Tara Cardinal’s passion project ‘Legend of the Red Reaper’ is an epic fantasy, in which the writer/actress portrays the title hero, a “Reaper”, or supernatural guardian of mankind, who must battle evil in a swords-and-sorcery fantasy world. Ever since ‘Lord of the Rings’ there has been a rise in big budget fantasy action movies, a genre once relegated to cheap, straight-to-video releases. Unfortunately, Legendary Pictures, who have produced other somewhat similar epics like ‘300’, ‘10,000 BC’, ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ and who have ‘Seventh Son’ and ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ on the way, passed on the project. Because ‘Sucker Punch’ flopped. (Cue needle scratch.)
This is the original email response sent to Cardinal:
“Thank you for letting me take a look at your script this weekend. While I did enjoy the mythology behind the story, I found myself a little confused with regards to the ‘Red Reaper’ world as a whole. While I was not closely familiar with the world before reading, certain aspects felt either unexplained or redundant — most specifically, illuminating Aella’s past, demonic powers, etc. I feel that it would be difficult to bring on another project with our currently saturated slate of epic fantasy fare, especially without any significant cast/director attachments or large-scale brand recognition. Also, while I am personally drawn to the presence of a female action hero, it is currently a tough sell with the less than stellar way Sucker Punch was received. Ultimately, while I don’t think this is for Legendary, I think the property has potential.”
So the reason ‘Sucker Punch’ failed is because it featured female leads? It wasn’t the fact that it was an awful movie? It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 23%. Here are a few choice reviews:
“Gun-toting hotties combat assorted villains and their robot henchmen in this tawdry, repellent action fantasy.”
“The movie spins out of control, until it collapses in a heap, senseless.”
“A series of extravagant computer-generated adventure scenarios linked by grim mental hospital plot, Sucker Punch represents a particularly ambitious exercise in tedium.”
“Sucker Punch is an example of what happens when creativity derails. It’s a sensory overload of utter garbage on every level possible.”
So none of those reasons are why ‘Sucker Punch’ bombed. It was because the movie was about icky girls.
But how does that explain why ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ flopped? Because if that’s the rationale they’re applying to ‘Sucker Punch, then clearly ‘Jack’ failed because it starred a male lead. After Legendary’s ‘Jonah Hex’ and ‘Superman Returns’ flopped, did they surmise that comic book movies were a “tough sell?” No, in fact, it didn’t even keep them from making another ‘Superman’ movie, this year’s ‘Man of Steel!’
Was Lionsgate simply able to crack some secret code in order to “sell” ‘The Hunger Games’? To a lesser degree, even ‘Twilight’ tapped into a female audience (although stone-faced Bella Swan was playing third fiddle to Robert Pattinson’s hair and Taylor Lautner’s abs).
To be fair, this is really a case of not knowing when to shut up. The person who penned the rejection email had several completely valid reasons to turning down the script. They found the plot somewhat confusing and repetitive. They already had several fantasy films already in the works. And there were no big names attached to star or direct. All perfectly valid responses. But throwing the last line just oversimplifies the failure of one lousy movie and pins it squarely on the DNA of the movie’s stars.
Cardinal ended up making ‘Legend of the Red Reaper’ herself, without a major studio. Unfortunately, it shows. The film has not actually been released, but you can check out the trailer below.
So the final product is… not a Legendary Picture. I’m not sure how this film will be distributed. Hopefully it can find its audience… one that isn’t put off by a female in the lead.