Tag Archives: jurassic world

Hollywood: The Department of Redundancy Department

Part 2 of my series “Everything Old is Old Again”

By Tom Holste

Feb. 16, 2016

In my previous column, I talked about how the word “reboot” gets misused by many in the media. However, even when the word is used right, it’s symptomatic of a larger problem: a lack of original ideas coming out of Hollywood.

The X-Files has come back to TV, and the similarly eerie show Twin Peaks is on the way. Last year saw three different film series hit their seventh installment (Rocky, Star Wars, and Fast & Furious). Jurassic Park and Mad Max got their first new movies in ages. Ghostbusters has a female-centric reboot heading our way later this year. New installments of the Predator and Alien franchises are in active development.

All of these shows and movies at least have dedicated fan bases. But when Netflix announced that it was producing a new Full House series, my reaction was: Who ever even asked for that?

fuller-house-1024

“This February: Joey will have to Cut. It. Out…one last time!”

 

In fact, I just saw a preview for Kindergarten Cop 2 with Dolph Lundgren, coming 26 years after the original. I had to double-check with a Google search to make sure this wasn’t just a FunnyOrDie.com parody.

Mind you, the concept of recycling ideas is nothing new. For instance, most of Shakespeare’s plays were stories that the audience already knew. And I distinctly remember Johnny Carson doing a routine about all the sequels coming out in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, a time in filmmaking history that’s now greatly revered. But even with all that being said, there seems to be even less fresh material than ever before.

However, there’s a new, somewhat ironic problem: Many of these rehashes are not only popular but quite well made. Star Wars, Jurassic World and Fast & Furious 7 broke many all-time box office records, and they were highly praised by critics as well. Mad Max: Fury Road was so well-received that it got a nomination for a Best Picture Oscar. Creed (the Rocky spin-off) was adored by critics and snagged an Oscar nomination for Sylvester Stallone for playing a character he’s played six other times already.

Compare this to the late ‘90s, when Hollywood gave us reboots of Lost in Space, Godzilla, Wild Wild West, and even the old British TV spy series The Avengers. Some of them were popular (while others were not), but all of them were despised by critics and fans. None of them got a sequel. At the time, this situation seemed like the worst thing that could happen to cinema.

But now we have the ironic problem I mentioned earlier: When the sequels are this popular and this acclaimed and loved by fans, what possible incentive could studios have to keep trying new things?

In fact, last year Warner Bros. released a new movie from the Wachowski brothers (whose biggest claim to fame is The Matrix) called Jupiter Ascending. The movie boasted an original script and had some eye-catching visuals in its trailer, but the critics savaged it and audiences stayed away. I haven’t seen the film myself either; maybe it genuinely is that bad. But isn’t it heartbreaking that the studio tried to give people what they say they wanted only to have it blow up in their face? Now, you can bet that Warner Bros. has learned its lesson, and you can fully expect another dozen Hobbit and Batman sequels.

Jupiter_Ascending

Audience: “We’re sick of all these retreads.” Hollywood: “OK, here’s a movie with an original script.” Audience: “Kill it! Kill it with fire!”

In my next column (coming soon), I look at one particular set of reboots on the horizon.

 

Advertisements

Lessons to Be Learned from JURASSIC WORLD’s Success (Part 2)

By Tom Holste

Jul. 31, 2015

Previously, I noted that Jurassic World’s triumph over Avengers: Age of Ultron at the box office probably had at least something to do with the idea that audiences were becoming weary with trying to keep up with all of the iterations of this franchise. Today I would like to offer a few more possible lessons that Hollywood can glean from JW’s success.

TonyStark

Tony Stark just learned how much better JURASSIC WORLD did than his movie.

It’s okay, and perhaps even welcome, for a franchise to take a break. It used to be that sequels that came long after the original movies ended up not being nearly as successful. Superman Returns, TMNT, even Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles—these films all failed financially to revive their respective franchises. They were seen as more of a last gasp than anything else. Rocky, Rambo and Die Hard fared a bit better, earning multiple new entries late in their franchises’ lives, but none were record-breaking successes. But Jurassic has changed the mold. In a world where a new Marvel movie gets released every few months, audiences are quite happy to revisit a franchise that hasn’t had a new installment since 2001. Down with superheroes (a little bit, at least for now); up with dinosaurs!

–A franchise can overcome multiple bad installments. The Jurassic Park movies follow a similar trajectory to the Jaws movies. The first film in each series, directed by Steven Spielberg, was a huge hit at the box office and loved by critics. The second and third films were considerably less well-received. But while Jaws: The Revenge was the final nail in that franchise’s coffin, Jurassic World made nearly as much money as the original film did (after adjusting for inflation). Audiences now seem willing to forgive the cinematic sins of the later films because of their love of the original. Provided that Universal can get the right people in place to make it, Jaws 5 might not be so much of a ridiculous idea anymore.

–Continuity is not as important as it once was. Superman Returns, despite being set in its release year of 2006 (as evident by the technology and the fashion), takes place five years after Superman II, which should set the film in 1985 or so. The timeline since Superman’s last appearance is mentioned multiple times, and due to what happened to Lois Lane in the intervening time, it seems highly unlikely that the events of the franchise-wrecking Superman III or IV could have happened. Ignoring the later, poorly-received entries was a deliberate attempt on the filmmakers’ part to focus on the franchise’s glory days. But based on the way that the viewers stayed away from the theaters, audiences were confused by the filmmakers abandoning some aspects of the continuity while sticking with others.

The characters of Jurassic World indicate that the park has been running successfully for the past 20 years, which means that it couldn’t have been a deserted island at the time of the second and third movies. But this time, audiences don’t seem to care about that. At the very least, it was easier to ignore this continuity glitch than it was to ignore the confusing Superman timeline. This time, “who wants to remember those awful sequels anyway?” was a compelling enough argument.

One caveat: So far, Jurassic is the only film to fit the mold for all of the previous points mentioned. Maybe it will turn out to be a fluke. But it seems like these ideas make more sense than some of the articles I was reading where writers insisted that Jurassic World was going to single-handedly kill the art of cinema, creating a sequel-hungry craze (as if this hadn’t been a phenomenon in Hollywood until just now). All of which leads me to my last point…

Audiences’ tastes are somewhat fickle and unpredictable. Last year was a disastrous year at the box office, and executives were wringing their hands, terrified that competing entertainment (video games, streaming video, etc.) had finally caught up with them, and that their days were numbered. This year has broken all kinds of records, and it’s the best year Hollywood has had since the mid-‘90s. And how did Hollywood achieve that? By making the exact same type of films that they did last year.

There’s the usual assortment of sequels, superhero films, and comedies aimed at roughly the same audience (mostly teenage, mostly male) as last year, and the year before that, and so on. But this year, for whatever reason, it was just the right combination of those things. This year’s films caught the audience’s attention in a way that they hadn’t for a long time before this, but Hollywood isn’t doing anything particularly unique to make that happen.

While Hollywood can be relieved that they weren’t so far off from guessing what audiences wanted after all, it must be a little less comforting to be reminded that there’s no exact formula for success.

Despite often rising prices at the ticket stand and at the concession stand, and despite the availability of other entertainment options, the audience hadn’t really gone away. It just took the right combination of elements to get people back to the show. Why these elements specifically? As William Goldman once said about making movies: “Nobody knows anything.”

I don’t know what this post-Jurassic wave of films is going to look like – maybe long-gestating sequels to The Goonies and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure will finally get the greenlight, riding on more nostalgia? Next year’s 20-years-later Independence Day sequel certainly seems to be in a good position to take the box office by storm. Whatever the case, it will be interesting and different from (yet, in other ways, similar to) what we’ve seen before.

Lessons to Be Learned from JURASSIC WORLD’s Success (Part 1)

By Tom Holste

Jul. 29, 2015

Jurassic-World-scene

This summer, audiences preferred dinosaurs to ants.

This summer, Hollywood was taken completely off guard when Jurassic World broke the $1 billion dollar threshold – making even more than the latest Avengers sequel, and finally topping even the original Avengers film itself.

To be fair, The Avengers: Age of Ultron also crossed the $1 billion dollar mark, and it stands in the top 10 highest-grossing films ever made globally (not adjusted for inflation). But it was nosed out of the top 5 by the fourth installment in the ongoing Jurassic film series, and by Furious 7, also from this year and also from Universal Pictures. (Furious 7 benefits from audience interest following the untimely death of star Paul Walker. It’ll be interesting to see if later installments can maintain this level of popularity.)

Take a look at the top grossing films of all time worldwide here, with Jurassic World at #3 and Furious 7 at #5:

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/alltime/world/

Now take a look at the box office for this year in America. In this case, Avengers has slightly edged out Furious 7 (as well as Inside Out), but Jurassic World still clearly has Iron Man and his friends beat.

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=2015&p=.htm

People in Hollywood expected Jurassic to do well — it was heavily marketed, and the film had Chris Pratt in it, fresh off his successes in The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, after all — but no one expected a belated entry in a long-dormant franchise to do this well.

The original Avengers had stunned Hollywood in pretty much the same way. All of the various Marvel superhero movies up to that point had been successes, but none of them had gone on to be one of the top five highest grossing movies of all time. Avengers proved that Marvel’s experiment in creating a shared cinematic universe for its fictional characters had worked beyond their wildest expectations. So, naturally, Hollywood experts figured that the sequel would do just as well if not more so. They thought that Jurassic would be a pleasant side dish for movie audiences, not turn out to be the main course.

While Marvel (and their parent company Disney) really doesn’t have any reason to cry, they must be scratching their heads a little bit. What happened? Why didn’t Avengers clearly run away with the top prize?

Here are my thoughts on that, for what they’re worth:

Viewers are experiencing franchise fatigue. At the time of this writing, Marvel has just released Ant-Man, the 12th film in the Avengers franchise in the past 7 years. That’s not counting 44 hours (2 years’ worth) of its related Agents of SHIELD TV series, an 8-episode Agent Carter miniseries, and 13 hours of Daredevil on Netflix. And all that’s just within the shared Avengers universe. In the same period of time, other studios that own Marvel characters have released four more X-Men related films, two more Spider-Man movies, one sequel each for Punisher and Ghost Rider, and an animated Marvel film (Big Hero 6).

In a few weeks, we’ll get a new Fantastic Four film, and next year promises five new Marvel-related films, three of which tie into X-Men and all get released within the same year. Marvel is already in production on new episodes of Daredevil, SHIELD and Agent Carter, while developing more Netflix series. And we can expect 10 more Marvel-related films between 2017 and 2019, including Infinity War: Parts 1 and 2, a 120-page comic book miniseries needlessly stretched out to 240 minutes’ worth of film.

At some point, this no longer sounds like fun. It sounds like homework.

Suddenly, Jurassic World sounds like a welcome relief, a throwback to a simpler time when a movie had a lot fewer sequels and tie-ins. Going to the movies is supposed to be fun, and Jurassic offered a much easier way to have fun.

Notably, Ant-Man – while arriving at #1 at the box office, and receiving strong praise from critics and fans – had the weakest opening weekend of any of the 12 Avengers-related films so far. There are probably multiple reasons for that, but I wouldn’t doubt if one of them is that it’s just been too hard to stay caught up.

To be clear, the superhero franchise isn’t dead. Ant-Man was a bit of a long shot anyway, and next year’s Batman v. Superman will likely demolish all kinds of box office records because its main characters are much more famous. But a little bit of audience fatigue can explain why Jurassic pulled ahead of Avengers when the latter seemed to be the more anticipated film.

To be continued