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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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The 'Green Zone' debacle: Why it really hurts Universal

It's no secret that Universal is going to take a bath on "Green Zone," which cost upwards of $100 million to make -- Time's Richard Corliss has it at $130 million -- and only did $14.3 million in its opening weekend. That's epic flop territory. It's not even fair to blame the mess on the moviegoing public's total lack of interest in all things Iraq, especially since the film earned a mediocre B from CinemaScore and had lackluster reviews. (The film had a 50 rating from Rotten Tomatoes, meaning its reviews were even worse than the forgettable "She's Out Of My League," which got a 51. Movie Review Intelligence, on the other hand, scores the aggregate review much higher).

Green-zone-2 It's also no secret that the conservative blogsphere has been celebrating the movie's demise, with the New York Post's Kyle Smith gleefully dancing on its grave and Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood website jammed full of links to "Green Zone" box-office dud stories. In fact, we haven't seen this much delight in rightist circles since Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" tanked last year.

Even though Universal will take a serious hit in its bottom line, the film's failure would normally be endurable, especially since the production chiefs who made it -- Marc Shmuger and David Linde -- were ousted last year after an earlier string of duds. So no one can blame the new team for the old team's blunder.

But here's the problem: Desperate to find a way to open the picture, Universal marketed the movie -- as anyone who saw the TV spots can attest -- as another installment in its wildly successful "Bourne" series. The trailers (as you can see below) sold the Paul Greengrass film as being "from the director" of "The Bourne Supremacy," complete with action-packed scenes of Matt Damon -- the "Bourne" star -- rocketing around Baghdad with "Bourne"-like abandon, being pursued by bad guys amid hundreds of flying-glass explosions, squealing cars, gun battles, fiery helicopter crashes and epic chase scenes. In other words, the "Green Zone's" marketing pitch had all of the iconograph trappings of a "Bourne" movie.

If the movie had had a strong opening weekend at the box office, this tactic would've paid off. But since the movie did a belly flop, it leaves Universal  having poisoned the well for its most successful action series. After all, you can't go back to "Bourne 4" after you've already sold "Green Zone" as a Bourne sequel -- and it flopped. Audiences will be justifiably wary, having clearly been unsatisfied by the results of this Damon-Greengrass collaboration. It was bad enough that Greengrass had already put some distance between himself and directing another "Bourne" actioner. Now the studio will have to put some distance between this flop and any continuation of the series.

When it comes to a bad movie, the behavior of movie audiences is remarkably consistent: once burned, twice shy. And for the near future, that shyness will extend to any new "Bourne" project. 

Here's one of the "Bourne"-like "Green Zone" trailers:



Why 'Green Zone' failed

Can 'The Thing' remake help stop Universal's losing streak?

Comments () | Archives (39)

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I really enjoyed this film, though marketed as “Bourne movie,” Green Zone is a master piece of politics playing out in a war zone... Definitely worth seeing!

I think the "failure" is from a combination of shame and Hurt Locker. On some level, the 70%+ of Americans who supported the war, realize that they screwed up bad. That war will end up costing about $3 trillion or about $40,000 each for every American. Probably a million Iraq citizens are dead along with thousands of Americans. Millions of Iraq citizens are refugees. All the true information was available before we invaded so Americans justifiably feel ashamed that they contributed to this mess with their lack of research.
Hurt Locker was not a great movie. It didn't deserve best picture or all the academy awards it won. Again, the shame of not rewarding a revolutionary movie like Avatar. On some level, people knew that Gaia was talking to us but they, in this instance, refused to listen.

Why is it that nobody in the Hollywood bubble can address the 8,000 pound gorilla in the room: that movies like "Green Zone" flop because they are anti-military, anti-American rant-pieces?
The problem isn't that the movie going public is tired of movies about the Iraq war; they are sick of movies which adopt the same leftist screed of American imperialism.
Make a movie that portrays our military in a positive light, and "Iraq fatigue" will mysteriously disappear.

I actually liked the movie, unfortunately the American public doesn't want to be reminded that they elected Bush twice which is why we are in all this mess and prefer negate reality going to see Alice in wonderland. Just wonder what the world and America would have been if Gore had been the President....

Americans. Don't. Like. Left. Wing. Agitprop. Movies. That. Slam. Their. Military. Hello!

What an odd article...written as if Goldstein's pontifications were immutable fact.

If Goldstein were really so sure of himself, he would have written the article before the movie premiered.

Pieces like this make me think newspapers won't be missed that much after all.

Ha-ha. Screw you, Hollywood. You don't get it, do you? After seven years of anti-Iraq War, anti-military garbage that performs horribly you still greenlight this stuff. Boy, you have quite an axe to grind. I have an idea: Swallow your left-wing pride and find a writer to come up with something that presents the military and the Iraq War --GASP!-- fairly. It doesn't have to be a ra-ra piece like the old John Wayne films. Just something that portrays the terrorists (I know, you hate that label...too bad) as terrorists and our men and women who serve their country proudly as...drum roll and women who serve their country proudly.

Or, you can do the obvious and just rip-off "The Hurt Locker" 'cause that's the easy way out.

This campaign smelled weird from the start -- in the back of my mind, watching the trailer, I knew that it was being sold as Bourne when it couldn't be -- because Greengrass and Damon,, wouldn't or couldn't make an outright copy of a Bourne movie. Also, in the trailer Damon spouted Dudly-Do-Right-isms, which jar with a kickass Bourne-y movie.

At best I hoped it was a THREE KINGS-esque action movie, with a lot of provacative ambiguity. Then the reviews came in. I'm a default Democrat and I don't even want to see these guys making a movie about this -- unless it's unbelievably amazingly good. Sorry. Same reason Avatar was completely annoying. I don't even want *my own* politics shoved down my throat in a movie.

This is how I feel *before* seeing the movie. I'll still try to see it because of Damon and on the chance that I like it, but... that's why I wasn't there on opening weekend.

Jaw-dropping fail by Uni publicity, or whoever called the ball. Don't try to trick people into seeing your movie.

I love Bourne. I would see the next one - except Matt Damon has been saying he isn't interested in doing anymore Bournes and he suggested that the antique action actors Russell Crowe or Denzel Washington take up the franchise.
I didn't go to Green Zone because I dislike paying for political preaching in the movie theater.

I liked the movie, quite a lot. Did notice that there were only 4 other people in the theater, but, for me, that's a GOOD thing.

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