Final thoughts about the U.N.C.L.E. film

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

With The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now in U.S. theaters and heading for international screens over the next few weeks, we conclude (for now, at least) our coverage of the return of Solo and Kuryakin with these observations.

It’s a miracle the movie even got made: The new version of U.N.C.L.E. got off to a disappointing start in U.S. theaters, getting steamrolled by Straight Outta Compton. But three years ago, many U.N.C.L.E. fans be happy there was even a film to be steamrolled.

For decades, it seemed like there was a curse. Various attempts were made to revive U.N.C.L.E. to no avail. It finally happened. It’s not a hit in the U.S. That’s show biz. But the project survived many obstacles.

Marketing a movie is really hard: Warner Bros. (or “Mr. Warner” as we like to jokingly refer to the studio) was faced with a challenged property.

The original U.N.C.L.E. fan base is aging. There hadn’t been an U.N.C.L.E. production (The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV film) since 1983. The studio had to reach out to a broader public.

Mr. Warner tried a lot. U.N.C.L.E. was part of Warner Bros. activities at the San Diego Comic Con. The studio had a press junket in Rome. It flooded broadcast and cable television with advertisements. It flooded social media for at least the last month.

Warner Bros. also had test screenings in 2014, trying to see if younger viewers would be interested. It appeared to test well. But it’s a different deal from letting people in for free for a testing screening compared with expecting people to spend their own money.

The studio wasn’t helped when rival Paramount shifted Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation to July 31, two weeks before U.N.C.L.E. For Warners there were two choices: shift U.N.C.L.E. to a third release date or make a stand on Aug. 14. It’s hard to argue, except with hindsight, Mr. Warner made the wrong choice.

This should also be a reminder that what Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios is pretty remarkable. Marvel has interested audiences in Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man, in addition to its more familiar characters such as Iron Man and Captain America. It bears repeating: Marketing a movie is really hard.

Don’t mistake intensity for numbers: Some U.N.C.L.E. fans believed the movie would benefit from actor Henry Cavill’s intense fan base.

Cavill fans like their guy. A lot. And they’re fine folks. We’ve communicated with them quite a bit via social media. But it takes more than an intense fan base to turn a movie into a hit. To become a hit, a movie has to reach out to the broader public.

U.N.C.L.E. movie underwhelms in U.S. opening

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

UPDATE (Aug. 17) — Revised figures on Monday, ACCORDING TO THE NUMBERS WEBSITE, put The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie at $13.4 million, compared to $60.2 million for Straight Outta Compton.

(ORIGINAL POST): The Man From U.N.C.L.E. underperformed in the United States and Canada, finishing No. 3 in its debut weekend with estimated ticket sales of $13.5 million, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Guy Ritchie’s reinterpretation of the 1964-68 television series trailed Straight Outta Compton, a film about the rap group N.W.A. at $56.1 million and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, in its third weekend of release.

The Tom Cruise M:I film had estimate weekend ticket sales of $17 million, according to A TWEET from Exhibitors Relations.

Straight Outta Compton initially was estimated to produce a $30 million opening weekend and is coming in at almost twice that. It also was also shown on 2,757 screens, compared with U.N.C.L.E.’s 3,638, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

Over the weekend on social media, there was some debate about all this. Those who were annoyed (or worse) that the movie didn’t retain the series’ secret headquarters, Jerry Goldsmith theme (only a few notes were used in the film), or who wanted different casting, etc., said the results validated their positions.

The answer, though, may be more simple than that. It could be that outside of the aging U.N.C.L.E. fan base (including folks such as the Spy Commander) and the younger Henry Cavill fan base, there weren’t that many people who wanted to see the movie.

Warner Bros. can’t be blamed for a lack of marketing support. The studio bought ads all over U.S. television the past few weeks. For example, it paid for a two-minute ad on the ABC prime-time telecast of the ESPN ESPY awards. The spot ran shortly before transgender ex-athlete Caitlyn Jenner picked up an award for sports courage, the main highlight of the show.

Would having Jerry Goldsmith’s full theme boosted the box office take? If a great Goldsmith theme had that much impact, the 1973 series Hawkins on CBS would have lasted longer than a season and the 1975 Archer series (as in Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer) on NBC would have run longer than six episodes.

Would having the secret HQs, complete with Del Floria’s tailor shop have changed the outcome? 2015 audiences already had a secret HQs in Kingsman: The Secret Service. It was basically an updated version of the U.N.C.L.E. secret HQs of the show.

Would having, say, Jon Hamm, the star of the now-completed Mad Men series, as Napoleon Solo instead of Henry Cavill changed things?

Hamm’s Million Dollar Arm in 2014 was No. 4 its opening weekend in the U.S. at $10.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It finished with worldwide box office of $38.3 million. Of course, to be fair, he also was the voice of Herb Overkill in Minions, which had worldwide box office of more than $900 million.

Would having cameos by Robert Vaughn or David McCallum, the stars of the original show, increased ticket sales significantly? Would ticket sales double or triple? Or would they have risen by 1 percent or less? Meanwhile, McCallum endorsed the film in a Fox News interview and that doesn’t seem to have had much impact.

For Warner Bros., the best hope for the film may be in overseas markets. The DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD website reported there were early signs of a better reception in various countries, including Russia.

U.N.C.L.E. movie premieres; now comes the big test

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie had a premiere in New York on Monday night.

Now comes the hard part — how will the movie do when its opens later this week?

The day started out with the movie’s stars, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, making a live appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America show (preceded by a Warner Bros. spot for the film).

The appearance itself was what you’d expect of the light approach Good Morning America takes on entertainment topics. “You better watch out, James Bond, because there are some new agents in town!” GMA co-host Robin Roberts said.

The interview covered similar topics referenced in previous interviews about the movie, including how Hammer watched YouTube videos of Russian speakers to perfect his own Russian accent and how Cavill’s bulk changes because he plays Superman.

Later, there were photos a plenty on social media on social media of the premiere itself, both from Warner Bros. and fans. One example:

Meanwhile, Lee Pfeiffer, the publisher of Cinema Retro, published a number of photos on Facebook, SUCH AS THESE. The Henry Cavill News website PUBLISHED EVEN MORE.

The test that now comes is whether a series that last aired when Lyndon B. Johnson was president (with one attempted revival during the first term of Ronald Reagan) can resonate with the 21st century public. The answer to that question will come in a few days.

‘Mr. Warner’ steps up ad spending for the U.N.C.L.E. movie

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

“Mr. Warner” has boosted ad spending for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie ahead of the film’s Aug. 14 release, VARIETY REPORTED on July 29.

The entertainment news site estimated Warner Bros. spent almost $11 million in its most recent weekly report of movie advertisement expenditures. The studio, a unit of Time Warner paid for “1,398 national airings across 42 networks, led by ESPN and Comedy Central,” according to Variety. Warners has spent $14.78 million on U.N.C.L.E. since July 14, according to a chart that accompanied the story.

Originally, Warner Bros. scheduled U.N.C.L.E. for a mid-January release, not considered a prime time for movie releases. “Mr. Warner” switched it to August, part of the summer movie season but after most “tentpole” films have arrived in theaters.

It appears Warners is betting The Man From U.N.C.L.E. can find a new audience. The original series ran from September 1964 to January 1968. The last U.N.C.L.E. production was the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which featured original stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

With next month’s film, director Guy Ritchie has stripped out familiar memes from the show, including its secret headquarters, while providing new takes on the characters of Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). The film had a production budget of $75 million.

No. 2 on the Variety ad-spending list was Paramount’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation at $6.57 million during 1,633 national telecasts over 44 networks. That film has showings tonight and its formal release date is Friday.

To see the Variety story and its list of the top five movies for ad spending, CLICK HERE.

Shoutout to Cynthia W. Walker and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Inner Circle page on Facebook.

Warner Bros. releases extended U.N.C.L.E. trailer

Warner Bros. released a trailer for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. lasting more than five minutes at the San Diego Comic Con.

The trailer contained extended versions of scenes in previous trailers as well as footage not seen until today.

Among the highlights: an extended version of a scene where CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin demonstrate how familiar they are with each other’s dossier.

“Obviously, I was briefed about your criminal background,” Kuryakin says. “Your balls are at the end of a very long leash held by a very short man.”

Solo references how quickly Kuryakin rose within the KGB. “I do wonder if it was your father’s shame that gave you such drive, though. Or was it your mother’s reputation? I understand she was extremely popular among your father’s friends.” Kuryakin does not take this well.

You can view the trailer below:

As an aside, today at San Diego was a big day for Henry Cavill, who participated in two panels: one promoting U.N.C.L.E., the other Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that opens in March 2016. Warner Bros. also released a three-minute trailer for the latter film.

UPDATE: Composer Daniel Pemberton, who scored the U.N.C.L.E. film, confirmed on Twitter the extended trailer extensively uses his music.

Meanwhile, Collider.com ran THIS POST summarizing what was said at the U.N.C.L.E. panel at the comic book convention. Entertainment Weekly ran THIS POST, which includes a video of the U.N.C.L.E. casting talking to an EW staffer.

Polish U.N.C.L.E. video emerges; game promoted online

Warner Bros. Poland uploaded a minute-long promotional video for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie to YouTube on July 9.

The video was spotted by the HENRY CAVILL NEWS fan website as well as HENRY CAVILL ONLINE. The latter wondered whether it might be intended as a television spot. Both sites said there are brief scenes not seen in previous trailers.

Anyway, here it is, in English, with Polish subtitles:

UPDATE: This came out on social media around 6:40 p.m. ET. No other details for now.

Impressions from an extended U.N.C.L.E. movie preview

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

By Kevin Bertrand Collette, Guest Writer

Ok , so you did not want to dance …
Would you want to wrestle , then ?

(Gaby Teller/ Alicia Vikander)

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m not really a fan of Guy Ritchie’s movies.

And although I attended the Strasbourg French shooting of Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows, it was more out of curiosity than anything else.

I was therefore a bit anxious about the result of his adaptation of the Cult TV series of the Sixties (based on various ideas by Ian Fleming himself), The Man From U.N.C.L.E .

Warner France organised at its Neuilly headquarters this Wednesday a Show Case of the new movie, consisting of 40 minutes of extracts of the upcoming movie, completed by a wonderful exhibition of storyboards, costumes drawings and various pre- production sketches.

So open channel D!

And stop reading right there if you do not want to learn some massive spoilers at every turn of my little compte-rendu …

First extract takes place in KGB headquarters in Moscow, where some top ranking officer lectures Illya Kuryakin about Napoleon Solo.

We then learn practically everything that is to know about the CIA man,an ex art dealer (a talent he acquired during World War II when stealing stuff back from the Nazis for the allied forces) .

Solo’s natural talents for smooth undercover action is rapidly noted, he is hired by the Agency and quickly became one of their top operator. All this is explained to Kuryakin – a massive silent giant who has just be chosen to team up with the American to dismantle a new terrorist organization .

Second extract is a (much) longer version of the East Berlin car chase, where Solo and his lovely protégée try to lose Kuryakin through the cobbed streets of Berlin. But nothing seems to stop the Russian (not even concrete walls. I surprise myself thinking there of Richard Kiel’s Jaws character … ).

After a lengthy chase ( without the ‘ cheek-to-cheek car waltz appearing in the trailer, btw), abandoning their car which tires have been shot at by the persistent Soviet agent , the duo enter a building situated just in front of the infamous Berlin wall .

Solo pulls up a gadget ( à la Goldeneye grappling hook belt) and with the help of a fellow agent parked just on the other side of said Wall, the two Westerners escape the fury of the Russian in the nick of time …

Third extract takes place in a U.S. novelty shop where Solo, Kuryakin and the girl choose various Haute Couture dresses for their lady companion. The plan is to infiltrate in Rome the evil organization with Kuryakin and madame posing as a couple of Russian architects, while Solo will tail them . It’s an amusing sequence where Illya is horrified by the decadent tastes of Western women, while Solo keeps on mocking him for his peasant tastes.

Fourth extract takes place in a Rome Hotel bedroom, where Madame is getting bored while Illya quietly tries to play chess. The nerves of the Russian slightly began to crack when she turns up the volume of the Radio and starts to dance.

Fifth extract sees Illya and Madame strolling by the Colisée and being then abruptly mugged by a couple of local thieves. Since Kuryakin’s specific instructions are him to pass for a gentle spirit (understand : a coward) , he has to refrain himself not to knock out both thugs with just one hand! A rather funny sequence indeed, with Solo finally commenting, “Not sure you were made for that part.”

Sixth and final extract took place in an unidentified harbor – where Solo and Kuryakin manage to escape the commando after them.

While Solo slips very early in the water (without Kuryakin realizing that) and then comfortably settles down in a truck parked nearby to observe the nautical chase going on, his partner’s speedboat is finally gunned down .

Solo immediately enters in action full throttle and throws his truck right into the Villain’s boat!

He then manages to save Illya (who was slowly drowning) and bring him back to terra ferma .

Screening concluded with a much longer version of the trailer (with a line of hugh Grant I instantly memorized, “You are from now on a very special agent , Mr Solo.”)

So, what to think of it, in the end ?

I , for one, was instantly immersed into that Cold war drama setting. And I never honestly try to put the faces of Mr. Vaughn nor Mr. McCallum in lieu et place of their modern counterparts, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

I guess some die hard U.N.C.L.E fans will scream in rage at the new Illya Kuryakin (who is first presented as a bully-type character but then mellows into a nice individual of his own. The Russian accent is much more pronounced than in the TV series of course , but Illya finally appears as a much more interesting character than dapper Napoleon Solo. It reminds me in place of the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Red Heat police officer: subtle and unstoppable as a T80 soviet Tank, but with a very big heart and sense of friendship.

Alicia Vikander is a great Female element. She frequently conjures images of Audrey Hepburn, and her interaction with both Hammer and Cavill is genuine and quite fun . Miss Vikander is quite a feisty girl indeed.

As for the music, no classic UNCLE theme heard anywhere but a very 1960s type style , à la John Barry.

Can’t wait to see the final version of the movie .

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 200 other followers