11 October 2009 1875 Views

Dan’s High Five: 5 Films That Should Have Been Blockbusters

by Dan Koelsch

Surrogates is now in its third weekend at the box office, and it doesn’t look like it will end up making much more than $50-$60 million domestically. How did this $80 million film fail to gain a following? The better question may be why do so many blockbuster-worthy films tank? Here’s my list of 5 films that tanked but deserved better.


Released: September 25, 2009

Budget: $80 million

Gross (Domestic): $32.6 million (as of 10/10/09)

Plot: Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, a cop (Bruce Willis) is forced to leave his home for the first time in years in order to investigate the murders of others’ surrogates.

Why it should have been a blockbuster: Bruce Willis in bad-ass mode, super-powered robots, and a sci-fi concept rich in possibilities, how could this not have been a blockbuster? The fact it is based off a popular graphic novel series and produced by Disney should have also been enough to turn this big budget film into a success.

Why it failed: The film got poor reviews, mostly for being cliche and not exciting enough. The film’s somber, film-noir-like quality surprised a lot of audiences, especially since it was advertised as an action film. The hard-to-grasp premise also turned off people who just didn’t really know what the film was about. Maybe a summer release could have saved the film, but there’s no way it could compete against the likes of Transformers and Terminators in terms of robotic action (enter Megan Fox acting joke here).

The Island

Released: July 22, 2005

Budget: $126 million

Gross (Domestic): $35.8 million

Plot: A man (Ewan McGregor) goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a “harvested being”, and is being kept along with others in a utopian facility until their originals need them.

Why it should have been a blockbuster: This summer movie has blockbuster written all over it. Directed by Michael Bay and with a huge budget, you know the studio was banking on this film being big. Another high concept film on the list, the action was big, the jokes were plenty, and the addition of Scarlett Johansson couldn’t have hurt.

Why it failed: Audiences and critics saw this as just another big, dumb, action film. The Logan’s Run feel turned many off, though a lot of the other criticisms are the same that Bay’s other big budget Transformers had, yet they didn’t hurt that film at all. Unsubtle jokes, flat characters, and ridiculous sequences are a trademark of Bay that people had not yet embraced.


Released: September 10, 2004

Budget: $25 million

Gross (Domestic): $32 million

Plot: A young man (Chris Evans) receives an emergency phone call on his cell phone from an older woman (Kim Basinger). The catch? The woman claims to have been kidnapped; and the kidnappers have targeted her husband and child next.

Why it should have been a blockbuster: The film is full of adrenaline and action sequences, and with a pretty good cast (including Jason Statham and William H. Macy), it’s hard to at least be intrigued by the film and it’s unique premise.

Why it failed: Mixed reviews and no big name star in the lead probably doomed this film from the beginning. Statham and Evans were not yet well known, and Basinger and Macy’s star power were definitely not like they once were. The film’s small budget probably prevented a lot of hype, and while the premise is unique, some thought it was weak and silly.

Dark City

Released: February 27, 1998

Budget: $27 million

Gross (Domestic): $14.4 million

Plot: A man struggles with memories of his past, including a wife he cannot remember, in a nightmarish world with no sun and run by beings with telekinetic powers who seek the souls of humans.

Why it should have been a blockbuster: The film had all the right people, with a skilled and star-studded cast, including Jennifer Connelly, Kiefer Sutherland, and William Hurt, coupled with writer David Goyer and director Alex Proyas. A dark action-packed sci-fi film, Dark City was sort of The Dark Knight of 1998, though obviously people were not ready for it. Positive reviews should have helped the film as well, with Roger Ebert calling it the best film of the year.

Why it failed: No one knew what the hell it was about, especially if you only saw the amazing, yet frantic, trailer. That, plus it’s dark tone, R rating, and February release, doomed the film from achieving a wide audience.

The Last Boy Scout

Released: December 13, 1991

Budget: $28 million

Gross (Domestic): $59.5 million.

Plot: A down and out cynical detective (Bruce Willis) teams up with a down and out ex-quarterback (Damon Wayans) to try and solve a murder case involving a pro football team and a politician.

Why it should have been a blockbuster: Once again, Bruce Willis being a bad ass should be enough for any film to do well. The script is witty and sharp, and there’s plenty of action to go around thanks to director Tony Scott. A cameo by Halle Berry and a great score by Michael Kamen make this one of my personal favorite action-comedies ever.

Why it failed: Not exactly a holiday film, December was probably not a smart choice for release. Poor reviews couldn’t have helped at a time of the year when reviews actually matter. Many critics were put off by the barrage of humor and described the film as, yet again on the list, cliche. The film wasn’t a complete failure, but given how good it was, anything short of a Die Hard-like $100 million is pure robbery.

So what do you think of my list? Disagree on my choices? Think I left a film out? Leave a message in the comments below.


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