Based on the novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray, “Poor Things” is a unique take on “Frankenstein” that tells the tale of Bella Baxter (Stone), a young woman brought back to life by the unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). Bella is eager to learn and runs away with a slick lawyer named Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), and they head off on a whirlwind adventure across the continents. Free from the prejudices of her times, Bella finds purpose in standing for equality and liberation.
“Poor Things” has been met with straight-up raves from critics, beginning with its Golden Lion win at this year’s Venice International Film Festival. The film currently carries a 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which can absolutely help generate some buzz in the early days. But are audiences going to agree with critics here? That’s the key. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” managed to become the little movie that could, making $143 million worldwide and winning Best Picture because audiences were aligned with critics and the buzz built authentically. That’s what Disney is undoubtedly hoping for here.
If audiences agree with the critical consensus (read our review here), then “Poor Things” could have long legs well into the new year. As far as recent films that might offer hope, we can look at Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City,” which made $53 million worldwide by going the platform release route. With a $35 million budget, Disney would need “Poor Things” to make quite a bit more for it to profit purely in theaters. That said, if it goes on to win some major awards — such as Stone winning Best Actress, for example — Disney would find value in it beyond the box office and would only need the movie to make enough to not be a financial disaster. Disney doesn’t want another “Nightmare Alley” situation ($39 million worldwide/$60 million budget). Granted, that was when the pandemic was a much larger factor.