Movie Forum: Marvel makes mad money
05:00 AM, May 10, 2013
Every Wednesday, the Movie Forum convenes to discuss the latest news from the film world and answer questions submitted by you, the reader.
This week, USA TODAY film critic Claudia Puig and movies reporter Brian Truitt will discussed Iron Man 3’s boffo box office and the questions it raised: Will Robert Downey, Jr. return for another Iron outing? Does he need to? What will it take to loosen Marvel’s grip on the superhero film market? And what does Iron Man 3’s box office numbers mean for the summer’s other superhero flicks?
With master of secrecy J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness soon to be released upon us, we also took a look at the calculated reveal of film secrets & spoilers: When does this marketing technique succeeds & when does it falls flat.
Finally, ahead of the opening weekend of The Great Gatsby, we explored successful, and unsuccessful, book to film adaptations.
We ended with your reader questions about Star Trek Into Darkness, book adaptations, Iron Man 3 and upset stars!
John Elliot: Welcome to the USA TODAY Movie Forum!
…where no one is having as good a week as Robert Downey Jr.!
I’m John Elliot, online producer for USA TODAY Movies and I will serve as your moderator. Joining me today are USA TODAY movie reporter Brian Truitt and film critic Claudia Puig
How this works - Each week we solicit questions, online, from our readers on the latest news from the world of film.
This week? Iron Man 3? More like Box Office Gold Man 3! Also: Secrets & Spoilers & Star Trek AND when book to film adaptations go right (and wrong)
Remember: you can submit questions right here and now and we will tackle them later in the chat.
So let’s get started!
Well it was another Marvel-ous weekend at the box office as Iron Man 3 took in a record breaking $174.1M. Your humble moderator saw the film last night here in NYC and the theater was packed to the gills.
I think we all expected a decent box office for Downey’s fourth go-around as Tony Stark, but did anyone predict that the numbers would be that high?
Brian Truitt: Hey there! Actually it did seem like everything was pointing toward it being huge - I would have guessed 150-175. I think even some people expected Avengers money, but not quite. Still, pretty darn impressive for a third film and it shows how much momentum Avengers really created.
Claudia Puig: And it made $680 million worldwide in only 12 days in theaters, beating out The Avengers $641 million over 12 days.
Wonder what The next Avengers will do…
Brian Truitt: I did not know that. Damn.
John Elliot: It’s because of those extra scenes China got!
Brian Truitt: Who knows? But I think it bodes well for the Cap and Thor sequels and the somewhat unknown commodity of Guardians of the Galaxy. If Tony Stark can get 175, I would hope Rocket Raccoon could pull in at least 150.
Claudia Puig: I read where some people were saying Iron Man 3 was actually Avengers 2…There were a lot of super-heroes popping up.
Brian Truitt: I think that was a lot of people were irked though - I think some people expected guest appearances and other heroes that would start the quest to Avengers 2 but it didn’t happen. A mistake in my mind, methinks.
Claudia Puig: Well there was that little green tidbit after the credits….
John Elliot: Brian, and semi-spoiler alert here, a heavy air of finality hangs about the film (especially the end) and indeed, Robert Downey Jr is not under contract for any further Iron Man or Avengers films. Will RDJ don the armor again? Does he even need to?
Brian Truitt: If I was a betting man and had Tony Stark money, I would say RDJ will be around for one more Avengers but then that will be it. There was an air of finality at the end of IM3, and I think Marvel could move on with other characters. Or, if I was Kevin Feige, I’d have a War Machine movie with Don Cheadle.
Claudia Puig: Sure doesn’t seem like RDJ needs to don that suit again, after the hundreds of millions he’s earned. And with his versatile talents, you’d think he’d want to move on to other genres…He still hasn’t gotten that Oscar (though he was nominated for Chaplin back in 1992)
Brian Truitt: I just think he’s swimming around in gold duckets like Scrooge McDuck at this point and is like Brett Favre - maybe he doesn’t know when to quit when the Brinks trucks are still rolling in?
John Elliot: Follow up: Could we please make Ty Simpkins the next Iron Man, post-Downey’s retirement? Your storyline is right there!
Brian Truitt: He can be Little War Machine!
Or Lil’ War Machine. I like that better.
Claudia Puig: Sort of like Joseph Gordon Levitt as Robin? Though not as young of course
What does Iron Man 3’s opening weekend tell us about the summer’s slate of superhero flicks? There’s certainly an argument to be made that Iron Man 3 benefits from being the first, AND the first solo Avengers film after The Avengers fantastic buzz and box office run.
Should we expect a similar performance from Thor, Wolverine? And how will Steel Man, or rather Man of Steel, stack up against Iron Man?
Brian Truitt: Well, Iron Man 3 certainly made things way more interesting, that’s for sure. The Wolverine is part of a strong X-Men franchise so it’ll do well but I don’t think it has to as much as Man of Steel. Marvel movies are steamrolling everything now, and that’s gotta burn Warner Bros. and the movies with DC Comics characters. I know they want to get to do an Avengers-ish Justice League movie one day, and I wonder if Man of Steel will have to outpunch iron Man 3 to make that happen.
Claudia Puig: Steel Man (love it!) should be second in box office dollars following Man of Iron 3, I think…Though Thor should do well, and I’m not so sure about Wolverine. Hard to imagine any other super-heroes coming as close to IM3 numbers this summer.
Brian Truitt:Thor comes out in November so it has nothing really to compete with. Wolverine is going the noir route so I think it has some cred to take a few chances. There hasn’t been an acclaimed Superman movie in DECADES. I wouldn’t count out Superman though - that’s 75 years of fanboys who may want to see this movie.
Claudia Puig: The vision of a 75 year old fanboy is way cool!
Brian Truitt: When I’m 75, I am totally going to be rockin’ my Bizarro shirt.
John Elliot: Finally, on this topic, what will it take to loosen Marvel’s grip on the superhero film market? They’re dominating the field right now!
Brian Truitt: There are two things that I see potentially happening.
One: That one of these movies just MISSES COMPLETELY and maybe doesn’t tank but doesn’t make as much money as others. Call it the Cars effect. I see Guardians of the Galaxy as a potential though I have fingers crossed it is amazing.
Two: You saw rumors of this yesterday but RDJ wants to get paid and paid handsomely. If folks start wanting more and more money, and Marvel balks, that might turn audiences away who come to watch him in an armor suit.
As in RDJ or others walk away, and they can’t replace him. (Though I am of the mind that these movies are bigger than the actors.)
Claudia Puig: As a non fanboy but RDJ fan, I would pass if he’s not around!
So for me it’s all about Downey, though I think in general they are bigger than their stars
John Elliot: The release of film secrets and spoilers is becoming an increasingly intricate, and important, marketing tool for studios. With the upcoming release of Star Trek Into Darkness, by master of secrecy J.J. Abrams, we’ve decided to take a look at when this technique succeeds, and when it falls flat.
Brian what do you think are the hallmarks of a successful clandestine-but-not-so-clandestine film marketing campaign?
Brian Truitt: Avoiding leaks is always a good thing - unfortunately there are some things spoiler-y out there about Trek everybody should turn away from. But really, I think people are best to be upfront about things and just do swerves on the down low, like Iron Man 3. The more JJ says NO SPOILERS! the more people will want to find out what they are.
Claudia Puig: I just learned that JJ stands for Jeffrey Jacob…non-sequitir, but…
There’s a closely guarded secret
Brian Truitt: And studios can do things like viral campaigns and other stuff to keep people watching one thing while there’s a secret somewhere else. A little of the ol’ trickeration.
Claudia Puig: I want to see Cloverfield 2…just sayin’
And what about a Super 8 sequel? Wait, what am I saying….we have way too many sequels already!
John Elliot: Finally, Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire & Carey Mulligan, opens this weekend, so no better time to explore the time honored practice of adapting books to film.
Claudia, how does Luhrmann’s Gatsby fare in the transition from page to screen?
Claudia Puig: It doesn’t work for me at all. It’s so overblown and glitzy that any of Fitzgerald’s nuance is completely lost amid the extravangaza that is Luhrmann’s stock in trade
Brian Truitt: That’s disappointing to hear. While I absolutely hated The Great Gatsby when I read it, I love Moulin Rouge and his overblown glitziness.
Claudia Puig: He is all about hopelessly romantic love stories, but Gatsby is more of a commentary on excess and the roaring 20s and about obsessing over the past than a love story. And Brian, I was not a Moulin Rouge fan. So you might not mind the glitz here then. But the 3D was a completely wasted proposition. Just confetti in our faces and that sort of thing
Brian Truitt: Sounds like the Michael Bay version of an art house movie.
Claudia Puig: I love that! I’d love to see Michael Bay’s Gatsby. Green lights on the end of docks exploding. That car crash at the end of the story would be far more exciting! I will say that they do keep Fitzgerald’s prose intact. But as narrated by Tobey, it’s hardly done justice.
Brian Truitt: And hero shots. LOTS of hero shots.
John Elliot: What are the biggest pitfalls that directors must avoid when adapting books to film?
Claudia Puig: I think when directors try to be too literal it can be a problem. Film is its own art form, so what works on the page, obviously, doesn’t always work exactly the same on screen. Having said that, you have to be faithful to the spirit of the book, if not the letter. Think To Kill a Mockingbird, that’s one of the best adaptations ever.
There’s the Hollywood adage about good books make bad movies and bad books make good movies (a ala Bridges of Madison County) and it may have to do with books that are more cinematic than literary.
But in the case of Gatsby, there have been 5 adaptations and none has really nailed it. Perhaps we need an Ang Lee to step in…
Brian Truitt: I think people should always look at the Harry Potter books as examples. They took what was needed plot turns, important characters, themes and made those important while cutting out stuff that, while some folks might think it’s necessary, really isn’t.
Claudia Puig: Great point, Brian. Some hardcore Potter fans get upset that characters are left out, but the most important elements are always there. And if it can’t get done in one movie—they split it into 2, like the last book. I’d say the Potter movies and also LOTR are examples of really getting it right
John Elliot: What would you say are some of the most successful book to film adaptations?
Claudia Puig: Here’s my list:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Pride and Prejudice (both A & E and more recent Keira Knightley version)
The Wizard of Oz
The Lord of the Rings
About a Boy
Lolita (Kubrick version)
Recent Jane Eyre (with Mia Wasikowska)
One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest
All the Potter movies
Oh, and also The Ice Storm and Life of Pi., Sense and Sensibility…the Ang Lee trilogy
Brian Truitt: Those are all exceptional. Usually the movies are never better than the books. However, I have espoused my never-ending love for Field of Dreams before but that is another example of taking a book, tweaking a few things and characters, and making it better for the cinema.
Claudia Puig: There’s another adaptation opening this weekend—Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. That’s another epic…Not exceptional but pretty good
John Elliot: And what are a few of the most disappointing?
Claudia Puig: Off the top of my head I’d say
Bonfire of the Vanities
The Scarlet Letter (vastly changed from Hawthorne’s book)
Da Vinci Code (all about Tom Hanks’ weird hair)
Running with Scissors was a really edgy, funny-weird book made into an awful movie
John Elliot: Now let’s take some questions from our lovely readers!
With Star Trek Into Darkness, I have seen so many differnt scences in trailers, I think I have seen a good part of the movie and stopped watching the trailers. I don’t want any more spoilers, but could you please let me know if I haven’t seen the whole movie and will enjoy it?
Brian Truitt: Nope, you haven’t seen the whole movie. They’ve been really good at showing scenes that are cool but don’t give too much away. A great man once said, You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Claudia Puig: I try my best not to watch trailers, if I can avoid them. For just that reason. I attempt—it’s pretty hard—to know as little as I can about a movie before I go in to review it.
Brian Truitt: This is a good one to go in as cold as possible. Like ice cold. Think Andre 3000.
Harrison from New York asks:
Claudia, have you been berated by an actor or director you after you wrote a negative review of him/her?
Claudia Puig: I drive an armor-plated car and wear a bullet-proof vest wherever I go, just in case. But, surprisingly, I’ve really been berated much. I did get a nasty letter from Steve Guttenberg about a friend of his who directed a movie once. And John Cusack once said to me “Well, you’ve liked SOME of my movies,” but that’s about as bad as it gets.
Do you have a list of movies where the adapation was better than the book?
Claudia Puig: The first Godfather might have been better than the book. And we mentioned Bridges of Madison County…High Fidelity, speaking of Cusack, was a jot better than Hornby’s book.
Brian Truitt: I’d toss Pet Sematary in that, as well as Field of Dreams.
Claudia Puig:Bridget Jones Diary was probably better—or maybe equally good—as the book…The Colin Firth factor
NOTE: THE NEXT QUESTION IS A BIT OF AN IRON MAN 3 SPOILER
G from Dubai asks:
Pepper cannot touch Iron Man because she will burn him to death. Then, after the fun, she’s in his arms, kissing and all that coy, lovely going stuff. Why does she not harm him then?
Claudia Puig: G, you get the award for being our most far-flung reader! How cool that you’re writing from Dubai! But I’ll leave it to Brian to answer your question
Brian Truitt: What’s up? Hope Dubai is treating you awesome. Well, this is a comic book movie so of course Pepper can only scorch Tony with her love and not due to her new Extremis powers. Plus, Tony’s gotta come back for the Avengers 2 money! I will have to say, that was not my favorite part.
Jonn Rice from Mankato, Minn asks:
On your old web site…you listed the top 10 movies …rated by stars…and a little bit about the movie….is that still available?
John Elliot: Well Jonn, you can always find Claudia 15 latest reviews with star-ratings right here: The Latest Reviews from USA TODAY
And we update the weekend box office every Sunday(and again on Monday) right here: Box Office Report
Hope that helps!
Unfortunately, it’s time for us to wrap up
Thank you Brian and Claudia!
Claudia Puig: Thanks to all our wonderful readers! Great questions and comments!
Brian Truitt: Thanks for all the great questions and for chatting with us, folks! Go enjoy Benedict Cumberbatch next week and live long and prosper!
John Elliot: And a VERY big thank you to all our readers who participated and submitted questions.
Remember: you can submit your burning movie questions all week long, right here.