Despite sparking controversy with its divisive political theme, Alex Garland’s thriller feature Civil War is living up to expectations as indie outfit A24’s first real big-budget play. Civil War made $10.8 million on its first day, including 2.9 million from Thursday night previews, marking a record for an A24 release at the Box Office. Apart from many other factors contributing to the film’s popularity, the controversial aspect of the film adds to the increased attention that it is witnessing in its first weekend.

A24’s film Civil War, reportedly made on a budget of $50 million, is expected to earn at least $23 million in its opening weekend. This would not only mark it as the studio’s biggest debut but surpass A24’s previous best debut, Hereditary, by over $10 million. 

Well, if that’s not enough, the film also pushed last week’s champion, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, to the number two spot after two weekends atop the domestic box office. The monster film, made under the production banner of Legendary Pictures, grossed $4 million on its third Friday and is looking at a third-weekend haul of around $15 million, which should take the action-adventure film’s running domestic haul to just under $160 million by Sunday.  

While Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire takes the second spot, the number three spot went to Sony’s Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, which grossed a little under $1.5 million on Friday. By Sunday, the film will be roughly $5 million shy of hitting the coveted $100 million mark domestically. 

The fourth and fifth spots went to two Universal films aimed at decidedly different audiences. Kung Fu Panda 4 took the fourth spot with $1.3 million. Meanwhile, Dev Patel’s brutal action movie Monkey Man took the fifth spot on Friday with $1.2 million.

How does A24’s Civil War triumph over its competitors at the Box Office?

As mentioned above, A24’s Civil War is garnering major attention due to its controversial theme. Penned and helmed by Alex Garland, the dystopian war film focuses on a team of journalists who travel across the United States during a rapidly escalating Second American Civil War that has engulfed the nation.

The film received positive reviews from critics. According to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of 239 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website’s consensus reads: “Tough and unsettling by design, Civil War is a gripping close-up look at the violent uncertainty of life in a nation in crisis.” 

In a positive review, Peter Debruge of Variety wrote: “Garland’s the last person to suggest a group hug. As statements go, his powerful vision leaves us shaken, effectively repeating the question that quelled the L.A. riots: Can we all get along?”

Robbie Collin of The Telegraph awarded the movie five stars out of five, writing: “The Ex Machina director’s vision of an imploding America is neither anti-Trump nor “anti-woke”. Instead it’s as riveting as cinema gets.”

Lovia Gyarkye of The Hollywood Reporter also gave the film a positive review, writing: “With the precision and length of its violent battle sequences, it’s clear Civil War operates as a clarion call. Garland wrote the film in 2020 as he watched cogs on America’s self-mythologizing exceptionalist machine turn, propelling the nation into a nightmare. With this latest film, he sounds the alarm, wondering less about how a country walks blindly into its own destruction and more about what happens when it does.”

Meanwhile, Valerie Complex of Deadline Hollywood offered negative comments, saying: “The script’s utilization of characters of color as conduits for brutality needed to be explored further. … Ultimately, Civil War feels like a missed opportunity. The director’s vision of a fractured America embroiled in conflict holds the potential for introspection on our current societal divisions. However, the film’s execution, hampered by thin characterization, a lackluster narrative, and an overreliance on spectacle over substance, left me disengaged.”

While such divisive remarks add a layer of curiosity among viewers about the film, Garland established his reputation in the industry with films like Ex Machina and Annihilation, which play a crucial role in convincing moviegoers to watch his latest film. 

The film was released on April 12, 2024, and is still running successfully in theaters. 

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