Well, the opening weekend of Spider-Man 3 is history, and it appears that the blasting out onto 12,000 screens this weekend is great news for box office, but bad news for storytelling.
I am thrilled when Hollywood makes money, but from the sound of it, this marketing approach was based on trying to get all the money they could before reaction to the movie itself set in.
This is one of several techniques producers use when they know their product isn’t up to snuff:
1. A huge opening day blowout on as many screens as possible…
2. The holding back of a movie from reviewers until after the movie premieres…
3. An ad campaign that reports the status of actors in it as either a winner of or nominated for an Academy Award (a wag of a producer once told me that when they roll out a long list of “Starring Academy Award winner ____” it’s akin to saying bring a pillow, it’s naptime.)
Why? Because if the story were good, they wouldn’t need these tricks.
I am a Spider-Man 2 fan. Didn’t like 1 all that much, loved 2. Why? Because 2 is a great story. They only introduced one bit of mumbo-jumbo — the accident that turns Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina- yay!) into Dr. Octopus. And thereafter they concentrated on what it’s about: the conflict Peter Parker wrestles with about whether or not to be a superhero — the essence of what the Superhero genre is all about. But apparently that was not enough for S-M 3. No less than four bits of magic (Quadruple Mumbo Jumbo — for those who have read my book) are employed in the film, including a random meteor that just happens to cross Tobey Maguire’s path and turn him “evil.” What’s missing when we do this is: story. More stories doesn’t mean a better movie.
By coincidence I was teaching a FANTASTIC workshop this weekend with 9 writers who all have great, saleable movie ideas. One problem several of the writers had was the tendency to not stick to their story. What they replaced it with was: more stories. We get insecure that our tale isn’t enough sometimes and we tend to “fix it” by running away from it and building up B, C, D, and E stories, more characters — all with fascinating characteristics — and all off the topic! Tell one story well, I keep insisting. And ironically this weekend, we coined a term for veering from the main line of the story: we called it “spidering.” Look for a discussion of this and other bad habits in the next Save the Cat! book I am tentatively calling Save the Cat! Strikes Back: The Final Word on Overcoming Screenwriter’s Block.
As for me, I am off to see S-M 3 today (I hope to squeeze it in before I go to fabulous Toronto on Wednesday) and will report back on the Mumbo Factor and its effect.
But gee, when they put S-M 4 out there and start advertising that it stars “Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins,” watch out!
- Richie t. najor
I was really surprised to learn that Spidery earned 148 millions last weekend, I don’t think anyone have seen that numbers before. Maybe last time we saw a huge figureÂ was Titanic. I’m pretty curious to hear your thoughts when you have a chance to see it. I plan to see it this weekend. Of course, Story is important with a well done structure like yours.
Be safe when you go on the trip!
Long on plot, sort on theme, and — yes, huge “mumbo factor.” Theme shifting like the sandman, just when you thought you knew what it was about. Love? Revenge? Competition? Audience rustling in their seats by 30 minutes and leaving at 60. $148 MM against $250MM to make it. Maybe it will break even, maybe not. Heard it was bad, didn’t really believe it. Should have left Spidey alone in the cool black suit, and played that out. Tying up all the loose ends of S-M 1 was an interesting idea, but in the end there were too many loose ends. Blake, you always talk about simplifying. “KISS!” Well, S-M 3 is what happens when you don’t.
Pirates of Caribbean, dead man’s chest, earned around the 135mil mark on opening weekend.
- Richie T. Najor
You’re very correct about the figure of Pirates of Caribbean on first weekend. Thanks for correct me.
Let’s find out when the thrid comes out. Is it possible for them open 12,000 screenings?
Let’s hope for a big one. I was disappointed with Dead man’s chest but if the trilogy can finish on the note it stared with Curse of the black pearl, I’ll give it a double yea!
- Mike Rinaldi
I too love Alfred Molina. I’ve been a fan since [i]Chocoloat[/i].
Although [i]Spider-Man 3[/i] wasn’t a great movie (poorly edited and inexcusably bad storytelling) on it’s own, it was still fun to watch. I place it in the “so bad, it’s good” category and it would be even more fun if ever shown on “Mystery Science Theater.”
- Sarah Beach
Save the Cat! Strikes Back?? Heh.
I hope you touch on the fine art of procrastination. That certainly keeps one from moving forward on writing. Heh.
I saw Spider-Man 3 this weekend. I was mildly entertained. But only mildly. Yes, there were too many plotlines. Thematically the Sandman line didn’t match well with the Harry & Venom lines. And poor Mary Jane seems to exist only to be rescued at climaxes. In this film especially, she is a love object. Peter reacts to her presence or absence, but they don’t really seem to interact in ways that have substance. If we have to watch her dangling from something ever again, screaming and waiting to be rescued one more time… Well, it would be lame (it was lame this time).
- Scott Pinzon
Spidey 3 stinks on ice. Know why? Because by Blake’s definition, it is not a Superhero movie. Spiderman is popular because Peter Parker is a normal guy (not invulnerable like Superman, not dark and driven like Batman) who suffers in order to be a superhero. It costs him a lot, and could cost his loved ones, too. By starting S-M 3 with the premise that Spiderman is incredibly popular and successful, you have no Superhero concept at the heart of the story. Pile onto that horrible on-the-nose dialog, overreliance on coincidence, and quadruple mumbo-jumbo, and you know why Sam Raimi owes everyone who saw the movie an apology. Word is that Sony gave him only one year to develop the movie from scratch, and that every aspect was rushed. It shows. Yick.
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I couldn’t agree more! What story did they tell? Although the VFX in SM3 are amazing I found myself looking at expressions on other movie goers’ faces rather than the screen. It didn’t arrest my attention for one bit. I wish the filmmakers decided to stick to the Peter Parker – MJ – Harry dilemma, period!