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'Angel Has Fallen' Proves Franchise Installments Can Feel Fresh

August 26, 2019
2 min read time

In a year where the prevailing box office takeaways have indicated a worrying degree of consolidation in which stories are being told—and who gets to tell them—the past weekend’s box office offered some glimmers of hope. Or at the very least, nostalgia.

Angel Has Fallen, the third film in the not particularly well-regarded Fallen franchise starring Gerard Butler as a Secret Service agent, led the pack over the weekend with a box office take of $21 million. Few would cite the third entry in an R-rated action franchise as being a bastion of original storytelling. However, when placed next to this year's torrent of live-action remakes of beloved animated classics and more superhero movies than usual, it feels like something of a throwback to the good old days.

Adult-targeted action movies used to define the summer blockbuster, but these days, all the big movies need to be family-friendly, four-quadrant entities. The result: the slow death of big, old school action movies. Therefore in this context, the success of Angel Has Fallen is to be celebrated.

The Fallen franchise doesn't have anything approaching the intellectual property value of even the lowest film on the Disney rung, so the fact that audiences showed up for it is encouraging for those among us (Hi!) who love action-driven stories in which people actually die on screen.

On the comedy side of things, Good Boys opened last weekend with numbers that suggested there is still life in original comedies on the big screen. Audiences continue to embrace the film: it took in almost $12 million over the weekend to earn second place.

The third place film points to one of only notable new trends in big screen storytelling outside of comic book adaptations and remakes: the faith-based drama. The long-distance running-centric Overcomer earned $8 million, once again proving that a wide audience exists for these kinds of stories, even if the films are more or less ignored by mainstream media. 

Moving beyond the top five (rounded out by Hobbs & Shaw and The Lion King in fourth and fifth place, respectively), it is the film is sixth place that perhaps offers the most encouraging indication of there being life in original big screen storytelling.

Although the rip-snorting comedy horror Ready or Not only earned $7.5 million for a total so far of $10.5 million following a Tuesday opening, that still makes it the biggest ever opening weekend haul for a film released by Fox Searchlight, the specialty arm of 20th Century Fox that traditionally focuses on arthouse fare.

The reason those numbers are encouraging is that the film was barely marketed, perhaps due to it being one of many films that Disney inherited after purchasing Fox. The poster made it seem somewhat generic, and the trailer only hinted at the glorious storytelling pleasures it provides.

Even the logline—a young bride is pursued by her new husband's murderous family on the night of their wedding—made it seem like something you'd be more likely to catch on cable in the wee hours.

But the film is an absolute winner, and a great example of how execution is everything in storytelling. You can start from a place that feels familiar, but if you do something cool with it, which Ready or Not most certainly does, it doesn't matter how generic the set-up is.

Ready or Not's weekend result is Fox Searchlight's largest ever opening, and considering the apparent lack of investment in marketing the film, its relative success at the box office points to word-of-mouth and critical reaction driving audiences to see it in cinemas. Making it feel very much like a win for original storytelling.

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