Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Creature Flops Among Us



From what I've been reading, the new monster movie Creature has been setting box office records--although not the kind of records any movie should want to set. According to Box Office Mojo, Creature currently holds the distinction of having the fifth lowest-grossing opening on record for a nationwide release and the second-worst in terms of per-location average, with an estimated per-showing attendance at less than six people. I didn't think much of this at first, until I heard who the lead producer of this z-grade movie was and arranged for its theatrical run: Sidney Sheinberg, former President of Universal Pictures.

Sheinberg has been credited with "discovering" Steven Spielberg and using his position at Universal to support (and lavishly profit from) many of Spielberg's most popular movies, starting with Jaws and concluding with Jurassic Park. However, just because a movie mogul discovers and cultivates a talented movie director doesn't make the mogul himself a creative talent. As I've posted here before, Sheinberg spearheaded the atrocious Jaws: The Revenge, which he rammed through pre-production, production, and post-production in less than a year's time to meet a summer release date. (The end result, both in terms of quality and profitability, roars loudly for itself.) Other ideas championed by Sheinberg include dreadful re-edits to Ridley Scott's Legend and Terry Gilliam's Brazil. He also tried to shake down Nintendo for money by suing them in 1982 under the claim that Donkey Kong was a rip off of King Kong.

According to The New York Times, Sheinberg aimed to prove through Creature that a small movie could achieve national distribution through direct negotiations with theater chains and online guerrilla marketing, instead of having to rely on a big studio for support. While the accomplishment of having Creature play at 1,507 single screen locations without the aid of a big studio is supposedly a victory of sorts for independent filmmakers, I think it instead proves that old habits die hard for retired big studio executives. As Creature proves, it doesn't matter how clever or cost-efficient an advertising and distribution campaign for a movie is if the movie itself is unoriginal, poorly made rubbish.

Here are some other interesting Jaws/Creature connections:

* Common Inspirations: Creature rips off its central idea from Creature From the Black Lagoon, a classic creature feature that strongly influenced Jaws and its sequels. In fact, Sheinberg approved of the production of Jaws 3D (a 3D sequel that's similar to the 3D sequel Revenge of the Creature), which sidelined a remake of Creature From the Black Lagoon--a remake that was proposed by Lagoon director Jack Arnold himself and supported by John Landis.

* Redneck-O-Rama: Creature opened within weeks of another water monster movie, Shark Night 3D. Shark Night 3D has been described as Jaws with homicidal rednecks; coincidentally, Creature can be described as Creature From the Black Lagoon with homicidal rednecks.

* A Creature Couple: Peter Benchley, author of the bestselling Jaws novel, also wrote a book called Great White. Great White was later adapted into a TV miniseries that also bore the title Creature. While Sheinberg's Creature is half-man and half-alligator, Benchley's Creature is half-man and half-shark.

The other Creature, courtesy of Peter Benchley.


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