This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Movies

This box office results for this weekend are in, and Taken 2 is an overwhelming winner. With $50 million in American ticket gross and $67 million internationally, the PG-13 action-thriller easily made back its $45 million budget and had one of the biggest openings of any film in 2012.

Good for it. That’s a successful movie and Liam Neeson is a great actor who has adapted well to the role of action star. But here’s what wrong with this story: Taken 2 is boring. It’s unoriginal and uninspired and exactly what everyone complains about when they talk about how insipid modern Hollywood is. That is because it is a sequel in the worst sense. The surviving characters from the past film all appear and enact essentially the same plot as the first film—iconic phone call and all. Watch the trailer below.

People complain all the time about the lack of originality among movies these days, and with good reason. Let’s return to the box office receipts for the year of 2012 and look at what films rank in the top 10 for total gross:

Rank Film Domestic Gross Opening
1 Marvel’s The Avengers $623,357,910 $207,438,708
2 The Dark Knight Rises $444,695,205 $160,887,295
3 The Hunger Games $408,010,692 $152,535,747
4 The Amazing Spider-Man $261,765,954 $62,004,688
5 Brave $233,768,624 $66,323,594
6 Ted $218,331,000 $54,415,205
7 Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted $216,132,292 $60,316,738
8 Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax $214,030,500 $70,217,070
9 MIB 3 $179,020,854 $54,592,779
10 Ice Age: Continental Drift $179,020,854 $46,629,259
47 Taken 2 $50,000,000 $50,000,000

Extrapolating, Taken 2 is going to do pretty well, enough to probably put it in the top 20 grossing films for the year. Nevertheless, Taken 2 is a very bad movie. It’s sitting at a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And looking specifically at the high-achievers this year, that makes sense. We have, in order: a mega-crossover/sequel, a threequel, a film based off an extraordinarily popular book series, a reboot (5 years off the last installation), an original Pixar film (!), Ted—original, but so entirely reliant on pop-culture for its gags that it comes off the as regurgitation of 20s years of Hollywood—, a threequel, a Dr. Seuss adaptation, a threequel, and a fourth film from the Ice Age series.

Sure, some of these are good—almost all of them are better than Taken 2. But it just goes to show that the viewer is rewarding a Hollywood procedure that makes movies informed on past successes. As long as a series keeps on making money, Hollywood will continue to exploit this formula to rob movie-goers who, allegedly, look for imagination in their movies. The only way for this system to change is to stop paying to see the same or essentially the same thing.

So don’t see Taken 2. Just watch Taken 1 again, if you really want to. Or to see Liam Neeson fight wolves instead of Serbians, watch The Grey.


Box Office Mojo

  • Tony Russo

    I should note that I haven’t actually seen Taken 2. This pattern is well-established outside this film, though.

    • NickPeterson

      Tony Russo Liam Neeson is the king Midas of Hollywood. Taken 2 is an emotional thrill ride from start to end.

  • JohnHalloran

    Your point is well taken – no pun intended, people who make puns should be dragged behind horses – but you do realize Liam Neeson is going to be forced to kill you, right?

    • Tony Russo

      JohnHalloran He’ll be too busy filming Taken 3

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