‘Flabby, belching, worthless’: Irish Times critics’ verdicts on the biggest box-office films
Cinema-goers love Jurassic World and Harry Potter, but our film reviewers usually take a dim view of the movies that make the most money
Jurassic World has broken box-office records, earning more than $511 million worldwide in its opening weekend. Despite less than enthusiastic reviews, it’s the first movie to break the half a-billion-dollar (€455 million) barrier in its first few days, pushing 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2’s $483 million opening weekend to second place.
Being deemed a three-star movie by reviewers doesn’t seem to have hurt Jurassic World one bit, but how did the rest of the box-office top 10 fare? Here are the verdicts of Irish Times film critics Tara Brady and Donald Clarke on the movies with the top-grossing opening weekends since 2002.
1. Jurassic World: ‘Nothing to see here’ (€455 million)
“Now look here. If you are going to break with pseudo-science and invent a new dinosaur, at least give the beast laser-blasting eyes or organic helicopter blades. Make it much bigger. Make it the size of the Chrysler Building. Make it breathe fire. There’s nothing to see here.” Donald Clarke
There was never any doubt that Jurassic World would do well – dinosaurs have been heavily advertised since Jurassic Park came out in 1993. Add in the universally loved Chris Pratt and the global pretence that the previous terrible sequels never happened, and you have a movie too big to fail.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2: ‘The film has no worth’ (€430 million)
“Never before has so little happened at such great length. Was it really necessary to split the final book into two parts? The film has no worth as a stand-alone project.” Donald Clarke
The final instalment of the eight-part Harry Potter series held the top spot for four years. While loyal fans once again queued up (and dressed up) at midnight to say goodbye to their childhood heroes, for the rest of the world it was more of a sigh of relief. Unfortunately for the sceptics, the Potter-verse will be back breaking records next year with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
3. Furious 7: ‘Belching grandiloquence’ (€353 million)
“Throughout, fight sequences and car chases – the nuts and bolts of the franchise – are hacked into a Tourette’s flurry of uncontrolled fast cuts . . . typical, of the film’s belching grandiloquence.” Tara Brady
If you thought they couldn’t make seven identical movies about driving too fast, Furious 7 not only proved you wrong, but made nearly $400 million in one weekend doing so. With a flimsy script, and over-filled cast and an almost sarcastic number of explosions, its success has made an eighth instalment inevitable.
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: ‘Where’s the bleeding story?’ (€351 million)
“The film will satisfy most folk who enjoyed the earlier episodes. The unconvinced may, however, find one question echoing in their minds throughout: where’s the bleeding story?” Donald Clarke
Six films in and two to go, there is more than a little fatigue in this review. As the books got longer and longer, the films struggled to cram in all the action while still having their own identity. For those who hadn’t read the books, the plot and meaning got a bit lost amongst the bangs and flashes, leading to a feeling of a lot going on without anything actually happening.
5. Marvel’s The Avengers: ‘Flabby . . . overlong’ (€349 million)
“Despite a flabby middle-section and an overlong, bang-heavy denouement, the picture keeps its many plates spinning dizzily for more than two hours. But it’s hard to escape the notion that Whedon is not running on full steam.” Donald Clarke
The Avengers was the culmination of five top-grossing standalone superhero movies, and sealed the deal on summer blockbusters until the end of the decade. Whether you love Marvel or superheroics bore you to tears, you might as well give in. They’re not going anywhere.
6. Avengers: Age of Ultron: ‘Deadening humour’ (€349 million)
“No doubt the latest Avengers romp – sequel to the third most successful movie of all time – will drag in huge coin and win many friends, but, for this viewer, the sound of tiny Fonzies jumping distant sharks marred the enjoyment. The humour falls into the following deadening pattern: big bang, bigger bang, undercutting quip from Robert Downey Jr. It’s the same template the Bond team devised 50 years ago” Donald Clarke
The second Avengers movie did nearly as well on its opening weekend as the original, but had a less positive reaction from fans and critics. The overwhelming number of superheroes made for a cluttered and exhausting film.
7. Transformers: Dark of the Moon: ‘An infectious disease’ (€341 million)
“Such is the appalling reputation of the Transformers movies that this release seems less like the launch of a summer blockbuster than the recurrence of a debilitating, infectious disease.” Donald Clarke
The Transformers series started off poorly and went downhill from there. The best our reviewer could say about Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon is that it wasn’t quite as bad as the previous one. When you’re that deep into a series however, fans know exactly what they are signing up for and they voted with their wallets to the tune of one billion euro over its run. Yes, billion. With a B.
8. Spider-Man 3: ‘Far too much going on’ (€340 million)
“There is, even for a film that stretches to 140 minutes, far too much going on here. Spider-Man 3 still exudes just enough magic to justify its existence (if not its running time).”
The reviews for this film weren’t that bad but they weren’t good either. Its reputation as the most ridiculous superhero sequel ever seems to have developed further down the line. The lack of one proper villain may have been a problem.
9. Iron Man 3: ‘Zippy’ (€332 million)
“Shorter and less self-regarding than most Marvel movies, Iron Man 3 is every bit as zippy as we might expect from the creator of Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Robert Downey Jr has the stammering rhythms down perfectly and Ben Kingsley offers the best villain we have yet encountered.” Donald Clarke
After the success of Avengers Assemble, Iron Man 3 had its opening weekend success pretty much in the bag. The film is actually good, most reviewers agreed. A great villain, surprising twists and even some character development make it a contender for top place in the Marvel Universe. Unusually good for a three-quel.
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: ‘We love Depp in a bandana’ (€312 million)
“It hardly matters that it’s a lacklustre improvement on the formula. We, the people, have decided we love Depp in a bandana. We love Keith Richards as his dad. And we don’t mind sitting through hours of any old rubbish to get our fix.” Tara Brady
This fourth film in a series written around a theme park ride has almost none of the previous cast, focusing instead on Captain Jack frolicking for two hours. There might be a plot, but it’s hard to tell.