Published on June 1st, 2012 | by Ben Harrison0
TV/Film: Summer at the movies, one month in
It’s been a month since the summer kicked off at the box office, the biggest draw of the year for film fans.
In terms of hits so far, we’ve had one monumental, earth-shattering blockbuster with The Avengers, a minor non-catastrophe with last weekend’s Men In Black 3 and….not much else. Even the box office supremacy of The Avengers isn’t quite the epic feat it once would have once become, with inflation on ticket prices putting the film on the all-time box office list at #41. In fact, The Avengers is currently lined up to be one of the least-attended highest grossing films of all time. Now, don’t get me wrong. I ADORED The Avengers. It was a fanboy’s dream, but more than that, it was a mass-appeal, cross-generational film that connected with a huge audience while remaining true to it’s geek roots. The film was a bright shining beacon of optimism when so many of our superhero films barrel forth, determined to be darker than The Dark Knight, but without the filmmaking bravura of Nolan’s film (I’m looking right at you, Green Lantern).
Meanwhile, Men In Black 3 wasn’t a flop. We can give it that much. With the film going dangerously over-budget during production, and rumours of a script not being ready for months after the deadline, the film’s minor domestic success on first weekend, coupled with an impressive international debut was surely a sign of relief for all involved. Big Willie is the king of the summer for this weekend, at least. MIB3 is most indicative of a box office trend of the past two years: broadly marketed, widely promoted films with an global appeal perform fantastically overseas, even though they might not do so well in North America. Take a look at the $200 million+ box office draw of Disney’s springtime ‘flop’, John Carter. Movie stars can’t be expected to carry a film unless their appeal is global.
The rest of the summer is looking pretty dire in terms of stuff I’m excited about. There’s Prometheus next week, Brave and Magic Mike (I know, but it’s Soderbergh doing a loose biopic on Channing Tatum, how oddball is that?!) at the end of June, The Dark Knight Rises aaaaand that’s about it in terms of major studio releases. Now, as with every summer, there are always a few indie gems in limited release that sneak up and blow me away. Take The Kids Are Alright or Bellflower. These are films that manage to find an audience that isn’t fanboy determined, and make the summer a whole lot more interesting.
But what seems more certain this year, is that this is a summer of films that were made in order to satisfy studio contracts. Take the anticipated Spider-Man reboot coming out in July. Here’s why I am not looking forward to this film at all. Back in the 1980′s, Marvel sold all of the film rights of their properties to different studios in order to save the company from their financial situation. Fox owned X-Men, Sony owned Spider-Man, and so on and so forth. The film rights were purchased on the condition that the studios had to make a certain number of films with the properties under a certain window of time, or the rights to the characters would go back to Marvel. This is why Marvel owns the rights to films like Iron Man, Thor and Hulk, and is able to bring them all together under one roof (or, in their case, badass aircraft carrier) in The Avengers, but why Spider-Man can never show up in an Avengers sequel for the time being. So, back in 2007, the Spider-Man franchise was going peachy for Sony. The trilogy was a cash cow, and it was time to make a fourth film in the franchise. After a series of creative disputes and studio meddling, director Sam Raimi and stars left the franchise. This left Sony in a bind. Legally, they had to produce another film, or the film rights would revert back to Marvel. So, left with no other choice, the studio rebooted the franchise. So that’s why the film this summer is being made: so that Marvel won’t get the rights back to Spidey and make the films they want to make on their terms.
As a die-hard cinema enthusiast who considers himself to be just as big a fan of Terrence Malick as he is Sam Raimi, I understand that this is how franchise properties are treated. Hell, sometimes these studio-maligned films even produce something miraculous, like last year’s X-Men: First Class. However, more often than not, we get something closer to 2009′s disasterous X-Men Origins: Wolverine. What drives me away from the summer film season is how often I see properties get turned into films just to appease the studio suits. What I want to see, what gets me excited about summer blockbusters? It’s not the raging fanboy need I read so often about, to see brand-new properties and franchises emerge, to see new stories being told. No, I don’t ask for that. That’s not to say that I don’t want to see original stories being told in the summer box office months. I do. But what truly bothers me is to see once-respected film properties succumb to studio meddling, or to see films being made only so that studios can hang on to the legal rights.