Opinion: Avengers: Age Of Ultron… Disappointment?

This is a media article that I wrote for a school assessment. The brief was to write an article that emphasised an opinion for a specific establishment, magazine or publisher. I chose this topic as I believed it highlighted a key economical and social problem in pop culture, and was an idea that was commonly being referred to throughout the journalism trade, making it relevant and appealing to mainstream audience. Any feedback would be appreciated. This text and work is my own and relative to my internal assessment, and should not be reproduced without my consent.

Analysing The 190 Million Dollar Payday: The Latest Disappointment

Imagine waking up to find $190 Million US Dollars in your bank account. Over night you have made more money than most will in 150 lifetimes. But to some, this is a little disappointing. Some expected more. Expected better. Because ‘some’ think that having the second biggest opening weekend of all time (as of its release) is a “disappointment” (Their words, not mine).

Yes, one may argue that the intense hype surrounding Marvel’s latest film as well as the incredible social media forecast, projected Avengers: Age Of Ultron to not only match the original Avengers’s $207M opening weekend haul but to better it. I admit, even I at one stage was expecting this. But just because the Avengers: Age Of Ultron (AOU) didn’t surpass the biggest opening weekend in domestic history, it most certainly, atleast in my opinion, does not make it a disappointment. But there are those out there, that think it is.

The definition of  ‘disappointment’ in Hollywood is a broad one, something that is slowly becoming an idea present in pop culture society as the public is becoming more film and business savvy, now realising and understanding the significance of box office numbers to the future of their beloved franchises. However, what most audiences (and some journalists) don’t take into account is the multitude of different factors needed to be considered in order to make a sane judgement on the success of a film in regard to their box office takings, i.e whether a film is a sequel to one of the highest grossing films of all time or if what made its predecessor such a revolutionary spectacle is still present.

When identifying these factors, as I will highlight, it becomes obvious that analysing the success of AOU in regard to the original is an unfair comparison and because of this it is purely ridiculous to call AOU a disappointment.

Firstly the original Avengers was renowned for being an extraordinarily  profound, never seen before type of film. It brought together four years worth of film characters and storylines into a single property with extensive box office appeal. This was an incredibly risky move though, that if unsuccessful, could have significantly damaged the credibility of the franchise.  But not only was Marvel able to create an ensemble that could reach an extremely wide demographic, but it did it in such an innovative way as to allow each character the ability to develop and have their own moment in the spotlight. While AOU also most certainly did this, it lacked the unique premise of the first, something that had been a major marketing move for the original and incentive for audiences to see it. Furthermore, during the time between Avengers and AOU there was also the release of similar films like X-Men: Days of Future Past (and even to some degree Captain America: The Winter Soldier) which again brought multiple properties into one. With the announcement that Warner Brothers and Marvel’s comic book rival, DC would also be creating a ‘cinematic universe’ (a term coined to define a large collection of properties that interweave into each other), it is a safe assumption to say that AOU never was going to be able to successfully reimagine the unique, concept breaking film that Avengers was, and for that reason it is unfair to make such a comparison and highlighting AOU as a disappointment is absurdly unjustified.

One point that critics constantly argue is that to be ‘successful’ (the definition of which is another matter altogether), a film franchise must ‘continue to grow’, or continue to make more money with each film. Again while this is a legitimate claim, it has been proven over and over that the success of a larger franchise is not dependent on the box office opening weekend of one film, a film that in the larger scheme of the franchise is only one piece of the puzzle. To again highlight how this proves AOU is not a disappointment, it may be valuable to make a comparison between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a franchise of a similar weight.

The Harry Potter franchise was first introduced to film audiences in 2001 with the release of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (or Sorcerers Stone in the US), with an opening weekend of $90M.  For the next 4 films these figures stayed very much the same until the release of the fifth film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which grossed  (‘merely’?) $77M in its first weekend frame. In a similar fashion to the critical dismay surrounding AOU’s box office, critics were divided over the future of the once very profitable HP films, some calling the latest film a disappointment for ‘not growing the franchise, sound familiar? The beauty of this is that like AOU, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix grossed very similar total worldwide numbers to that of its predecessors, in fact only being beaten by the original film by just $40M

So I ask, how is this a disappointment? How is it that a film, that seven years into its franchise, again similar to AOU, is called a disappointment just because it makes less in one weekend than the films before it? Journalists need to stop looking at one weekend as a comment upon the appeal and viability of a film. Rather they need to identify its long term prospects. While, yes, AOU will end up grossing about $470M domestically, around $150M less that the original’s whopping $623 M, this is purely a domestic number, while it is being said again and again, by the same critics that are calling $190M in one weekend a bad result, that the business of cinema is now a global business with the likes of China and Brazil posting incredibly strong box office returns.

AOU will end up making roughly $1.45B worldwide, about $70M less that its original, which in the larger scheme of things is a very small amount of money, and this is only assuming that when AOU releases in Japan in July that the film is not a blockbuster storm and rakes in more cash than is expected. In this case it is most certainly a possibility that AOU ends up beating the original Avengers total, and rendering the whole question of whether the sequel is a disappointment obsolete.

Finally lets consider the idea of ‘ranking’ within the box office business, an idea that is the very epitome of the ignorance of success. When box office numbers come in every morning they are normally put in an order depending on their relation to the returns of other films that weekend or day. While I agree there is nothing wrong in this, it is simply a way of judging the way a film debuts in regard to others, it is the way that some critics manipulate these numbers to ‘prove a film is disappointing’  that is becoming ridiculous. Not only do these journalists set out to highlight a film’s returns in a misleading tone, but it is done with such ignorance of the reality of a films success that is so absurd. In order to again give evidence of how journalists misinterpret box office results and present them often in a negative fashion, like AOU, I will use the example of Pixar’s recent release Inside Out. Inside Out recently opened to a $90M opening weekend, becoming not only the highest opening weekend of an original Pixar film, but the highest opening weekend of ANY original film that has not been adapted from other sources or part of a wider franchise. The significance of this is unparalleled in a cinematic era where it is constantly said that Hollywood is all about franchises, sequels and merchandising profit, while Inside Out has just proven those claims inaccurate. However, due to this ranking idea that many journalists adapt, Inside Out is being called a failure, a film that is disappointing due to the fact that it opened second to Jurassic World, a film that was in its second weekend. Because of this ranking theory, it has been stated by critics that because Inside Out came in only second, the first time a Pixar film has opened at number two, it cannot be called a box office success when this is incredibly ignorant of the reality of what has happened. Inside Out has not only blown away expectations but proven that original films still have life in Hollywood and I believe instead of discrediting a film based on its ‘ranking’, we should be celebrating its individual achievements.

So again I ask the question, how can a film that makes more money that most in one weekend, be called a failure because it opened less than one that is (agreeably) a box office phenomenon? It is these form of unrealistic box office expectations and ignorant articles from ‘witty’ journalists that has put the movie business in a position where even the greatest of accomplishments, whether that be AOU having the second biggest debut of all time or Inside Out having the biggest opening weekend of any original film, are disappointing. Where is the media’s sense of discretion with the word ‘disappointing’ or the idea of a failure, because it is clearly not present here. By understanding the reality of the entrainment era we live in, it is reasonable to question whether some journalist’s expectations for specific films are entirely unachievable and whether this is born out of the premise that a film can never be perfect. Avengers: Age Of Ultron not only showcases this thought but is purely indicative of the reality of the film business, the idea that ‘disappointing’ is a word we are going to be hearing a lot more of as films continue to fight journalistic expectations.