Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2007 #10:
Audiences Firmly Reject War-Related Movies
By David Mumpower
December 28, 2007
Sometimes, the movie industry is its own worst enemy. At a time when the so-called flyover states are particularly outraged over the odd misperception that anyone and everyone in Hollywood is a weak-willed liberal and probably a homosexual and maybe even a Jew to boot, this is the year where the studio system targets the Iraq War and Afghanistan. I guess the thought process is that if the industry can survive some anti-Semitic and homophobic attacks from the right wing, they might as well push back as much as they possibly can. Examining and potentially criticizing the war is certainly the way to get attention if that is the goal. The problem is that it is not the way to get box office results at the moment.
Perhaps fooled by the relative success of Jarhead, a movie that owed its box office results to the catchy tune of Jesus Walks more than its own quality, several filmmakers decided that six years was long enough to wait after 9/11. With a couple of movies on that very topic finding success in 2006, the thought process would be that producers could educate as well as entertain. Consumers had their own thought process about the idea of being educated while entertained. It was something along the lines of, "Where do you get the nerve, you stupid jackass?" The message has been received loud and clear.
The writing was already on the wall at the start of the year. Home of the Brave, an Irwin Winkler production starring Samuel L. Jackson, had a forgettable two city awards run to qualify for the Academy Awards. The story predicated upon three soldiers from the Iraqi conflict struggling to come to terms with their return to a safer existence found no popularity anywhere. MGM quickly soured on the idea of marketing the title, eventually settling upon the decision to bury it in 44 theaters on opening weekend. Its total gross of $40,830 was not much of a return on the investment of approximately $12 million. This was the warning shot off the bow about how 2007 would treat its war-related releases.
The summer examination of terrorism was A Mighty Heart, the theatrical adaptation of the Mariane Pearl novel of the same name about the kidnapping of her husband, Daniel Pearl. The dreary story of this one involves a reporter kidnapped in Pakistan and later put to death by his captors. Like Home of the Brave, A Mighty Heart could claim an A-List actor heading up the production. But the presence of Angelina Jolie did little to aid the title at the box office. It earned only $9.2 million in domestic receipts against a budget of $16 million. With $28 million invested in 2007 movies about the war and terrorism, Hollywood had only $9.24 million to show for its effort, but the two biggest titles were yet to get their trial runs.
The Kingdom, an $80 million production starring Jamie Foxx, and Lions for Lambs, a $35 million production starring Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, had something odd in common. Both were written by Matthew Carnahan, brother of avant-garde Narc director Joe Carnahan. The scribe Carnahan wrote the two screenplays as spiritual brethren, one being the corollary to the other. The Kingdom was the physical application of American political policies in the Middle East as well as the impact they might have on our citizens while Lions for Lambs was the theoretical application wherein battles took place in newsrooms and offices as well as on foreign soil.