We would all know the winners of 2014 by now; the ones who stole the limelight and topped the box-office charts, the ones who made cartloads of money. The failures would however have been forgotten quickly. But the failures provide their own lessons if one is willing to understand them, lessons so important when millions of dollars are at stake.
The studios have definitely learnt some lessons from 2013. Money has been more wisely invested, especially when it came to big-budget flicks. There have been no major disasters such as The Lone Ranger, 47 Ronin or Jack The Giant Slayer (read on the flops of 2013 here). In 2014, movies with budgets of more than $150 million have more or less succeeded at the box-office. I have picked up mainly the high-budget flicks for this article, ones with production budget in excess of $100 million, which have not made substantially more than two times the production budget and would lead to losses to the studios, though not as horrific as seen in 2013. There is one movie with a lower budget but it is still a flop film worth knowing. So here are the five noteworthy flops of 2014.
5) Edge of Tomorrow
Production Budget: $178 million
Box-office collection (worldwide): $369 million
It is a real shame to put Edge of Tomorrow in this list. This latest sci-fi adventure starring Tom Cruise was hailed by the critics and even loved by the audience. It holds a 90% score on Rottentomatoes which is fantastic for a movie which initially felt like yet another Groundhog Day / Source Code story. The movie had plenty of action along with engaging sci-fi elements and a terrific performance by Tom Cruise. So what went wrong? It is always a big gamble when you chalk out a $178 million budget for a film. The marketing and promotions for the film were also completely off; the movie was so much more than time travel and alien attack, the two elements that the promos harped about. Edge of Tomorrow opened in North America on the same day as the latest youth-adult film The Fault In Our Stars which was hitting the right notes with its sentimental and yet cute promos. And finally, Tom Cruise can no longer sell the movie of such a massive budget on his name alone. Just like Johnny Depp could not a year back. So Edge of Tomorrow managed only $100 million at the domestic box-office, but it did much better abroad which has led to a total worldwide collection of $369 million. It is a flop no doubt even with these earnings, but it is in no way a disaster for Warner Bros. thanks to the better showing in the foreign markets.
4) Exodus: Gods and Kings
Production Budget: $140 million
Box-office collection (worldwide): $155 million (still running in theatres)
It might be presumptuous on my part to call this movie a flop already, but I see it difficult for this Ridley Scott movie to achieve even break-even. Ridley Scott’s biblical tale has been mixed in controversy much before its December release, but that has not been its only problem. Despite its lavish sets and visually exciting special effects, the movie has been panned by most critics. Made on such a massive budget, the movie opened to a very feeble $24 million in North America, and dipped by 66% in its second weekend. It might just about manage to earn $65 million at the domestic market which would keep it about $300 million to $350 million short of achieving break-even figures (based on broad thumb-rules). It is difficult to see this movie managing to earn the deficit in the foreign markets despite Christian Bale’s presence. Fox is surely going to lose money with this one, though the extent of it will be known a bit later. Investing so much in a story which is already well known and quite often told in cinema was never a great idea to begin with. The movie’s visuals were praise-worthy though only a week later The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was to release, which would have given many viewers a good enough enough excuse to skip Exodus: Gods and Kings. An excuse which they took!
3) Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Production Budget: $145 million
Box-office collection (worldwide): $273 million
DreamWorks Animation is the one amongst the top Hollywood animation studios facing the maximum brunt of the growing competition in this space. The studio has delivered great hits in the past with the Shrek and Madagascar series and the recent How to Train Your Dragon franchise, but there have been a number of high-budget failures too. Turbo and Rise of the Guardians previously, and now Mr. Peabody & Sherman. The studio is falling behind in terms of the quality of its scripts, which are hardly as adventurous and lively as the Shrek films. It is failing to create new lovable characters, it is failing to create stories that would make you root for the hero. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is not a bad film (79% score on Rottentomatoes) but it isn’t good enough to justify such a big production budget. DreamWorks Animation should either consider managing their production costs or else raise the bar of movie-making, for it has certainly fallen a lot.
2) Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
Production Budget: $70 million
Box-office collection (worldwide): $17 million
Call it the craziest $70 million bet ever taken! Or the stupidest. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is a movie not many would even have heard of. Probably not even when it released which was sometime in May, the beginning of the summer period. The movie has been produced by Summertime Entertainment which has no prior works to showcase. Its (unattractive) website reveals that there are more Oz related films in development; for their sake, I hope they have grown wiser. The movie was distributed by Clarius Entertainment, another debutant, though it is meant to be the entertainment division of Alpine Pictures which itself does not have any great pedigree. Forget the fact that there are a bit too many newcomers here. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return was itself a disaster in terms of its animation quality. You just have to look at the promos to realise that. The animation industry is highly competitive now and also quite mature in terms of its work, leaving little room for shoddy work. Dorothy should have never returned!
Production Budget: $100 million
Box-office collection (worldwide): $103 million
Each one of us would have a great Johnny Depp moment worth remembering and sharing. It is highly unlikely those moments would come from any of his films over the last three years. A slew of bad choices has put a big question mark on Depp’s superstar status now. Transcendence is just one of the many examples of how Johnny Depp is slipping away from a brave and adventurous actor to someone who shows up to work and collects his pay cheque. I may be wrong and he may still have the fire in his belly that gave us all those great movies in the past. But I do not see it in his work anymore. I did not hate Transcendence, for it wasn’t a terrible movie per se. It was however no where close to a Johnny Depp film of yesteryears. People are losing faith in him, there is no question about that, which is further illustrated in the meager $23 million earned in North America by Transcendence. Even the global audience did not warm up to the movie as Warner Bros. had another big failure to its name this year. When will Johnny Depp find his bearings again? He is the one who really needs to seek an answer to that.
Finally, a shout out to some other high-profile disasters of 2014 — Pompeii, I, Frankenstein, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Winter’s Tale and The Legend of Hercules.