Universal Pictures just announced that The Adjustment Bureau‘s release date has been pushed from September 17th, 2010 to March 4th, 2011. Taking its spot will be the upcoming thriller Devil, by The Brothers Dowdle based off a story by M. Night Shyamalan.
This is one of the stranger release date changes in recent memory. After the opening weekend success of the mind-bending Inception and the epic failure of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, it makes little sense for Universal to push The Adjustment Bureau - their most intellectual blockbuster of the year – back until just after the Oscars.
Before I get too upset about this, it needs to be put into perspective. Devil, a film with M. Night Shyamalan’s name on it, is not directed by him. His input is simply on the story. The Devil trailer was fantastic and engaged the entire crowd during its premiere this past weekend. Yet, when the trailer showed “From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan,” many theater goers erupted in laughter – and not the nice kind. The long-term effect of The Last Airbender may be more severe than Universal is prepared to handle.
The story of Devil explores the drama from within a stalled elevator, as the trapped group realize the devil is amongst them. The trailer shows plenty of flashes and ghoulish faces, with plenty of gore. The concept of a thriller in a confined space has been attempted before, but failed with Colin Farrell in Phone Booth. This should prove much more supernatural.
If they saw early footage from Devil and liked what they saw enough to push The Adjustment Bureau six months later, there must be a reason. Or is that reason because The Adjustment Bureau is a warped mess?
The Adjustment Bureau is the latest development of heralded author Philip K. Dick. Not all of his stories have translated well to the big screen – see Next. But with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt at the top of the cast, how can it be a flop? That’s assuming a lot, but the premise is intriguing and the trailer was great. It’s a sci-fi thriller designed to explore the paranoia of David Norris (Damon) and his love interest (Blunt). Based on a Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, the story circles around the influence of fate and a bureau of mysterious men who control and design our destinies. The trailer has plenty of visual tricks and men wearing fedoras.
With Inception‘s critical acclaim and opening weekend success, this timing is just strange. If anything, you would think Universal would be trigger-happy to throw the closest project they have to Inception in the prime season for quality films.
While September isn’t a golden month for films, it is the unofficial beginning of Oscars season. A handful of memorable films have released in March, but the buzz around Adjustment Bureau had it pegged as Oscar-worthy. Those opinions were clearly ignored and now Universal is left searching for a pair of box office films, instead of critical acclaim.
This is mostly a gut reaction to a surprising bit of news. But the move is abnormal for the usually predictable Hollywood industry. It may pay off, with a surprisingly complex and gripping film in Devil. But it could also prove a missed opportunity to capitalize on big names in a mind-melting thriller.
The Adjustment Bureau hits theaters March 4th, 2011.
Devil releases September 17th, 2010.