While the official Wednesday numbers have yet to roll in, I think we can safely presume that Jordan Peele’s Get Out has now crossed the $150 million mark at the domestic box office. The buzzy horror film debuted just over a month ago with a whopping $33.377m opening weekend and then legged it like mad to what is now at around $150.5m in North American grosses. That’s a ridiculous 4.5x weekend-to-final multiplier, and it’s clearly nowhere near the end. It will soon pass the 4.76x multiplier for Bad Moms to become one of the leggier live-action releases outside of the Oscar season in recent memory. The film has captured the cultural zeitgeist and become a piece of real pop culture. So yeah, come what may, Jordan Peele probably has better options than directing that Akira remake.
For the record, I would have no objection to Peele using his capital to do a big blockbuster if he wants to. But Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc.’s long-simmering attempts to fashion a live-action remake of the 1989 Japanese animated classic smells like a trap. It is a project that has been kept alive because of it’s IP value and once upon a time Akira was a beloved animated movie. If Ghost in the Shell does well this weekend, and that’s a big “if,” it will be because Scarlett Johansson is a movie star and female-driven sci-fi action spectaculars are still rare enough to be something of an event. Unless Peele casts Japanese lead actors, Akira will not be an event.
Peele, more than any other director now, doesn’t need the headache. His original, $5 million social thriller is going to earn around $165-$170m for Universal/Comcast Corp. at the domestic box office. Ask yourself, is there any realistic chance that a live-action Akira would make $170m at the domestic box office? Sure, it might make more overseas, but it would have to make a lot more overseas just to qualify as a modest hit. In a saner world, Peele would use his capital to make a mid-budgeted action movie, drama or comedy. But since the studios have removed most of the mid-budget/studio programmers from the equation, Peele has little choice but to go from Blumhouse to tentpoles.
The notion of Chris Nolan going from Memento to Insomnia and then toBatman Begins is now something of a fantasy. The only reason Ryan Coogler got to direct a mid-budget movie before going from Fruitvale Station toBlack Panther is because he could make his star-driven drama under the guise of a Rocky sequel. The more common path is the Colin Trevorrow one where you make one acclaimed indie and then are handed the keys to a mega-franchise. Now, for the record, the fact that a non-white guy is being afforded this opportunity is cause for celebration.
But, putting aside for a moment what I want from Peele’s career, because it’s not my life and I’m not the one expecting a child whose entire college tuition can be covered by a blockbuster paycheck, there is reason to hope. Despite my concerns about promising young directors going straight from indies to tentpoles, we recently have seen some old-school “one for them, one for me” work. J.A. Bayona made the superb A Monster Calls before the Jurassic World sequel, and Taika Waititi entered Thor: Ragnarok with two excellent small-scale pictures under his belt. Trevorrow is making The Book of Henryin between Jurassic World and Star Wars 9 while Marc Webb will deliver his first non-Spider-Man movie in five years with Gifted next month.
So yes, I am depressed when I see Denis Villeneuve score big with the likes ofPrisoners, Sicario and Arrival and then go off to make Blade Runner 2049and (possibly) Dune. And yes, I think the industry (perhaps society as a whole) needs Jordan Peele’s social thrillers much more than they need Jordan Peele’s Akira. But there is more reason to suggest that Peele can go off and make his cash-in would-be blockbuster and not get caught in a Bryan Singer-like whirlpool of franchise filmmaking. Heck, while this isn’t his responsibility, there is no reason Peele can’t oversee his other social thrillers while giving other hungry actresses and minority artists a shot at the big time.