Written by Nelson Cumming
If you are one of the firsts to read this article, you might see on the Facebook trending bar that The BFG has bombed like Batman vs Superman did for the millions of fans that saw it. Only for the BFG, it more of a financial bomb instead of a critical bomb, grossing only $27 million for the opening weekend on a $140 million budget. I have no problem with articles saying how much of a financial failure that is because, well, those numbers speak for themselves. For the articles and blog posts that say that it’s the definitive sign that Steven Spielberg is “out of touch” with audiences, I think that’s a tad out of line.
Apparently the phrase “out of touch” has a new definition. Originally, I thought out of touch meant that a person or group was great at their craft and then they have been unsuccessful at their craft either suddenly or gradually. Now it means that one little misstep means you are irrelevant with the crowd.
Let me be a little clearer. People have been saying that because a Spielberg film was underperforming financially for one weekend (two days) that everything he has done over the last forty plus years will never be replicated by him. I doubt it. I believe that if someone has a track record (good or bad) they are likely to replicate it in the future. So let’s look at Spielberg’s track record when he was in the director’s chair…
Let’s see, what do we have here, oh Bridge of Spies. Oh, look at that! 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, 81 on Metacritic, 67 award nomination and 18 wins. Six Academy award nominations and one win and zero Razzie award nominations and zero BARFTA nominations. $40 million budget and $165 million at the box office. That was released nine months ago! A blotch on Spielberg’s record! What an out of touch baffoon! I betcha Five bucks Spielberg is regretting that dungheap and the production companies are saying “He made us four times the budget we allowed him. He is unreliable. We won’t hire him again”
“Yeah but Nelson, you’re cherry picking!” says the deluded person. Ok let’s see, ah Lincoln: 97% of Rotten Tomatoes, made 4 times the production budget. Hey, there’s War Horse 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, made nearly three times the budget. To cut to the chase If you want to see a movie that wasn’t really a financial success you have to cast your eyes back to a movie called Amistad in 1997 and for the most recent critical failure, you have to go back to a movie called Hook released in 1991.
Yes, you heard me. His most recent critical flop was in 1991. Twenty-five years ago. I was not even born yet much less thought of (Not an exaggeration. I actually asked my mum if I was thought of as a child back in 1991. I do my research) That was back when mainstem music fans were pumped as Metallica made The Black Album and Guns ‘n’ Roses released two albums on the same day. It was also the time where owning a VHS and a walkman made you awesome. It was so long ago some of you younger readers don’t even know what a VHS or a walkman even is, who Metallica is or who Guns ‘n’ Roses are.
“Yeah but, he’s now not performing so hot now with the BFG!”There are a number of factors as to why that is happening. Most of which is not Spielberg fault. I may concede that Spielberg did not get an actor the casual movie audience immediately recognises but for this movie, you need a child actor ( people don’t recognise many child actors) and an actor that is GCI’d to look fifty feet tall with different looks.There will be fewer people buying tickets to see movies with actors or characters they don’t know immediately. This fits well into the second reason why this movie flopped…
Finding Dory opened at about the same time as The BFG. Everyone who has seen a movie knows who Dory is. Finding Nemo is one of the most critically acclaimed movies that grossed nearly a billion dollars. Spielberg is up against a character many people have known for 12 years and loved for 12 years, plus the character is cute while the BFG is inherently ugly looking. Cute sells, knowing the character sells, nostalgia sells. Finding Dory had that, the BFG didn’t and couldn’t have had that because The BFG had no prior reputation at the movies. Movie tickets sell more than books nowadays.
“Yeah but, Spielberg could have picked a different release date” Three words: Not his responsibility. That is up the executives of the production company. Spielberg’s job is to make the movie. That’s it. Blaming Spielberg for the ill-timed release date is like blaming the car that it’s out of gas when in reality you drove it out of gas. I can picture those people saying “oh the light on the fuel gauge is flashing! There’s a petrol station five minutes away and my home is nearly an hour away. Nah, I don’t need petrol. As long as I have half a tank I can go anywhere!”
Then I have heard other weak arguments like “He’s gotten worse and worse” Which, in Spielberg’s case, is like eating bread fresh off the oven now you have to eat two-day-old bread. And saying he has fallen financially is like saying a business used to make 10x ROI 40 years ago and has only made 4x ROI in the last ten years.
If you want directors that have fallen “out of touch” look up Gary Marshall. If you want actors that have been “out of touch” look up Nicholas Cage, Adam Sandler and Kurt Cameron. If you see a consistent spell of Spielberg movies (3-5 in a row) that haven’t tripled the production budget and/or scored less than 40% on Rotten Tomatoes come back to me and I will understand why you think Spielberg is out of touch. Until then, don’t say a man who has been successful in a cutthroat and highly competitive industry for more than 40 years is out of touch based on a bad result over a two day period.