Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Topic Of The Day: What Happened To The Blockbuster?

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, since we are in the midst of the blockbuster season, I figured I'd discuss my thoughts on the directions that I feel the blockbuster genre has headed in.

After being severely disappointed by Avengers: Age of Ultron and feeling that Jurassic World was adequate yet entertaining, because those films are making insane profits, it has me wondering about the future of blockbusters and whether people want to catch up with their favorite franchises or just be amazed by special effects thrown in their faces.

But the reason a lot of the older blockbusters have worked so well is because of their simplicity. Not only did they have more limited budgets, but their smaller scope allowed the filmmakers to focus on the film's themes, character development, etc. Take, for example, Star Wars. Sure, people love seeing the astounding action sequences. But another thing that, to me, really has people watching it again is the characters: Han Solo, the cocky loose cannon pilot with a heart of gold; Leia, the princess who is able to fight her own battles; Luke, the young kid who slowly grows into becoming a strong-willed Jedi; the witty robots C-3PO and R2-D2, and the wise Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi. Also, the famous score by John Williams still has people humming it, I'm sure. What I'm getting at is that what makes Star Wars work so well is that there is always something that people remember about it that they take with them after they see it and has them coming back for more, whether it'd be the characters, the fun action scenes, the cool-looking aliens, or the score.

Another great example of a more simplistic blockbuster is E.T.. It had a pretty simple story about a boy who befriends an alien. Yet its tale about the bond of friendship still resonates with audiences. It carries an emotional soul that I feel is lacking in certain blockbusters today because of not just its story about friendship, but because of how people can relate to the main character who is a bit of a outsider and comes from a family of divorce. Not only that, but Elliot's bond with E.T. can be left up to metaphorical interpretation, having people wonder whether E.T. is an allegory to Elliot's father because of the physical connection they begin to share.

A lot of blockbusters these days that focus on bigger budgets tend to let their amazing effects get in the way of their storytelling. One reason is that the script tends to be too jumbled with scattered storylines and characters used as time filler (i.e., The Amazing Spider-Man 2). But as long as the films have their superheroes in the title, the studios don't care. They just go, "the movie has Spider-Man in the title, so people will go see it. Let's have some cool action sequences and a little bit of plot thrown in. Bam, we have a huge hit." All they want is a huge profit. While Jack Black's musical number at this year's Oscars may have come off as anti-superhero, there is some truth to it. A good chunk of these superhero films that rack up the dough do have formulaic scripts.

There are a few recent superhero films have been done right, though. Take, for example, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was a superhero film that also worked as a masterful political thriller. You also have Bryan Singer's X-Men films which have sizable budgets, yet Singer still brings great care to the storytelling and the comic's themes involving prejudice. Lastly, there is Guardians of the Galaxy, which brought the fun back to the superhero genre in the midst of the serious superhero films released since Christopher Nolan's masterfully executed Batman trilogy, and was a throwback to films like Star Wars in terms of its characters being the film's centerpiece. I would say both GotG and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are Marvel's brightest spots at this point.

So those are my thoughts on why I think blockbusters have hit a decrease in terms of their quality. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!