5 Films That May Prove Ryan Reynolds Is Not The Problem In His Comic Book Movies!
Is Ryan Reynolds the sole cause of failure in his comic book movies? I take a deeper look at his last Comic Book Films to find out.
Ryan Reynolds was the subject of one of my mildly forgiving editorial reviews for his film R.I.P.D., while I enjoyed the movie in general, I pointed out that the film failed on a variety of levels as a comic book movie. The film, itself, was the example of what a CBM should not be. A writer friend, Robert Aldrich, talking about my editorial called it "Why did MIB 4 Bomb?", which made me laugh, because without any prompts he saw that aspect right away. He saw the immediate marketing tool this film tried to employ, which ended up biting it in the ass...
The RIPD comic, itself, which is already obscure, was not much of a read as it is anyway - but it had an opportunity to stand out, it could have created its own identity, and failed to do so. But a lot of arguments all over the internet laying blame for it's failure, boil down to a few distillate words from the fandom, "Ryan Reynolds".
I wanted to do some research, go back and watch some films, and pull some numbers, to see if the generally rabid fan opinions in the massively watered down soup that is the internet can be reduced down to some chunky thick truth-sauce. Especially with Deadpool possibly being produced in the next 3-4 years, as it's listed "in development" with Reynolds attached. I wanted to understand this problem, that seems to plague some of his films.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
It's hard to find "hardcore" comic book fans that actually loved this film. Not because the film is inherently bad, but because of the butchery involved piecing together various storylines. Even though the generic concepts are there as far as Wolverines actual origins. From the mainstream point of view, the movie worked out fine. I'd say, from a pure speculative position, that Wade Wilson, which we (also) know is Deadpool, is given the brunt of the blame from the fan community. At the end of the film, when his transformation into Weapon XI was revealed, he was definitely the worst aspect of the movie. Let me clarify - Scott Adkins' amazing level of combat was not what was bad, but distinctively blades extending from his arms, using cyclops optic blasts, and a few other interesting surprises were pretty much what killed the camel for most fans. Not to mention that Taylor Kitsch was pretty awful as Gambit...I have to throw that in there, yes it was random.
Aside from Scott Adkins' own stunt work, the rest of the wire-fu in the film was pretty noticeable and poorly constructed. The special effects as well were very strange in a variety of areas, almost as if QA in the FX labs took days off without returning to polish little touches throughout the film, however that can also be blamed on direction, editing, and the studio execs that see dailies in their progress, and signed off on them...no excuse for that with the budget they had.
So what about Ryan Reynolds?
We see him early in the film with Team X overseen by Col. William Stryker for roughly 5-10 minutes. He takes on some bad guys, shows off some deflecting skills, and makes perfect use of his natural "Van Wilder" style college humor in the Deadpool persona and runs his mouth, incessantly. Granted his jokes are coherent, and much of what he is saying can be looked at as trolling, as opposed to random incoherent insanity, what Deadpool is know for, especially talking to himself, or breaking the 4th wall and reading the comic call out boxes - but keep in mind, Deadpool goes insane after he undergoes experimentation. So why do comic fans blame Reynolds to some degree for this film? Are we talking a curse here? That's just plain out stupid and ignorant. Let's stick to tangible information, and not petty bias.
Let's look at the numbers.
Budget: $150 Million
Ranked #1 in the box office opening in 4099 screens
Ranked #22 in gross for a CBM, ahead of Captain America: The First Avenger in domestic and global gross on the same chart, that's an eye opener.
$178M Domestic and $373M Global
It's even ahead of X-Men, and X-Men: First Class, in terms of box office numbers, clearly it did better then both of those films.
Rotten Tomatoes: Aggregated at 38% and the bulk of the arguments there state cliched themes and poor storylines, from a lot of critics that don't write anything in their papers (or magazines) that would give us a clue as to their having any comic book knowledge...Yet! These critics can tell there are real problems in the story, specifically continuity issues, they can't fully explain. Some have even gone as far as to point out issues in the parity between the film and the comics.
So looking at this film, Ryan Reynolds had nothing to do with it's failure, he was actually delightful to see in the role, and is quite possibly the fan favorite, in the mainstream to reprise his role in the full feature Deadpool film, because of this appearance, almost a cameo.
Let me retract that word, failure...because this film obviously did not fail. Arguments can be made as to why people went to see the film, and chances are those arguments support the studios reasoning for building their franchise completely around Hugh Jackman. You can keep arguing with me that Reynolds was bad in this film, but you'd be wrong, and I'd still laugh at you...
I am one of those people that actually enjoyed this film, after watching it the 4th or 5th time, derp... I was able to shed my comic book angel and demon from my shoulders and tried to give it as much of a chance as possible. On the surface this film has too many issues that effected it as a DC film, trying to find its overall identity. Especially trying to figure out where this film would place in a world with Nolan's Batman, and moving forward with Man of Steel, and JLA. For the most part it appears this one is attempting to be forgotten, similarly to Ang Lee's Hulk.
Among the bulk of fan rage was the costume, which honestly I liked, and the cheesy immature constructs the story dreamed up. For one, the racing car rescue scene, I like cheese, but that was just derpy (I said derpy, you can feel free to say "...Complete Ass!").
One argument that did tend to blow my mind occured on my facebook profile claiming, "Ryan Reynolds doesn't look like Hal Jordan" and while I am not going to source to this thread, it was long and ridiculous, but I let people play it out on their own. My thoughts "Um, what?", I can agree Nathan Fillion would have been marvelous in the role, especially with a trainer prepping him for filming. But Reynolds actually fit the look more appropriately as he was, without months of work into his body, as opposed to Fillion.
If I were Fillion (right now), I'd make sure my body were being prepped in hopes of that phone call for a possible casting in Justice League as lantern.
In my opinion, Mark Strong delivered one of the best interpretations an actor could make as a comic book villain (at that time) on the big screen. The ensemble cast of voice overs were also exceptionally solid, Micheal Clarke Duncan (Kilowog), Geoffrey Rush (Tomar Re), Temuera Morrison Abin Sur), and even Clancy Brown as Parallax. All were spectacular.
So what about Ryan? His portrayal as a Lantern wasn't the worst aspect of the film, his generic brand of comedy was relatively on par with Hals typical nonchalant laugh-at-danger persona. I'd have liked Reynolds speech pattern to have been a bit slower in his execution of his lines, so that Jordan wasn't spitting out jokes and comments at 100 miles an hour, but it was acceptable. The dynamics we saw him portray in the film with the other characters made sense. So what are the other issues?
Let's look at the numbers...
Budget: $200 Million (overbudget, due to cost overruns and delays)
Ranked #1 in it's opening weekend with $53M in gross sales, seemingly a great trend.
Ranked #37 in gross for a CBM with only a Million in revenue generally separating it from Superman II, Watchmen, and the first Ghost Rider film...Not a great spot to really be.
$116M Domestic, $219M Global box office sales overall.
Rotten Tomatoes: Aggregated 26% with the general notion of script being the main culprit of an overproduced film that focused too much on it's special effects.
Interestingly enough, Green Lantern: First Flight rated at 50% on RT and had 70% audience approval, over the live action films 45% approval. The animated feature is virtually a storyboard for the general story of the live action film (or really, what the live action film should have been completely based on).
Looking at some of the strangest and weakest parts of the film, the Hammonds, Blake Lively (hot as she is), and the vacuum the film operated under, among it's odd story of back and forth movement, were the causes of the films weakness. Amanda Waller making the statement "...This is the first Alien the human race has ever encountered" was the justification for operating in a bubble - otherwise, why didn't Superman pop up to save the world at the end? The debates about this statement are better left for another article.
To further add to this problem, instead of focusing on earth, the story should have remained in space (once it was there)...We didn't need earth in danger to relate to the storyline. that's a major issue in a variety of films, trying to fabricate storyline to generate relatable concepts, when they were already relatable without the creative license taken by directors, writers, and, or producers.
I'd have to say again, looking back at this film, Reynolds wasn't the reason it failed. Production was behind for a period of time on it's original release date, plagued with reshoots, more time recutting the film, and additions to the special effects, that people didn't really want; like the changes to the costume that were made in the end of the production (sparklies!). All of these things annihilated the budget, causing it to swell to proportions not at all wanted by the studio, and obviously, not by the audience.
The biggest problem with this film (in my opinion) was the direction, Reynolds being the front runner for the star power was only a factor.
There was a time when we barely had any comic book films to speak of, then Blade came on the scene and totally obliterated what we should be expecting in our live action hero interpretations. Blade II was even better showing marvel and their audiences that they (Marvel) can properly produce these films consistently. Especially with the first Spider-Man film breaking so many records during this time. Comic Book fans were rejoicing that they were going to slowly start gaining films for their favorite characters, and they were going to be epic.
Then we got Blade Trinity, at the tail end of a string of films that made most of our inner-children weep, X3 The Last Stand, Ang Lee's gorgeous looking but awkwardly scripted Hulk, and our currently exploding twitterverse pesonality, Ben Affleck, in Daredevil. All Lackluster films that seemed to forget that they could have been great, in a pre-MCU comic world of uncertainty.
Blade Trinity had an interesting ensemble cast, trying to play off the popularity of the Blood Pack in the 2nd film with a "good guys" version of an ensemble, the Nightstalkers, as a group of people surviving in a manner that was indicative of some sort of apocalypse...Built around Ryan Reynolds as Hannibal King, and Jessica Biel as Abigail Whistler, the daughter Whistler had out of wedlock, that the live action film audience had no idea existed. Well, technically neither did we as comic fans, because she was created by David S. Goyer, the films writer and director.
Blade, Wesley Snipes, was pretty much himself throughout the film, however, you can see his resolve in the character weakening as if almost trying to tell us he's done with this franchise. A character he fought and campaigned to build, portray, and bring to life. So why was his performance just o.k., why was he waning throughout the film, and why wasn't this an epic showing as we would have expected from the twice before daywalker we came to know and love?
Let's look at some numbers.
Budget: $65 Million
Ranked #2 opening weekend with Oceans Twelve almost tripling its numbers in ticket sales.
Ranked #65 in gross as a CBM only beating out the 2nd Ghost Rider film by roughly $700,000
Rotten Tomatoes: Aggregated 26% but 66% in audience approval. Which means most people in general enjoyed the movie. Only 4% under the second film in audience approval.
$52M Domestic and $128 Global - The film didn't exactly bomb, but most films require two and half times over its budget to be considered successful. So while this film didn't lose money, it was just shy of being capable of arguing financial success, regardless of critical opinion.
Then there is the larger problem that plagued this film. The fact that Wesley Snipes and David S. Goyer hated each other and wouldn't stay in the presence of one another while shooting...with Snipes mostly leaving post it notes to communicate sited Patton Oswalt in an interview and in his standup comedy about working on Blade Trinity.
The character Reynolds played is a fast talking, on edge, ex-vampire "cabana boy", that is apparently driving Blade crazy with all of his chatter. In all honesty I see the character from Waiting... in his portrayal of King. Which in turn reminds me of Jeff Anderson in Clerks as Randall. Then I think about Kevin Smith and how he generally talks about "letting actors do their thing". Did Goyer write and direct Hannibal King to pretty much be a parody of Ryan Reynolds? Because he definitely didn't write him to be like the character in the comics...
Again I look at this film and realize Reynolds was not at all the fault for this film failing. The biggest predominant issue were clashes between Snipes and Goyer, the script, the production, creative control over the property, and a continued laundry list of problems; among them Snipes allegedly being high the bulk of the time he was shooting the film.
Was Reynolds horrible, not really, he was as I said, a parody of himself, and while sometimes annoyingly nonsensical and immature, he played his character according to what was in the script, kind of a jackass out for revenge, not at all what's in the comics.
RIPD once again...I've been reading mixed reviews all over the net, some people love it and are defensive of negative reviews, probably because they love this movie, and think those saying its a "dumb movie", by association means they're dumb for liking it...not at all the case. Others hate it and think Ryan Reynolds shouldn't do comic films, in fact, this ridiculous split of opinions is what prompted me to write this piece. I talked about this film in a prior article, I pointed out how the story was relatively weak. Now you might ask, "why is it weak? What are you sourcing?" and I say, I'm sticking to my guns on the arguments I posed before, the film steals themes from multiple others and pawns itself off at being its own original film. Instead of pushing the envelope on it's own story and remaining true to that. I don't need to source someone else saying the same thing to make that statement, you can happily read on Rotten Tomatoes any number of reviews that are all filibustering similar arguments.
I can probably argue on a larger scale that the comic itself was just too derivative, and too obscure a piece, without the wide audience appeal the studio expected when they optioned the property. Causes me to want to argue other points as well, like why this film? Why not The Goon?
It's hard to quantify some of these things, especially when you are looking at intangibles, among those intangibles, warm fuzzies, inspiration, cheesyness...I love a bit of cheesyness in a film, and this film has it in spades - However, I touched in part how some of the acting was underwhelming, specifically Kevin Bacon, as the villain, he was pretty much just filling a space. It's hard to not see the movie, with his performance, and think to yourself, Kevin just showed up for 2-4 days of the shoot and read his lines, and he was done...his character could have been a bit cheesy, and acceptable, instead it turned out flat, vacant, and boring.
You go back to this film and weigh all the options and decide that really, in the end, Jeff Bridges was the best part of the movie. Ryan Reynolds a generic second. Honestly, the funky guns (RIPD Revolvers) a close 3rd. Because those guns were pretty cool, and I hope I can get a replica down the road.
So did Ryan Reynolds ruin this movie? I'd have to say no, however, he is 50% of it's marketing campaign. Arguably, he was the main focus for the film to push in terms of their marketing. Let me dwell on that word for a moment, marketing. You can't do anything online without seeing something for a Marvel or DC property. It's almost interwoven into everything the internet is these days. Yet I barely knew this movie existed. I'm wondering how much of their huge budget went into actual marketing and PR. If anyone from Dark Horse is listening, I've worked with your amazing PR guy before, Aub Driver...next time, get him to promote it...more people will come.
Let's look at some numbers...
Budget: $130 Million
Ranked #7 Opening Weekend beaten by himself in Turbo, The Conjuring, and movies like Despicable Me 2 that was in it's third weekend by more than double its gross.
Ranked #81 in gross as a CBM smack in the middle between The Punisher (1989) and The Shadow...That's pretty sad.
$32M Domestic and $59M Global - So far, it's still out in theaters, and hopefully all of the above will improve.
Rotten Tomatoes: Aggregated a horrid 11% with 44% audience approval. "...It has its moments -- most of them courtesy of Jeff Bridges' rootin' tootin' performance as an undead Wild West sheriff -- but R.I.P.D. is ultimately too dim-witted and formulaic to satisfy."
Pretty much backing up a lot of my points, Bridges being the best the film has to offer, and the rest of it being "formulaic" ...it's a Frankenstein film, a piece from MIB, a Piece from Constantine, a Piece from Lethal Weapon, a hand from 48 Hours, a Van Wilder toe...you get my drift. What's also interesting is in the Box Office Mojo site they also have a separate listing for the film in the Buddy Cop Category, something I pointed out in my previous review of the film, that it's clearly abusing its use of that theme.
I mentioned above, Reynolds is essentially 50% of the front marketing, and that is true. Actors in most cases are not gained for their ability...If you believe this, you are dreaming, it's called "Star Power" for a reason. If they can act, get us to feel something, then that's movie magic, and what Oscars and Golden Globes are for. So in this case if we break down the numbers, and keep all things equal, half of the theater showing up should be coming for Reynolds, while the other should be coming for Bridges right? Well that doesn't make sense either...But because the comic is so obscure and does not have such a mainstream following, we'll use the basic metric I just laid out.
$59M Global - average $10 a ticket - let's make the ticket price higher to account for things we can't weigh or factor in right now. So we'll use an average ticket price of $15 - That math works out the film gaining about 3.9 million movie goers, which means 1.95 million attended for Reynolds. Those are cartoon network viewership numbers, for Cable TV...They're awful.
In this case I can argue Reynolds milkshake barely brought anyone to the yard. We can argue he was not at all right for this film, and speculate that a different actor would have been better for the "Star Power" needed to market it better.
So it seems he does have to take some blame, but not really, based on his performance, which was adequate. But in terms of the studio vetting him. But I'd also argue on the realistic concept (because I work with studios) the fault lies with the studio exec. that greenlit this project. especially if the executive summary for the films treatment gave a history of the comic property. It would have been "very brief", as in, there isn't much. and what's more it's not mainstream, something that would have scared off most studio executives - I think, someone got lied to, and was sold something they thought was bigger than it really was, but that's speculation - moving on.
So Deadpool, are we going to see the origin of Wade Wilson? Are we getting a retcon from the disaster that was Weapon XI in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? No one really knows, and the studio has been extremely tight lipped about this particular project. Probably because they don't really know either, the project is still in need of a script that will fit in some scope with future films in the works. With Reynolds attached, this means more than likely some form of origin story, and possibly using some of what existed in the X-Men Origins Wolverine film (please god no).
I had always wondered if an origin story would occur, requiring the use of Reynolds face. In some way I hoped that perhaps Nolan North, the extremely comical voice over artist currently voicing most of the Deadpool roles in games and animated features, would gain a voice over role for a future film, considering that we'd never see his face under a mask.
I'd say, ignore the Wolverine film altogether and start from scratch, no need to rest on ceremony. I think Reynolds has enough experience now, failures and victories, to know what is going to work for him on this character, and what is not. I think he needs to consider his body of work in the comic book world and eliminate what hasn't worked for him.
If he can take all of that and learn from it, chances are we'll get an amazing transformation in this actor, and see an amazing deadpool on screen...Although, I will admit, that is going to be a difficult character to completely pull off in full costume in live action...
Looking back at all of the above, I've decided that, no, Reynolds has not been at the forefront of his comic book movie woes, he is definitely a victim of circumstance, and he might need to be more exclusive with the screenplays he chooses to take (which he has started to do, as he detached from leading the Highlander remake). It's also clear that the studio has faith in his ability to deliver the performance needed for Deadpool by attaching him to the film. While he probably should have passed on RIPD, we can't hold it against him, obscure movie with little to no marketing, is still an obscure movie, with little to no marketing. Blade Trinity is something most of the actors were stuck with, if any of Patton Oswalts interviews are to be taken at face value. Green Lantern, I think he did a good job with the script he was given, and there were so many factors that killed the budget on that film, it was out of his control. Had the director, and the producers maintained their budget, the existing numbers, while not the greatest opening for a beloved comic book hero, would have been profitable.
I'm interested in seeing developments and news for Deadpool...hopefully Reynolds will not disappoint. But it is so early in development, the studio can pull the plug or change actors all together, that's the nature of the beast. I will say this, potentially, Reynolds should consider focusing on genres outside of comic books for awhile and take on roles that show us a completely different side of him...
Films like The Amityville Horror (2005) - he was fantastic in, and not at all the usual trigger mouth we've seen in most of his films...This film has a tight budget, accomplished character development, solid scenes with good scares, and you get sucked into its world. It gained five times the film budget in gross revenue as a result...Showing Reynolds can carry a film as a lead, and that he can act. We just need to give him the shot to show us what he can do, we can argue that he has been given this chance in CBM's, but I'd argue he has not been given a fair shot, but that's just me - and a lot of the above supports that conclusion.
Do you guys agree? Do you hate my guts right now? Comment, share, tweet, follow...whatever - hit me up... @emanuelfcamacho
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