The Day the Movies Died
Great read by Mark Harris at GQ about the risk-averse nature of today’s Hollywood. Nothing especially surprising, but well-written. And I found myself implicated on Page 4 and I bet you will, too.
Consider: Years ago, an ace filmmaker, the man who happened to direct the third-highest-grossing movie in U.S. history, The Dark Knight, came up with an idea for a big summer movie. It’s a story he loved—in fact, he wrote it himself—and it belonged to a genre, the sci-fi action thriller, that zipped right down the center lane of American popular taste. He cast as his leading man a handsome actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, who happened to star in the second-highest-grossing movie in history. Finally, to cover his bet even more, he hired half a dozen Oscar nominees and winners for supporting roles.
Sounds like a sure thing, right? Exactly the kind of movie that a studio would die to have and an audience would kill to see? Well, it was. That film, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, received admiring reviews, became last summer’s most discussed movie, and has grossed, as of this writing, more than three-quarters of a billion dollars worldwide.
And now the twist: The studios are trying very hard not to notice its success, or to care. Before anybody saw the movie, the buzz within the industry was: “It’s just a favor Warner Bros. is doing for Nolan because the studio needs him to make Batman 3“. After it started to screen, the party line changed: “It’s too smart for the room, too smart for the summer, too smart for the audience“. Just before it opened, it shifted again: “Nolan is only a brand-name director to Web geeks, and his drawing power is being wildly overestimated“. After it grossed $62 million on its first weekend, the word was: “Yeah, that’s pretty good, but it just means all the Nolan groupies came out early—now watch it drop like a stone“.
And here was the buzz three months later, after Inception became the only release of 2010 to log eleven consecutive weeks in the top ten: “Huh. Well, you never know“.
With that in mind, let’s look ahead to what’s on the menu for this year: four adaptations of comic books. One prequel to an adaptation of a comic book. One sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a toy. One sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on an amusement-park ride. One prequel to a remake. Two sequels to cartoons. One sequel to a comedy. An adaptation of a children’s book. An adaptation of a Saturday-morning cartoon. One sequel with a 4 in the title. Two sequels with a 5 in the title. One sequel that, if it were inclined to use numbers, would have to have a 7 1/2 in the title.