Last Thursday night was an interesting night to watch my Twitter feed. Two movies were standing out from from the stream – Pacific Rim and Sharknado. The former is a big budget movie about giant mecha fighting kaiju. The latter is a SyFy Channel movie of the week made for, according to IMDB, one million dollars, featuring sharks in a tornado. No, really, check out the trailer on io9. If I ran a Hollywood studio, I’d be worried about my future.
We here at MuseHack have been tracking the Hollywood bubble, from superhero similarities to the big names questioning the sustainability. The bubble’s due to pop; how big the gooey mess will be even we can’t predict. Three big-budget movies have failed this summer. A SyFy B-movie managed to grab more attention than The Lone Ranger. The people in charge should be asking, “Why?”
Pacific Rim, while finishing behind Despicable Me 2 in North America, earned $US3.6 million, with another $US3.7 million in Asia. That is one night’s gross, the opening late show Thursday night. People are going out to see it; visually, it is like no other movie this summer and features giant robots punching giant monsters. My Twitter stream showed a positive reaction to the movie, including Canadian TV personality Ed the Sock calling it one of the greatest movies ever. Meanwhile, at the other end of the budget, Sharknado pulled in 1.4 to 2 million viewers, low but the viewers reached 350k tweets during the length of the movie, shy of the number of tweets generated by the “Red Wedding” epsiode of A Game of Thrones, an episode that garnered 5.22 million viewers. Both movies feature elements not normally seen in North American entertainment. The mecha and kaiju of Pacific Rim are staples of anime and Japanese cinema, but are rare to see in Hollywood.* Meanwhile, Sharknado had people fighting and being eaten by sharks in a giant tornado; a combination that it’s safe to say has never crossed through anyone’s rational thoughts**.
There must be committees now going on in Hollywood, sitting down, analyzing both Pacific Rim and Sharknado, trying to figure out what makes the movies tick, why their respective audiences are raving on social media, and how to duplicate that success. What the committees might miss is that both movies deliver on their promise; giant robots punching giant monsters and sharks in a tornado being fought against with chainsaws. The movies aren’t deep; even Ed the Sock says Pacific Rim is a movie, not a film. But they bring something different in a summer where checklists are failing and tentpoles are falling. I just don’t expect the committees to realize where the problem is.***
* Outside dinosaurs, which fill in for the giant and the monster, but not the fear of nuclear power that kaiju also have.
** Like kaiju, Sharknado uses fear as a hook for the audience. Instead of nuclear power, the fear is of climate change, of once-in-a-century storms happening several times a decade. And the fear of sharks, thanks to Jaws.
*** I do expect copycat films. There should be a MechaShark vs the HurriKraken in the next few years.