Johnny Depp & ‘Transcendence’ Flop: What’s The Problem?
Transcendence, from Christopher Nolan cinematographer and protege Wally Pfister, starring Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman, crashed and burned at the box office last weekend. The film, made for a reported $100m, grossed just $10.8m over its early release period. The first time director took on a complex project with a big budget and a (supposedly) bankable lead and set the thing on fire. Critics at RT give it a not so sterling 19% rating. The flop joins other recent big budget failures such as Pompeii in what is becoming an increasingly fickle marketplace. So, what happened here?
First time director was unproven. Bit off more than he could chew. This ia a likely scenario. Directors who have yet to helm a big project could often be served better by starting small and then growing, rather than jumping right into the fray. This isn’t an irreversible rule, but one to consider for sure.
Johnny Depp is not the lead he is made out to be. To me, this stands to reason as accurate. The guy is a weird, frail sort, who has now seen underperformers/box office failures in The Lone Ranger, The Tourist and just about every film over the last decade not name Pirates of the Caribbean. It takes a specific actor to pull off certain roles and Depp looks to have over-extended his “still considerable” reach.
The movie couldn’t find its target audience. This is obviously true to some extent based on the results. Every trailer I saw failed to inspire me to see it, let alone have any idea WTF was going on/what to expect if I were to see it. This can work if its a smaller film, but not so much on a big one. Compare it to Pompeii and its strangely the opposite, a film that you know exactly what you are going to get, which also failed to inspire.
I’ve long been a proponent of Hollywood scaling back budgets in honor of putting out more films in the sub-$30m range. This could increase films in the marketplace but also decrease their exposure. In their eyes, it would also decrease their profits which is why they refuse to listen. The beat marches on. For Alcon Entertainment’s part, they are at least taking it as they should (h/t Deadline):
“Alcon takes responsibility for its successes and failures, and Warner Bros worked hard on the distribution and marketing,” Kosove said. “It is a big, big disappointment to us, a horrible outcome, but we learn and move on.”
We will continue to see this budget battle play out over the next several years in an increasingly complex and dynamic marketplace.