When did big budget star vehicles become the underdogs?

Feature Rob Leane 9 Jun 2014 - 06:26

After the curious case of Edge Of Tomorrow’s surprise critical popularity, Rob investigates a strange Hollywood happening…

The release of Edge Of Tomorrow - which opened in the US this past weekend, following its bow in the UK a week earlier - has brought, not for the first time, a strange Hollywood trend to light. And it's this: do we trust big stars to make decent movies anymore?

Many people, this writer included, took a lot of convincing to venture out and see Tom Cruise in a hugely expensive sci-fi spectacular (notwithstanding the fact that Cruise has fine form in science fiction). The film in question, Edge Of Tomorrow, is directed by Doug Liman of The Bourne Identity, and based on a graphic novel with a cool title. So surely this should have been a movie which audiences were enthusiastically anticipating? Yet It didn’t seem that way, both in certain geeky circles and - off the back of its US box office numbers - amongst the broader audience either.

There was something about the movie which some potential audience-members didn’t seem to engage with immediately. The trailer and publicity didn't help, but it seemed that there was more to it than that. Yet soon, after the reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations began coming, it became apparent that Edge Of Tomorrow was a veritable treasure trove for moviegoers. 

Indeed, Edge Of Tomorrow is a strong sci-fi/action flick with splashes of dark humour, which doesn’t take itself too seriously and, perhaps most importantly, hinges on two great central performances. Looking at the trailers, and the director’s previous form, it seems a bit odd that most of us didn’t predict this would be a contender for one of the most geek-friendly films of the year. 

Have we, as a cinema-going whole, become disillusioned with ‘star power’ then? Is all we anticipate these days the next superhero flick or franchise instalment? If so, why? We had a look through recent history in search of some answers…

The 1990s: Star-driven cinema at a high point

For those growing up in the 1990s, star power was most certainly a big thing. My generation fervently tuned in to BBC2 day in day out, to follow-up our daily Simpsons fix with a much-needed dose of Will Smith in The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. I distinctly remember putting my school blazer on inside-out to try and emulate the star-in-the-making’s seemingly effortless cool. 

Although my peers and I fell short of the 18 certificate for his first blockbuster outing Bad Boys, Will Smith's double salvo of Independence Day (12) and Men In Black (PG) cemented him as the complete cinematic star to a whole new generation of cinemagoers. He had the looks, the charm, the comedy-factor, the family-friendly rap records. 

In short, Smith was everything geeky kids wanted in a star. Let it be stressed - we even liked Men In Black 2. To this new batch of film-lovers, he was bulletproof. He was our entry-level star, who made the jump from our TV screens, to the local cinema, to our hearts, with relative ease. 

And if Will Smith was the king of bringing comedy nuances to high concept actioneers, Tom Cruise was quickly learning to dominate the world of the straight action cinema. The late 1980s had seen Cruise wow audiences with Top Gun and Born On The Fourth Of July, and now the 1990s handed plenty more opportunities to headline movies (some of which he produced). He overcame much controversy to emerge triumphant from Interview With The Vampire and attempted legal thriller with The Firm before launching Mission: Impossible in 1996.

The film performed well enough, claiming the third spot at the yearly box office behind Bill Paxton-starring disaster flick Twister and, at the top of the pile, Will Smith’s Independence Day

Comedy had its own rising star too, with Jim Carrey climbing through the ranks to become a household name, and a bankable leading man. Although another popular star Tom Hanks had held the box office top spot in 1994, Jim Carrey had not one, not two, but three films in the top twenty for the year: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber.

This was a time, then, when studios banked hard on stars – one crowd-pleasing turn could open up countless opportunities near-immediately, which would mostly all seem to connect well with audiences (albeit with a few blips like The Cable Guy foreshadowing the more difficult future to come). Another example of the 1990s reliance on star power was the Batman franchise which, in the wake of Tim Burton’s departure, would add Carrey, Clooney and Schwarzenegger across two sequels in an attempt to stay afloat. And we all know how that turned out.

In 1999, though, the box office crown went to Star Wars: The Phantom Menance. The return of a franchise which had always endorsed an ensemble cast and hadn’t relied on established stars in its original run, but made their own (and as we've discussed, 1999 was a year with big ramifications for cinema).

The 2000s: Rise of the huge franchises

So was this the beginning of the end? Did the return of a huge franchise which was based on the principle of casting unknowns and a few experienced thespians against a backdrop of spectacular fantasy-action herald the end of cinema’s dependence on stars?

Well, short answer: no. Not immediately anyway. The decade began incredibly well for star power, with the box office totals for 2000 seeing Carrey, Hanks and Cruise at the top of the pile with How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Castaway and Mission: Impossible II respectively.

If you scroll down to eighth on the list though, things begin to get interesting. Bryan Singer’s original X-Men, despite falling short of the star vehicles, had taken a very respectable US total of over $150m. This grew to just shy of $300m worldwide. Like Star Wars, Singer didn’t rely on the power of star actors. He welcomed experienced thespians like Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (who was already an established geek favourite after 13 years since Star Trek: The Next Generation had begun) to help guide new talent through an engaging, fantastical plot, without the camp and disappointment of the now-dead Batman franchise. 

The film’s success was like a calling card to Hollywood, a potent suggestion that there were other ways to make big money worldwide beyond simply thrusting Cruise, Carrey, Smith, Hanks, or any other star, into a new scenario. Already in production at this stage, and on their way to huge success, were Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone and The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. Both delivered a similar message by grabbing the top two spots in 2001. Tom Cruise’s Vanilla Sky came 20th while Will Smith’s Ali just snuck into the top 40 and Jim Carrey struggled around the eighty mark with a serious turn in the underappreciated The Majestic (although, to be fair, all three of these were more projects that got made because of a movie star's involvement, rather than as potentially huge blockbusters). Ben Affleck’s Pearl Harbour did better than any of the stars who had dominated the previous year. Tom Hanks didn’t have a movie out.

Within a year, the whole system had been flipped, turned upside-down. Audiences were clearly more up for fantastical franchise fun (with mixed experience-meets-newcomers casts) than their usual stars. Interestingly, animated efforts in the shape of Shrek and Monsters, Inc. had come third and fourth respectively, beating all the old favourites, too.

Throughout the 2000s, this battle continued to rage, with both sides having their moments of glory. To look purely at the statistics though, the franchises generally did better than the star vehicles. The films which mixed both stars and fantasy elements (I’m looking at you, Pirates Of The Caribbean) fared pretty well too. 

The other 2000s US box office end-of-year toppers were: Spider-Man, The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, Shrek 2, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Spider-Man 3, The Dark Knight, and Avatar.

Tom Cruise movies regularly made good money in the 2000s with Minority Report, War Of The Worlds, The Last Samurai and Mission: Impossible III, but henever took the end-of-year crown. War Of The Worlds took a strong $230m+ US gross in 2005 but came fourth behind not only the final Star Wars prequel, but also Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. 2000s film fans clearly loved fantasy and science fiction but undoubtedly seemed to trust recognisable franchise names than studio-endorsed stars, in 2005 at least.

Similarly, Will Smith’s biggest film between 2001 and 2009 was zombie flick I Am Legend, which took $255m+ US box office haul, but lost out to Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, Transformers, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End and Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix in the end-of-year league table.

Carrey’s Bruce Almighty took $240m+ in the US in 2003, but couldn’t beat The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Finding Nemo, Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl or Matrix Reloaded. Without a Toy Story sequel (with animation being the other clear favourite here, alongside the fantasy/sci-fi/comic book franchises), Tom Hanks' biggest film from 2001-2009 was The Da Vinci Code, which lost out to Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Cars, X-Men: The Last Stand, Cars and, a bit of a curveball, Night At The Museum.

Appreciating that stars were headlining films that were still making lots of money in some cases, there was nonetheless a sense that the tide was turning....

The 2010s: Underperforming star vehicles

So, the full picture seems to be forming - we’ve begun doubting star vehicles due to the rise of comic book/science fiction/fantasy franchises which don’t rely on casting stars, but specialise in making them. Who would have thought a few years back that Robert Downey Jnr would have more consistent appeal at the box office than Tom Cruise?

We live in a time where studios entrust big money to the likes of Bryan Singer, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Sam Raimi and Marc Webb, not to ensnare a star, but to find a good match for their characters and make the best spectacle possible with whoever that might be. The casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, albeit not as the first choice, is another prime example of this modern make-your-own-star mentality at play. Not many had heard of him before, everyone has now. 

In the last few years, Hollywood’s stars from the 1990s have seen their films flop in ways that would have seemed unfathomable to many growing up. Tom Cruise’s Oblivion failed to break $100m in the US last year, while Will Smith’s After Earth barely broke $60m on home turf. Without Pirates to prop him up, Johnny Depp has had the unenviable double-bill of The Lone Ranger and Transcendence, neither of which broke the $100m mark in America. Jim Carrey co-starred with some penguins in his latest solo vehicle, Mr Popper's Penguins. That didn't do too well either.

Audiences, it seems, won’t just accept any old rubbish from a star anymore. In comic book and effects-dominated blockbusters, that bring with them homemade stars, the movie stars of old are struggling to fit in. Even something as critically loved as Edge Of Tomorrow is struggling to find success in the US. Ten years ago, that would have been a huge box office smash. Now? It's hitting big in areas outside the US - in China, for instance, movie stars are still big business - but on home turf? It's struggling.

But then maybe the days of the big budget star vehicle as we know it are all but done. Only Johnny Depp and Tom Hanks (in their roles as Captain Jack Sparrow and Toy Story’s Woody, respectively) have hit the heady heights of year-end US box office number one since 2001.

Toy Story 3, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, Avengers Assemble and The Hunger Games’ sequel Catching Fire have been the year-end US box office winners so far this decade, suggesting this pattern of franchises prevailing over star vehicles looking unlikely to stop. All the major stars (outside of comic book/fantasy roles) are currently outside the top ten for 2014, although Edge Of Tomorrow and Malificent will currently be hoping to change that. 

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol remains the one huge hit of late for Tom Cruise, during a challenging last few years that have seen Oblivion, Jack Reacher, Rock of Ages, Knight & Day and Valkyrie all fall short of a $100m total on American soil.

What the positive buzz around Edge Of Tomorrow proves is that audiences and reviewers alike are still open to the idea of popular star vehicles, but that films need something more than a star name to break through at the box office now. A movie star's name on a poster doesn't cut it in an era dominated by the likes of Marvel Studios, Pixar, sequels and big fan-favourite fantastical franchises. 

This reversal, which has seen these fantastical franchises starting without household names outperforming the thought-bulletproof stars of old, doesn’t mean the end for big-name stars like Cruise, Smith, Carrey or Hanks. But it does mean that it's getting harder. Edge Of Tomorrow’s slow-building box office total proves that this will be a difficult process. And whilst that's a film that'll still be enjoyed for many years to come, you can't help but think it would have made twice the money already - in the US at least - had it had a Marvel logo on it rather than Tom Cruise's name.

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You don't think that maybe the 2008 recession, which is still rippling through our financial lives even now, has had something to do with it? Our attitudes to mega rich film stars has probably been impacted by the widening gulf between "them" and "us", considering they are up there with the bankers, investors, capitalists and big money makers. Maybe this is why we are all following the underdogs, because we've all been forced to feel like underdogs ourselves over the past few years.

Walk out of enough diluted, homogenised, compromised crap fests, and you learn pretty quick to stay away irrespective of whose name is on the poster.
People aren't less interested in seeing big name movie stars- they're big name movie stars for a reason after all- they're just less interested in being fleeced by bait-and-switch advertising, not being treated as intelligent adults, and walking away feeling disappointed.

Id say it was more to do with these stars aging a bit and not being that current for a younger generation.

For that reason, it's a smart move by the Wachowski's getting Chatting Tatum and Mila Kunis for their next film.

Interesting, our appetite for certain types of films seems to always be changing, how long until the audiences get sick of superhero films, and then what's next? I was surprised to see that War of The Worlds did so well, can't get more than 10 minutes into that film because the daughter annoys me so much, Scary Movie 4 did a better job of it for me.

I for one am tired of seing the same old actor faces giving lazy performances in lame movies over and over again. Neither Cruise, Depp, Affleck, Pitt nor Smith have considerable acting chops.

I was having a chat with a mate of mine last week actually about the abundance of Super Hero films.

I am already getting slightly bored by them now.

For me anyway, they have ceased to be 'special'. I remember when a Batman film came out, or the first X-Men film, or that first Spiderman film. It was huge. It was still a big deal. Almost an event.

But now, they make SO many of them, I just find them all a bit underwhelming now. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America. I'm just not that bothered by them anymore. All of them follow a very simple pattern of film making. Also, we build up the hype too much these days so when they are released, we are ALWAYS going to be slightly let down.

Having said that, the one I am looking forward to is Guardians of the Galaxy. If anything, it's going to be a bit different from the rest.

I don't think the title helped.

"All You Need is Kill" sounds interesting, unique and would stick in the mind.

"Edge of Tomorrow" sounds like yet another generic disaster (Emmerich style) movie at best. It's a ridiculously bland title that doesn't stand out at all.

I'm not saying it's the only reason - not by a long chalk - but I genuinely think a better title would have helped a bit.

XMEN:DOFP. That was how I felt; hugely pumped, expecting a spectacle, but I ended up leaving the cinema slightly depressed. There was something not quite right; the jokes fell flat, the acting was atrocious from absolutely everyone apart from James McAvoy (Michael Fassbender just seemed bored out of his skull), and the action scenes were disappointing. I suppose my expectations were so huge because I greatly liked everything about First Class, and DOFP just didn't come anywhere near what I wanted and expected it to be. Maybe there were just too many actors on set with not much to do, but I think Matthew Vaughn would have done a much better job.

I've still not seen DOFP. Mainly because I am just X-Men'd out!

I liked First Class, but for some reason I just don't care too much about this new one.

The whole time travelling thing, the old cast... meh.

I think the the tagline 'Live. Die. Repeat.' would have made a better title than 'Edge of Tomorrow'.

Affleck was pretty good in The Town and Argo I thought.

Some thoughts.
Notice that a lot of the stars you mentioned charged the studios massive fees ($10 million + at one point) to appear in flop movies. With the exception of Hanks who can still work on character pieces and I think is genuinely seen as a star by the industry and the public a lot of the megastars (and agents) rubbed the industry and public up the wrong way. Interesting how quickly the quality projects went to cheaper/younger stars after that era.
The rise of the new technologies changed viewing habits.
The rise of brands. Marvel has more pulling power that any actor at the moment.
The fall of the scriptwriter. I wonder how many writers actually recognise their work after it has been through the system.
The change in demographics (as mentioned the studios are after the youth customers)
The rise of the bean counters.
The rise of the children's market
I wonder if it was not for the yearly round of festivals and awards the studios would actually bother making movies such as 12 years a slave or Dallas Buyers Club.
I do think Hollywood has placed all its eggs in one basket although many are wonderfully made quality movies what if the audience gets board.

The family went to see Edge of Tomorrow this weekend. Theatre was packed and everyone was raving about it as we came out. It's my film of the year so far. Blunt and Cruise are terrific together.

Good lord. It is so sad that there aren't any women mentioned in this article.

Perhaps because there are so few female roles in action flicks, perhaps women are still part of the old "star power" flicks. (Rom-coms are almost never ensemble films)

My wife and I watched american hustle the other night and she said, "you know, there aren't really any bad actors anymore"

I think she's got a point. This new Hollywood is much more ensemble based. It's riskier. Stars divide their time between big budget, low budget, pet projects and other endeavors. They're simply busier. Look at Mathew mcconaughey in the wolf of wall street. He's a huge star and was in two scenes

Perhaps this is because adaptations (comic book, reboots or novels) have the ability to use the source material to get people in the theatre (rather than star power) so they can get good actors.

But gone are the days where someone like Arnie or will smith release a big budget flick once a year.

If you include Stallone and Schwarzenegger the picture gets even clearer. On their own and even together they recently flopped. They just hit within an existing franchise like the Expendables. I guess the times have changed. Although it's not a bad thing IMHO. The star system got ridiculous when a single actor got 20 mio. and more just for showing up. Now more people get their chances which is a good thing, I guess.

It's a shame, you can almost suggest the big name films are the original stories. Lots of people comment on here about how it seems those are being lost in the tide of sequels and reboots. Maybe there's a correlation there?

Also, the quality of the star name films hasn't always been up there, and in the 80's I think people just enjoyed the films with less worry about how genuinely good they really are? But then I was only a lad then so would enjoy anything with explosions and action!!

Good point. I remember an article about the new type of Action hero played by versatile actors instead of just bulked up Bodybuilders. Who would've thought Matt Damon, Christian Bale or Liam Neeson could be Action stars a decade ago?

Aaah BBC2 in the 90s. Oh how I miss you. 6pm and you got comedy, sci-fi, films, cult TV, classic Dr Who, etc. Nowadays it's Eggheads, where the challenger's questions involved mentally calculating the mass of a stellar body if x=0.54987, and then the Egghead's question is which children's TV postman had a cat called Jess and a name which is a shortened version of Patrick... What rubbish.
I loved the summer star vehicles. I remember eagerly awaiting Under Siege (more for Erika Eleniak than Seagal to be fair), all the Schwarzenegger movies (True Lies, Last Action Hero, etc the Lethal Weapon films, Batman films (all sold on their stars even in the Burton era), and remember getting swept up in the Jim Carrey mania, despite finding Ace Ventura annoying (but loving Dumb and Dumber, the Mask, and Batman Forever at the time).
Edge of Darkness may be under-performing more because of which star is involved. Tom Cruise has not made it easy on himself with how he is in his private life, and this more than anything, may be damaging the film.
I still look forward to new movies from some actors and actresses, and for me it can still inform my decision on whether or not to watch it.

"the whole system had been flipped, turned upside-down" I like how you slipped that one in there.

Was worried no-one was gonna notice for a minute there ;-)

I think that a problem overall is that most trailers appear too similar to each other, with the marketing giving the impression that they are all virtually the same movie with slight differences. There is often a sense of "seen it before" when looking at a trailer, such as in this case with Tom Cruise in another alien invasion or otherwise futuristic action-movie. For me the trailer for this more or less blurred with the trailer for last year's "Oblivion".

I think a big problem is "big budget" now is so much higher than "big budget" of the past. Exclude the Mission Impossibles and War of the Worlds and Oblivion is Tom Cruise's biggest domestic weekend opening. Oblivion! That film was hardly a runaway success. If you spend 150-200 million bucks to make a movie you need a pretty big hit to make your money back and what used to be a decent opening looks like a flop. The draw of major stars hasn't increased at the same rate as the cost of a big budget movie.

My major gripe with Eggheads is they've obviously been told to talk through their "working". Q: What colour is grass? Green, Tartan or Blue. Contestant: Ooh this is a tricky one Jeremy. I know Tartan is Scottish and they have grass in Scotland. And the sky and sea are blue I think. Maybe grass is too. Hmm, but I have a hunch it might be green. I'll go green Jeremy.
If they just gave us the answer we could have 10x as many questions. Infuriating.

Its fascinating that franchises are popular these days. Just as we are receiving so many good TV shows. I think the audience now loves the longer story telling format rather than waiting for an ill advised sequel. And if the studios don't need to pay money for a bankable star. Then they won't.

Is it just me or are articles like this always pop up when Tom Cruise has a underperforming movie out?

There was a time then the name Schwarzenegger on a movie poster was a guarantee of good box office. Now his film Sabotage came out in the UK and did not even get a poster. Which makes me a little sad :(

The audience love a good story and seeing the latest film by insert-current-popular- actor here generally doesn't cut it as much now.
I had to be convinced to go see Edge of Tomorrow and the only thing which convinced me was Emily Blunt. So I was pleasantly surprised afterwards. It was a pretty good action film with two great leads.

Such a shame as it is genuinely a good, fun sci-fi/action film. And we dont get enough of those anymore.

Can you really count Will Smith and Jim Carrey as "big name stars" anymore? Their volume of work has fallen off tremendously in the last 10 years. I don't know that anyone still considers them the Hollywood powerhouses that they were a decade ago. Lumping them in here seems like a stretch, but maybe their stars shine brighter in the UK.

With few exceptions, most of the films you mention here as disappointments are sci-fi & fantasy. And for good reason - those films get the huge budgets and receive a lot of focus upon release. There are anomalies like The Lone Ranger, but by and large there's an obvious genre trend here. So I would argue that disappointing box office seems to be more of an issue for original sci-fi & fantasy than for star vehicles.

Pacific Rim, Oblivion, Ender's Game, Edge of Tomorrow and many of the various young-adult novel adaptations that have come out in the last 5 years have all fizzled. Even Noah, which you could argue was a fantasy action film as opposed to a biblical epic, did middling business. It seems like this genre has gone the way of the swords & sandals films of the early 2000's. In some cases it's definitely the fault of a movie that's just not very good, but audience fatigue for this genre seems to be the culprit, not necessarily the stars themselves.

In the UK at least we had Maleficent, Edge Of Tomorrow and A Million Ways To Die In The West all out on the same weekend, if I didn't have a Cineworld Unlimited Card there is no way I'd have seen more than one of these films and even then I probably wouldn't have paid the extra for the 3D for Maleficent and Edge Of Tomorrow. It would have cost £28.50 for the three tickets, £10 each for 3D and £8.50 for the 2D (whereas it actually cost me less than £6 total). Combine that with the fact that Edge Of Tomorrow's trailer wasn't that good (I could have sworn when I first saw it that it was just a prequel to Oblivion and if I'd been paying full price that would have turned me off immediately). Don't get me wrong the film itself was good, solid 4/5 with some solid acting from the two leads and more enjoyable than the trailer made out it would be but marketing was not strong on this and Tom Cruise's "star power" just isn't what it used to be.

obligatory "he was the bomb in Phantoms, yo".

Sorry had to do it.

I thought that before I saw it. I was pleasantly surprised, it's probably the best X film since X-2 and it might even surpass X-2 (Halle Berry barely utters a word in it).

This works for me. Even though I have read about it a few times, the title and the actual film never seem to match up for me and I genuinely forget what Edge of Tomorrow is. All the time.
It's an awful title. As you say, it sounds like it's for a disaster film or some other generic film or straight to DVD crap.

It really is amazing how many people I have asked to go and see this film with who say "No, I can't stand Tom Cruise, he's an idiot".

It's actually starting to annoy me now.

I am not asking these people "Hey, fancy a beer with me and Tom Cruise later at the Scientology bar?".

The guy makes good films, and that is all I want. I could care less what religion the guy chooses to believe in.

He's hardly hurting anyone is he? I mean, lets face it, he is the nicest hollywood star we have. He spends HOURS before his premieres signing autographs, having photo's taking, speaking with peoples mums on the phone etc... he genuinely seems so grateful for where he is.

On a religious note, I am yet to witness a war due to Scientology.

All those other religions that start wars, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, they're all fine though!

As an atheist, I honestly can't see the difference between believing in one, all powerful god who apparently created us (despite fossils showing us otherwise and the only proof being a bible which also tells us gays will go to hell), and choosing to believe in Aliens.

Considering the vast endless space we live in, the later seems more plausible!

So to conclude, I am going to see Edge of Tomorrow... on my own.

I like "Edge of Tomorrow" as the title and really didn't like the original title "All You Need is Kill"

I agree. I feel that when it comes to trailers nowadays they either put every good bit from the film or on the flip side put such a bland trailer out that it makes you want to avoid the film. When the Dredd trailer came out I was extremely disappointed but went to see it anyway as i'm a Judge Dredd fan but if I wasn't I wouldn't have bothered.

Jack Reacher, Edge Of Tomorrow, Oblivion...I enjoyed all of these films and I can separate my feelings about scientology, the man himself and his films.

Yup. There have been quite a few movies with misleadingly poor trailers.

I really enjoyed Edge Of Tomorrow. I also like that bar the Mission Imposible films Tom Cruise doesn't make sequel after sequel. He also makes interesting choices in his films. He makes lots of original sci fi movies,some work some don't. Whilst he isn't the greatest actor out there he has charisma and screen presence. If he stopped making movies it would be a sad day indeed.

I'm not an atheist, but this is one of the best comments I've read here.

And see EDGE OF TOMORROW...it's really that good. I wish it would do better at the box office, but there are two things that give me comfort. One, the film has overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, and two, the word of mouth on it is very strong. Even though I've read the source novel for the film (Hiroshi Sakurazaka's "All You Need Is Kill"), it's good to see people who have never read the book loving the film.

It might not do well in the theaters, but I'd definitely get EoT on DVD/Blu-Ray.

Sad but true.

The interesting thing is that EoT is an adaptation of a novel--albeit anovel first published in Japanese and later translated into English.

Hmmm...you've got a point there. Well said.

I dunno Mara...the trailer for EoT did _not_ remind me of OBLIVION. I keep hearing (and reading) that people assumed that EoT was related to OBLIVION, yet I just can't see that. It could also be due to the fact that I read the source novel for EoT before, so I knew what it was.

But the film itself was great (in my view).

When he's touting a cult that tell sick people don't seek help from qualified doctors and go get your Thetan levels checked then yes he is hurting people.
That aside Im not going to see Edge of tomorrow because I blew my cinema budget for the month on X-Men DOFP.

Totally. Every single time I employ Tom Cruise to entertain me he delivers the goods. I say "Hey, Tom, here's a fiver. Go for it!" and he gives 100%. I've yet to see the guy give 99%, or anything remotely approaching it.
Who cares what the guy does in his own life? Who cares how he chooses to structure his life in order to get the best out of himself? He's a human being, and he has the right to live as he chooses, and to believe whatever he wants to believe. As long as he's not a serial killer or a fiddler it's nobody's damn business. Tom Cruise isn't raking through my bin, or reading my e-mails, so I tend to think that, as a member of the human race, the guy deserves the same courtesy from me, whoever he is. Anyone who believes they have a vicarious relationship with Tom Cruise, or any other highly visible figure, based purely on information fed to them by third parties, is a weak minded fool who wouldn't be sitting next to me in the cinema either.

Well, both feature Tom Cruise in a ruined Earth, teamed up with some chick, with some conflict going on, some very Matrix-y insinuations that reality is fake, yadda-yadda and so on. That is at least my spontaneous reaction to the trailer: More of something that I've already seen before. That is why I've had no interest in the movie so far, but I might actually go see it if someone manages to convince me that it's worth spending money on.

Hmm...well, I see where you're coming from, but honestly, EoT does its own thing (and the "reality is fake" thing is not present in this film. Not at all!). I personally thought the film was worth seeing, and the fact that it has garnered many positive reviews (maybe not positive box office numbers, but...) does help.

I'd say see the film--it's the only way to judge a movie anyway. Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me, it's one of the best films I've seen so far this year, and is nowhere like OBLIVION.

....besides, I didn't see Olga Kuryalenko strapped into a powered suit with a large blade. :)

To be honest I haven't even seen Oblivion, because there wasn't anything in that trailer either that would have caught my interest. I go very seldom to the cinemas these days, unless I have a coupon to go get a cheaper ticket or I'm part of a gang with a group discount. Trailers aren't trustworthy and I'm not willing to risk it without hearing some positive word-of-mouth from people whom I know to have similar tastes to my own. That is also why I ignore all mainstream reviews and focus on a few online critics that can give me an idea of what to expect through a v-log. It helps that spoilers don't bother me if a movie is engaging enough for me to forget anything I've heard before.

Agreed. A performer's personal life should always be held separate and it is irrelevant to what they do in their jobs. That said, there are certain actors whose presence annoys me enough to avoid movies they star in.

To be fair, in many cases it is simply that people find Tom Cruise's screen presence annoying.

Many stars are more repealing than appealing. Their politics and culture views alienate a good size of the public who may not afford more than one venture a month to the movies and so choose a story or star who doesn't intentionally offend or belittle, though Hollywood doesn't believe that anyone makes valid value judgments than them.

It was always about the franchise, you just started this article a decade too late. The resurgence in star power in the 80s was because the actors were the franchise - in fact let's call it brand, as that's more accurate. If Schwarzenegger was in a film you knew exactly what it would be about, and who he'd play. Whatever the film, it was effectively Special Forces Soldier Kicks Ass 5/6/7 - This Time It's Traitors/Aliens/Kids. Tom Cruise made two identical films with only altitude the difference.

Good brands make people comfortable, people know what they're getting. They take some of the chaos out of life, and as long as they're hitting the spot and consistent the brand will always sell well.

Enjoyed the article.

I'm sure we've discussed it ad infinitum, but It doesn't look like anyone here has mentioned the rise of the price of movie tickets, the standard of the typical "home cinema" or, err, the rise in torrenting. I took my son to see The Lego Movie the other day and it cost me AU$50 (two bottles of water cost me $12 - stupid of me but crazy, nonetheless!). Movies that look spectacular - typically sci-fi/fantasy/action - are still worth seeing on the big screen but just about any other genre is perfectly acceptable at home.

For what it's worth... I am going to see this movie - hopefully at the cinema.

Money is often an issue. As I mentioned below, I need quite a bit of reassurance before I see a movie, or then I need a discount of some sort.

"Edge of Tomorrow" sounds like a Star Trek episode.

I'm a big fan of Tom Cruise, personally. One of the great movie stars.

Those people are surely in the minority. He's the biggest movie star of the last 30 years!

All You Need Is Kill is a great title. Edge Of Tomorrow sounds like an episode of Star Trek.

Ha, very good.

That also does my head in.

Never thought about it before, but you're right. Even action stars now usually have the acting chops. That can only be a good thing.

I take it you haven't seen Rain Man or Born On The Fourth Of July, then?

I like Affleck nowadays. Think he'll be good as Bats.

Agreed. Superheor movies are so popular now that they only have to be average to make a lot of money, which results in film-maers churning out lots of average films.

Did not know that. But in all honesty, I hadn't heard of this films before this article (don't have cable)

The other great thing about Hollywood today is that now, the sequel is more about continuing the story rather than rehashing the first film. We want this to feel more serialized rather than standalone films. We've taken a page from "empire" rather than "Jedi"

I can't speak for everyone, but I had little interest in seeing this film The premise is kind of interesting, Groundhog's Day meets Starship Troopers. But you would never know that from it's title.

So were Minority Report and War of the Worlds, am I missing your point ?

.... or A Few Good Men! :)

Very true

A movie merely starring an actor can't get me to see it anymore, in truth it rarely has worked for me. But I think the true 'movie star' still exists, but it's no longer a person: it's franchises. In the 80s and 90s (in my opinion the golden era of action movies) the actors were a franchise unto themselves, now the name of the movie/source material is the marketing point.

Not that small a minority, I'd say. I'm just saying that people might dislike him in a movie for other reasons than him being a Scientologist and jumping on couches. Whether he's a big movie star or not doesn't really matter.

Cheers Scopedog!

Nice to be able to have a good ol fashion debate without someone calling me a d*ickhead. Haha.

I agree, his views are a bit odd. But he is not forcing us to practice what he preaches. When he is asked a question, he is going to answer it how he feels.

One thing I do actually agree with him on is the whole anti-depressants debate.

I suffered heavily with depression at one stage and became reliant on pills to balance me out.

But it wasn't curing me, it was just masking the real cause of it.

So I stopped. Then I started eating healthier, doing more exercise. Meeting up with my friends more and I started to feel better.

I will always have symptoms of depression and it will never be cured, but I am happier knowing I am not relying on pills to get me out of bed in the morning.

That aside, how good was DOFP!

This▲(apart from the xmen stuff!)
Is scientology even classed as a religion in the UK?

not last I heard but i believe it has applied on a few occasions. My issues aren't so much with Scientology as any sort of faith healing that encourages unwell people to ignore medical advice. Im actually looking forward to seeing edge of tomorrow on DVD or Blu-ray at some point. I was just giving a view point on James question.

I'm really pleased for you James that you have turned what can be a difficult corner in anyone's life. I have friends who have had different experiences with treatment for depression but I would rather let them share their experiences than try and speak for them.
Im also pleased to know that im not the only one who enjoyed DOFP may well have become my favourite entry in the X-franchise.

I think it's got very little to do with stars. If you take the big picture you'll see that the big money is in the films that pull in the female contingent. Hence all the scifi etc blockbusters aimed at women/girls. Good for the box office but bad for real sci-fi films which are now 'very' simple in plot. No twists and with pretty boys and girls in the lead roles. ( No Chuck Hestons here) Hence twilight, hunger games, etc. Their plots are more about coming of age and relationships than science or new world affairs. You basically have to know the plot before you see the film. Otherwise the cinema is full of boyfriends explaining the plot, spoiling it for others :-) OK, I sound like an old caveman and will get stick for that....but I have a point and it's also how the film industry is treating you all.

Yes there's a place for this kind of sci-fi obviously. I just think it can taint the views of what other blockbuster films will be like. I didn't see 'edge of tomorrow' straight away because I thought it was going to be another dumbed down, badly thought out, easy sci-fi. Nothing to do with if I like Tom or not.

Luckily we still get the odd 'Twelve monkey's' 'Cloud Atlas' - Even 'Oblivion' was ok-ish....someone, help me out here. Also my wife pointed out the exact same thing. She's a true lover of science fiction films and not thinly disguised teen romance movies. Shame I have to keep going back to 1950's to 80's to get my fix.

Jeeps! fine ramble!

The paragraph that contained "Minority Report, War of the Worlds, Last Samuria, and Mission Impossible 3" just highlights what great films Mr Cruise makes! Edge of Tomorrow was great. Though annoyingly my local Vue were only really showing it in 3D which was annoying.

You are probably correct in that a blockbuster needs to pull in both sexes to be a big hit these days. But I would regard the 'teen literature to film franchise' movement as a separate genre to sci-fi (Hunger Games, Twilight and to some extent Harry Potter). Studios are quite keen to find the next moderately popular series of books to turn into a franchise. There's been a lot of misses recently but it's a licence to print money when it works.
Real sci-fi as you call it still exists (District 9?). I think you might just be getting older like the rest of us. Hollywood has ALWAYS been about pretty boys and pretty girls. It's just in the past all the girls did was scream loudly and get rescued.

Correction, he sometimes makes good films....
Minority Report was good, MI3 also good (although Simon Pegg really made that film fun to watch)
War of the worlds and Oblivion, not so Good

So the thing is, people will wait and see before watching his films, see if they are worth going to see OR wait until they hit the shelves/tv...

Free advice for the film studios, which are ran by idiots (not the directors/writers/actors, since many good films are made each year)
You need to release films on Blu-Ray within a week of Cinema release,
then people like me who prefer to watch at home, will buy it after seeing the SAME advertising you use for the cinema release, otherwise we wait, and probably won't buy immediately when it hits Blu-Ray but will wait for the prices to drop....

I can't tell people that certain films are good, or that other films are bad because it all comes down to personal opinion so no one can be right or wrong.

However, you have only named 4 films, all very recent.

He has a HUGE back catalogue of great films:

A Few Good Men
Rainman
Born on the 4th of July
The Colour of Money
Magnolia
The Firm
Risky Business
Collateral
Top Gun - Come on! How could miss this one out? Haha

War of the Worlds was more a rehash of the first film than based off the novel... I am still waiting for a good adaptation of War Of The Worlds (well the classic film was great but wasn't the book)
Not sure of rights issues, but I wish the BBC would do a 2 part mini series of war of the worlds.. .that would be amazing...

Yeah you have a point with the franchise angle and yes I'm definitely showing my age :-)
I've just got back from seeing 'edge of tomorrow'. More like the sci-fi I like and not girlie angled which is good. But strangely after all this I would have prefered a little more emotion in this film. This had reasons to be emotional but surprisingly left things cold. Also-SPOILER alert!!- Had the usual ill thought out pointless tagged on ending. Now there's a tie in with Oblivion. They like doing this...Source code did this too. Changed the rules of the story to give it an ending the American test audience could handle.

Absolutely. It doesn't matter how simple the question, they still have to muse over it and work through all 3 of the options. It's needless padding.
BBC2 used to give us Sliders, Farscape, Star Trek. I remember seeing the old Jerry Lewis films, Elvis films, Tarzan films, and Man from UNCLE films on Friday nights on BBC2 as well. There were also Thunderbirds, The Invaders, The Invisible Man, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica and erm... Rapido (the forerunner to Eurotrash). Back when 6pm was Def2. They introduced me to a whole world of geekdom.
Those were the days.

Hah! No problem, man. That's the best thing about Den of Geek--you can have proper debates that don't descend into name-calling.

Well, it is a fine ramble...:)

And I'm glad you liked EoT, even if you had an issue with the ending (I didn't, but it isn't as dark as the ending from the book, which I also loved). It is sad that a solid SF film gets much critical love but is ignored at the box office, but it isn't the first time it's happened and it won't be the last.

And I did like OBLIVION, even with its flaws. I also agree with you about going back to the era from the 50s-80s for a good SF fix--you will only pry my copy of FORBIDDEN PLANET from my cold dead fingers...:)

If you can, you should read the "source" novel for EDGE OF TOMORROW, "All You Need Is Kill". There's also a good amount of Japanese SF novels that are available in English and are quite good.

No, you're not...:) The fault's mine for not being more specific in my answer.

On the other hand....good point in highlighting the fact that three of Cruise's best SF films (just my opinion!) were based on novels and a short story. Even if one of them was originally published in Japanese.

Forbidden planet, wonderful. Just got all the Quatermass films and X the unknown on Blu-ray. Great fun. I might look up the original novel of EOT. Though I've still to finish all the 'The strain' books.

i'd take emily blunt over mila kunis any day of the week

I've heard great things about the Quatermass Blu-Rays; the third film (QUATERMASS AND THE PIT) has been a long-time fave of mine. I give "All You Need Is Kill" high marks and a high recommendation. I did like THE STRAIN novels, and I'm very interested to see how they translate to television in the new series...and ironically, the novels were based on an idea del Toro had for a TV series!

Good points, but I don't consider EDGE OF TOMORROW a "diluted, homogenised, compromised crap fest" (my opinion, though!). The sad thing is that good to great movies will not do well thanks to the factors that you mentioned.

I agree with most of your thoughts there, but not so much the 'rise of the bean counters'. That's nothing new in Hollywood, surely? It's been like that ever since the second world war, and perhaps earlier...

Or Collateral or Interview with the Vampire. Or Tropic Thunder, for that matter...

Totally would have been a better title. However, after seeing the film, at least I can say that Edge of Tomorrow actually makes sense in the context of the narrative. Initially I thought it too generic to have any relevance.

Apart from that recent-ish run of romcoms, He's Just Not That Into You, New Year's Day, Valentine's Day etc...They were definitely ensemble films. Sh*t films, but ensemble films :-)

Actually he's one of the few stars I would love to have a drink with. The guy can write his own ticket, and again and again he makes smart, genre friendly choices. I'd be hard pressed to name a film of his since Day of Thunder that I didn't enjoy on some level.

Said that exact thing on my podcast. Edge of Tomorrow sounds like a daytime soap.

Woah, bit of a rant there. Not sure about the suggestion that all films aimed at girls are simplistic. Pretty sure there have been simplistic films aimed at guys all through the history of cinema.
I would humbly suggest that, assuming they stick to the books, The Hunger Games deals with a lot of complex issues and not just lovey dovey stuff between good-looking guys and girls. The third book is quite shocking, really.
I'm not sure that the recent craze for teen post apocalyptic films has subsumed traditional sci-fi, and i'm not convinced that we used to have MORE straight sci-fi films than now; it's just that said teen fiction is now being released alongside it.

I can see your point. Historically though look at The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. I wonder if the producers would have been allowed to complete the movies by the accountants under modern day conditions.

After suffering through the abysmal Mr and Mrs Smith and Jumper, I don't think Doug Liman's name is much of an enticement to see a film (it's all been downhill since Swingers actually, including the overhyped The Bourne Identity).

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