Summer Movies

My Inner Simpson
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
I've been reading and heavily commenting on a new blog that's primarily focused on the discussion of movies. Marcus Varner, the author, openly invites discourse as long as it's at least thoughtful if not completely scholarly.

It's still very new, maybe five entries, but all of them discuss movies from this year and movies coming out soon. In all my discussion I've been trying to bring back some points that there have been other movies made before 2007 and it's unfair to constantly give movie makers the "what have you done for me lately" attitude.

One of the latest points for debate, and this has come up repeatedly on message boards and other blogs, is that Hollywood - which I use here as the all encompassing, non-independent film making entity - is out of ideas. So many remakes and adaptations are set to be released that many wonder if we've well and truly exhausted not only all available ideas for stories, but also every permutation of how they are conveyed.

And while there will be movies made from past franchises like He-Man, Thundercats and Clash of the Titans, I don't think it's because the well has run dry. I agree with Varner that film-makers are being run by studios now and studios just want money. I think very few people expect both quality and quantity from movies any more. It's either a blockbuster or an award winner and I think the times have changed from when a single movie could be both.

My best example is Lord of the Rings. Undoubtedly the biggest franchise in the last decade; three movies in tight succession, earning several billion dollars worldwide. The trilogy was based on arguably the most successful and recognized fantasy story of all time. The movie stared screen and stage legend Ian McKellen among other stars of today. It won a ton of awards, even AFI has it listed among their top 100 movies of all time, and yet I know people still say it wasn't a great film. The Matrix, which was a cultural and technical wonder was a box office dark horse. It came out just weeks before the (devastatingly horrid) Star Wars prequels, and yet it packed more innovation than all three of Lucas's recent offerings combined. Had the movie been left alone and not had three tacked on extensions, I think it would have seen more favorable consideration.

Now recently we've had a slew of comic book movies. Comic book movies are to the 2000's what disaster movies were to the 1990's. Looking back, almost every year we had a comet or asteroid head to earth. We had volcanoes and earthquakes and floods and hurricanes and twisters. Disaster was the new black, but did anyone back then say, "Hey, didn't we see this already in Towering Inferno?" So now that we're all patched up and nature isn't trying to kill us, we're focusing on what else can kill us; namely, super villains. Over the past few years we've seen more spandex then an Olympic swim meet. We've seen returns and beginnings, we've seen unitings and last stands and risings. We've even seen a few cult offerings. Not all of them have been good, but one thing was made perfectly clear; movie goers love to go see them.

Why? Why would more people rather see Sin City than Brokeback Mountain? (Aside from the obvious reasons.)

If you were to look at 2005's top grossing movies and compared it to 2005's nominated movies for best picture, there's not one of them that's both. Why is that? Star Wars: Return of the Sith was the top grossing movie and it wasn't even nominated for a special effects award. Have you seen Munich? It's a GREAT film! It makes Return of the Sith look like a commercial for Six Flags.

Which is what they all are. In the end, big movies are big vehicles for merchandise. Films like Munich and Capote and Walk the Line can't sell action figures or dinosaur play sets or t-shirts. I'm fairly certain studios make films like War of the Worlds so they can afford to make films like Good Night and Good Luck, but does that make sense? War of the Worlds made a metric shit-ton of money. It cost $132m to make and it brought in $234m in it's first year. By way of comparison, Good Night and Good Luck cost $7m to make and brought in $35m. In terms of profit percentage, it blew War of the Worlds out of the water, but who saw it?

This has gone on longer than I wanted it to, and I'm sure no one is left reading. My long winded point was, there's going to be a lot of crap coming out this year and most of it is either an adaptation, a reimaging or a sequel. A friend of mine said about the Simpson movie, "If it had come out 10 years ago while I still watched the show..." I'm still enjoying Battlestar Galactica and I'm excited to see what they do with The Bionic Woman and I'm so excited about Transformers that I'm flying up to Colorado to see it with my brother, the person with whom I grew up watching the show and playing with the toys. Even Pixar's Ratatouille isn't as hyped as Incredibles or Cars, are they worried it won't play as well? That their magic is gone? (I doubt it, it's Pixar after all.)

Trust me, though. Come February of 2008, there will be a large portion of us dumb yanks who will watch the award shows and say, "I wish I'd have seen that movie."

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