While cinema is a valuable artform, the ultimate measure of success is bringing in money at the box office. Considering the large budgets the production team has to work with, the studios expect a return. However, not all movies succeed. Here are 3 of the biggest rejects at the box office and why.
1. Alexander (2004)
Directed by the usually great Oliver Stone and starring Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie, Alexander left many people with high hopes at its premier in 2004, given its parallels with another historical drama that launched around the same time – Troy starring Brad Pitt. However, the film ended up with massive losses approximating to $71 million ($97 million today when adjusted for inflation).
In hindsight, there were a few glaring problems that probably led to the film’s failure.
- Unrealistic Relationships Between Characters
Angelina Jolie, aged 29 at the time of shooting, played the mother of Colin Farrell who was 1 year her junior in real life. Even the staunchest supporters of teenage pregnancy would admit this age gap is anatomically impossible. Many viewers agreed at the time and couldn’t get past that fact
- Historical Inaccuracy
The movie had a vision, but that vision didn’t necessarily follow historical accounts. Just some of the inaccuracies included:
- Age of Persian kings
- Portrayal of Persian army
- Where Alexander got injured
- Too Many Releases
Oliver Stone made 4, count ’em, 4 versions of the movie, starting with the theatrical cut, then the Director’s cut, then the Final cut, then (as if that weren’t final enough yet) the Ultimate cut. By now, anyone with an internet connection would be aware of the herculean effort it took for Zack Snyder to re-release the Justice League. It costs money to create new versions of a movie, and, really, Oliver Stone should have focused on making the first one good.
2. Lolita (1997)
Lolita attempts to recreate Nabovok’s masterpiece novel of the same name. However, the movie’s $62 million budget only generated $1 in worldwide gross, turning it into a tangle of thorns. Unlike Alexander, this one’s a little more complicated. With such great source material, it’s very hard to live up to expectations. Just watch any of the Maze Runner movies to see what I mean.
The pitfalls for Lolita included some of the following;
- Can’t Live Up to Author’s Words
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Seminal works from the linguistic genius that is Nabovok…and the book only gets better from here. Clearly, this movie didn’t have a prayer. What’s more, a large part of the book relies on fantasy and imagination, which doesn’t translate well with the low-fidelity CGI of 1997.
- Inappropriate Content
People were rightfully turned off by the scandalous content of the book – a man who falls madly in love with a girl barely out of grammar school. There’s no escaping the larger social norms particularly in a much more conservative period in time, no matter how artsy your medium is.
- Limited Theatrical Release
Thanks to the controversy surrounding the film, Lolita couldn’t find a distributor. If you only get into a couple of theatres, you can’t really expect to a make a lot of money and are dead on arrival before you even begin.
3. Catwoman (2004)
Unfortunately for the very talented Halle Berry, there weren’t enough latex catsuits in the world to save this movie from bombing. Despite her stunning portrayal of Batman’s famous nemesis, Catwoman lost about $17.9 million at the Box office.
Some of the reasons for this catastrophe (pun intended) include the following;
- Bad Script
In all fairness, the bad script may not have anything to do with the writers. One writer, John Rogers, was actually fired from the film for pointing out how terrible the script was. Unfortunately, there ended up being too many chefs in the kitchen but not enough critique of their work
- Movie Dumped By the Studio
This was a movie that the studio wanted to get made, and they were going to push it through no matter what. It seemed they were hell-bent on making a female-led superhero flick no matter what the reception was like. Perhaps some of this could be blamed on the timing of its release, as audiences in that day and age were still quite slow to get behind female-led action flicks – a problem which thankfully seems to be dissipating today, with blockbusters like Captain Marvel commanding over $1billion at the box office.
- Halle Berry’s Acting
Halle Berry is amazing, spell-binding, captivating, but she is still only mortal and cannot transcend issues in the script or in directing. We must just assume that in the middle of her acting out every seductive walk, every brawl with goons, or interrogation, the director yelled out “that’s great, but can you do that again only this time more cat-like?”
Well, there you have it. Three movies you can watch this weekend if you’ve finished Squid game or just waiting until the new Matrix film releases.
Last modified: May 5, 2022