Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

July 30, 2013

CALLERI: Box office misery has studios on edge

Niagara Gazette — The latest movie from the X-Men universe was expected to be a beast at the box office. It was going to shred the competition and attract more than just the comic book-loving fan boys. The publicity drums beat loudly. “The Wolverine” came with so many guarantees of success that it could not miss. But it did.

Since opening on Friday, “The Wolverine,“ with Hugh Jackman again on view as the title character, a furry ball of anger with razor-sharp metallic claws, hasn’t lived up to expectations. It had an okay opening of $53-million, which is not spectacular. It may limp into profitability when you add world-wide figures. Its soft opening has been attributed to a number of things.

First is the bad taste left over from the uninteresting “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” from 2009. The new Wolverine picture scored 35 percent less on its opening weekend than the previous incarnation. Another problem is that the marginally effective movie, set in Japan, seems less an action film and more a personal melodrama. The scattershot story relies on a mysterious woman, Yakuza gangsters, a strange and labored blend of mythology and modern science, and reflections on an old romance. Through it all, Jackman looks more muscle-bound but much less interested in the goings-on. Instead of animal magnetism, call it animal fatigue.

The wobbly open of “The Wolverine” is not an isolated box office quirk. Failures are littering the movie landscape. It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

What the world knows as “Hollywood,” the glittering landscape of the six major motion picture studios, was looking forward to a sizzling summer at the box office. Optimism reigned supreme. Studio executives and their marketing teams needed only to convince potential audiences that its mega-budget release was the must-see event of the season.

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