Mondays are no fun for anybody, and this week is the rare one where that sentiment also applies to Johnny Depp.
That’s because the box office returns on the star’s latest effort, the Wally Pfister-directed “Transcendence,” are back, and they aren’t pretty. The sci-fi thriller came in fourth place, making only $11.15 million on a $100 million budget.
“Transcendence” is now the latest in a recent string of box office disappointments for Depp, whose name is usually associated with billion-dollar hits thanks to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series.
Success away from Captain Jack Sparrow has been harder and harder to find for Depp, however. When “The Lone Ranger” flopped last summer, it made headlines, and by then it was the second failure in a row. “Dark Shadows” made even less than “The Lone Ranger,” albeit on a smaller budget.
And “Transcendence” makes underperforming Depp vehicles a trend, so what gives? How did one of the most bankable stars in the world get beaten by a movie called “Heaven Is For Real”? To understand Depp’s recent failures, it helps to look back at what made him a star in the first place, and what it would take to turn him around.
First, let’s get one thing straight. Depp has not had his last hit. With “Through the Looking Glass” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” getting ready to head into production, he has two sure-fire hits in the chamber, and there’s still “Into the Woods” set for Christmas this year. But making money isn’t enough to fully fresh Depp’s star persona.
It was always his oddness that separated him from the rest of the A-list crowd. Outlandish and other-worldly roles made up the early days of his film career, and even when Depp hit it big with “Curse of the Black Pearl,” it was on his own terms, as a dirty, drunk pirate, far from the glamour of typical Hollywood stardom.
But a lack of strangeness in Depp’s roles doesn’t totally explain why his last three films have failed to connect. I mean, he wore crow on his head for “The Lone Ranger,” and in “Transcendence,” his mind is uploaded into a computer. Depp seems to be fulfilling his need for unusual work, but he isn’t finding it within quality material.
When it comes to finding strange roles, Depp is having no trouble, and that’s a good thing. He’s consistently been a force against blockbuster hegemony, but there’s no point if the film doesn’t succeed either critically or commercially. It’s about finding the right balance of approachability and newness and pairing that solid filmmaking that makes a trademark Johnny Depp hit.
And while I have no right to tell a multimillionare what to do, maybe he should consider a pay cut for “Doctor Strange.” Just maybe.