This has been an odd summer, movie-wise. Every huge movie arrived surrounded by a cloud of hype so large, I’m pretty sure V’Ger was at its center. But then, once they were released, the hype died and the internet was left wondering why they were so excited.
Now, I would like to state, for the record, that I actually had fun watching Ghostbusters, Star Trek: Beyond, Warcraft, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Suicide Squad. Even if each had their own issues, they were enjoyable. But even so, it was obvious that something had changed in the landscape this summer.
The past few years have been good ones for big franchises. The new Star Wars made all the money (almost), Jurassic World was a blast, and Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man redeemed the meh-ness of Age of Ultron. But then that trend was ramped up to 500% this summer, and audiences grew understandably weary.
It’s obvious the sequel-remake boom has hit its zenith and is now on the outs. It was good while it lasted. Remember when everyone was super excited that James Bond was being rebooted? Batman? Star Trek? Remember when Spiderman 3 and Shrek the Third were terrible, but they still ended up being the third and fourth highest grossing films of 2007? Remember when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was second at the box office only to The Dark Knight in 2008?
Jurassic World was fun, but it had some writing issues, and yet it’s the fourth highest grossing film of all time (not accounting for inflation). But I have a feeling that the exact same film would have died a horrible death had it been released this summer. Audiences, tired of remakes and sequels, would have ripped the story to shreds, and even though critics would have admitted that it was a fun summer movie, audiences would have stayed home and the franchise would have died with that film. That’s what happened to Star Trek Beyond and Ghostbusters. Suicide Squad got the same reaction from audiences, but Warner Brothers is committed to so many films in the series that they literally can’t give up at this point without burning the whole studio to the ground and starting over.
So, if audiences are getting sick and tired of these remakes and sequels, why is there still so much hype? The DCEU has been playing out like some sort of psychological test so far.
People: Oh man, I am STOKED for Man of Steel!
People: Oh man, I am STOKED for Batman v Superman!
People: Oh man, I am STOKED for Suicide Squad!
People: Oh man, I am STOKED for Wonder Woman!
Surely it can’t all be advertising?
The truth is, people love universes. We love playing in them. I’m a huge DC fan. Wonder Woman kicks all the ass and Aquaman is my secret superhero love (shh!). With DC’s track record in recent films, I am literally terrified to see both of them take on their own movies, but even if they’re terrible, I will still go see them because any chance to see my beloved characters on the screen is too awesome to miss. I love that universe. I’m glad the CW is proving to the world that you can have fun, entertaining stories featuring DC characters, even if they go into the teen drama fluff end of the spectrum more often than not.
The same goes for Harry Potter. I have really low hopes for Fantastic Beasts because I just don’t trust Warner Brothers to produce a good film without micromanaging it to death at this point, but I am still giddy with excitement because it’s a chance to return to a universe I love. The new Harry Potter play was diverting, but hardly deep and thought provoking, and yet I enjoyed every minute reading it.
But even my universe-loving self will get tired if faced with consistently lazy products. And that’s exactly what happened this summer. People were willing to forgive a lot until the things they were forgiving refused to go away. It was like dealing with a troublesome dog that pees on the carpet and destroys furniture. You can forgive a lot (because they’re a dog!) but once they get to the point where they’re causing more problems than you can deal with (perhaps the dog needs to run free on a farm instead of living in a teeny apartment) it’s time to part ways and find a home better suited for that dog. This summer, audiences grabbed the troublesome dog up in their arms and, shaking their head in disappointment, took the dog to their friends in the country who were better suited to take care of said dog.
I tend to be much more forgiving, which is why I liked Suicide Squad even though it was pretty light in the plot department, but it’s understandable why audiences everywhere finally said, “Enough.” The only film that I think received unfair criticism was Ghostbusters, which I felt was a pretty groundbreaking film in terms of gender representation (also Kevin is adorable and I want one to keep in my pocket), but its release came at a terrible time in terms of audience mood.
But nonetheless, we need a break from big franchises. Inception and Interstellar proved that original films can be box office successes. But I feel like Christopher Nolan shouldn’t have to shoulder all the responsibility for creating original films. The top film of all time (Avatar) is original (if derivative), which is nice, but James Cameron’s slate is filled with eight thousand sequels to said original film at this point, so he’s out. Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight was fantastic, but it’s understandable that his style isn’t for everyone (it earned less than Ghostbusters did at the box office, though it did have a much smaller budget) and he’s made it clear that he’s only going to make one or two more films. Wes Anderson has reached peak Wes Anderson, and so while I love his stuff, I don’t see him creating something truly new and game-changing without going in a new direction. Steven Spielberg did great things with Bridge of Spies, but The BFG didn’t really impress anyone. Darren Aronofsky blew us all away with Black Swan, but then he made Noah… Ridley Scott is balancing on a razor’s edge at this point, but I’m optimistic he’s still got a few great films left. Ang Lee is still out there, so I’m excited to see what he does next (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk looks a bit cliche, but it has a great visual style). Robert Zemeckis made everyone motion sick with The Walk, but I still love him. Ava Duverney did great things with Selma, so hopefully she sticks around. Also Spike Jonze, Bennett Miller, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, and Martin Scorcese are still out there, along with a bunch of up-and-coming directors we haven’t met yet.
Surely, there is someone out there who can alleviate our sequel-itis. I think audiences are more receptive to original works now more than ever. Now is the time to give us something new and exciting. It doesn’t even have to be a depressing arthouse film. Disney proved that was possible with Zootopia. We need something fresh and fun, something that will change things the way The Matrix did in 1999.
So, here’s to the holiday film season. We’ve got another Star Wars, another Harry Potter universe excursion, Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and Disney’s latest animated film, along with a bunch of others (including Ang Lee’s next film, which I mentioned earlier). I’m curious to see if the summer cynicism carries over to the holiday season.
What were your favorite films from this summer? Are there any that you loved even though everyone hated them?
I’ll see you next week!