16 June 2010
Summer Movies 2010: Cause for Concern?
Many websites and blogs all over the planet have widely agreed on one unifying theme describing this Summer's Film Slate: Sucky. It's among one of the suckiest suck sucks that ever sucked. There are plenty of sequels, and really, any summer for the past five years, even the past fifteen years had their share of sequels, with only a spike in budget and prestige a recent development. So I'm not here to complain about that.
In all actuality, there are many more original films than sequels this Summer. If we divide the elite releases into two big groups we've only got sequelitis from Iron Man 2, Shrek 4, Sex and the City 2, Toy Story 3, Twilight 3, Predator 15, Step Up 3-D, Cats and Dogs 2 and Nanny McPhee 2. Take away remakes A-Team, Karate Kid and Dinner for Schmucks and we're left with the following original films (some [read: most] with well-established source material): Robin Hood, Just Wright, Letters to Juliet, MacGruber, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Get Him to the Greek, Marmaduke, Splice, Killers, Jonah Hex, Knight and Day, Grown Ups, The Last Airbender, Despicable Me, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Inception, Salt, Charlie St. Cloud, The Other Guys, Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Takers. Phew.
If you look at this list of original films closely though, you'll notice that it's not only full of Horror, Comedy and Romance, the typical original Summer films. There are a good amount of probable future franchise builders (or attempted future franchise builders) and action flicks, notably Robin Hood, Prince of Persia, Jonah Hex, Knight and Day, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Last Airbender, Inception, Salt, The Expendables and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Easily dwarfing the sequel list.
Unfortunately amid all these franchise starts (compare all the franchises that ended [or seemed to end] in 2007) the lack of good businesss so far seems to point towards an actual need for Superhero Sequels. The only comic adaptations are Iron Man 2 and Jonah Hex, and Iron Man 2 is really the only break-out success of Summer so far (for future reference Jonah Hex doesn't know its audience and will do shitty). Original gritty epics Robin Hood and Prince of Persia have bombed pretty hard domestically, and even Shrek 4 has severely underperformed in comparison to its predecessors. There has hardly been any film to capture that Summer Audience, and the slate of upcoming releases doesn't really seem interesting.
This Summer may have some ramifications in the industry as executives re-determine what they think makes us tick. I'm not suggesting they change the way they make films (probably more Superhero Sequels), but it should indicate a need for change in marketing. Movies like Prince of Persia, Killers and A-Team had marketing that relied on name recognition and big action pieces with little focus on story (quick - give a one-sentence summary of what any of their stories are supposed to be without having seen the film), something that seems to have caused their downfall. The Karate Kid, which has blown up this past weekend and could be our second real Summer Success won not only by conquering the family market, but by giving an appealing story to a remake that didn't actually rely on facsimile recognition. It's a turning point in the Summer and before this weekend a lot of the Internet's outlook was pretty bleak.
There's some definite trends so far. MacGruber, The A-Team, The Karate Kid and the upcoming The Expendables are all basically 80s Revivals either directly or indirectly which is startling (add in Hot Tub Time Machine and it's interesting to see how we're evaluating America's Worst Decade). There also seems to be a clamour for lighter fare, compared to the success of The Dark Knight (2008), which was a two and a half-hour brooding episode, films like The Last Airbender, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Knight and Day as well as Iron Man 2 promise a much goofier affair.
So what's to be the best film of Summer? So far it's been Get Him to the Greek, but I'm looking more forward to The Other Guys, Inception, Toy Story 3 and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The Other Guys promises a less man-child obsessed Will Ferrell and an uber-intense Wahlberg, which is honestly pretty incredible. Toy Story 3 seeks only to push Pixar's win streak while Scott Pilgrim vs. the World looks like an invigoratingly original youth-driven film that may avoid kitsch with a slow dose of hipsterism. At any rate it'll be a zeitgeist time capsule of 2010 for future generations to always study and mock.
Finally, like any good blogger, Inception looks like the very clear winner for Coolest Film of Summer. It seems like the kind of film a quality dude like Chris Nolan can make with his imagination going nuts after a Billion-Dollar Dark Knight payday. I'll hold my tongue of praise until it comes out, but while Nolan isn't a perfect filmmaker by far his oeuvre is unmistakably solid. Paranoid mind-game Leo has been a continuing treat and it will be cool to see the Wiener kid from 3rd Rock showcasing his talents in the mainstream.
So, while this Summer has seen a disturbing lack of sequels and Superhero films, we might look ahead to 2011 which should be plenty ridiculous releasing the franchises that will shape the following decade. Besides Thor, Captain America and Green Lantern, prepare for The Hangover 2, Pirates 4, Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Harry Potter 7, Final Destination 5, Spy Kids 4, X-Men: First Class and of course, Transformers 3: Blowgasm. Keep in mind this is the release schedule as of June 2010. If 2010 is always remembered as that sort of "off" summer, 2011 should return to form for a Millennial Summer. We'll see if the bubble pops before Marvel has to scrap its Avengers project and DC gives up on a Flash/Green Lantern crossover.
Somehow my guess is unlikely. Yours?