Andy Hendrickson has a point:
"People say that it's all about the story. When it comes to tentpole films, bullshit." ... [Alice In Wonderland's] story isn't very good, but the visual spectacle brought people in droves. And Johnny Depp didn't hurt." ...
But is a sucky story irrelevant to success? I don't think so ...
When a movie succeeds despite underwhelming characters and plotline, it's usually because it's a sequel to a blockbuster or the trailer and advertising campaign grab people by their shirt fronts. Or one of the three surviving Hollywood mega-stars manage to open the thing.
The rest of the time, stories have to engage somebody or the feature dies a quick death. When you think of recent flicks that failed to connect, be it cowboys against spacemen or super heroes in day-glo spandex or the latest horror and gore fest, it's mostly because the substance and core of the flick is cliched and incoherent, with protagonists harder to swallow than a Vaseline sandwich.
James Cameron has gotten trashed a lot for writing underwhelming scripts, but say what you like, Cameron's films work a spell on people that cause them to lust for more.
No, bad story-telling usually goes hand-in-glove with weak box office. I would judge Mr. Hendrickson to be 75% wrong.