We have gathered the most elite of Hollywood journalists for our most in-depth Movie Fanatic round table yet. We tackle topics as far ranging as who will be 2012's box office king, who is the best Bond and why Hollywood is opening most of its blockbusters overseas before American audiences get a peek. This time out, we welcome Gerrad Hall of thesevenseas.com, Don Murphy from MSN, Roth Cornet from amctheaters.com, Ryan Downey from MTV and movieweb.com, and myself, Joel D. Amos, managing editor of Movie Fanatic.
1. What do you make of the trend of movie studios releasing their blockbusters overseas first? The Avengers, Battleship and now Prometheus debuted or will debut before we see it here in the U.S.
Ryan: It's a very interesting development, indeed, and one that I think has many positives for the world (pun intended, I guess?). Fast Five was the first flick where I felt like the international locale and the makeup of the various characters was very overtly, almost crassly, aimed at collecting a maximum amount of international coin. But really, this idea goes as far back (in my personal pop culture experience) to the introduction of the "new" X-Men: Storm (African), Thunderbird (American Indian), Nightcrawler (German), Colossus (Russian), Wolverine (Canadian!) -- etc. I think, when it's done as well as Giant Size X-Men 1 (or Fast Five, which I also loved), there's nothing to be ashamed about. I liked seeing the various destinations in the last Mission: Impossible and in The Avengers. The world is ever more connected by technology and travel; we remain so divided by so many cultural, ethnic, religious and other divisions. Coming together is always a good thing. So, if releasing a movie overseas early helps push things forward, I'm all for it.
Don: I think it only shows how the U.S. box office is a diminishing portion of the overall global economy, at least when it comes to movies (I'm not sure what that says about the U.S.'s economic strength in the world in general, but that's another discussion). Clearly the international markets are a huge source of income for the studios, and in the case of some films, a decent haul overseas might have been able to create enough buzz to help with the box office here, although that wasn't the case with Battleship. From what I understand, it also cuts down on bootlegging overseas, which is a huge problem.
Gerrad: Here's the thing... it's not a horrible move from a marketing perspective. Studios get to use their big international box office numbers to help push the movie domestically. (Too bad that didn't help Battleship.) On the flip side, it's not all that uncommon for movies to make more money internationally than domestically anyway. Many parts of the rest of the world are catching up on the 3D craze that was taking off here two or three years ago. China and India are loving it right now. In the grand scheme of things, I guess I don't really care where the movie opens first, as long as they aren't spoiled for audiences in countries where they haven't opened yet. Nobody likes a spoiler or movie pirate -- unless it's Johnny Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow.
Roth: I think that studios have realized that (in an increasingly interconnected world) pre-buzz from abroad can assist domestic sales. That was notably true in the case of the animated film Rio so it makes sense that they are taking this approach. Also, as we see films released on multiple platforms simultaneously I think it will become more of a pattern for studios to craft release strategies that suit a film's individual needs. There is a part of me that likes the idea of the traditional but we are in a changed world and must progress with the times.
Joel: Hollywood has realized what so many understood: That the world is much bigger than simply the U.S. This trend is honestly a long time coming. Plus, there’s the added bonus for American audiences who adore a particular film that does not do well domestically. Simply, we get sequels for films that a certain segment of the population is crying out for like Resident Evil. That series has a huge following globally and a passionate group of fans in the U.S. If we were only to base a film’s franchise worthiness on American box office, all those Evil fans would have to settle for one film.
2. The first real teaser trailer for Skyfall has debuted… who’s your favorite Bond and why?
Ryan: It's a tough one! I was just talking about this with someone over the weekend: While it's cool to say Connery, my generation actually grew up with Roger Moore in the role. I have a soft spot for many of his Bond films, but, honestly, I have liked all of the actors in the role (even Lazenby). Connery is probably my favorite, but Craig is a close second. I think Timothy Dalton and License to Kill is tremendously underrated! That movie and his take on the character were a bit of a precursor to what Casino Royale did, in my mind. People just weren't ready for it. They wanted a slick, Remington Steele. As I said, I have liked all of the actors in the role, but I did think the series was a bit bloated when there were invisible cars and talk of a Halle Berry spinoff. Connery set the standard, for sure. Roger Moore added a bit of "fun" to the role, Lazenby added heart, and Dalton added edge, Brosnan finesse... Craig is the first guy since Connery to really emphasize each facet in equal measure.
Don: My favorite will always be Sean Connery. He was the first Bond I saw as a kid (a TV showing of Goldfinger -- I'm not old enough to have seen it on the big screen!) and he made the most immediate and powerful impression on me. Plus he really did nail the character more closely than any of his successors, although I think Daniel Craig has come pretty damn close. Connery had it all -- the ruthlessness, the confidence, the physical prowess, the humor and the primal sexuality. His first three films as Bond are still among the series' best.
Gerrad: My experience as an audience member of any Bond movie pre-Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan is limited. Admittedly, I've never seen George Lazenby's one go at the character; Sean Connery's portrayal is so iconic that it surpasses a single movie -- his Bond is engrained in pop culture; Roger Moore never made a huge impression on me, but that's not to say I think he was bad; same kind of goes for Timothy Dalton. Pierce Brosnan I remember as being charming, slick and fun. But my personal favorite is Daniel Craig. He's a great actor, but my appreciation for his take is also because of the movies and scripts. I like a good psychological story, and his Bond has definitely been put through the wringer in those regards. There is an immediate sense of danger and urgency in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. His Bond, to me, takes what audiences have loved about all of the actors plus aspects from Ian Fleming's books that never really made it into the movies.
Roth: Impossible! You know I think Sean Connery was incredible, and each of the films and Bonds have their own sort of tone to recommend them. But for me personally, Daniel Craig and Casino Royale managed to bring a depth to the character that I find fascinating. I honestly cannot wait to see how that plays out in Skyfall.
Joel: It’s a tie between Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan. Yes, I know, the greats that came before are legendary, but I grew up on Remington Steele and always felt that this guy was essentially channeling James Bond, and when on earth will they give him a chance to be that guy? Well, he got that chance and even if the films themselves didn’t deliver, Brosnan was one awesome Bond. Then as our disdain over Pierce being replaced subsided, a new… better Bond emerged -- Daniel Craig.
3. The Avengers is on its way to be the number one movie of the year. Do you think it will be when all is said and done? If not, then who?
Ryan: It's going to be tough to beat! The Dark Knight Rises has a shot, of course, but it's saddled with a less well known villain and a tone that may no longer suit the country's mood. I love how much The Avengers embraced its comic book roots while telling a relatable story. Nolan's Batman films are wonderfully grim and gritty, but after having Avengers remind us that you can pull off an optimistic adventure tale with just as much smarts and skill, Bats has his work cut out for him.
Don: If any film has a shot at unseating The Avengers, it's The Dark Knight Rises. But I do think The Avengers will keep the crown. And that's not a dig at TDKR; I cannot wait to see that film. I just think that The Avengers captured a little more of the zeitgeist this year -- at least so far.
Gerrad: I'll offer my congratulations now to Snow White and the Huntsman, The Amazing Spider-Man, the final (thank God) Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 2 and The Dark Knight Rises for a solid effort. I think all of those, and maybe some more, will do very well, but I just can't see any other movie this year performing the way The Avengers has. The only one that might come close is Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale's final Batman movie. As excited as audiences are, the movie is still missing that "thing" The Dark Knight had going for it. The Joker is an iconic villain that is hard to surpass, and audiences were eager to see Heath Ledger's performance.
Roth: Yes, I think it will.
Joel: I’m with Roth. There’s no way any film this year can capture the lightning in a bottle that was the phenomenon of The Avengers. It was global. It was local. It was legendary.
4. The Anchorman 2 trailer(s) debuted before a frame was shot. What do you make of a trailer debuting for a movie that hasn’t even built a set? Does it work?
Ryan: I'm excited for this movie, but, it is definitely strange to see a trailer for something that hasn't shot a bit of footage yet.
Don: I guess we really won't know if it works until we see the box office grosses for Anchorman 2. But hell, these days you've got teasers, trailers, teasers for trailers, teasers for teasers -- why not make a trailer for a movie that doesn't exist yet? Maybe you don't even have to make the movie at all -- just keep showing the trailer to lure people into the theater for something else.
Gerrad: I think where the Anchorman 2 trailer was successful is that it was just a fun reminder of the characters. I don't mind at all that there's nothing of the story or a frame of footage. It's just such a trip down memory lane, and it made me want to watch the first movie all over again and again with a glass of scotch. So yes, I think it did work purely from a "we're coming back!" perspective.
Roth: Again, we live in a different sort of world now. An audience wants to feel attached to a project in a way we haven't seen in previous generations. It provides a sense of interactivity that this generation both craves and is used to so I actually think it was a really smart decision.
Joel: Give me Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy and I’d be happy to watch him read the phonebook. The fact that it’s a trailer for an Anchorman sequel has me crying with joy. Having the entire news team present for the teaser… and you can color us just a tad bit excited.
5. Viral marketing is exploding, so whose viral marketing campaign is more effective: The Amazing Spider-Man or Prometheus? Or… is someone else doing even better?
Ryan: The stuff Warner Bros. did for The Dark Knight, including the Joker cakes for the press, just can't be topped. I don't think anyone has topped the last Batman movie in terms of viral marketing for a summer blockbuster!
Don: The Amazing Spider-Man or Prometheus? Or… is someone else doing even better? I have to take a pass on this one...not paying enough attention to the viral campaigns for either film. I know they're out there, but I have just not kept up. If I had to pick one, I'd go with Prometheus -- the little bits I've seen have been pretty compelling.
Gerrad: Oh, viral marketing, how you make me waste so much of my day pouring over YouTube videos and movie websites. What I love about some of these recent campaigns -- the Fox Searchlight movie Sound of My Voice did it as well -- is making you feel like the story is real, that it's really happening. Prometheus has done a nice job with this, too. My only complaint with these campaigns is that I feel like I'm missing something in the final movie if I don't see the viral videos. I guess that's the point. But I also don't like the feeling that my thoughts on the actual film are altered because of these videos, if that makes sense. As fun and creative as they can be, sometimes I like to go into a movie as "blind" as possible without preconceived notions or expectations.
Roth: I think that the mythology surrounding Prometheus lends itself to these sorts of viral campaigns a little more than Spider-Man. Again, I think it invites the viewer into the experience by presenting hints to the mysteries that will be explored in the film and that have been present in the cinematic franchise for over 30 years. Plus, they are just so creepy, well done and pleasurable to watch!
Joel: I have to say after witnessing numerous “viral” attempts at pushing a film, Prometheus has completely vexed me with its rollout… and that is a good thing. As a lifelong fan of the Alien series, I had no idea that there was so much in my subconscious that could be awakened to anticipation for Ridley Scott’s return to outer space. With Fox’s various videos, especially the Guy Pearce TED talk and the Michael Fassbender David spot… I am spellbound for all things Prometheus.