Monthly Archives: September 2009

‘Surrogates’ Movie Beaten By ‘Meatballs’

Saw this tweet in my feed the other day, I was intrigued.

LosAngelesCP Los Angeles: ‘Cloudy’ has sunny second weekend as ‘Surrogates,’ ‘Fame’ flop http://bit.ly/22MTSy

So “Surrogates” had a dismal opening weekend after expecting to beat out the rest of the box office with the latest comic-book-turned-movie blockbuster. Instead, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” took the lead with one of the smallest drops this year in revenue after its opening weekend. “Surrogates,” which cost $80 million to produce and opened in 10 international territories, only raked in $15 million between the U.S. and Canada.  Many critics gave the robotic thriller a C, which is as bad as it gets.

“The Surrogates” the comic book, however, has gotten a better reception. GeekDad of Wired.com gave the comic books a pretty stellar review. Explaining the differences between the comic and the movie, (In the comic, the killer only murders the robots, whereas, in the movie, both the human users and the robot surrogates are killed.) he likens it to graphic novel classic and recent box office success “Watchmen.” Like “Watchmen,”  “The Surrogates”  has a lot of extra material in the form of newspapers and advertisements to explain more of the comic book’s world, but it seems the comic book version also takes a similar approach to the intense storytelling of “Watchmen.”

While it is only a testament that “Meatballs” is the better-selling movie, it is a little surprising that “Surrogates” couldn’t keep up considering the relative popularity of comic-book movies. I saw the giant billboards hawking “Surrogates” all over L.A. this summer and, frankly, they creeped me out. Still, it’s kind of surprising this movie isn’t selling better. It has everything going for it: a solid comic book background, Bruce Willis and lots of exposure via large and incredibly hard to ignore advertising. Perhaps the impression stuck that there were going to be otherwise perfectly human robots walking around eerily missing good chunks of their torsos and nobody wanted more gross outs a la the Prawns of “District 9.” (Which is amazingly written, don’t get me wrong, but those Prawns are the embodiment of my worst nightmares. If they had shown them in their billboard ads, I would have been A LOT more reluctant to see the movie.) Perhaps the premise of the movie was a little bit too “I, Robot” for people and just because a movie has all the right ingredients doesn’t mean people will be interested in seeing it. Maybe Bruce Willis just got too old for people. The models they used in those billboards were pretty hot. That’s some stiff competition…

My guess is that no matter how good the comic is, no one had really heard of “The Surrogates” the comic book. Everyone and their mother in the geek world had heard of “Watchmen” when it was finally revealed to be in movie production (attempts had been made since the graphic novel’s release in 1985, but movie-making technology was not quite there yet.), and if they hadn’t, then they got on the bandwagon faster than you can say Dr. Manhattan. But “The Surrogates” didn’t have that same recognition (“Watchmen” has a spot on Time’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time list.) or the marketing team smart enough to hit where their actual audience should have come from: the comic book section of the bookstore.

What they should have done was put the comic book front and center in every chain bookstore they could buy out. I personally don’t remember seeing “Watchmen” on shelves before marketing efforts for the movie started, but once they did there was so much “Watchmen” merchandise that you could bust a paycheck on all the Rorschach figures and T-shirts with the iconic blood-stained smiley face. Not once did I walk into a bookstore this summer and see a similar big, flashy display for “The Surrogates.” The only time I saw it on bookshelves at all was on a normal shelf at the register in a comic book store. The owner had likely put it there because of the movie’s upcoming release, but let’s face it, not enough people go to comic book stores to generate enough revenue for a movie with an $80 million price tag.

Info gleaned from:

Los Angeles Times: “‘Cloudy’ outshines all other films again”

GeekDad on Wired.com: “The Surrogates: Know the Comic Before the Movie”

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