Filmmakers’ Responses To Their Bombed Comedies
There are many reasons why movies either bomb at the Box Office or get annihilated by critics (and by critics, we mean both the certified kind and also folks who enjoy filling up social feeds with their ‘Thoughts & Feels’). Word of mouth is a powerful thing — not to mention how people will take anything some website called FilmFarts.com says as the undeniable and absolute truth. It is, unfortunately, just the way of the world.
For filmmakers, it sure sucks when their movies get destroyed once unleashed into the wild, and saving face becomes quite the challenge when everyone decides to take a giant dump on the thing you poured your blood and sweat into. Worst still is when critics who deem your movie to be lesser than trash so clearly missed the point of it all. For example …
Paul Verhoeven Slammed Americans For Not Understanding His Ironic Take On Starship Troopers
Whether you like it or not (back then and now), Verhoeven’s adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 sci-fi novel was, without a doubt, a movie. The Dutch filmmaker — who claimed to have been chased out of his own country for making “superficial and commercial” movies that showed “bad things and all that stuff” — touched down in the land of the brave during the mid-'80s to team up with Hollywood and bestow onto us classics like RoboCop, Total Recall and, of course, the movie where everyone wanted Denise Richards’ character to die.
Boy, did folks not like this movie back in 1997. There are many reasons as to why Starship Troopers bombed at the Box Office upon its release (a lack of A-listers being one of them), but a big part of it had to do with the original work itself. Heinlein’s novel reads like a manifesto for pro-fascism, and goes on about the importance of military service and being a good and proper citizen — it is, in fact, listed on the Marine Corps’ official enlisted reading recommendation — and it’s a book that even Verhoeven struggled to read. “I stopped after two chapters because it was so boring,” Verhoeven told Empire during an interview in 2014. “It is really quite a bad book. I asked Ed Neumeier to tell me the story because I just couldn't read the thing. It's a very right-wing book. And with the movie we tried, and I think at least partially succeeded, in commenting on that at the same time. It would be ‘eat your cake and have it.’ All the way through, we were fighting with the fascism, the ultra-militarism. All the way through I wanted the audience to be asking, 'Are these people crazy?’”
It seems the only person audiences thought ‘cray’ was Verhoeven himself. The Washington Post wrote about the movie being “spiritually Nazi, psychologically Nazi,” and that they apparently heard the film “secretly whispering, ‘Sieg Heil!’.” Empire themselves felt that the Ayrian-looking cast and the “fetishising of weaponry” hinted at Verhoeven being “slightly closer to out-and-out admiration than he would like to admit.” Some years later, folks were still scratching their heads over the movie that featured single-minded, war-hungry youths fighting them some space bugs.
To call this movie misunderstood is an understatement, and the director shared his frustration over the folks who thought that the man who grew up under Nazi occupation in his homeland turned out a Nazi himself. “We were accused by The Washington Post of being neo-Nazis! It was tremendously disappointing. They couldn't see that all I have done is ironically create a fascist utopia. The English got it, though. I remember coming out of Heathrow and seeing the posters, which were great. They were just stupid lines about war from the movie. I thought, ‘Finally, someone knows how to promote this.’ In America, they promoted it as just another bang-bang-bang movie.”
Verhoeven also explained his rationale behind the infamous co-ed shower scene that had some people throwing hands, too: “It is strange, but of course, Americans get more upset about nudity than ultra-violence. I am constantly amazed about that …. The idea I wanted to express was that these so-called advanced people are without libido. Here they are talking about war and their careers and not looking at each other at all! It’s sublimated because they are fascists.”
Given how the 21st century saw the rise of violent alt-right incels, we’d say this movie was nothing short than ahead of its time.
Paul Feig Wished People Didn’t Think Of His Ghostbusters As A Cause
Much has been said about the 2016 movie based on the ‘80s film franchise that, let’s face it, is more nostalgic than critically great. Unless, of course, you think that every Oscar-nominated film should feature at least one CG-blob called Slimer. Paul Feig’s movie was met with vile contempt even before it was released. The trailer infamously garnered a record dislikes on day one, and from there on out the trolls were salivating at every opportunity to tank the movie in which their beloved band of merry men and also Bill Murray were replaced by women.
It was the movie that ultimately got that Milo Yiannowhat-what guy banned from Twitter after he launched a campaign and ordered his minions to harass and abuse actress Leslie Jones for starring in a movie about ghosts. The fallout of this blockbuster was simply ridiculous, and Feig was disappointed that people saw it only as a rendition featuring female leads for the sake of some cause. In an interview with Vulture, the director said that he wished people didn’t take it so seriously: “I think that hurt us a little bit because we became so much of a cause. A summer audience is like, ‘Well, f**k you. I don’t want to go to a cause. I just want to watch a funny movie.’ It’s a great regret in my life that that movie didn’t do better. I love it and I know it’s not a perfect movie — none of my movies are — but it was only supposed to be there to entertain people. Since then, it’s settled into being a movie. The greatest moment was when we won the Kid’s Choice Award, beating Star Wars and Captain America. It felt like kids were just watching it and not bringing all the baggage.”
And by baggage, he probably means the nostalgia poison that’s led to so many folks falling into the black pit of toxic fandom because they’re both entitled and precious about the things they grew up with. Feig spoke about this during an interview with Wired: “There were two waves: The first was balls-out, straight-up misogyny. And that is a nonstarter for me: You’ve gotta work out your own problems, guys. But there was another wave of people who were nervous about us touching a classic and who were not happy with it being a reboot. I get it. If I wasn’t doing it, I’d very well have the same concerns.”
At least the guy has more empathy and understanding than those who claim they love the Ghostbusters movies, but are apparently incapable of watching women in overalls zap a few Slimers.
Adam McKay Loves The Debate That Followed Don’t Look Up
Let’s turn now to the movie that, even though it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, had critics in the U.S. rolling their eyes, while audiences from all over the world actually enjoyed the Netflix film where Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence yell at people to look the heck up.
Oh, and here’s an image to go with that first paragraph because while the movie made record viewing numbers on Netflix, it totally bombed with critics:
Here, too, are the actual words from the folks who thought Adam McKay’s satire was too mean somehow:
The movie was certainly divisive, with some praising the “sharp satire” and others saying it was dumb or mean or whatever they felt at the time when the pandemic was still in full swing and everyone was depressed because of Christmas. It was, in many ways, the opposite reaction to the satire in Star Troopers because while people felt that Verhoeven’s space bugs movie played too straight, it seemed that Don’t Look Up was too on-the-nose. Which was totally the point, but hey, expectations and preferences will always cloud perspective.
For writer and director Adam McKay, the idea of doing a movie that satirized people’s attitudes toward the threat and impact of climate change came easy: “We (McKay and co-writer David Sirota) were commiserating about the lack of coverage of the climate crisis, and he said, ‘Oh yeah, it’s like an asteroid is going to hit earth and no one cares,’ and I was like, ‘That’s it!'”
McKay isn’t mad that folks were pushing back on the movie that shows the government, the media, and the general public being brazenly blasé about such an obvious threat to life on our planet. “I actually love the controversy; I actually love the debate. I think critics and I think film fans should be challenging this movie, and we should be asking questions about how we tell stories. During the seismic times that we’re living through, these are times like no other. I’m 53 years old, and I’ve never seen times like these, so the passion that I saw and the anger from some viewers of the movie have been incredible.”
Maybe folks were angry because they didn’t get another Step Brothers movie. Maybe it’s because the science community came out to embrace the film. Or maybe it’s because the movie is, perhaps, too close to the truth for some to handle:
For the record, England saw more than 2,800 excess deaths during this summer’s heat waves, and that was just from people older than 65. Also, yes, those were non-COVID-related deaths. But hey, we guess hot weather that also kills people is what some folk prefer.
Billy Eichner Blames Certain People In The US For Bros Bombing At The Box Office
It’s a pity that Bros bombed so hard at the Box Office— it made only $4.8 million on its opening weekend while the studio’s projection was closer to $10 million — because the movie’s pretty funny, what with Eichner’s sharp wit and some truly hilarious moments in this comedy about a neurotic podcaster not looking for a relationship who then, of course, finds himself in one.
Eichner, who co-wrote, produced, and stars in the movie, was extremely frustrated by the low turnout at theaters and got vocal about it on Twitter when he tweeted, “Even with glowing reviews, great Rotten Tomatoes scores, an A CinemaScore etc, straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up for Bros. And that’s disappointing but it is what it is.” His vexation would also be better understood if people read the tweet thread (that’s since been deleted but exists in the archives) because prior to this statement, he said: “What’s also true is that at one point a theater chain called Universal and said they were pulling the trailer because of the gay content. (Uni convinced them not to). America, f**k yeah, etc etc.”
Naturally, his tweets weren’t well-received — hence why he deleted them — because there are quite a few reasons why the movie didn’t do well on the big screen. As Variety pointed out, the movie, unfortunately, didn't share the same star power quality as Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train or Viola Davis’ The Women King, and Universal’s marketing seemed to focus more on the importance of the movie than the comedy draw. It’s also a fact that rom-coms just don’t fare too well when they're released in October.
Eichner’s opinion, however, did at least get people talking about whether folks should get their butts to the movies if they want to keep seeing more inclusive stories. That, or if comedies should just stick to streaming services instead — a thought studios have shared since two heavyweight stars, Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron failed to get people to buy tickets for their 2015 criminally underrated rom-com, Long Shot.
Thumbnail: TriStar Pictures, Columbia Pictures