I have reviewed some bad films over my time at ComicAttack.net. Really bad films. Howard the Duck, Return of the Swamp Thing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. But none of them, none of them, compare to The Asylum films I reviewed: Alien Vs. Hunter, Transmorphers, Transmorphers: Fall of Man, and Almighty Thor. But how can one film company turn out
bad wretched horrible abominable films in consecutive order? Why hasn’t The Asylum scored a hit with these films? Simple.
In case you forgot what a mockbuster is, it’s a film that basically copies a hit in order to ride on its coattail. While The Asylum may be considered king, there have been plenty of mockbusters before. Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is essentially a turkish rip off of Star Wars (maybe not the plot, but it literally took some scenes from Star Wars and put them into the film), and that was back in 1982. Or there’s the Italian Terminator II released back in 1990. And let’s not get into Vídeo Brinquedo (which is basically The Asylum for Pixar films).
Of course, these films make perfect sense from a financial perspective. Because The Asylum releases the films right before the actual films, it ensures that perhaps some victims will buy the films to get their (insert film) cravings. And because The Asylum makes its films for under a million dollars, it’s not too tough for them to break even. It’s cheaply made, and more importantly, it’s made at a lightning fast pace. The whole process, from concept to distribution, takes about four months. That’s insanity. For any of you who only understand comics, that’s like conceptualizing, writing, drawing, inking, coloring, lettering, editing, and distributing a graphic novel within three weeks. Could it be done? Yes. But you’d cut more than four corners trying to do so.
And it doesn’t even matter how many people buy the mockbusters. The Asylum already has a deal with rental companies such as Blockbuster, or occasionally releases a film for Syfy cable premier. Basically, it’s no budget but there’s a profit to be made.
Even then, though, I have a problem with mockbusters. Now, some would say I’m unfair. After all, doesn’t Hollywood do that? Paramount Pictures releases Deep Impact and two months later we had Armageddon. Buena Vista Pictures releases Tombstone and six months later Warner Brothers releases Wyatt Earp.
And before you snide at Hollywood, the comic industry is just as bad (if not worse). Remember during the 90s when all those anti-hero clones and X-Men style teams started appearing? Or how Fantastic Four was originally meant to ride the coattails of the Justice League of America (Origins of Marvel Comics)? And are we really to believe that all these vampire, zombie, and hard boiled comics have recently appeared by mere coincidence?
Here’s the difference, though. Yes, there have been plenty of…trend followers that don’t have anything to do with mockbusters. And yes, some are shameless ripoffs that aren’t that good. However, even with the genre followers, they’re given a degree of freedom. Or if not freedom, at least budget and a more talented pool of people to work with. And despite similarities in plot, sometimes you’ll have success and uniqueness that spawns out of it. Such as all of the Superman spin-offs (Superboy, Supergirl, Power Girl, etc.) or Return of the Living Dead (your mileage may vary). Even some of the Roger Corman Z films are worth taking a look at.
But The Asylum? Never. A mockbuster is simply trying to follow, and thus it can only dilute what it just copied. Maybe The Asylum will get a bigger budget or their team will become more savvy. But at the end of the day, they’ll always be a Transmorphers and never a Transformers.
However, perhaps the one saving grace is in the hope that there may be someone of talent who gets their break working on the film. Look at the Roger Corman films, which were the starts of such talents as Jack Nicholson (The Little Shop of Horrors), Francis Ford Coppola (Battle Beyond the Sun), and Martin Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha). But looking at the talent of The Asylum films, there are no diamonds in the rough aside from the major actors who got stuck with these films. And it would also be an insult to compare Roger Corman to The Asylum. One makes charming B and Z films. The other makes bland mockbusters.
With all that said, I do hope The Asylum makes some originals (that are good) and David Michael Latt surprises us all with something wonderful. I understand original films are a big risk. You don’t always know how it will turn out and there’s no financial guarantee in it all. But I believe that despite the risks, the headaches, and the cost of making original films, it will always be worth it. Even if it’s bad, at least it’s something made with passion and creativity. Which I can always respect. And this not only goes to The Asylum, but also to the major studios who are turning out generic remake after remake.