Is Tom Cruise now such a liability that his absence boosts a film’s prospects?

Edge of Tomorrow star seems to have lost his box-office mojo

Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 00:00

Film critics don’t really savour being estranged from public opinion. We think it would be absolutely lovely if every film that received five stars went on to gut the box office like a freshly caught trout. Just look how we enjoyed slavering over the recent Tom Cruise epic Edge of Tomorrow. Finally, the weary public would flock to see a film that reviewers felt confident in recommending as the best of the week.

It didn’t work out that way. Let’s not get too deep into the figures. Suffice to say that this is one place in which $142 million – the picture’s takings after one week – is not a very large sum of money. Put it this way: in both the UK and the US, Edge opened in third place, behind films (X-Men: Days of Future Past and Maleficent, respectively) that were on their second week of release.

For the past week, film pundits have been trying to make sense of it all. Edge of Tomorrow’s relative failure did not come as a total surprise. Having carried out its usual surveys, the studio was predicting a modest opening, but this was before those ecstatic reviews emerged. Never mind the snooty old-school critics writing unread rubbish on dead trees. Once social networks began chiming the good news, Edge of Tomorrow would surge in the public’s consciousness and conquer all before it.

Oh, dear. Come Friday there the audience were not. Come Saturday there they weren’t again. Come Sunday, all screenings in the Enormoplex had been replaced with unspoolings of hit weepie The Fault in Our Stars.

The vast array of excuses offered for Edge of Tomorrow’s failure clarifies nothing so much as the fact that nobody has any idea what they are talking about. Yes, the film had a moronic trailer that – unlike the superior promo for the inferior Godzilla – failed to get across the clever central high concept. True, the demographics skewed towards the male in an era when, as demonstrated by Maleficent and The Fault in Our Stars, women are asserting greater power at the ticket window. We know that, notwithstanding the success of Star Wars and Avatar, sci-fi plays, for most of the year, to a niche market.

Then there’s the Tom Cruise factor. He’s still (ahem) huge in Asia, but he’s never been (ahem) quite so big in Anglophone territories since that incident on Oprah’s couch. Maybe, he’s now a liability.

Here’s the thing. The last item aside, all these uncertainties could have been directed at the last Transformers film. Yet that picture made more than a billion dollars, and the next episode, due here in July, seems certain to build on that achievement.

Is Tom Cruise now such a liability that his mere absence boosts a film’s prospects? Does a film prosper better with poor reviews? Everything you know is wrong. Up is down. Right is wrong. Bad is good.

What’s the bloody point?

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