Monday, July 19, 2010

Incepting The New Summer Blockbuster

The blockbuster movie is as classic to summer time as the slip-n-slide was to us kids growing up in the 80s and 90s. It's just a great time to go see a motion picture, especially if you're in the south like I am and the heat outside is unbearable. This summer has been no different; big budget movie after big budget movie have been churned out by the studios at a steady pace this year and it's no surprise that each one looks and feels like a summer blockbuster. However, being at the movie theaters this past weekend has shed some light on a surprising revelation that brought a smile to my face.

It seems, and I hope I'm not wrong, but it seems that audiences might actually be getting more sophisticated and smarter.

Case in point, Inception opened this weekend to a gross estimate of $60 million, while Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice earned a measly $17.3 million in it's first three days. As one online critic put it "Suck it, Bruckheimer".

Now while these two movies were obviously targeted at two different age groups, it's still interesting to note that analyst predicted that The Sorcerer's Apprentice would take top seat this weekend at the box office because Inception seemed to "heady and vague" for the typical audiences. But instead The Sorcerer's Apprentice took third place, on it's opening weekend! Of course, Inception took first, but what was the second highest grossing film this past weekend? Despicable Me. And that film came out last weekend, before The Sorcerer's Apprentice. So what does this say about audience trends?

Of the few people I asked, no one knew that The Sorcerer's Apprentice was a remake, or rather a spin off, of Disney's Fantasia film. Since Fantasia, The Sorcerer's Apprentice has been remade several times on film and television. So basically, it's been done and despite the fact that Disney threw a ton of money at Jerry Bruckheimer to make an eye-popping special effect driven family flick, it's still doesn't appear inventive enough to be considered something "new and original". I admit, I didn't see The Sorcerer's Apprentice this weekend but truthfully, the trailers and the clips that I had seen of the film didn't appeal to me whatsoever. It looked like Harry Potter meets Mardi Gras, or The Last Airbender meets Every Bad Movie Nicholas Cage Has Done. From the trailers it looked like Nick Cage was just phoning it in and the script sounded like a string of hollow one liners. Nothing drew me to the film, and it's not because it's geared toward a younger audience. Harry Potter is basically a kid's flick but the trailer for the Deathly Hollows totally peaked my interest.

Now Inception on the other hand...well, to be fair, I'm a huge Christopher Nolan fan. Have been since Memento. So it was safe to say that as soon as I saw "written and directed by Christopher Nolan" I already knew three hours of my summer were going to be dedicated to this movie. And again, to be honest, Inception, didn't surprise me either. Why? Because I already knew before going into the theater that Inception was going to be a smart, creative, well acted, well directed, suspenseful, artful film that would be a hit with critics and audiences. And it was. But as I said, I knew that before hand and from the box office numbers of the Thursday midnight showings of Inception, it seems that a lot of people knew that too.

So again, what does that say about audiences? That maybe audiences are again flocking to films made by their favorite directors instead of who stars in the film or what studio produces the movie? That maybe audiences are actually paying more attention to smart marketing and passing over predictable film plots? That maybe audiences want to actually think when they watch a film? I think so. I think if this weekend proves anything to Hollywood it proves that bloated, glossed over Disney-like films cannot always be counted on to win the hearts of movie goers. It proves that audiences are fickle and even though sometimes they choose the dumbed down version of entertainment, if offered, sometimes they will go for quality. It proves that business and art can co-exist and that if you build it, they will come.

Now if only Christopher Nolan would cast Nicholas Cage in Batman 3, then finally he can get some decent work.

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