The Summer 2010 Movie Season: A New Trend?

Cinemonitor pubblica con piacere un pezzo di Aaron Edwards sulla stagione cinematografica estiva americana. Il pezzo è in inglese, se qualcuno volesse tradurlo ben venga. Intanto buona lettura. 

 
The Summer 2010 Movie Season: A New Trend? | Aaron Edwards
 
The American summer movie season has long stood as an entertainment juggernaut, transforming May, June, July, and August into a tour de force of big budget blockbusters for the movie going populace. From Jaws to The Dark Knight, American moviegoers expect the most bombastic, star-filled epics in the middle of the year. 2008 produced one of the most crowded summers in recent memory, with the return of Indiana Jones, super hero epics, and even Sex and the City. However, with the Writer’s Guild of America strike of 2007, the quality of large releases suffered greatly in summer 2009, culminating in a line-up of largely dismal mainstream films with notable exceptions in Star Trek and District 9. With the 2010 movie season, full of large budget behemoths featuring the likes of Angelina Jolie and Nic Cage, moviegoers and critics alike expected a higher quality summer of entertainment.
 
Unfortunately, expectations may have been too high.
 
Critically and financially, 2010 has seen an unexpectedly disappointing summer movie season. The usual barrage of Hollywood remakes, TV adaptations, and sequels have been marketed towards the public with aggressive campaigns promising experiences unlike anything seen before in a theater. Only there is one massive problem:
 
Almost none of the movies looked particularly good or interesting.
 
Normally, superheroes, mythical quests, and espionage thrillers are the bread and butter of studios. However, right from the start of the season with remake of Clash of the Titans… something seemed wrong. Clash underwent a last minute conversion to 3D in the wake of Avatar’s success despite the fact the film was shot in 2D, resulting in a horrific 3D transfer. Critics were unimpressed, as were audiences. Next came Prince of Persia, the first of many potential video game adaptations. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Jake Gyllenhaal in his first blockbuster leading role, the film cost a massive 200 million dollars to produce. Upon release, the film was thrashed by critics for its poor writing and casting of Caucasian actors such as Gyllenhaal and Gemma Atherton in the roles of Middle Eastern ethnicity. While Persia performed reasonably well overseas with 238 million, it only grossed a mere 90 million in the United States. Suddenly, the rest of the summer appeared ominous.
 
Like Clash of the Titans, The Last Airbender underwent a hasty 3D conversation before release that yielded a dark and uninspiring image. While both movies were critically panned, they made enough money to be considered moderate successes. Earning about 500 million dollars worldwide, Clash of the Titans managed to overcome its negative buzz. Likewise, The Last Airbender scored some of the worst reviews of the year, both from critics and fans of the TV series it is based upon, yet grossed 225 million internationally to date. The secret to both movies’ monetary gains is neither quality nor excellent marketing, but the increased price in 3D ticket sales. If the examples of Clash and Airbender are any indication, the studios may have implemented the 3D conversations in order to save products they felt were destined to underperform otherwise. If, indeed, there are more stories of last minute conversions to the 3D medium, it may speak a great deal as to a film’s quality and serve as a warning to stay away.
 
The A-Team, Salt, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Knight and Day were star vehicles that promised charm and wit from leads such as Nic Cage, Tom Cruise, and Angelina Jolie. Yet the movies failed to deliver on every other level according to general critic consensus. Even the Sex and the City sequel, a property considered to be critic proof, did not perform well in the US. The marketing for each movie failed to sell them as unique and the public failed to respond. It didn’t help that the reviews for City scorned the film for a shaky script. Taking up the quirky romantic film mantel of the summer is the book adaptation Eat, Pray, Love, Julia Robert’s first star vehicle in almost a decade. With 43 million made in ten days, Love is on its way to becoming a profitable venture, but is still trailing behind The Expendables.
 
The only hugely profitable original product proved to be Inception, grossing 620 million worldwide to date. Helmed by The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, Inception’s marketing promised an imaginative story and mind bending action sequences. The reviews and buzz for Inception further added to the film’s anticipation, leading to its strong performance. The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone’s 80’s action movie throwback, has acquired 67 million two weeks after opening on an 80 million dollar budget, putting it on track to continue taking in ticket sales during the customarily silent month of September. However, despite its moderate success, The Expendables marketing campaign relied on its star power, heavily promoting Arnold Schwarzenegger’s involvement despite the fact he only holds a small cameo.
 
If the summer of 2010 has proved anything, it is that audiences are ready for something new from their blockbusters. Rather than relying on explosions, A-list movie stars, or brand recognition, exciting and inventive stories with strong marketing may be the drawing force in the new big budget world. Making films appear interesting to the casual audience is key. It is obvious that the latest resurgence of 80’s brand names has given more and more diminishing returns. Inception and District 9 proved that an original and well executed idea can be a success if marketed and positioned correctly. The independent horror film Splice, released back in June, failed in the midst of various blockbusters due to its position close to more popular PG-13 releases. If Splice had been released in October, in accordance with similar horror franchises that capitalize on the season, it could have been more successful.
 
Recently, Marvel studios has employed a unique approach to their films by creating an interconnected universe full of collaborating directors and writers, culminating in the superhero team up film, The Avengers, in 2012. The film is almost guaranteed to be a massive success, mostly due to the never before attempted serialized nature of highly anticipated films preceding it such as Marvel’s popular adaptations of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. Such creative innovation is the key to marketing films, as it is easier to tie one successful comic book franchise with the others.
 
It won’t be long until the comic book properties run dry. Movie executives have already felt out celebrated video game series such as Uncharted and Mass Effect, both of which possess the potential to be very successful film franchises. However, how long will video game properties last? If the integration of comic books into mainstream film is any indication, over the next ten to fifteen years a flood of game adaptations will saturate the market, only to be exhausted and eventually rebooted like the new Spider-Man film and X-Men: First Class, both due in the next two years with entirely new casts and stories. How such immediate reboots of popular franchises will succeed has yet to be seen.
 
If Hollywood is to survive more summers in the current economy, the studios need to roll the dice on more original properties, as eventually the gimmicks of unimpressive 3D and remakes of obscure 80’s TV shows will wear thin. An influx of new properties is essential, or in another 20 years there will be none left to remake. The vampire craze that has propelled Twilight will settle, leaving the door wide open for the next hot set of franchises. Perhaps the failure of the A-Team remake and the breakaway success of Inception points to a need for stories promising something new, fresh, and adventurous. On the whole, moviegoers demand more from their entertainment. If The Dark Knight and Avatar have proved anything, it is that people will pay to see their demands realized on the silver screen.
 
Aaron Edwards

 

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