For the foreseeable future, it is a blockbuster world and we’re just living in it. Marvel has been churning out massive, gigantic, skyscraper busting mega-hits since 2008 and they show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. With the huge success of The Force Awakens, the Star Wars universe will be joining in with at least a couple of lightsaber flicks every year. Then you’ve got Michael Bay, those furiously fast folks, and a horde of others all who will ensure that pretty much anytime you go to your local megaplex you will be seeing a film that contains no fewer than 100,000 explosions.
Now I’m not the sort to automatically complain about this sort of thing. More often than not, you’ll find me watching big summer blockbusters even when they are showing in the dead of winter. I’ve come to accept and even love the Marvel universe, flaws and all, and I’ll be standing first in line for the upcoming Star Wars films from now until eternity. But much like the popcorn we scarf down while watching all these films, there are consequences to our consumption.
Much has been made about the death of the medium-budget films over the last decade. With studios spending (and risking) so much money on potential blockbusters, they don’t have enough left over for much else. Sure, they’ll drop a few million on small films from folks like Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese - people who will garner awards for them - but movies with modest ambitions, medium budgets, and maybe a decent star or two have largely disappeared. That’s a real detriment to cinephiles everywhere. Perhaps in time, new studios will arise who can recover that niche of films that cost more than a Woody Allen comedy yet significantly less than the catering on a Marvel film but still fill the audience with awe and glee.
Until then we always have TV.
The year 2016 has actually been rather interesting on the superhero front. This past weekend Marvel released Captain America: Civil War in which our heroes battle against, not another bland super villain, but themselves. As the title suggests in this film, we get an answer to the eternal boyhood question of who would win in a fight between Captain America and Iron Man. It's as if Marvel has realized that their films have always struggled with finding an interesting villain and decided to have our heroes just fight each other. It's not an entirely successful film (I’m sure it will make enormous piles of cash, but I’m speaking artistically here), but I find it an interesting take on these films that are increasingly cookie cutter in scope.
The other interesting film that came out this year is also my pick of the week. What makes Deadpool decidedly different than all the other Marvel films is just how un-Marvel it is. Deadpool is the Merc with the Mouth - he repeatedly breaks the fourth wall, makes all sorts of pop-cultural references, and is about as non-family friendly as a superhero can be. Now I have no doubt that 20th Century Fox did all sorts of market research to ensure that audiences were ready - and would pay - for a foul-mouthed costumed avenger before ever approving the film, but the fact that we got the Deadpool we deserved shows that blockbusters are at least testing the waters of something different. And that’s a good thing.
Deadpool isn’t a great film. Not even close. But it is very entertaining and it really is cool to see an R-rated superhero film. I don’t think all blockbusters need to drop F-bombs, or sex up the love interest, nor fill the screen with blood, but it's nice to see studios willing to do that once in awhile when the character is right for it.
And that’s what makes Deadpool my pick of the week.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
In a Lonely Place (Criterion Collection): Humphrey Bogart stars as an alcoholic screenwriter who becomes a murder suspect when his neighbor is killed. I love all things Bogart but have never seen this one. The Criterion upgrade gives me the perfect excuse to remedy that.
Regression: Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson star in this drama from Alejandro Amenabar. Watson plays a woman who accuses her father (David Dencik) of sexual abuse. He has no memory of said abuse, but trusts his daughter and pleads guilty to the crime. Hawke plays the police detective who must figure it all about.
War and Peace: This new miniseries tackles Tolstoy’s gigantic novel in eight episodes. It stars Lily James, James Norton, Paul Dano, and a host of others.
The Boy: Creepy looking psychological horror flick about a couple who “adopt” a porcelain doll after their own child tragically dies. Lauren Cohan plays the new nanny who is charged with taking care of the doll, which may be more than it seems.
Where to Invade Next: Michael Moore continues his “documentary” shtick. This time he playfully "invades" various countries to see what resources they could bring to America.