Movie News & Reviews

Blockbusters going bust? 2015's movies could be telling

For 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jeremy Renner, left, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson will reprise their superhero roles.
For 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jeremy Renner, left, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson will reprise their superhero roles.

Holy blockbusters, Batman. Have you seen what's set to run across the silver screen in 2015?

There's Star Wars, Episode VII, a movie that fans have waited three decades to see.

Avengers: Age of Ultron will have more superheroes than The Avengers.

The Hunger Games trilogy is scheduled to conclude with part 2 of Mockingjay.

The thoroughly rejuvenated James Bond series will return, with all those questions from Skyfall to answer.

And Pixar is cranking out Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, arguably the best film in the studio's catalog.

There's also a new SupermanMan of Steel — that brings in another famed superhero, Batman.

All this anticipation for 2015, and we haven't even finished the summer of 2013. Elysium. Another Percy Jackson. Kick-Ass 2, anyone? Anyone?

The buzz around 2015 must leave the summer of 2014 whining "Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!"`

Move over, 1939, the year that gave us Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Wuthering Heights, to name a few.

But could this anticipation be misplaced? Could the blockbuster year on the horizon be on a collision course with a public tired of blockbusters?

Right up there with stories about how awesome 2015 looks are stories about how this summer has been a disappointment. A number of big-franchise and big-name films have delivered puny returns at the ticket window.

Those films include The Lone Ranger, After Earth and Pacific Rim, all of which were touted as blockbusters but turned out to be busts.

This summer's thuds were foretold by the grandfathers of the blockbuster era, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who warned that the current blockbuster- dependent model for Hollywood studios could implode.

"They're going for the gold," Lucas said in June at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. "But that isn't going to work forever. And as a result, they're getting narrower and narrower in their focus. People are going to get tired of it. (The studios are) not going to know how to do anything else."

At the same event, Spielberg said, "There's eventually going to be a big meltdown. There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen of these mega- budgeted movies go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm again."

It has not been lost on many observers that Lucas and Spielberg helped create this monster with Star Wars, E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Still, even casual observers could see an accelerating trend in the past decade or two toward big movies driven by marquee stars and characters, and powered by enough CGI fireworks to fill the nation's skies on the Fourth of July. Nobody is talking about what Woody Allen, Alexander Payne or Terrence Malick might do in 2015.

The advertising-induced excitement is for the behemoths, including World of Warcraft and a few other video game-based films.

The Atlantic's Derek Thompson detailed why film studios are addicted to explosive and familiar fare in a recent story that pointed out that the growth market for films is overseas, where clever American jokes don't translate as well as cities under siege, and ticket-buyers increasingly favor the familiar.

"Moviemaking has always been a risky business of hits and flops," Thompson wrote. "But the globalization of profits makes the hits even more precious."

Some of those movies, however, are no longer hitting.

In an interview on American Public Media's Marketplace, Grantland film writer Wesley Morris observed, "We are finally maybe getting fat on these high-calorie, high-cholesterol summer movies."

He also alluded to a savvier audience that knows when it is being marketed to. It is also increasingly easy to see the formulas behind some films that are more products of research and analysis than creative minds.

So, should we just bag all the 2015 hype?

Well, not entirely.

Yes, a certain number of these U.S.S. Blockbuster films setting sail in 2015 are going to hit the rocks.

Many people are ready for Star Wars VII to suck based on the prequels, but the new film is being directed by J.J. Abrams, who is a skilled storyteller and has done a much better job rebooting the Star Trek franchise than many of us anticipated. This also is the movie that a lot of us have wanted to see — the continuation of the original trilogy — since 1983.

Avengers has turned into a heckuva franchise, with last summer's enormously entertaining group film and a lot of great individual hero flicks, including Captain America and the Iron Man series.

This year's Catching Fire will tell us how excited we should be for the Hunger Games' two-part finale, and as long as 007 doesn't pull another Quantum of Solace, there is every reason to anticipate that Daniel Craig will continue the resurgence of the Bond franchise.

Now, as we go down the card, things get iffier, and not all movies scheduled for 2015 might open then. Avatar 2, the sequel to the biggest moneymaker of all time, had been in the mix for 2015 until last week, when it was announced that it will open in 2016. And there will always be wild cards. Maybe Allen or Payne will do something great.

So it might be early to get wrapped up in 2015 hype. But we can be cautiously optimistic.

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