Monday, August 31, 2015

Why Did American Ultra Fail?

Over at One Perfect Shot, Allan Mott wrote a fascinating article about why the new movie, American Ultra, failed at the box office.  It is a good read, but I warn that he uses some vulgar language.  If you are interested, click this link.

Trying to predict what will and will not be a hit.  Studios spend millions trying to crack the formula for success, but there is none.  No one can predict what will be a hit or a bomb with any incredible accuracy.

The movie received great reviews, but despite that, I had no desire to see it.


The plot revolves around a stoner guy and his stoner girlfriend.  It turns out that the stoner guy is really a sleeper agent and doesn't even know it until he gets activated.  Action and hilarity are supposed to ensue.

Mott lays the failure squarely on the two leads: Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.  For some reason, they both come off as extremely unlikeable.  Mott blames Eisenberg's lack of appeal to his perceived arrogance.  He says Stewart is unfairly maligned for the Twilight films and her aloof attitude.

I think that Mott is right on the money.  Both of them are talented actors.  But there is nothing about them in their public life or their body of acting work that has engendered any affection.  I can tell you that Eisenberg is my biggest source of skepticism about Batman v. Superman.

But I don't think that was event he full extent of the problem.

Now, I cannot say why the vast majority of people did not see this movie.  I can only speak from my own perspective here.  I propose that maybe some of what I feel was a part of the feeling of the general populace, but I will leave that for you to decide.

For me it came down to drugs.

Drugs have always been an issue, but they have never been as mainstream as they are right now in our society.  Before it was fringe and counter-cultural.  Now it almost seems like you are strange if you lived like me and have never partaken.

The problem with marijuana particularly is that you cannot point to it an categorically call it a life ruiner.  As a teacher I have seen the horrible effect it has had on students by robbing them of any desire for higher pleasures and joys that come through fulfillment of maturity, satisfaction through accomplishment, and letting God fill your life with grace.  But, that isn't always the case.  For every kid who has all of his potential sucked away by this drug, there is someone else who partakes but still finds success.  As a result, many indulge freely thinking that they also could easily be a success and enjoy the intoxication.

I remember seeing the trailer for American Ultra and recognizing that it was playing out this particular stoner fantasy.  The movie War of the Worlds played into the fantasy of a dead beat dad who, when the chips are down, saves his family.  American Ultra is plays into the fantasy of someone who is lost to drugs but still has within them the ability to do superhuman things.

At least that is the impression I received from the trailer.  Again I haven't seen the film.  And it might be just as good as the critics are saying, but I'm turned off by the subject matter.

One of the reason I love the move Ted, is that even though there is a good deal of drug humor, it shows how it retards the soul and can lead to great unhappiness (Sadly this message is completely overturned by the sequel).

I have always had a distaste for drug culture, but it has become so mainstream to the point of embarrassment. If any of you watched the MTV VMA's last night (I did all that I could to avoid it), I'm sure you saw a constant push for "drugs are cool."  I heard an audio clip of the crowd going wild when Kayne West mentioned being high.

But I am tired of it.  It isn't even that I am horribly offended.  I'm just find it so worn out.

Yes, we get it, you want to lose yourself in mindless, intense pleasure.  And you've gotten society to the point where you can do it legally in many places.

But please don't expect me to pay money to watch you do it.

I submit that most Americans, even if they are libertarian on this, are tired of Hollywood trying to push the virtues of intoxication.

Am I wrong?

Please let me know what you think.

1 comment:

  1. It sounded like a slacker rom-com version of Wanted.

    That and a friend dragged me to Snow White and the Huntsman, so my vacuous stare starlet quota is full for awhile.