By Afonso Almeida.
It’s #BRWC10! To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the battleroyalewithcheese blog, here is a retrospective look at the year so far in film. It’s been a year of monstrous blockbuster releases, sleeper hits and surprising failures at the box office.
The year started quiet, as Januarys tend to go. After the craze of the holiday season releases and the rush to get all the “oscarworthy” movies out, there was not much to see in the first month of the year other than the third instalment in the already forgotten Maze Runner series, and yet another film of Liam Neeson being angry and confused on public transportation.
Things finally kicked off in February. There were some well received entries this month, including the superb Annihilation by Alex Garland. However, the clear attention grabber for this month was Black Panther. The first of Marvel’s three entries for the year was a critical and box office success, bringing in 1.3 billion USD for the studios. As the year progressed however, the saturation of these block buster releases would soon fatigue audiences. In between April and May, we saw the release of Avengers:Infinity War , Deadpool 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story. Infinity War was the culmination of 10 years work for Marvel studios (making it only appropriate to talk about during BRWC10). It was a masterfully orchestrated piece of story, bringing in all the best elements of the different franchises under the Marvel umbrella. It was, without surprise, a complete hit with audiences and in the box office. A couple weeks after Deadpool 2 came out.
Deadpool 2 was a good sequel to the first. There was a clear understanding of what worked in the first one as a far as humour and irreverence, and it built up on the set pieces from the first one delivering a truly incredible chase sequence. However the film brought in almost as much in the box office as the first one, which is surprising given the popularity of the franchise. Not long after that, Solo: A Star Wars Story was released.
It has been well documented that Solo has underperformed at the box office. The thing is, the film is good. Alden Ehrenreich delivered a likeable and confident performance as Han Solo. It wasn’t imitation or pastiche of Harrison Ford’s take on the character, but rather a solid portrayal of a young smuggler in the Star Wars universe. His chemistry with Chewbacca and Lando worked terrifically, there were impressive set pieces and some remnants of Lord and Miller’s humour made through the Ron Howard takeover. Yet, not enough people saw it. The film was declared a flop. There were talks of removing Kathleen Kennedy from the helm of Lucasfilm, the plans for the Boba Fett and Obi-Wan movies were put on hold, and the future of Star Wars as a whole was put into question.
All of this showing how Hollywood always learns the wrong lesson. The failure of Solo is not due to the product, or the controversy of recasting the character (which may have affected some ticket sales, but certainly not in the millions). Solo was the first evidence of the blockbuster fatigue that is starting to manifest itself this year. General audience members will not spend £13 (and their other currency counterparts) per viewing on three very similar films within the space of a month. Disney was so confident that there was such a crazy for Star Wars content, that it released this film within a month of it’s biggest event of the last 10 years, as well as the second instalment in a beloved franchise. In addition to this, The Last Jedi, which had just been released in December of the last year, famously received mixed reviews. Yet in light of all of this, studios were still confident they could tap the market beyond the die hard fans and make billion dollar returns several times a year. They could not.
The summer has also been plagued by underperforming and underwhelming blockbusters. Jurassic World 2 received very middling reviews, most people criticising its bland and predictable plot. While it performed well financially, it was clear it was not a movie audiences enjoyed watching and could signify diminishing returns in the future of the franchise. Skyscraper, yet another of Dwayne Johnsons outings, also underperformed at the box office. After a year of massive events, a bland remake of Die Hard was not enough to fill the seats, even if it featured the worlds biggest actor.
The light at the end of this CGI heavy tunnel is the release of Mission Impossible: Fallout. The franchise has gained extremely good graces from audiences. In the midst of all the fabricated imagery of modern day action films, viewers not only love the real stunts offerings of the Tom Cruise helmed franchise, but seem to be actually craving it. Mission Impossible 6 has performed extremely well on opening weekend and has been proclaimed as the best entry in the franchise. This film proved to be the antidote to the clinical offering studios had been putting out from May to July. Overblown blockbuster instalments with thin plots, heavy computer effects, and a billable star on the poster. Mission Impossible offered audiences a genuinely compelling action film, with mind bending stunts and intriguing plot.
As an aside to all of this blockbuster talk, it is also important to analyse smaller films. This year has continued last years trend established by Jordan Peele’s Get Out to deliver unique horror films. The two stand outs are A Quiet Place and Hereditary. Both films were immensely praised for their originality and have stood out as some of the years best films, perhaps showing the need to place emphasis on small budget original offerings, as opposed to the formulaic nature of blockbuster films.
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