About Black Widow’s Box Office…

After what seemed like forever Marvel Studios and Disney finally released on July 9, Black Widow, the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Predictions and projections were all over the place over how the film would perform and be received.

At first, Black Widow performed very impressively, earning $80 million dollars in its opening weekend. This may be small compared to some of the bigger MCU hits, but terrific for a film release during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cratered the box office worldwide. In fact, Black Widow has set the record for the highest debuting film during the pandemic.

However, the news was quick to turn against the film and Disney when Black Widow had an enormous drop in its second week, earning only $37 million dollars, a drop of 67 percent, the biggest second week drop for an MCU film. This current weekend it earned $11 million dollars, placing it in third place and it actually beat the film that displaced it in its second week, Space Jam: A New Legacy. Currently its box office haul is $315 million worldwide. Yes, that is impressive but it had a budget of $200 million and it looks like it will barely break even if it reaches $400 million by the end of its run. Consider that the average MCU film of late earned roughly $1 billion dollars and its lower earning films averaged around $500 to $600 million. These figures can be used to conclude that Black Widow will be a disappointment in the box office. In fact, there are tons of reports trying to explain its relatively poor performance.

But that is not necessarily the complete picture.

As anyone reading this knows, Disney simultaneously released Black Widow on its streaming platform, Disney+, for $30 dollars on top of a subscription to the app. Many people scoffed at paying such a high price for a film that could be seen in theaters for much less. Yet, it earned about $60 million dollars to date and that is aside from its box office haul. Surely, Disney’s accountants will point out that the streaming haul means that the film’s earnings to date are close to $400 million and anything over that is just profit.

It was also heavily pirated online, which certainly robbed Disney of a lot of revenue. Being that the film was completed over a year ago, there were many opportunities and time for it to be pirated before it was officially released.

Many have correctly pointed out that the online access to Black Widow robbed the film of its full box office potential. Theater owners are enraged that Disney did this because it undercut their business, and set a precedent for film releases going forward, although after the upcoming Jungle Cruise is released both in theaters and premier access on Disney+, the entertainment company will discontinue this practice.

Others have said that the film had limited appeal since it was not a big-event film like Avengers: Endgame and that it came out too late. Yes, given the film’s setting and the main character’s eventual fate, the film should have been released right after Captain America: Civil War in 2016 or 2017. But many circumstances beyond the film’s control prevented that and while the film is just a standalone film and is not perfect, it is a solid MCU entry that shone an overdue spotlight on Black Widow herself and her world.

Of course, the wildcard in the film’s performance is the pandemic. Hardcore MCU fans braved going to the theaters to see the film, while everyone else thought it was safer to pay for online access or waiting. However, at the time of Black Widow was released, the perception was that the pandemic was winding down given the huge drops in COVID-19 infections and deaths. But since many idiots refuse to get vaccinated or others are unable to have access to vaccines, the delta variant of the coronavirus has spread like wildfire and increased cases. In other words, the rising cases and deaths encouraged potential theater goers to stay home instead. With the pandemic it is doubtful that even an Avengers: Endgame would have performed as well as it did pre-pandemic.

So, saying Black Widow underperformed is not so clear cut. Given the many hurdles it faced it performed remarkably well and helped bring the MCU back into theaters. Hopefully the next MCU films will fare better and Black Widow itself will gain in popularity later on like many other MCU films.

A Brief Look Back At Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time

The previous post about Terminator 2: Judgment Day brought to mind the extinct theme park attraction Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time or T2 3D at Universal Studios.

The attraction was a live-stage show combined with a 3D film that embedded audiences into the action-packed world of the Terminator franchise. T2 3D premiered at Universal Studios Florda on April 27 1996 and closed on October 8, 2017. It also ran in Universal Studios Hollywood from May 6, 1999 to December 31, 2012. The only remaining theme park where it still operates is at Universal Studios Japan, where it opened on March 31, 2001, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how much longer the attraction will run there.

Being that the film was directed by James Cameron himself, T2 3D would be the final time that he directed a Terminator film, even though it was a short film that ran about 12 minutes. It was also the final time that the actors from Terminator 2: Judgment Day reunited to reprise their roles: Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor, and Robert Patrick as the T-1000. Needless to say, it was the last time Cameron directed these actors.

Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time amped the scale and quality of live-stage shows and 3D films for its time and was considered very revolutionary in how it seemlessly combined both aspects to create an immersive experience for visitors that began during the pre-show portion of the attraction.

After entering the attraction’s building, visitors where exposed to company propaganda from Cyberdyne Systems in the form of an annoying PR spokeswoman who appeared live and videos that touted the coming cybernetic and robotic products from the company.

The videos get hacked by Sarah and her teenage son, John Connor, who warn the visitors about the dangers of Cyberdyne complete with footage from the Terminator films. Their video hack ends and the PR spokeswomen dismissed their warnings before ushering the visitors into the main theater for a demonstation of the company’s latest product: the T-70 infantry unit aka prototype terminators.

Several T-70s (actually audio-animatronics) were lined up on walls alongside the seats and demonstrated their firepower. After that, live actors representing the Connors arrive and shut down the demonstration. But before long, a 3D metallic image of the T-1000 forms from a displayed logo of Cyberdyne Systems on a screen in front of the audience and it emerged from the screen as a live actor. The T-1000 kills the spokeswomen to the delight of the audience then starts chasing the Connors. However, a vortex formed in the movie screen and from it a live-action T-800 riding a motorcycle came to the rescue. A brief firefight ensued as clever maneuvering by the live actors hid their faces while overhead monitors displayed the film actors. This was very well choreographed considereing that the live actors ran through the aisles in front of the audience.

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The 30th Anniversary Retrospective

Thirty years ago one of the greatest sequels of all time was released, when James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, sometimes called T2, appeared in theaters. Coming off the success of the first Terminator film as well as another classic sequel Aliens, Cameron reintroduced audiences to his nightmarish future world where the planet was taken over by Skynet, a supercomputer gone rogue that was attempting to wipe out the remnants of humanity. As with the first film, the beginning of Terminator 2: Judgement Day shows human resistance forces led by John Connor in a pitched battle featuring colossal hunter killer machines against a ragtag group of human fighters. This is certainly one of the highlights of the film that really hasn’t been matched by later Terminator films. 

The film subsequently moves to the present where the terminator sent back in time (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his career) arrives, this time to protect John Connor as a ten year old. The change of Schwarzenegger from villain in the first film to hero was risky, but it pays off as he and John Connor (Edward Furlong) have a great rapport, with the emotionless killer cyborg learning about what it means to be human from the sarcastic, but strong child. His strength, obviously came from his mother Sarah Connor, played brilliantly by Linda Hamilton.

Her character also has a dramatic change from the first film, where she was an innocent bystander who then transformed into a warrior willing to do anything to protect her child, knowing he is the savior of humanity. Her reunion with her son, and with the machine of her nightmares is a highlight, as is their first encounter in a mental health institution with the iconic T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a liquid metal killer cyborg that ruthlessly hunts down John. The nearly silent and deadly T-1000 is an interesting contrast to Schwarzenegger’s hulking T-800 model. Our heroes’ journey takes them south of the border and finally back to where it all started at Cyberdyne Systems, the place where Skynet itself was created, as they attempt to stop the nuclear war and rise of the machines from ever taking place. The final battle with the T-1000 at a steel mill is another thrilling highlight in a movie filled with show-stopping scenes, as the T-800 makes the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of all humanity, having learned from John about humans in general.

The theme of what it means to be human permeates this film and raises it past the level of just another cool action movie. From Sarah confronting her nightmares of the future and almost losing her humanity in trying to commit murder to change the future, to John seeing his machine protector as a father figure, to the terminator itself telling John at the end that he knows why humans cry, even if he could never do it. T2 has so much to say about the future of humankind and how our fates are not set in stone. This directly affects events in the film when the T-800, John and Sarah attempt to destroy Skynet with the help of its creator Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), who realizes his future creation will result in a nuclear holocaust and threaten humanity with extinction.

Having said all that, the film also has a well deserved reputation as a fantastic and influential action movie, with incredibly exciting stunts and special effects that revolutionized the genre. The “morphing” effect that brought the shape-shifting T-1000 to life forever changed how we saw what was possible in science fiction and films, in general. This directly led to the stunning dinosaur effects in Jurassic Park two years later, as well as other films that demonstrated that new worlds and creatures could be realized. The film also enshrined Terminator as a franchise, which in retrospect had mixed results. The direct follow up, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines took the story to an interesting place and had a great ending, and the next film Terminator: Salvation finally showcased a future war that was hinted at in earlier films. But the most recent films, Terminator: Genisys and Terminator: Dark Fate were both reboots that were lacking, to put it mildly.

However, the franchise is still intact with a new anime series in development at Netflix, and a recently released video game Terminator: Resistance that is an excellent foray into the future war and leads right up to the opening sequence in T2, which is revealed to be the final battle between Skynet and John Connor’s forces before the terminators are sent back in time. All of these sequels, as well as the great and still-missed TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and the Universal Studios theme park attraction T2-3D: Battle Across Time used Terminator 2: Judgement Day as the springboard to new plotlines. That is because T2 did such a great job of showcasing its world of killer cyborgs and brave, yet flawed heroes fighting against a seemingly inevitable fate of death and destruction.

Whatever the future has in store for the Terminator franchise, it can be certain that the influence and impact of Terminator 2: Judgement Day will always be felt, both for its epic scope and excitement, as well for its insights into at what makes us tick. That, along with its equally great predecessor, will keep this film going for another 30 years and beyond and keep it enshrined as not only a brilliant sequel, but a superior film in its own right.

C.S. Link

The Blue Ending Of A.I. Artificial Intelligence

One of the most debated moments in the underrated Steven Spielberg classic, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, was with its ending. When the film first premiered twenty years ago, many viewers came away thinking that Spielberg gave the film a happy ending. But that could not be further from the truth. In fact, A.I. Artificial Intelligence turned out to be Spielberg’s first genre film to take on a more mature and downbeat tone, which reflected many of his non-genre films. Spollers ahead.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence starred Haley Joel Osment as David, an android or a Mecha built to be a surrogate son for a couple (Frances O’Connor and Sam Robards), whose son, Martin (Jake Thomas) was in a coma. David’s programming was altered so that he could experience emotions and be imprinted onto his “mother” Monica. This created problems when Martin recovered and sibling conflicts led to David being abandoned by his mother.

For the rest of the film, David embarked on a frightening and fantastical quest to find a mystical Blue Fairy, who he hoped would turn him into a real boy so he could be loved and accepted by his mother. David became obssessed with the Blue Fairy thanks to his mother reading him Pinnochio earlier in the film. He met many Mechas in his journey, including the male prostitute Mecha, Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), who helped David with his quest. Eventually, he made his way to a partially submerged Manhattan (climate change and rising sea levels have claimed many coastal cities in the future setting of the film) where he became trapped underwater in a vehicle. It is revealed that he is in Coney Island, which was completely underwater, and he discovered a statue of a Blue Fairy. Trapped in the vehicle, but with the statue in clear sight, David begged her non-stop to be turned into a boy, and that is the first ending of A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

The film’s coda took place two thousand years later. The Earth was turned into a frozen wasteland and humankind is long extinct. Their only legacies being crumbling infrastructures and Mechas who have evolved into alien-like beings. David was found frozen and revived by the future Mechas. After they downloaded his memory files, they granted his wish of reuniting with his mother by cloning her. The catch was that the clone can only live for one day, yet she is able to provide the unconditional love and acceptance that the original Monica never could. Once she died at the end of the day, a content David allowed himself to sleep and go to the place “where dreams are born.”

This is a very ambigous ending, although on the surface it can be interpreted as a happy ending. After all, although David’s wish of becoming a real boy is unfullfilled, he attained his ultimate goal of being loved by his mother, the reason for wanting to be real. But it came at a cost. The clone of his mother died, and it is implied that he died, too, in a manner of speaking. Once he achieved his desire, his reason for existing was gone because the clone could not be revived and the cloning process cannot be repeated. So, it’s possible that he shut down his system in a type of suicide. Or maybe he took one step closer to becoming real. At one point in the film, he met his creator (William Hurt), who told David his ability to feel love and go beyond his programming by believing in abstract and mystical concepts proved that he has evolved. Then again, this could just be faulty or corrupted programming that left poor David in a loop.

It can be difficult to watch A.I. Artificial Intelligence because of the emotional torture David underwent in the film and his ultimate fate: left alone in a frozen world; his only companion being a semi-sentient super toy called Teddy. Without his mother, why would he want to continue existing? An irony here is that his Teddy also seemed imprinted onto David, but he largely ignored the toy If David did indeed die, then Teddy is the one to pity since by the end of the film, he is the last survivor, or did he shut himself down, as well?

At the second end of the film, David is given a false copy of a mother who was not able to love or accept him and while he was happy, this was just a one-time fantasy. He was never able to attain any of his dreams and was incapable of realizing this. In fact, David had an unhealthy obssession with his desire, which indicated an inability to move past his imprinting. In the end, David was unable to grow and move on past his parent.

While the ending may seem like a bittersweet wish fullfillment, and many argue it was typical for Steven Spielberg film, the conclusion up being a hollow victory for David. It is also sad to see that David was not able to realize or accept his circumstances and that he probably shut himself down instead of moving on. The ambigous ending of A.I. Artificial Intelligence is certainly open for discussion, but its downbeat and blue tone is undeniable and a testament to Steven Spielberg’s growth as a filmmaker.

José Soto

Alternate Superheroes & Casting For The DCEU

We’ve been hearing a lot of news about the Flash solo film which is rumored to reboot the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) by loosely adapting the DC Comics mini-series Flashpoint where the Flash time travels and ends up altering his timeline. Evidence of this comes from the fact that Michael Keaton will reprise his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, who last appeared in 1992’s Batman Returns.

Surely, Keaton returning cannot just be the only actor from a non-DCEU film whou could return. The film is also a great platform to explore never-before-seen alternate versions and castings of our favorite DC heroes or for returning non-DECU favorites. In the same manner that we explored earlier this year alternate castings of Marvel superheroes, here is a list of alternate castings and versions of DC characters that should appear in The Flash. BTW, this includes actors reprising their roles of characters who appeared in non-DCEU films. Be sure to drop a comment on your own choices!

10. Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince

Fans will remember that Palicki was cast as the Amazonian princess in a failed TV pilot spearheaded by David E. Kelly. Despite the flaws with the pilot, Palicki still deserves to showcase her take of Wonder Woman. The same goes for Olga Kurylenko who was considered for the role in the DCEU, but lost to Gal Gadot.

9. The Titans

Officially designated as been on Earth-9 in the DC live-action multiverse, this gritty version of the Teen Titans shoule be given the chance to appear briefly in The Flash. Their appearance would be an organic way to help promote their TV show, Titans, since it is one of the better DC superhero TV shows currently streaming.

8. Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern/Hal Jordan

Ten years later, everyone is still trying to forget the misfire that was called Green Lantern, which starred Ryan Reynolds. Keep in mind, that Reynolds was not what was wrong with the film and it would be a fun sight gag to see Reynolds return, especially after the casting was lampooned in Deadpool 2. Another twist would be to recast the cosmic superhero with Chris Pine, who was up for the role during the film’s development.

7. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman

Rumor had it that if the film studio (Warner Bros.) was unable to convince Michael Keaton to reprise his role, then they would have turned to one of the most revered actors who portrayed the Caped Crusader, Christian Bale. Still, after Bale swore he was done with the role after The Dark Knight Rises, it would have taken a lot of negotiations and money to get him to return, but man that would have been a great payoff!

6. Stephen Amell as Spectre or Oliver Queen/Green Arrow

It’s no secret that Stephen Amell’s performance as the CW’s Batman stand-in, Green Arrow in the recently cancelled Arrow, helped elevate the superhero into an A-lister, at least for the CW. Plus, he turned in a respectable performance as Spectre in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event that deserves to be seen again, but on the big screen with better production values and effects. The same goes for his version of Green Arrow.

5. Bryan Cranston as Lex Luthor

One of the biggest miscastings in superhero films was when Zack Snyder picked Jesse Eisenberg to play the iconic Superman villain Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The prefered choice by fans was that of Bryan Cranston who was so chilling in Breaking Bad, and the fantasy casting was not just because Cranston’s Walter White was bald. It was because of his intense and riveting performance which is still remembered to this day. His potential appearance could go a long way to convince the filmmakers to recast the role more appropriately.

4. Nicolas Cage as Clark Kent/Superman

Never mind the missed opportunities with Joe Manganiello and Matthew Goode as Superman in Man of Steel. We want to see the outrageous! Tim Burton’s aborted take on Superman has been chronicled everywhere with the bizarre reimaginings of the Man of Steel right down to the casting of Superman with Nicolas Cage. Fans have been aghast with the behind-the-scenes test footage of cage sporting long hair and a very plastic-looking Superman outfit. How could this vision not be allowed to be glimpsed at least once? Besides it would fullfill Cage’s dream of playing the Man of Tomorrow

3. George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal

Acclaimed director George Miller was so close to filming his take of the Justice League before events doomed the project. Ever since more details came out about the film, fans have been intrigued by what might have been since Justice League: Mortal predated the DCEU and focused heavily on the Flash. We will never see Miller’s vision but an appearance by his version of the Justice League, complete with his casting picks (including Armie Hammer as Batman), would be a small consolation.

2. Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash

The best thing about the CW crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, was when Ezra Miller (who will reprise his role in The Flash) briefly appeared in one scene and met the current TV version of the Flash, played by Grant Gustin. It would be a hoot if the scene was revisted in The Flash but from Miller’s point of view and it would be even better if Gustin later played a role in the film along with John Wesley Shipp who appeared as the Scarlet Speedster in the 1990s live-action TV show, The Flash.

Josh Brolin as Bruce Wayne/Batman

Before Ben Affleck was cast as the newest Dark Knight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Josh Brolin was seriously considered for the role. While Affleck defied expectations and turned in a memorable performance as Batman, we cannot stop wondering how Brolin’s interpretation of Batman would have been like. Of course, we have an idea of how Brolin would have fared thanks to his previous experience in superhero films as he played Thanos and Cable in Marvel films. So, portraying Batman should come naturally to this gifted actor. Another possibility would be to have Jeffrey Dean Morgan reprise his role as Thomas Wayne in the DCEU, which would more closely adapt the Flashpoint story line.

José Soto