Best Surprise Hit – X-Men: First Class
Matthew Vaughn’s rebooting prequel, X-Men: First Class, read as potentially fantastic on paper – a ’60s-set adventure full of political intrigue and young mutant drama – but concerns about its significant departure from both the previous X-Men movie and comic book continuity made many a fan wary about its potential quality. Those concerns were only amplified by a rushed production schedule and mixed marketing campaign that even left the film’s cast wondering if the project was a disaster in the making.
That First Class turned out as well as it did in spite of all those issues was a genuine surprise. It failed to reach the heights of box office success that its predecessors and fellow Marvel comic book adaptations managed, but still made enough worldwide to keep plans for a sequel alive. First Class also helped get the X-Men franchise back on track after two installments (X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine) which were given an overall lackluster reception.
Lastly, has there been a better onscreen “bromance” recently than that between young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) in First Class?
Most Disappointing Surprise Flop – Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
A remake of the 1970s made-for-TV cult classic Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was never expected to be a box office smash, but Guillermo del Toro fans were definitely psyched to see this one. Just a day before its hit theaters, a red band trailer was released, hinting that it would be a spooky creature feature that boasted the sort of skin-crawling violence and horrific atmosphere that del Toro fans loved in his previous films. So what the heck went wrong?
It turned out that having del Toro write and direct your movie is a very different thing than having him co-write and produce. Not everyone found Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark quite as laughably bad as we did, but even its admirers seem to agree, there was definitely room for improvement. The box office returns have reflected that lack of enthusiasm, seeing how the film doesn’t look to even match its $25 million budget, as far as U.S. ticket sales go.
To further put it in perspective – Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark might not even outgross Apollo 18, when all is said and done. How many people saw that coming?