Summertime is like the playoffs here at ACTIONAGOGO.COM. We track these big budget monsters from announcements, which are years ahead of release dates, all the way to opening night. Sometimes we even bet on opening weekend draws. Yeah, it’s serious business ‘round here. After the smoke from all the explosions and car chases has cleared it’s become obvious that we have some problems that are being baked into every big budget action film that came out this year.
|Apparently “falling” was the new black this summer.|
Then Star Trek Into Darkness happens. And it’s good. Captain Kirk is struggling to hold his crew and ship together, and yet, it’s the same thing. The stakes are higher, it’s personal, and the bad guy isn’t who he says he is. And at the end everything explodes, with San Fransico getting owned by a Star Fleet ship and most certainly ending the lives of untold numbers of people. But everything’s all right because Captain Kirk (one guy!) is saved at the end through the magic of space medicine. Vengeance has been wrought! (Sucks for those dead people.)
|Our heroes came…|
|…and they fell.|
And it was a box office bomb. It debuted at number 3 in the U.S.A, behind children’s movie behemoth Despicable Me 2 and the Adam Sandler vehicle Grown Ups 2. I was shocked. Appalled. Saddened. But what were the reasons for this? As usual, hindsight is 20/20. First, U.S audiences weren’t ready for what looked like a Transformers rip-off, and even if they were, marketing efforts were lackluster on the part of the studio. Second, core Anime fans seemed to be rebelling against it, with many labeling it a Neon Genesis Evangelion rip off after seeing the trailer and pictures of the cast in costume. Third, it was just a crowded marketplace. Despicable Me 2 grabbed families and Grown Ups 2 scooped up males in Pacific Rim’s prime demographic that decided to go with a laugh and a cavalcade of familiar faces instead or heavy metal action. Which brings me to the last and certainly not least reason why Pacific Rim didn’t do better than expected at the box office. Blockbuster fatigue. After three straight epic city destroying, disaster filled blow outs people simply saw the poster with giant machines wreaking havoc and shrugged their shoulders. No, not this week. Adam Sandler getting pissed on and Steve Carrell talking funny was enough to knock out the most original action movie to come out in a long while. Move along. Nothing to see here.
That is a shame, but more importantly, it illustrates a disturbing trend. Audiences have gotten so conditioned to go back to the familiar that original movies, even big ones like Pacific Rim, aren’t finding eyes to grab. Even worse, the movies that are grabbing the eyes are becoming so paint by numbers similar that even when they do check them out they’ll see the same beats, verbatim, with the same forced plot twists and character developments. Long term audiences will catch on without the help of critics, and once people realize the Emperor has no clothes you’ll have diminishing return after diminishing return, and the golden age geeks have been experiencing will come to a close. Instead we are going to have even more pandering Sharknado-styled tomfoolery and a collection of streaming services with a ramshackle mix of original/interesting content and tired crap.
Despite my grievances this movie season has been a good one in terms of cash. $4.7 Billion this summer alone. And we all know movies as a medium aren’t going anywhere for a while, but I recognize a trend when I see one, and the only way for media giants like News Corp. and Time Warner to not end up like the real Titanic is to steer away from the iceberg when it’s far away and not close enough to sink the ship. The guys who wrote the book on summer blockbusters, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, seem to see something coming. I hope the rest of us keep our eyes open as well.