4 films that failed to live up to their blockbuster Comic-Con buzz

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012

Well, the latest box-office results for Tron: Legacy are in, and they aren't pretty, making this the fourth high-profile film in three years to make a huge impact at Comic-Con while leaving the rest of the world unimpressed. So what's gone wrong?

Over the last few years, a number of movies that were near and dear to geek hearts made splashy presentations at Comic-Con and blew the roof off the place, setting up fan and studio expectations for these movies to become blockbusters. But with the exception of one, all of them failed to deliver. What happened, and why was excitement at the biggest gathering of fans in the world unable to carry over into the real world?

Here are four Comic-Con favorites that couldn't close the deal—plus one that did.

Tron: Legacy

What was supposed to happen? After three straight appearances at Comic-Con (2008, 2009, 2010) with trailers, stars, footage and even a rebuilt Flynn's Arcade, the 3-D Tron sequel was supposed to be this year's Avatar.

Box Office: $88 million (so far)

What happened? With the movie not reaching $100 million after two weeks of release, it's not looking like the monster Disney hoped it would be. The original (a really rotten movie, by the way) was not the cultural touchstone the studio thought it would be, and bad word of mouth about the new one's lousy script didn't help either.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

What was supposed to happen? The geeky hipness of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels combined with the amazing visuals from director Edgar Wright were supposed to turn this into a movie that took pop-culture irony to new levels.

Box office: $32 million

What happened? Only nerds like movies about nerds; Michael Cera is not a leading man to the rest of the world. Plus, having most of the movie's plot play out in scenes resembling old video games alienated just about everyone else who wasn't already turned off by the sight of Cera's face.


What was supposed to happen? After going down a storm at 2009's Comic-Con, Kick-Ass's combination of satire, violence and shock value seemed assured of making it a smash with the rest of the public.

Box office: $48 million

What happened? Fans of the movie like to note that relative to its budget, Kick-Ass was a financial success. But the cult following for both the comic and its author (Mark Millar) was not enough to make it a crossover hit, and general audiences didn't understand its tone.


What was supposed to happen? After 20 minutes of strong footage was shown to a delirious Comic-Con crowd in 2008, the violent, sexually explicit, R-rated Watchmen was supposed to take comic-based films to a new, adult level—just as the book did.

Box office: $108 million

What happened? Despite a pretty strong opening weekend for an R-rated film, Watchmen pooped out quickly. Once again, the general public didn't seem that interested in a comic-based movie that didn't have the words Batman, Spider-Man or X-Men in the title. Plus, fans were split over how successful an adaptation it was, which led to fewer repeat visits.

But then there's Avatar ...

What was supposed to happen? Avatar had almost no buzz going into Comic-Con, because James Cameron had not shown as much as a second of his 3D sci-fi epic to the world. A 24-minute presentation at the 2009 con, just a few months ahead of the movie's opening, was supposed to generate interest late in the game.

Box office: $760 million

What happened? Avatar became the biggest movie of all time, grossing well over $2 billion worldwide. But did Comic-Con play any role in that? Or did the onslaught of marketing before the movie opened prepare moviegoers for something they had never seen before? We may never know the answer.

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