Category Archives: blockbuster

What I’ve Been Watching: Summer Blockbusters (Dragons, Apes and Mutants)

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-posterThis summer has left me somewhat busier than usual due to finding myself a Mrs Observealot to share my adventures in time and space with. Because of this I’ve not had the time to write up my thoughts and insights into many of the summer’s films I’ve been fortunate enough to catch.

Three of these films are X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and How to Train Your Dragon 2. All are big budget, high quality films, but more importantly thematically they actually have a surprising amount in common.

More so than most other big budget franchises, X-Men, Planet of the Apes, and How to Train Your Dragon are all about two rival groups and the struggle to find peace between them.

For this reason, all three films appealed to me as someone who grew up in Northern Ireland in the midst of such a struggle. Whether the ‘other’ are mutants, apes, or dragons there is a sense in these films that peace is a possible, if difficult, outcome, and the protagonists in all these films are all doing their hardest to bring reconciliation to their worlds.

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Why we should stop complaining about Hollywood Blockbusters….

I finished Mark Kermode’s book The Good, The Bad, and The Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies? recently. It is a very well written, entertaining book on the state of modern cinema. However, it left me with a feeling of hopelessness and despair at the state of Hollywood and the fact it probably will not change anytime soon.

The argument Kermode makes is that studios could make better movies, and uses Inception as a prime example of this, but they simply don’t want to. They are not prepared to take risks since sequels, remakes and franchises make them enough money already.

I cannot disagree with that argument, studios could try harder. However, it is my belief they are not entirely to blame. The argument Kermode, and critics like him fail to make to any great degree is that studios are in the business of making money, and we as consumers decide which movies do and do not make money. As a result the only people we can blame for Transformers 3 are those of us stupid enough to make Transformer 2 a success (and I hold my hand up for that sin).

Yes, studios decide what to make, but it is we that decide what is and is not a success. If none of us had seen Pirates 3, even though we knew all the critics said it was rubbish, there wouldn’t have been a Pirates 4. Even then, plenty of people went to see that just in case the franchise had been turned around. The result? Pirates 5 is in the works. The same applies to Shrek, Saw, and Final Destination. Sequels keep getting made, because the previous film in the series makes the studio loads of dough. They have no incentive to stop.

It is easy to be cynical about such things, or simply to say: “it’s the damned age we live in.” However, even Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes could not resist the allure of the market.

In 1893, he killed off his most famous character to concentrate on his ‘more important’ historical works. However, public demand led to him bringing him back to life in 1903, a decision that undoubtedly brought great pleasure to both his publisher and accountant.

It is hard to resist the allure of the market.

Good films and bad films will continue to be made. If you know where to look, there is no reason to watch films you hate. Although this may mean not going to your local multiplex and having to wait until certain independent titles appear on DVD.

Critics like Kermode can despair all they like about the current state of cinema saturated by sequels, toys and superheroes but in doing so they are merely blaming the average cinema goer for their taste in films.

If the great, artistic films he cites like Of Gods and Men, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford or Of Time and the City took in barrel loads of cash at the independent cinemas they were shown in, of course multiplexes would soon pick them up and start showing them the very next week. But they didn’t, and films like them are not going to unless people’s tastes change. And I don’t see that happening.

Studios could try harder, but that only matters if we try harder.

So the next time you find yourself in the cinema watching a rubbish movie you don’t really like, remember you’ve only yourself to blame for paying to see the rubbish movie that inspired it.

On the other hand, it may be you can’t get enough of the Transformers, Shreks and Saws of this world. In which case – keep seeing them! And don’t let anyone moan at you for loving them, after all there’s plenty more people out there like you!