November 4, 2016

Make Movies for Movies’ Sake

Sam Lurie ‘19

Looking back on the 2016 summer blockbuster season, it was an overall disappointment and has left many fans wondering what happened.  
Many of the projected summer hits fell flat critically and financially.  Independence Day: Resurgence, Ghostbusters, Jason Bourne and Ice Age: Collision Course received Rotten Tomatoes audience scores of ranging from 33 to 60 percent. Even some movies that did well at the box-office, X-Men: Apocalypse and Suicide Squad, received mixed reviews.  
These films all share the fact that they are either sequels, reboots, or part of established franchises. These types of unoriginal movies have been around for a long time, but have become increasingly prevalent and successful over the last decade.
Between 1986 and 2000, only four of the highest grossing movies of the year were sequels: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Mission: Impossible II. However, between 2001 and 2015, the number rose to 12.  Additionally, movies vying for the highest grosser this year are Captain America: Civil War and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, both sequels.
The poor reception to the 2016 summer movie season may be sequel fatigue; however, there are other factors contributing to the recent lower quality of movies.  
Four years ago, 2012’s The Avengers changed the game of movie-making. It united the characters from all of Marvel Studios’ films, smashed box-office records and showed the world the potential of a cinematic universe. Watching Marvel’s continued success, other studios have decided to follow their lead.
Universal has announced they will be making a classic movie monster cinematic universe populated by characters such as Frankenstein, the Mummy, and Dracula. However, the only film they have released, Dracula Untold, flopped.
Warner Bros. and DC Comics are attempting a cinematic universe with their superhero characters.  While Man of Steel received mixed reviews, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice received mostly negative reviews. Caught off guard with the poor reception, Warner Bros. stuck their noses deep into the production of this year’s Suicide Squad.
This caused two cuts of the film, one from director David Ayer and one from the studio. These were then spliced together with additional photography from reshoots to form the film that was released in theatres. Unsurprisingly, Suicide Squad received poor reviews, namely for its editing.
Sony intended 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to set up a cinematic universe of Spider-Man villains.  However, this caused a movie so overstuffed with plot lines and characters, that it seemed to be just a setup for the next movie. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 received mixed to negative reviews from critics and was especially panned by the Spider-Man fan base.
This method of movie-making, with rushing the production and release, heavy studio involvement and devoting much of the run time to set up the next movie in the franchise has caused the mediocrity of the 2016 summer movie season. Studios care more about making good money than making good movies. Perhaps, this summer’s box-office disappointments will lead studios to start producing original movies again.
James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy said it best in a 2014 Facebook post:
“Listen, I love… shared universes in movies, as well as huge franchises. But I’m a little worried about the numerous shared universes being planned… without having a strong base film to grow from – or in some cases, NO base film to grow from… Execs and producers and sometimes even directors are focused on the big picture, without perfecting the task directly in front of them – making a great movie.”   

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