Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jodie Comer, and Adam Driver in The Last Duel (2021)

Ridley Scott Names Another Thing Millennials Supposedly Killed: The Last Duel’s Box Office Total

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In a recent interview on Marc Marson’s WTF podcast, Ridley Scott blamed the poor box office numbers of The Last Duel on … you guessed it (or read the title)—millennials!

About 28 minutes in, Ridley complains:

“I think what it boils down to — what we’ve got today [are] the audiences who were brought up on these fucking cellphones. The millennian [sic] do not ever want to be taught anything unless you’re told it on a cellphone… This is a broad stroke, but I think we’re dealing with it right now with Facebook. This is a misdirection that has happened where it’s given the wrong kind of confidence to this latest generation, I think.”

Before we get into some of the many possible reasons (pandemic) Scott’s film performed badly this year at the (pandemic) box office, let’s once again go over what a millennial actually is. While there is some debate about the edges of this range, millennials were born between 1980 and 1995. Being generous with the numbers, millennials are currently between the ages of 40 and 26. Even at a younger age, the first iPhone didn’t release until 2007, which most non-wealthy 12-year-olds didn’t partake in right away. (Razors and Sidekicks were the model phones if you could afford them).

While Facebook is a major issue and millennials (globally) make up about a quarter of Facebook’s traffic, the actual children raised on iPhones (Gen Alpha, a.k.a. those born after 2012) aren’t old enough to watch this movie, let alone be interested in it. This also applies to about half of Gen Z (those born between 1996–2012, ranging from 9 to 25 years old.)

Box office numbers in a pandemic

After a less-than-stellar opening weekend, our very own Princess Weekes contemplated some of the biggest marketing drawbacks of this film and how those issues were made worse by the pandemic. Princess pointed to the fact that other movies (No Time to Die and The Green Knight) with either similar audience demographics or settings (in time and place) didn’t bomb as much because they embraced diverse casting and/or were part of a long-running series.

Two weeks before Halloween (and almost two years into a pandemic), many people opted in to watch Michael Myers return in for a slasher fest rather than watch a somber period drama about sexual assault. It’s not rocket science or music theory.

While Ridley had little to no control over this, if the movie had streamed online (even as a paid VOD), it would’ve fared better. The box office numbers probably wouldn’t have been to his standards, but more people watching it means more word-of-mouth. Also, not only would people feel safer in watching the film during a global pandemic, but it would signal that greater accessibility in watching new movies was here to stay instead of a nuisance to studios.

Why I’m holding out

Because I live in Texas where our governor is very much Team Covid, we have to pick our movies carefully. My county leaders try to enforce mask policies, and the city level, as well as the general public, undermine them.

The first movie I saw in theaters, Zola, was great because there were three people in the entire theater, but the next time I went out to see The Green Knight (weeks after it was released), the theater was almost a quarter full, no one was wearing there mask, and a patriarch in a family of seven was on his phone a lot. He might have been a millennial-cusp, however, he still showed up (what Ridley wants), and they paid at least $80 in tickets alone.

Of the four movies I’ve seen in four months (for context, we used to go to theaters three to six times per month), the experiences have leaned closer to The Green Knight than Zola, meaning more people are maskless, and The Last Duel doesn’t look worth it to me. It doesn’t matter if the reviews are good, the posters look intriguing, and it’s in one of my favorite genres.

Between Ridley Scott’s comments on casting non-MENA actors (yes, that “Mohammad so-and-so” comment) and Matt Damon running out of goodwill from me as someone who grew up on the Bourne movies (my mom loves his movies)—from his foolishness on Project Greenlight, F-slur mess, and insistence on white-savior narratives—I’m in no rush to watch The Last Duel. While I love Jodie Comer, Adam Driver, and a period drama, it’s just not worth the risk to this millennial, iPhones or not.

(via Hollywood Reporter, image: 20th Century Studios.)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.