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The Summer Movie Season is known for bringing big, loud, eye-popping spectacles to the big screen for our viewing pleasure, but most of the time they wind up disappointing us. For every enormous success like The Avengers, we get a handful of flops like The Lone Ranger or Cowboys and Aliens. This year, even some of the better Summer movies like Man of Steel didn’t quite inspire the same mixture of awe and pure escapism found in the classic Summer blockbusters of years past. With this Summer’s Pacific Rim, director Guillermo Del Toro gave us one of the most purely entertaining Summer movies since The Avengers, and yet during its opening weekend, more people chose to pay to go see the dreadful-looking Adam Sandler vehicle Grown Ups 2. Many of the people who saw Pacific Rim were enthusiastically positive about it, but sadly its inability to claim the top box office spot has led many numbers-obsessed pundits to label it a box office failure.
Why didn’t the simple pleasure of watching robots battle giant sea monsters translate to big earnings at American movie theaters? One could point to its status as an untested property as a possible reason. Unlike most of the current Summer blockbusters, Pacific Rim is not directly based on a well-known property that existed in another medium but is rather a pastiche of Japanese monster movies, American action films, and sci-fi tinged anime. This combination is a slam dunk for most movie geeks and especially for those familiar with Del Toro as a director, but it may have been a tougher sell for the average moviegoer who may not be as familiar with some of the genres that the movie pays homage to. One could argue that the success of Michael Bay’s Transformers film series should have given Pacific Rim a bump, but sadly that wasn’t the case, even though Del Toro’s film provided more thrilling moments than in all three movies in Bay’s overlong, obnoxious trilogy.
Another possible reason for Pacific Rim ‘s disappointing box office run so far could be the time in which it was released. Big, effects-heavy action films likeIron Man 3, Fast and the Furious 6, Man of Steel, and Star Trek Into Darkness all preceded Pacific Rim, so perhaps by this point in the Summer, audiences were in the mood for something different, such as an animated comedy like Monsters University. Perhaps this is also why Grown Ups 2 was more popular at the box office than Pacific Rim. Judging from what is left among this year’s Summer Movie offerings, we’re seeing more comedies and mid-level films, so maybe Pacific Rim would have drawn a bigger audience if it had been released in May or June, or perhaps it would have made more of an impact if Warner Brothers had released it in August, which would have provided more of a buffer between it and the big tentpole releases.
Whatever the reason, the fact that Pacific Rim isn’t a smash hit is disappointing considering how good the movie really is. In a Summer where many of the bigger blockbusters had a tinge of melancholy and/or dread to them, Pacific Rim was a fun, lighthearted sci-fi action film with little to no overt references to real-life events. While the human characters were cliched and two-dimensional, the awesomely rendered battle scenes between the Jaegers and Kaiju made up for these narrative flaws in a big way. I did enjoy the “comic relief” characters played by Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, and Ron Perlman and appreciated that they actually played a crucial role within the movie’s overall plot, which is more than I can say for most supporting characters in other Summer blockbusters. Even though Pacific Rim hasn’t exactly set the world on fire at the box office, I’m confident that it will generate enough positive word of mouth that it will do extremely well in DVD and Blu-Ray sales along the lines of Speed Racer, Dredd, and Scott Pilgrim Versus The World, all of which did even worse at the box office when they were released but are now considered cult classics.
Are any of these factors the reason why Pacific Rim isn’t a major success in theaters, or is there another factor that I may have missed? Share your thoughts in the comment chain below.