The heat must be at fault. Studios must think everyone during the summer suffers from serious heat stroke. It is the only thing that makes sense. Why else would they continually release bomb after turkey after bomb, all containing equally ridiculous plotting and insufferable acting with mega-budgets? After a summer that featured everything from “It’s Always Sunny’s” Charlie Day playing a scientist in “Pacific Rim” to Johnny Depp playing a Native American, at long last we return to a simpler time of year when budgets are down and the story is up.
Even major studios are backing off of expensive projects. Disney is shelving “Pirates 5” after the debacle that was “The Lone Ranger.” It was not the first time Disney fueled an outlandish budget in hopes of reaching a nonexistent audience. “John Carter” performed similarly, with irrational expectations by the studio that failed to reach any sense of a successful release. Although “Pirates 5” is a much better bet to score with audiences, it still has been shelved for a potential summer 2016 release. One can hope this is a sign of a new future in Hollywood, one where the story is more important than the flash and bang of contemporary blockbuster hits, and flops. The “Pirates” series pushed Depp from box office poison to a blockbuster hit but even that is not enough to draw studios in as of yet for another chapter of a series that has run its course.
Remakes and sequels with no imagination still reign, and, with the emergence of comic books as the newfound muse for screenwriters, that will not end until they portray every superhero possible on the big screen. With sequels coming up for “Thor” and “Captain America,” as well as other titles including “Ant Man,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the direction of filmmaking is in question. Making movies is a business, now more than ever before with increased ticket prices and sky high budgets, and sadly the motivation to make a film has moved from having a story that needs to be told to making an explosion that puts people in the seats. That is not to say that all big budget movies are bad, nor that genuine storytelling is defunct, just that those two aspects rarely conflate into something special.
Of course some comic book movies hit it out of the park, such as “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight,” but more often than not writing in these films is sketchy at best, sacrificing a sensible plot with epic fights that leave destruction and confusion in their path. This summer was chock full of some genuinely awful fare and, again, sequels with no imagination shot out like pinballs, without care for who’s love of the original they destroyed. Kid’s favorite “The Smurfs 2” was a sequel without reason as the first one also was just plain bad. What was one of the best R-rated comedies ever is continually having its legacy dragged through the mud with “The Hangover 3.” “RIPD” and even “Iron Man 3” have viewers scared to trust comic book adaptations (Yes, even the latter. If you love the comics, you will not like The Mandarin.). Even M. Night Shyamalan got in the act, solidifying his stock as the proverbial one-hit wonder while dragging Will Smith down with him in “After Earth.” And we cannot forget that not one but two White House terrorist movies were released and just as quickly forgotten.
Some actually good movies did come out though. The new Star Trek was a valiant and fun effort, even if one could not help but compare it to “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” and compare it on a lesser scale. Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” Matthew McConaughey’s “Mud” (Seriously, who knew he could act!), and the much anticipated “Before Midnight” all had stories worth telling and did so in a meaningful way. Coming of age films also came out in a big way with films such as “The Spectacular Now” and “The Way, Way Back.”
The problem is the studios. They treat it as a business, as they should, but with that forget why they got into filmmaking in the first place, which hopefully in some sense was also to make art. These huge budget films get all the notoriety, publicity, and wide releases. This unfortunately causes people to complain about why Johnny Depp thinks he can play an Apache Indian instead of talking about Michael B. Jordan’s awards-worthy performance in “Fruitvale Station,” a movie with a more limited release and less publicity. Hopefully come fall when comic book sequels are fewer and farther between, audiences will be forced to pay attention to the stories that matter.