Can Saying Sorry Save Your Franchise?

I’ve hit Excel again, this time to look at the effect that apologising for the terrible quality of a film can have. Apologising for films is all the rage these days, especially if you want to make another sequel. Major recent examples are the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers franchises.

Pirates of the Caribbean
After the third Pirates film fans were left a little underwhelmed and completely confused. All I can remember about the plot was a whirlpool, a kraken and a big wide white space. Also Geoffrey Rush came back to life… somehow. Even Johnny Depp was confused, called the films, “plot driven and complicated” and said of the fourth film, “we owed the audience a fresh start… I felt like it was important to eliminate as many complications as possible.” So did Depp keep his promise and did it do any good?

Pirates of the Caribbean box office opening and critic score

Above I’ve plotted the “freshness” (aggregated critic score) for each film from Rotten Tomatoes alongside the opening weekend box office in the US as reported on Box Office Mojo. As you can see the fourth film was rated worst by critics and the consumers, burnt by the previous film, were a little more cautious than before. The fourth film still did wildly better than the original entry in the Pirates franchise but it looks like the Pirates team failed to keep their promise and the audience responded by not turning out on the weekend.

However, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is actually the seventh highest grossing film worldwide of all time. Bugger. Looks like I’ll be updating these charts once its theatrical run is over.


Shia LaBeouf is king of slagging off his previous films, co-stars and everything he isn’t currently promoting. We’ll be back to talk about Indiana Jones as soon as the fifth is released. Amongst many things over the past year Shia said of Transformers 2, “When I saw the second movie, I wasn’t impressed with what we did… There were some really wild stunts in it, but the heart was gone… we got lost. We tried to get bigger… Mike went so big that it became too big, and I think you lost the anchor of the movie… You lost a bit of the relationships. Unless you have those relationships, then the movie doesn’t matter. Then it’s just a bunch of robots fighting each other.”

Even Michael Bay called the second film “crap” and promised a better sequel. Did they keep their promises?

Transformers chart box office opening and critic score

Judging purely from critic reaction the third Transformers was indeed an improvement on the previous film, if not as good as the original. Sadly for Michael Bay the audience just didn’t trust him. No amount of promises about a more coherent film with the best 3D ever could help the third film topple the second on opening weekend.

It looks like saying sorry isn’t always the best ploy, whether you follow through or not. It also goes to show that releasing a film in 3D won’t guarantee a record-breaking bounty. It is worth noting that Harry Potter never fell below 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, and this is a franchise with seven films so far. Something to look to for inspiration perhaps?

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