I don’t need to go on about the state of mainstream film today, I think everyone gets it. The industry is a cash cow, pumping out sequel after sequel, adaptation after adaptation. 2006 saw the highest number of films based on continuing moneymaking franchises ever and every year since things have been on about par with that. It has gotten to a point where even if the first film is a failure, as long as it made cash that’s reason enough to make two more of them (like tomb raider, Blood Rayne, Fantastic Four, arguably the Blade trilogy though that second flick was freaking awesome). Since public interest wanes when more films go on in a series because they become less entertaining (think Spiderman 3, Batman & Robin eww) a new trend in Hollywood has emerged where film studios make sequels (or prequels) based on old popular properties. These trends in themselves are distressing; are we getting to a point as a society and more so, as a species where we are running low on ideas? Or are we more than ever just trying to make the quickest buck possible? But that’s fodder for another post. Anyways…
The 2008 summer blockbuster season was officially kicked off pretty well with Iron Man. It’s another comic book adaptation but it’s my favourite kind: the origin story. Origin stories are usually the first in a series of comic book films though that’s not always the case i.e. Batman Begins.
Iron Man isn’t anything new or groundbreaking, in fact it’s a pretty basic first of a series comic book movie. What’s different here is that the titular hero is so much fun to watch that it overshadows all the other action or non-action around him. Robert Downey Jr. carries the film completely by his wittiness and his charm. The film plays just like the first Spiderman, but take out the geekiness and weakness of Toby Maguire and substitute that with the charisma and sex appeal of Robert Downey. This is the same Downey we’ve seen in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Zodiac but as a superhero, it’s a bloody brilliant casting call. Besides him, yeah there are explosions and some baddies but it’s still an origin story so a lot of time is spent on becoming Iron Man rather than just being Iron Man but I dig that.
Then the behemoth arrived last week to theatres, the crown jewel of this years summer blockbusters. A new Indiana Jones flick! Hey, it’s only been 19 years why not dust off the old fedora and pump out another Indy adventure. Not like they could have waited another year and called it an anniversary go for the fans. No it’s just the natural and proper time to bring the old hero out of retirement.
I wasn’t expecting much of a new Indiana Jones film. I thought that as long as Harrison Ford was there then it would genuinely work. No matter what the subject matter I could watch one of my favourite heroes that i watched to no end of as a kid and just dull everything else around him out. Then the lights dimmed and the opening frames rolled and I was greeted by a CGI groundhog. Now I remember reading how Spielberg said this wasn’t a cash-in film. They made it because they always wanted to do it, and always planned on another adventure and they would do their best to not use CGI and have stuntmen and shoot this baby just like the old ones. So, something cold happened in my stomach when the first thing I see is a CGI groundhog, I mean maybe they couldn’t find a real groundhog to poke it’s head out of a hole and look around on such a tight budget. Yeah, that’s probably it. So the film went on and here it comes our first lead up shot of Indiana and the camera is panning up to his face and now we see… an old Indy. Hmm, don’t know what I was expecting. So there’s Indy and some stuff is going on and it’s feeling… cold and off for some reason. And they have references to the old films and he’s teaching at the same school and they mention Brody and his father and yeah. Something just isn’t clicking. Nothing clicked even after the credits rolled. I watched an Indiana Jones film and felt not the least bit excited, not the least amount of tension, not the least bit entertained. It felt like two things to me. It felt like visiting some old friends you haven’t seen in awhile and you’re excited because of how fun they were and your history together but when you do see them they’ve changed. They’re older and less witty, and make you feel like an idiot. It also felt like one of the Star Wars prequels. Completely devoid of any magic of the originals and there’s a lot of colours and wow does this ever feel complicated and silly for Star Wars.
So for me it became apparent that George Lucas will continue to ruin my childhood by banking on my love for his old properties. He knows I’ll be there opening night 15 dollars in hand regardless of substance. Hell, that’s capitalism baby. Where’s the 2nd Willow? I’ll be lining up for that no problem.
The rest of the blockbuster season is coming up and nothing has got my blood pumping more than the one film that is already on my short list for best film of 2008 The Dark Knight. This Batman sequel based on director Christopher Nolan’s dark and fantastic Batman Begins is guaranteed not to stink. In an age where trailers tell us everything you already know that this one is gonna take the cake. Alright nerf herders Dropkick is outtie 5000