The Sin City sequel has bombed spectacularly, and the writing was on the wall from the start.
Roughly a week after it opened around the world, Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For turned out to be more of a week to forget for the film’s producers and distributors, as the film failed to make anywhere near the amount of the box office takings expected. The web is awash with articles detailing you how badly it flopped; Huffington Post even published a feature showing you 11 earlier flops that had better starts at the box office. So, sadly, it seems the film has become a financial bomb. Why?
Many of the original film’s fans have grown up, more willing to take their families to see films like Guardians of the Galaxy
On the face of it, the answer is fairly simple. The film’s distribution strategy, in cinemas around the world, seemed calculated from the outset to ensure the film’s failure. Take a look at cinema times in theatres here, in Ireland and the US, and you’ll find the film is being shown two or three times a day at most. Add to that the fact that many of the original film’s fans have grown up, if not to the point where a film full of scantily clad women, car chases and lots of gore is no longer attractive, but to the point that they’ll now have families of their own, families they’re more willing to take to see films like Guardians of the Galaxy.
Then there’s the fact that often the only way to see Sin City 2 is in 3D, a medium which has often failed to convince cinemagoers. Two years ago, Dredd’s failure came down in part to the fact that it was shown mostly in 3D. This, it seems, equals almost an automatic death warrant for a film’s box office chances. Yet, when you look at Sin City 2, it’s clear it’s not being left to fail on its own merit. Like the original, Sin City 2 is a bold, recklessly artistic film where the idea of a character-driven plot is taken to its logical extreme, regardless of the fact that story doesn’t seem to have any continuity with regards to whether or not it’s a prequel or a sequel, or that such a story might be a little hard to follow.
The characters of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For form the story around themselves, almost to the point where actors have reshaped themselves to perfectly fit their character. The film itself feels like the comic it’s based on had simply fed its pages straight through the projector. All of which is part of the problem. This after all is a film that was made to be an 18. Its creator, Frank Miller, talked of deliberately crafting a comic that wouldn’t be something you could adapt into a film. Back in 2005, that wouldn’t have been a problem, because the climate at the time was more accepting of films for mature audiences and, more to the point, those audiences were receptive to Hollywood’s efforts. Now though, Hollywood is flailing, and flailing badly.
Spending years on a labour of love isn’t something directors and writers can afford the luxury of in today’s film market
The last three years have brought generally poor summers where blockbusters are concerned. This year, as noted by The Times, no film has yet managed to pass the £300 million mark for box office takings, and so far only Guardians of the Galaxy (which has made more in the US than abroad, and is still a pale reflection of past greats) and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Heroes reboot look to be actual hits. Hollywood’s response to this has been to throw all its eggs into two baskets; one is the family-friendly movie, with both Disney and Warner Brothers planning to churn out film after film from their respective comic book subsidiaries, Marvel and DC. The other basket is the Chinese market, leading the makers of films like Transformers 4 to pander to Chinese audiences.
Any film not willing to fit itself into this mould – and Sin City 2 doesn’t even fit its own mould – seems to be lining up for certain punishment. But as long as the studios are churning out films that will get families into seats, the cinemas will give them more screen time over a film that’s only going to be watched by adults. Of course, Sin City 2 may do well on DVD, in which case it will take a well-deserved place amongst cult films like The Shawshank Redemption and Fight Club. At the moment though, Sin City 2 is a film that has simply come far too late for it to be successful. Spending years on what may have been a labour of love isn’t something directors and writers can afford the luxury of in today’s film market.
All images: Dimension Films