bigger splashdown. But the US take doesn’t really matter anymore. Over 60 percent of the revenues for both movies came from the foreign box office. 287 mil for Holmes, 369 mil for MI. Internationally MI4 is the decisive winner, but Holmes pulled in enough that it was worth it.

That brings us to Underworld Awakening, the fourth unwanted movie in a series which only took off because its commercials featured a woman shooting her way through a floor in the first movie, that managed to score 50 million and another 40 million overseas, making this crap that Americans like better than people outside the country. It also means Len Wiseman is still in the game. Who besides us wanted to see a fourth movie of this? The Russians where Underworld picked up a quarter of its foreign take.

Red Tails, Lucas’ vanity project, has slipped badly, but when was the last time an aircraft movie, especially a retro one did well? Can anyone remember Flyboys? Or Stealth? Or Wing Commander? I’m not too sure it’s been done since Top Gun. That’s too bad because I wouldn’t mind an American version of Les Chevaliers du ciel, but even Lucas’ own Star Wars prequels took it light on the fighter action.

Isn’t the Foreign Box Office Great?

It used to be that Americans were held responsible for watching bad movies. But it’s not even Americans anymore. You would think that a bad movie that deservedly bombs locally would just disappear. But no.

Puss in Boots seemed like a dud, but internationally it’s on track to cross 200 million and it’s tops in a bunch of markets. The character was always aimed at international audiences anyway. Which means a sequel is likely.

Real Steel, you know that dumb bastardization of one of the darker stories, into something that reminds you of Stallone’s Over the Top, did poorly at home, but overseas it’s approaching 200 million. That’s right. 200 million. Americans might have hated it, but South Koreans loved it. It scored 23 million in a country which has around twice that many people. It was almost as popular in Hong Kong. Does that mean there’s going to be a Real Steel 2? Probably not. But it means the people who made it don’t look as dumb as they should.

In Time bombed here. It’s a 100 million dollar movie internationally.

The Dork Knight Rises

There’s a word for this and it’s stupid. I don’t mean the movie itself, which like Dark Knight will probably be interesting in its own way, but Nolan’s Batman. With the third and final movie it’s clear that Nolan overthought the whole Batman thing by quite a bit turning the movies into urban sociology and philosophy. There is no Batman in Nolan’s Batman movies. Not really.

Will The Dark Knight Rises even be a good movie? It’s anyone’s guess. The inaudible Bane adds on to Nolan’s inability to direct action scenes, having to take Anne Hathaway seriously as Catwoman and a whole bunch of other problems. Nolan got a boost in Dark Knight from having the Joker as a character, it’s hard to go wrong there. This time around there isn’t much in the way of a villain personality which is going to put the focus where it shouldn’t be. On Gotham.

The Devil Outside

Give bad horror movies their due, they are the true indies. You can make them cheaply and if you get lucky they can score a fortune. The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and now The Devil Inside. Sure marketing can be credited, but there wasn’t that much of it. It might be truer to say that there’s a public appetite for horror, bad horror movies at that, which pops up at times. And what they want isn’t another movie featuring CW starlets. That’s where movies like The Devil Inside come out of nowhere to deliver. Watch 5 minutes of SyFy, any 5 minutes and you can see how cheaply and how badly a “scares in the attic” movie can be made. And cheap and bad movies are the baseline indie.

The Things That Should Go Away

So The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo performed poorly. Big surprise. Bestsellers don’t often translate into big box office. Once people paid 20 something or 7 something dollars for the book, they’re much less likely to go see the movie. The DaVinci Code was an exception, but it was practically a cult in its time.

I never read the books. I don’t care about them. The synopsis reads like the writer was writing up a glamorized version of himself in a more exciting version of his real job along with a bisexual girl. Throw in David Fincher, the most overrated director of all time and you have a perfect score.

Fincher is the other thing that should go away. Despite being a music video director, he was also a good director, even if his visuals relied too much on gimmicks. Seven and Fight Club were sold entries. And then came a string of random movies shot in that same filtered tone and looking like music videos. But they were forgivable too. What’s wrong is that everyone keeps treating anything he releases as a major event, no matter how mediocre it is.

Panic Room. Zodiac. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button deserved some attention, but The Social Network was the most grossly overhyped piece of crap that had no reason for existing in years. Then we come to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a bunch of overhyped books leading to an overhyped movie by an overhyped director that not many people actually wanted to see.

Who could have seen that coming?

The Redemption of Tom Cruise?

The official word is that Tom Cruise has saved Christmas for Hollywood. That’s even sorta true, but only because MI4 was the only movie launched that didn’t hopelessly underperform the way a bunch of other movies did. But MI4 isn’t much of a hit, its opening box office was at or below MI3 levels. And MI3 was already below earlier installments and MI4 made a chunk of its money from IMAX and its inflated ticket prices.

If MI4 ends up making more money than MI3 it will only be because there’s no serious competition and that makes it the default choice for people who want to sell out some money and sit in front of a flickering screen without having to talk too much for 90 minutes. But it won’t be because MI4 is a good movie or because Cruise has regained his appeal.

Paramount’s scheduling bet for MI4 paid off when the other studios tanked. If there’s no recovery then MI4 will probably make more money than MI3, which opened in May. Does that testify to a resurrection of Cruise’s appeal? He probably kept his appeal overseas, but Americans didn’t go to see MI4 for Cruise, they went for the same reason that they went to see the earlier MI movies or the Transformer movies. Because a lot of stuff explodes on screen.

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