In anticipation of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Slate’s Tom Shone recently wrote an article on the gradual disappearance of the box office bomb. Its delightful title: “A World Without Waterworlds.”
As Shone explains, there was once a time when Hollywood made movies with budgets dwarfing the GDP of small countries only to watch them topple and disintegrate like a house of really expensive playing cards on fire. He recalls with a certain nostalgia:
“Bonfire of the Vanities. Waterworld. Last Action Hero. Cutthroat Island. Their names alone were legend. They bestrode the world like colossi, their charred, rusting bulks a testament to the reach of man's hubris, the folly of human dreams, and the price of bottled water at Spago.”
Hollywood is still begetting films with behemoth budgets, but the rate at which these monsters crash and burn has slowed significantly. Instead, Shone writes, the studios are much more quick to slash budgets and lower expectations at the slightest hint of trouble. An excellent example is how The Alamo, originally slated as a Ron Howard joint starring Russell Crowe, was reduced to a minor flop starring Dennis Quaid.
Shone also argues that Hollywood’s become increasingly sheepish about original ideas. All the more reason one should worry about Inception. How did this one slip through? Is it really that good? Let’s hope so. Perhaps then the studios will get just brazen enough to put out a real clunker.