25 November 2011

The Battle of the Snow Whites

Last week, two new trailers have caught my attention. They are for two new, vastly different, adaptations of the classic tale of Snow White. This reminds me of 1998 when we saw a handful of double-takes on the same type of film.

Back in 1998, Paramount released their asteroid destruction movie Deep Impact on May 8. Then, Touchstone unleashed Michael Bay’s Armageddon on July 1. Let’s break it down:

-Deep impact opened strong, finished with just north of $140 million domestic (good for 8th overall for the year) and $349 million worldwide on a budget of $75 million. It currently stands with an IMDB rating of 6.0.

-Armageddon opened stronger (likely due to a better release date), finished with a domestic take just over $201.5 million (2nd highest for the year) and a worldwide take of over $553 million on a $140 million dollar budget. Its IMDB rating is 6.2.

So, to give it to Armageddon is a lock, especially when you factor in its 4 Academy Award nominations (all technical nominations and Best Original Song) and a Criterion Collection DVD release.

Later in the year, Dreamworks went toe-to-toe with Pixar in the animated ant films, pitting Antz against the animation juggernaut’s A Bug’s Life. Here’s how it shook out:

-Antz had a decent opening on October 2, finished with a domestic take of $90 million (21st for the year) and worldwide gross of close to $172 million. It has an IMDB rating of 6.8.

-A Bug’s Life opened wide on November 27 strong and finished with $162 million domestic (4th for the year), and added an additional $200 million internationally. It also picked up an Oscar nod for Original Song. It stands with an IMDB rating of 7.2.

I think it is clear that Pixar’s ants were stronger than Dreamworks’. I, however, like Antz better. But then, who am I?

While this battle was raging on the animated insect front, Miramax and Gramercy both released Elizabethan films. Gramercy went in the historical drama direction with Elizabeth, opening November 6. Miramax went the romantic comedy route with Shakespeare in Love, opening in limited release on December 11, and then opened wide in January. Here’s how the Shakespeare battle panned out:

-Elizabeth finished just above its $30 million budget domestically (65th for 1998), and barely broke $50 million worldwide. It won one of its seven Oscar nominations and holds a 7.6 IMDB rating.

-Shakespeare in Love quadrupled its $25 million budget domestically (18th for the year), and almost doubled that worldwide, with a final tally just shy $190 million. Then, it went on to win seven of its thirteen nominations, picking up Best Actress and Best Picture. On the down side, it sits at only 7.3 on IMBD.

Shakespeare in Love wins this 16th century battle handily. Its win for Best Picture, however, still causes controversy every year at Oscar time. I love Shakespeare in Love, but Saving Private Ryan is by far a better film.

That brings us to the fourth war, pun intended, between Dreamworks’ World War II epic, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Fox’s World War II “epic,” Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. This war was not fought simultaneously as the first three were. Saving Private Ryan opened in July, while The Thin Red Line opened on Christmas. Let’s see how these two 170 minute films compare:

-Spielberg’s war drama opened strong and had the legs to carry to the top grossing spot of the year with $216 million, easily exceeding its $70 million budget. For good measure, it added in another $265 internationally. It picked up five of its eleven nominations at the Oscars, including the second Best Director statue for Spielberg. It has an amazing 8.5 IMDB rating, and is ranked 42nd in the Top 250 films on the site.

-Terrence Malick’s war drama focused on the effects of war on the human psyche. Its huge cast could not save its domestic gross from falling short of its $52 million budget. Its $36 million take was good for 59th on the year. It did add an additional $60 million internationally to help the film break even. The Thin Red Line batted zero for seven on awards night. Its IMDB rating stands at 7.6.

Winner: Saving Private Ryan. Its upset loss to Shakespeare in Love will live in infamy. Even though The Thin Red Line was not a box office sensation, it is worth noting that it is Malick’s highest grossing film by almost $40 million.

There you have it. These four similar film battles gave us four of the five Best Picture nominations, three of the top five grossing films, and made Hollywood look like they were just stealing ideas from each other all year long.

In 2012, Relativity Media will release its "Snow White" film, Mirror, Mirror on March 16. It boasts a large cast including Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman), Sean Bean (Game of Thrones), Lily Collins (The Blind Side), Nathan Lane (The Bird Cage), Armie Hammer (The Social Network) and actual midgets and dwarfs. It seems to be more of a fantasy picture in the same vein as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. It is directed by Tarsem Singh (Immortals). The trailer does not make this film look very appetizing.

On the other side of the coin, Universal will release their own take on the classic fairy tale in the form of Snow White and the Huntsman on June 1. It, too, boasts a large cast. It includes Charlize Theron (Monster), Chirs Hemsworth (Thor), Kristin Sterwart (Twilight), Ian McShane (Deadwood) and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) among others. This version will be set against a medieval backdrop as opposed to the fantasy world. It is directed by Rupert Sanders, who will be making his directorial debut. While its trailer is better than Mirror, Mirror, I cannot say that I am completely sold on it either. A quick fact: Both Evil Queens are being played by Academy Awards winning Best Actresses.

If the parings of 1998 can be telling, the early bird does not usually get the worm. Only Saving Private Ryan opened first and won its battle. With a weaker release date, Mirror, Mirror may have a hard time trumping its successor. I do not see either of these Snow White adaptations picking up any Best Picture nominations come early 2013. I would be surprised if they picked up more than two combined. It would also be shocking to see either of them in the top five grossing films of 2012.

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