On paper, Green Zone sounded like an inevitable hit: A big budget war movie starring Matt Damon and directed by "Bourne" trilogy director Paul Greengrass. In reality, however, the $130 million drama flopped badly, taking in just $14.5 million in its first three days. Five theories why "Green Zone" fared so badly at the box office:
1. Green Zone is about Iraq
No doubt rival Hollywood executives are "breathing a sigh of relief" that they have no Iraq war movies in the works, says Ben Fritz at the LA Times. A string of similarly themed films (The Kingdom, Body of Lies, and Stop-Loss) has consistently bombed; despite its Oscars, The Hurt Locker has earned relatively little. Even Green Zone's Damon/Greengrass "pedigree" couldn't reverse the trend.
2. Anything about Iraq is, by definition, "dated"
Making a movie about an "ongoing war" is dangerous enough; it's even risker when that war has "dominated headlines for several years," says Julian Sancton in Vanity Fair. As Obama enters his second year, this "indictment of the Bush administration" is about "as tired as Jay Leno's Clinton jokes."
3. The film's anti-military stance borders on slander
This is "one of the most egregiously anti-American movies ever released by a major studio," according to the Big Hollywood blog. It blames "U.S. treachery" almost exclusively for "the most violent years" of the war, discounting the role that insurgents played. Though it's a fictional film, these "vicious anti-American lies" have the ring of "slander."
4. Blame the marketing division for a "been-there, done-that" trailer
Universal gambled and lost by pushing Green Zone as an "action and intrigue" Bourne-series lookalike, says Ray Subers at Box Office Mojo. By contrast, Jarhead, says Anthony D'Alessandro at IndieWire, which scored "one of the better openings for Middle Eastern war pic," back in 2005 offered an "edgy Kanye West-scored trailer" that mixed "dark humor and action."
5. The movie's just not very good
The Hurt Locker succeeded critically where Green Zone failed, says Ross Douthat in The New York Times, because it acknowledges "shades of gray." Greengrass' depiction of Iraq is riddled with "cliches and simplifications." It's these, not the Iraq theme itself, that will damn the film to obscurity.
"Hollywood's Political Fictions"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- How to rescue the American family and fix the broken school system in one fell swoop
- 10 things you need to know today: November 23, 2014
- Inside Turkey's shadow war with ISIS
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
Subscribe to the Week