I really enjoyed Edge of Tomorrow. Starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, this science-fiction war film is a combination of Groundhog Day and Saving Private Ryan. It has action, humor, great special effects and genuine chemistry between the lead actors. Despite the positive buzz, I was shocked on Sunday to see that the film bombed at the box office.
Making only $28 million in its first weekend, Edge of Tomorrow got its ass handed to it by a CGI monstrosity starring Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones and an adaptation of a super sad young adult novel. What the hell happened? After a few days of much pondering, I came up with a few ideas, Pinky.
Star Power Doesn’t Matter Anymore
Cruise was able to sell a movie with just his name back in the day, but times are different. We live in a world of superheroes, pirates, secret agents and giant robots. Does the actor playing them really matter? Many would say yes, but the box office says otherwise. General audiences rarely seem to care about the person playing the character. It’s the brand itself that gets the audience’s attention. Audiences aren’t going to Captain America: The Winter Soldier to see Chris Evans. They’re not going to Pirates of the Caribbean to see Johnny Depp. They’re not going to The Dark Knight to see Christian Bale. They’re going to the theater to see the characters that they play. Cruise played a character named William Cage. People don’t know who William Cage is and apparently, they don’t care.
The Geeks Have Not Inherited the Earth
How many times have we heard that geek culture is the dominating force in entertainment? I’m betting quite a bit. Honestly, that statement just doesn’t hold water when talking about movies and television shows. If it was true, Firefly would be on Season 15 by now. Science-fiction and fantasy, as much as it pains me to admit, are notoriously difficult to sell to general audiences. Both of these genres have a niche audience. They appeal to very specific people and that limited appeal does not always translate into success.
Yes, you have something like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings that breaks through and becomes a cultural phenomenon, but how often does that happen? J.R.R. Tolkien’s original books didn’t gain wide spread appeal until the 1960s and George R.R. Martin had to wait a decade for Game of Thrones to catch on in the public. More often than not, science-fiction and fantasy just don’t tap the general public’s interest enough to seize the box office.
Action, drama, comedy and romance are the genres that have dominated films and television. If a fantasy or science-fiction movie does not incorporate other genres, then it will most likely fail to generate a reaction from audiences. Edge of Tomorrow, while displaying action in the trailers, sold itself as a science-fiction film.
Obscurity a.k.a “The Dredd Effect”
Edge of Tomorrow is loosely based off of Japanese writer Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s YA novel, All You Need is Kill. While popular in Japan, it’s almost completely unknown outside of the country. Edge of Tomorrow’s box office performance isn’t that surprising then, especially when you look at similar films based off of obscure works. Dredd 3D is probably the best comparison that one could make. Dredd was met with positive reviews and word of mouth. Despite all the praise, the film barely made a fifth of its budget back. The reason for such a poor performance was because the character just wasn’t well known to filmgoers. Aside from passionate comic book readers, American audiences’ only exposure to Judge Dredd was the 1995 Sylvester Stallone film. That certainly didn’t help. Edge of Tomorrow’s lack of mainstream recognition, much like Dredd 3D, prevented it from getting the attention that it deserved.
Marketing Means Everything
Marketing a film to an audience is a difficult balancing act. Studios want to get as many demographics as possible, which can often result in a half-baked trailer that pleases no one. Looking at the trailers, Edge of Tomorrow was clearly going after a male audience. It showcased the action and Cruise’s plight, but nothing else. Blunt, while featured in the trailers, was not presented as much as she should have been. She plays a bold and intelligent military leader, who’s much more of a badass than Cruise. Featuring her abilities as a strong female character could have attracted a larger female audience.
Another aspect of the movie that should have been shown more in the marketing was the humor. This movie is hilarious. Cruise’s yellow-bellied protagonist provides the entire first hour of the film with some big laughs. While not giving too much away, a couple of his more ridiculous deaths inserted into the trailers might have made audiences a bit more interested. By aiming for one specific demographic, Edge of Tomorrow‘s marketing team missed out on all of them.
I like Tom Cruise. He can carry a film with his charisma and he always seems very dedicated to the projects he works on. Still, there are many people who are less than enamored with him. His past behavior on a certain talk show and his belief in Scientology turned a lot of people off to him. Is it possible that this caused a disinterest from audiences in Edge of Tomorrow? Maybe. Cruise, while a very competent actor, does not have the same draw that he once did in the 80s and 90s. While films like Oblivion and Jack Reacher made money, neither performed especially well domestically. Outside of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a film in a long recognized franchise, Cruise hasn’t had a big hit in quite some time.
Despite it being a financial disappointment, Edge of Tomorrow is a great movie. It’s easily one of the most entertaining films to come out this year. I implore you, please see this film in theaters. You won’t regret it.
What about you reader? Why do you think Edge of Tomorrow bombed at the box office? Let us know in the comments below.