To think we actually doubted Brad Pitt...
Movie analysts were up in arms earlier this year when 'World War Z' – that's 'troubled production' 'World War Z', unmistakably tarnished by costly reshoots and squabbles on set – became one of the biggest hits of the year, despite all signs pointing to a big zombie bellyflop.
For all their fancy tracking figures and informed predictions, sometimes the industry insiders just get it wrong. Here are five other movies that proved the naysayers wrong by striding on to victory.
Star Wars (1977)
These days, 'Star Wars' is that most sacred of cash cows, one still regularly trotted out for another squeeze on the golden udders. However, Fox were bracing themselves for a flop before George Lucas unleashed 'A New Hope' onto the world. It missed its original release window of Christmas 1976 and Lucas was sick with worry that it'd be a failure. One early pre-release screening, sans music and special effects, saw George's industry buddies Brian De Palma and John Milius proclaim it a disaster – even Lucas' wife Marcia said she thought it was "awful". But from the moment that Star Destroyer loomed into shot, 'Star Wars' went on to enchant entire generations of movie lovers, redefining cinema as we know it in one fell swoop. At last count, the seven theatrically released 'Star Wars' movies (including special editions, 3D re-releases and, ugh, 'The Clone Wars') have made over $4.5 billion at the box-office. Shows what you know, Martha.
Never work with children or animals, says the old adage. Add 'water' and 'Kevin Costner' if the rumours of 'Waterworld''s tumultuous shoot are to be believed. Kevin Reynolds' 1995 sci-fi epic bore all the hallmarks of a gigantic turkey – a costly production that spiralled out of control thanks to the impracticality of shooting on water, 'Waterworld' was labelled "soggy" and "a damp squib" by critics before a single second had been seen. Though it still has a reputation for being one of the biggest flops ever, it's just not true: 'Waterworld' exited cinemas with a respectable worldwide take of $266 million and made a tidy profit on home video. You want a genuine Kevin Costner disaster? May we suggest 'The Postman'?
The RMS Titanic was predicted to make the fastest ever journey between Southampton and New York – and we all know how that one worked out. Conversely, James Cameron's 'Titanic' was predicted to sink before it had even set sail, with exorbitant costs (the director built a 90% scale model of parts of the ship), tales of actresses almost drowning (poor Kate Winslet) and crew members being poisoned on set. Smug tabloids predicted a fitting disaster; "Cameron's overweening pride has come unnecessarily close to capsizing this project," crowed The LA Times. As it happens, the special effects were mind-boggling, Kate Winslet was Oscar-nominated, the crew got better and 'Titanic' went on to gross over $2 billion, becoming the most successful movie of all time. No one would ever doubt James 'King of the world' Cameron ever again.
Until his next movie. It was the same old story in the press when 'Avatar''s release date loomed at the tail-end of 2009 – it didn't even have a trailer until a few months prior to release. The budget was gigantic, even bigger than 'Titanic''s. Industry vultures with short memories circled once more, hungry for a flop. Said NBC: "What we have here is the inverse phenomenon of 'Titanic'... it sure doesn't look very promising". When the initial opening weekend figures came in, famous box-office analyst and all-round pleasant individual Perez Hilton couldn't hide his disappointment: "There's $500 million dollars [sic] shot to hell! The most expensive movie ever made has FAILED at the box office!" $2 billion and 222 angry user comments later, Perez Hilton had his ass handed back to him.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)
A movie based on a theme park ride? A pirate movie based on a theme park ride? Starring untested indie actor Johnny Depp? Pshaw! To be fair to almost every critic who pinned Disney's 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' as a potential floater, the Disneyland attraction on which it was based didn't exactly scream blockbuster material, while 'Cutthroat Island' had run the pirate genre through with a rusty blade eight years previously. And Johnny Depp? The box-office colossus that stands before us today was considered a major risk in a Disney tentpole back in 2003, with one producer famously screaming that the actor's rum-soaked take on Jack Sparrow was "ruining the movie". Presumably this person no longer has a job where he gets to decide what is or isn't ruining anything.
Watch the trailer for 'World War Z', out now on DVD and Blu-ray, below.