Monday Morning Critic – Blackhat, Chris Hemsworth, Thor, Michael Mann And What The Curious Case of a January Release Tells Us about This Film

MMC

One of the wild things about the upcoming weekend in film is that marks a profound first for one of the great directors and producers of his generation. Michael Mann, who’s gotten nominated for every award that matters, is having what should be a blockbuster release given a fairly forgettable theatrical dump release in January. It’s not all that shocking, as Oscar winner Ron Howard had it happen in 2011 with his utterly forgettable buddy comedy The Dilemma, but this is a slightly different situation then.

The Dilemma was a film everyone was looking to forget immediately after its first trailer debuted. Blackhat has gone from being what was supposed to be a winter action film, like a chunk of Mann’s releases have been, to being a film about to get bum rushed in (and out) of theaters in the deadest part of the year. Even the latest commercials for the film are kind of nondescript; Mann’s name is downplayed in everything that isn’t a trailer and this is being positioned as a action film for Chris Hemsworth. And even he isn’t being put front and center, either. It’s odd to see an action vehicle with one of the summer’s biggest stars and an iconic director get this sort of treatment.

You can be fair in that Mann might be the best director not to have won an Oscar still actively making films right now, or at least in the team picture of that conversation.

So it’s interesting that Mann and Hemsworth, two people who shouldn’t get short shrift in this situation, are basically being positioned to be a forgettable film as opposed to a massive flop. That’s what Blackhat, with a budget rumored to be from $80-100 million, is poised to be right now. Right now the January release of this film tells us a lot about this film.

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1. Chris Hemsworth’s ability to bring in an audience is very much in doubt

For as much as Hemsworth can make money when he grabs an over sized hammer, which is something that has elevated his stock and turned him into a star, the fact that this sort of starring vehicle is getting a crappy release is something. This is Hemsworth’s turn with a star maker of a director and it’s kind of just being shrugged off. Hemsworth is in theory a movie star who should be able to open a substantial action film on his own. So the fact that a film of substance that he’s in, one that might propel him into becoming a bigger star than just being Thor in his own and the Avengers franchise, is getting this treatment says something.

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2. This film would’ve gone direct to video, or had a modified theatrical/VOD release, without Michael Mann at the helm

Mann’s a guy good enough to never have to see a film go to video/VOD/limited theatrical release if he doesn’t want to. And the fact that he’s getting a film near $100 million in budget to drop in January, with little fanfare, is something. If anything one would imagine this would’ve gotten a limited theatrical release during the winter to build some word of mouth. It may not have been an Oscar contender but getting it in that conversation would’ve done something to get it in front of people’s eyes. Now, with a wide release in January, the only conclusion one can make is that this is getting a more traditional release because Mann is still a director who deserves it.

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3. The terse, adult action thriller is something Hollywood has a much more difficult time knowing what to do with

So far this might’ve been an action thriller with some intelligence to it, less action and closer to something that teenagers would avoid. The one thing that’s for sure is that it’s been marketed poorly, with an awful trailer, as it’s trying to make this into a more action filled version of The Net. Blackhat‘s marketing so far has shown one thing Hollywood has seemingly forgotten; how to market an R-rated thriller.

4. The prospects of this being an absolute stinker just went through the roof

Films being dumped into January like this generally are trying to make enough back to justify the film’s budget. Any money it makes is going to be gravy because a dump like this, for a high profile director and actor, is a signifier that everyone who has a financial stake in this is hoping to just not lose money at this point.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .</em

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