Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
October 9, 2012

Colts Colts Colts!

Actually, we think this was Taken 4

Kim Hollis: Taken 2 opened to $49.5 million this weekend. What are your thoughts on this result? Do you consider this to be a needless sequel?

Felix Quinonez: It more than doubled the opening of Taken so I say it's a huge win. Since it has already made back its $45 million production budget, I'm guessing Taken 3 is already green lit. Also, the daily numbers seem a bit encouraging. I was expecting it to have a pretty big Friday-to-Saturday drop, but it actually picked up a bit and its 35% drop on Sunday is not bad at all. And while its "B+" cinemascore isn't amazing it is encouraging. I still don't think it'll have great legs but maybe it won't be as completely front-loaded as I initially thought. Although I haven't seen it, I'd say it looks and, judging by the reviews, sounds like the definition of a needless sequel. But I will see it cause I love Neeson.

Max Braden: That's big. On paper you could say there's no sense to a sequel that keeps kidnaps the man's family, but it worked for Die Hard. I'd say a needless sequel would be one nobody asked for. Even though this sequel was a repeat of the first movie, that's obviously what people were asking for - more of the same. They got what they wanted, and so did the studio.

Edwin Davies: This is pretty spectacular, no two ways about it. Neeson's action-hero phase has been fairly muted since Taken came out, with only Clash of the Titans surpassing Taken's $145 million, and everything else falling between $20 million and $80 million. Basically, the fact that Taken 2 earned almost as much in three days as The Grey made in its entire run confirms that whilst Neeson has become something of a draw for action schlock, everyone was kind of waiting for a real sequel to Taken, rather than the series of sort-of Taken sequels we've seen since. I doubt that it will have good legs since this big an opening weekend will eat up a fair amount of demand, and because it's getting bad reviews and kind of ho-hum word-of-mouth, so it'll likely shoot under its predecessor's total by $10-20 million. Still, that's nothing to sniff at, and the foreign numbers will no doubt be very healthy indeed.

In terms of whether this is a "needless" sequel, I think it's perfectly appropriate. The first Taken was exactly the sort of should-have-been-straight-to-DVD-but-somehow-isn't fare that Luc Besson has been putting out for years in terms of its boilerplate plot, grim tone and overall quality. It was elevated by Liam Neeson's performance, but other than that it wasn't a particularly impressive film, artistically speaking. Taken 2 is more of the same, i.e. a straight-to-DVD sequel that happens to be playing in over 3,000 theaters.

Jason Barney: Taken 2 starting with $50 million is a huge opening and it just shows how much goodwill the original film had. Just think of some of the summer blockbusters that thought they would do better than this, when people are jazzed about going to the movies. Here we are in the middle of October, with the box office emerging from one of the most putrid Septembers of all time, and Taken 2 earned more money in the first three days than films like Battleship or Dark Shadows. This is a better opening than Ice Age 4, and in the ball park of Prometheus's $51 million, Snow White's $56 million, and MIB 3's $54 million. Anyone involved in the project has to be feeling really good. They pulled off summer blockbuster numbers in a usually soft part of the movie schedule.

Kim Hollis: I'll echo the group sentiment here to say that this result is simply outstanding. This was a very low risk/high reward project for Fox, and we can see that it's already paid off in a big way. It's not going to match the numbers of the original, but I think we all have to remember how ridiculous the total was for that film when you consider what it was and how it had unexpected longevity at the box office.

I don't really feel that this was a needless sequel, because they had a crafty idea for how to frame Taken 2. I mean, yes, it is more of the same, but I like that they put the lead character in a situation where family members of the dudes he killed in the first film want their vengeance. Even bad guys have feelings, people.

David Mumpower: The third largest opening ever for October is obviously spectacular. $50 million is tremendous for any point in the schedule for most projects, especially when the previous movie debuted to half that total. What I take from this is that we once again have evidence that the quality of the previous film directly impacts the opening weekend of the sequel. In this case, Taken is much beloved. I believe that its successor probably does qualify as unnecessary. Still, the concept is good enough that I have been anticipating its release. This is in stark contrast to Ghost Rider 2, The Hangover II, Wrath of the Titans and Journey 2, all of whom were shameless money grabs. The producers of Taken 2 at least disguise their motives a bit.

Reagen Sulewski: The precise level of the opening might be a bit surprising, but there's nothing too surprising about the fact that this sequel broke out. I compared it to The Hangover in my weekend writeup, and that's about the level of improvement this saw versus the original. This reflects how with surprise hits like the first, the box office isn't the total story about what its sequel might do

More to the point, who's going to be the next old guy action star?

Kim Hollis: Do you think this is the end of the line for Liam Neeson as an action star, or do you think the performance of Taken 2 reinforces the fact that he has a lot of life left as a 60-year-old badass?

Felix Quinonez: I actually find this question a bit puzzling. The movie opened to $50 million domestic and over $60 million overseas, why on earth would it be the end of his career as an action star? If it had flopped, maybe, but right now that's definitely not a concern. I think what we should be asking is who will get TAKEN in the next one or what animals Neeson will tame next. I can't speak of his performance in Taken 2 because I haven't seen it yet. But the movie's opening weekend numbers DEFINITELY show that he has life left as an action star.

Max Braden: Sean Connery did The Rock when he was 66, Harrison Ford did Crystal Skull when he was 65, and Stallone turned 66 this summer ahead of the release of The Expendables 2 and the upcoming Bullet to the Head. I'd say there's still time for Neeson, and audiences would probably support him in another action piece. But he may be more of a Clint Eastwood, and continue to project intimidation without lifting a finger. I think his career's as strong now as it's ever been for him, including 1993's Schindler's List. Is there anyone else that's been in as many movies this year alone? The Grey, Wrath of the Titans, Battleship, a cameo in The Dark Knight Rises, and now Taken 2. I din't think audiences are getting tired of him, and I'd guess that any faults they find with those movies, they're not blaming on him. I think the only reason we might see the last of Neeson as an action star is if he finds this pace too taxing.

Edwin Davies: As i alluded to in the previous question, I think that Neeson's at a stage in his career where his presence can help elevate a film do better than it might have otherwise - cast Sam Worthington as the lead in The Grey or Unknown and neither film would have made more than $30 million - but that he definitely has a ceiling outside of the Taken franchise (and i think we can be fairly confident that this is a franchise now with at least one more film left in it, maybe two if people don't come away from a wildly inferior sequel with too much resentment). If we remove films where he is there to fill out the cast (Clash/Wrath of the Titans, Battleship, Dark Knight Rises, The Next Three Days) then that range is $50 and 70 million. That's not bad, but I think it speaks volumes about the disconnect between Liam Neeson's draw as a lead and the success of the Taken films. His next two films are thrillers in the vein of what he's been doing over the last few years, and if they do better than his average so far then I think it's safe to assume that he is a big draw outside of Taken. My suspicion, though, is that this is probably going to be the pinnacle of his career as an action star, and that we're going to see diminishing returns for the next Taken film or two, whilst his non-Taken films will probably chug along and make more or less the same amount as the ones before them did.

Jason Barney: There was just something about the first Taken film which brought out the respect of movie fans. Part of it was Neeson's acting, I think, in which he was able to portray a character totally in control of violent and chaotic situations. There was seriousness in his eyes and understanding in his voice which drew us all in. I don't think his status as an action star has been hurt at all, even if this film is not getting great reviews. In fact, I see some parallel here between this series and what the Bourne film's were able to do. Nobody would ever complain about the violence in the Bourne films as excessive or unnecessary, because we were all so into the character of Jason Bourne. I see something very along those lines here. Neeson's ability to get into the character has a lot to do with it.

David Mumpower: As Edwin aptly stated, Unknown and The Grey reinforce the idea that Neeson as a box office draw is peaking right now. Do I believe this trend will continue? Well, I recall the discussion our group had when Gran Torino was still tearing up the box office. We were convinced that Clint Eastwood was anomalous and that each of his releases would continue to do very well. Since then, he has descended to acceptable numbers as opposed to the astonishing ones from the Million Dollar Baby era. Neeson will probably experience the same fate because there are also projects he has accepted that diminish consumer trust in him. Taking a paycheck for Wrath of the Titans, The A-Team and Battleship is great for his bank account. Starring in enough of those films combined with the audience-disappointing Taken 2 is a problem. If Neeson is more discerning in the future, I will answer yes. If not, he is still the rare actor who can claim equally phenomenal roles in Schindler's List, Love Actually and Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. He's going to anchor projects as long as he wants, just as was the case with Sean Connery as Max noted. The key issue is whether these are action films. I believe that his shelf life in such titles is shorter than everyone else here, apparently. I doubt he is still an action lead in 2016.

Kim Hollis: While I think audiences are fine with him as an action lead, I get the feeling (while watching a couple of his publicity appearances for Taken 2) that he's weary of these sorts of projects. Yes, he has a couple coming up yet, but I believe that we're going to see him move back toward prestige type roles in the future. He's an excellent advocate for his own product (he's funny, eloquent and looks fantastic), but I just sense a waning enthusiasm in him for this sort of stuff.