Quentin Tarantino has long been revered as one of the greatest living filmmakers, but in recent years that acknowledgement is starting to fade.
Some blame his unwillingness to make original movies, instead relying on a love for Grindhouse and a desire to pay homage to his favorite genres rather than forging new territory.
There is also a sense that all the elements that go into a Quentin Tarantino picture are more style than substance.
These are criticisms playing out among at least one-quarter of the film critic community, who watched The Hateful Eight, his latest. Now that the opening weekend box office numbers are in, audiences seem to be in agreement as well.
In spite of the film being released to more than 2,400 theaters, it has only managed to drum up a total of $16.2 million. Add that to around $13.5 million that it has grossed since opening limited on Christmas Day, and you have what Variety calls “the lowest result for one of the director’s solo efforts since ‘Jackie Brown’ kicked off to $9.3 million in 1997.”
The site also notes that The Hateful Eight “trails the debuts of ‘Inglourious Basterds’ ($38 million), ‘Django Unchained’ ($30.1 million), ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 1’ ($22.1 million) and ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 2’ ($25.1 million).”
What’s even more troubling for Quentin Tarantino fans is the fact that while reviews have remained “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, an unusually high number of critics aren’t having it. Typically, QT is a directorial darling of the film critic community.
However, this time around his effort has garnered just 74 percent support while previous efforts, including his debut feature, Reservoir Dogs, have trended toward the high-80s to mid-90s percent marker.
The last time a Quentin Tarantino directed flick did this poorly with critics, in fact, it was another Kurt Russell-starring vehicle called Death Proof (which garnered just 67 percent).
Adding insult to injury, the critically maligned comedy Daddy’s Home (just 29 percent on the RT site) has destroyed The Hateful Eight in its second weekend of full release. The Hateful Eight clocked in at No. 3 behind the film, which has been a sleeper hit earning $115 million worldwide in just two full weekends of play.
Of course, in all this, some will point to the fact that westerns are historically not big grossing pictures as a defense of Quentin Tarantino, and The Hateful Eight itself, but that doesn’t explain the success of QT’s own previous effort, Django Unchained.
That film, produced on a budget of $100 million, ended up grossing $425 million worldwide.
Some may also point out that The Hateful Eight is a long film at two-hours, 47 minutes, and as such, it will not get as many plays as a Star Wars or a Daddy’s Home. However, that also does not explain the success of Django Unchained, which — at two-hours, 45 minutes — was only two minutes shorter.
All this said, The Hateful Eight will almost certainly turn a profit.
Quentin Tarantino managed to keep his budget at $44 million, according to Box Office Mojo. However, barring the film having a lot of staying power and a strong foreign take, it has a long way to go to catch its immediate predecessor.
The numbers and the critical response just isn’t what it used to be for the director. That doesn’t mean you can count him out or call him washed up, but it does point to the reality that he may have to step up his game for his next attempt.
What do you think, readers?
Is Quentin Tarantino still one of the world’s best living directors, and how do you feel his current film measures up to films past? Sound off in the comments section below!