Wonder of wonders! A smart, complicated movie that undoubtedly alienated and confused those looking for “a trippy movie from the dude that did Batman” actually won the weekend roller derby! All right! Christopher Nolan’s dreamworld thriller ‘Inception,’ a movie I am absolutely gaga for, took home a surprisingly large haul this weekend. This comes after studio wags predicted that it might be a flop due to the somewhat murky marketing approach and less-than-bankable lead (Leonardo DiCaprio, who at this point should just be labeled a national treasure). Also, it isn’t based on a pre-existing franchise or a Sunday morning comic strip, which, to unambitious Hollywood types, is positively deathly. (And it’s not even in stupid-ass 3-D.) Still, it won the weekend! Or maybe I’m just dreaming…
Coming in at #1 with $60.4 million, ‘Inception‘ bested expectations. The best thing that can come from its success is that this may finally convince powerful studio execs that if they produce movies that are smart, thematically and visually ambitious, and original, people will actually go. This may take a couple of years to catch on, as anyone who has sat through the preview of next summer’s live action/animated ‘Smurfs’ movie can attest, but it could be a strong omen. Between the record-breaking haul for ‘Avatar‘ and this film’s critical and commercial success, maybe we can look forward to a time when not every movie is followed by a number in the title, or reminds us vaguely of some long-canceled television show or obscure pop culture property. Also, I really hope this makes a movie star out of Tom Hardy. I love that man.
It’ll be interesting to see how the movie fares next weekend. I think that if you see and love ‘Inception,’ you will go back for seconds (or maybe even thirds). I saw it twice before the damn thing was even released. I can see a similar reaction from film obsessives across the country. This is especially true for those who wish to decode the last sequence’s ambiguity, which should lead to a debate of “Is Deckard a Replicant?” proportions.
The other factor in next weekend’s box office, as it relates to ‘Inception,’ is Angelina Jolie’s ‘Salt.’ The slick spy flick from Sony was originally written with Tom Cruise in mind. (The original title was ‘Edwin Salt.’ Jolie’s character is now called Evelyn Salt.) It’s riding a wave of considerable pre-release buzz. I haven’t seen it yet, but word around the campfire is that it’s a streamlined, immensely entertaining little caper. With a svelte running time of 95 minutes (compared to 148 minutes for ‘Inception’), it can be played more often per day. There are murmurs that this could be Jolie’s big, ‘Bourne‘-like franchise, especially since she opted out of ‘Wanted 2,’ which has put that project on indefinite hold. Also, you’re probably not going to have to rack your brain too hard over ‘Salt,’ which is a fairly straightforward spy film. For those that felt ‘Inception’ made their mind hurt, this should be a welcome relief.
Anyway, back to the chart…
In the second slot is Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s mostly dreadful ‘Despicable Me,’ which only fell 43% from last weekend, for another $32.7 million. That’s kind of amazing. And not just because the movie sucks. Consider, once again, that this is the first film from Illumination, which is comprised primarily of ex-pats from DreamWorks, Fox Animation, etc. It was made for a fraction of what most animated movies cost ($60 million), and it has already amassed $118.3 million. Yeesh. Maybe I spoke too soon about American moviegoers going to smart, original movies. This thing is a derivative, frantic mess. It’s the kind of movie you want to punch in the face.
The other big new release this weekend made a disappointing entry at #3. ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,’ the latest under-performer from Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer (after earlier-this-summer’s ‘Prince of Persia‘), only eked out $17.4 million. The movie opened on Wednesday, having been scared away from Friday by the looming ‘Inception,’ but that only added a few more bucks to its total gross. (Combined, it’s around $24.5 million.) I’m not terribly surprised, given how mediocre the movie is. But it’s far from terrible. I think that if enough people see it, there could be enough positive word-of-mouth that it might prove to be a sleeper. Although, as the new movies pile on as the summer goes along, it could also get lost fairly quickly.
Otherwise, things were pretty much the same. ‘The Last Airbender‘ continues to sink. It placed at seventh this week (compared to ‘Toy Story 3,’ which remains strong at #5). Nimrod Antal’s ‘Predators‘ took a huge tumble; it’s down a whopping 73%. But you know what? It doesn’t matter all that much for ‘Predators.’ It was produced on the cheap, marketed frugally and, after two weeks, has already made its budget back. There’s a late September DVD/Blu-ray release tentatively penciled in, which means that the title should sell well through Halloween, given its creepy-crawly vibe. If Fox made a sequel to the dreadful ‘Alien vs. Predator,’ let’s home the studio can at least award the handsome ‘Predators’ the same distinction. I know both Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez are down for another go-around.
The rest of the box office looks about what you’d expect. Because of the new batch of titles, indie darlings ‘Cyrus‘ (which made a showing in the Top 10 last week) and ‘The Kids Are All Right‘ (which is still expanding) didn’t make a show. I’m still convinced that once ‘Kids’ goes wide, it’ll be a big hit.
The Top 10:
01 ‘Inception’ (Warner) – $60.4 million
02 ‘Despicable Me’ (Univeral) – $32.7 million
03 ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ (Disney) – $17.4 million
04 ‘Twilight: Eclipse’ (Summit) – $13.5 million
05 ‘Toy Story 3’ (Disney/Pixar) – $11.7 million
06 ‘Grown Ups’ (Sony) – $10 million
07 ‘The Last Airbender’ (Paramount) – $7.5 million
08 ‘Predators’ (Fox) – $6.8 million
09 ‘Knight and Day’ (Fox) – $3.7 million
10 ‘The Karate Kid’ (Sony) – $2.2 million