The Worst Trends in Movies Right Now
Andrew Johnson: By their very nature reading movie industry headlines -- casting and production news -- is a depressing and/or infuriating exercise. The reporting is disproportionately focused on mediocre franchise films to begin with, and rumor and innuendo is often presented as fact. Even so, it's been a rough couple of weeks if you follow this stuff (even reluctantly). Two things jump out to me: Edgar Wright's decision to drop out of Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and the news that Disney is planning a live-action Beauty and the Beast. Either headline, but especially the latter for me, got us thinking about the worst trends in film right now.
There are certainly many we are going to cover, but with the Beauty and the Beast news and Maleficent's success at the box office, the "reimagined" and "dark/gritty" fairy tale adaptation is right near the top. I haven't seen one of these yet that has captured my imagination in the same way that the original fairy tale did, and they've almost universally been overwrought beasts, with nothing original or even remotely profound to say.
I can (and probably will) go in to more detail, but, Steve, I know you must have plenty to get off your chest too. On with the airing of the grievances.
Steve Cimino: I can see a trend reforming before our very eyes: the tear-jerking tween drama.
It didn't all start with The Notebook, but that's the first one I recall our generation latching onto. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams became stars, James Garner added one more hit to the old resume, and Nick Cassavetes continued to embarrass his much more talented, and, fortunately dead (so he didn't have to see this), father. Ten years later, about a dozen Nicholas Sparks books (not to mention the works of his brethren) have been made into feature films of various shapes and sizes, but they're nothing next to The Fault in Our Stars.
Thanks in part to Shailene Woodley, America's latest sweetheart, kids with cancer have taken over the entertainment world. $48 million at last weekend's box office will get anyone's attention, especially when it crushes tentpoles like the aforementioned Maleficent and the surprisingly well-reviewed Edge of Tomorrow. And this one doesn't even involve magic powers or a dystopian universe, just good old fashioned romance.
Tween dramas are the perfect moneymakers: throw a few hot young stars in the mix, adapt a best-seller that audiences have heard of, find a nice rural setting and count your pennies. Studios don't want to spend $200 million on Transformers sequels; they just know we'll go see them. If much cheaper flicks can start cracking a hundred million, they're going to be just as happy to pump those out with vigor.
Because movies take forever to make, Hollywood is always a few years behind the curve. But don't be surprised in 2016 when we're barraged with two hours of the young and beautiful battling against [insert obstacle here] and finding true love, however fleeting, at the end of the rainbow.
How about you, Andrew? Are dark 'n' stormy fairy tales the only thing riling you up these days?
Since we're speaking of grating trends forming before our very eyes, how about that of the unfortunate comedy sequel that's about a decade or two late. No, I'm not referring to recent release 22 Jump Street, which looks goofy and unserious enough that it might even wind up as the rare decent comedic sequel.
Instead I'm referring to the unfortunate Anchorman sequel we were just treated to, and the just-as-unfortunate looking Dumb and Dumber To. Those are probably my two favorite comedies -- like, ever -- and it's hard to think of two more ill-advised sequels -- like, ever. This might fall under the larger umbrella of Hollywood laziness. Why try something new when we could trot out Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels for a cynical cash grab preying on our collective misplaced nostalgia? But it's especially egregious to me, given that I'm record as being against comedy sequels as a general rule. There are just too many ways it can go all wrong.
I'm also creeped out by Marvel's steady above-averageness, as I hinted at in our last discussion of this sort. It's like some sort of uncanny valley for a movie studio to be that reliably good without ever really being great. I'm just weirded out by it more than I am annoyed or disgusted by it, but it seems worth mentioning all the same.
But, I keep coming back to these dark-and-gritty fairy tales and keep wondering who the hell is watching them and actually enjoying them. They keep cleaning up at the box office, but I don't know anyone who thinks highly of them. Who is buying all of these tickets? These films are like the Two and a Half Men of Regal Cinemas. Not a single one of them has been memorable, and yet the success of Maleficent means we're locked in for another half-decade of this uninspiring crap.
Is there anything else bugging you?
SC: Don't get me started on Dumb and Dumber To. I saw two stills from the trailer, and that was enough. In my mind, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne died peacefully in their sleep in 1995, and we were all spared this glimpse into their midlife crisis.
The other thing that upsets me these days is the rush to build a comic book franchise. As you said, Marvel's been steadily above-average for the last half-decade now, and whether that creeps you out or fills you with joy, you can't deny that creating a series of solid blockbusters while also weaving all of their characters together has worked wonders for their revenue stream. Not to mention all the fanboy love.
But now DC wants to do it, and Sony wants to do it. Fox has already done it with X-Men: Days of Future Past.
And it's ridiculous. The market is already over-saturated with comic book movies; we went crazy for The Avengers because it was an ambitious idea that was executed brilliantly, not because a bunch of superheroes arbitrarily joined forces on a big screen. We want quality, not quantity.
It seems like yet another example of movie studios not seeing the forest for the trees; instead of borrowing the actual Marvel blueprint and giving big budgets to talented (but unexpectedly chosen) directors with fresh-ish ideas, DC is going to let Zack Snyder smash his Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern action figures together. And Sony is going to make a movie about six villains that most people haven't even heard of. At least Fox has Bryan Singer and a genuine superhero team, but how many X-Men adventures do we really need?
Unless the studios want to play nice and have Spider-Man team up with Captain America, or Wolverine do battle with Doctor Doom, this is going nowhere fast. But as I said before, Hollywood is a few years behind; the bottom may fall out before long, but the relentless barrage will continue unabated.