The 3 Essentials (and 2 non-essentials) of film in 2015


1. Established properties rule the day

Surprise, surprise, you can’t write a column about 2015 in movies without first mentioning the elephants in the room: the return of the Avengers and the War for Stars. This is the year the word and character of Ultron will be a thing that matters, the force will awaken like a morning boner, and numbered sequels as we know them die. But this isn’t simply the era of reboots and remakes anymore. No, 2015 will be the transition year where we evolve into a meta-culture.

It’s not just sequels. It’s prequels, spinoffs, shared universes, cross-platform media and more.

Beyond those two mega-films, Jurassic Park, Mad Max, Terminator, and Mission: Impossible all make returns to cinemas, once again proving the way to succeed in life is to invent a time machine as soon as possible.

You can hardly blame studios for this common sense thinking. The first thing any film marketer or exec has to think about before making a movie is: can we sell it? What’s the pitch? The process goes something like this “Remember that fondly-remembered, uber-successful film? This time, the park works! And Chris Pratt’s there!” or “this time, Sarah Connor is the Khaleesi! And she’s already a badass!”

This isn’t dismissive. Well, at least to “Jurassic World.” I remain extremely dubious on “Terminator Genisys,” from its needlessly stupid title to previously being burned by McG’s “Terminator Salvation.” I’m not so easily taken twice.

2. Sequels are no longer numbered/Conquest of the Planet of the Colons

“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Jurassic World,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Fantastic Four,””  etc. this is the year studios try to make people forget they shilled money for this same product within the last couple decade. Hell, even Star Wars ditched the “Episode #” and just slapped the “The Force Awakens” on the logo.

Hollywood seems to have realized that there is something inherently depressing about any number past 3, in story terms, because, let’s face it, what films really peaked at their fourth film and weren’t at that point rebooted or remade or re-queled or etc.?

This is a lesson Marvel learned early, with its “Iron Man” films as the only one with numbers slapped on them. They even slapped a subtitle on the very first Captain America film, though whether that was to remind audiences of the Avengers or to remind the world it wasn’t a jingoistic piece of propaganda (hey, international dollars are where it’s at now, dude).

The exception that proves this rule is the “Fast and Furious” franchise, which is so ridiculously proud of its ridiculous (have you seen this shit yet? I’m already in line) that it wears its longevity like a badge of honor vi ca vi “Furious 7.” Because no other franchise, not even Rocky or Star Trek, had the balls to number their films past 6. Props, “F&F” crew.

Oh, and this shit ain’t stopping. As mega-franchises and shared universes rise, this will become more and more apparent. 2016 alone gives us “Mechanic: Resurrection,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass,” “Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur” etc. etc. there are too many to list! So get ready for 2020’s release of “Justice League v Avengers v TRON: Fast 8 Meets Robin Hood – Part 2.”

3. “Dark” and “gritty” are on decline

At least, according to “Kick Ass” and “X-Men: First Class” director Matthew Vaughn. The filmmaker, out doing promotional rounds for his spy action satire “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” tells SFX (via THR)

“People want fun and escapism at the moment. Look at the success of Guardians of the Galaxy. I think Nolan kick-started a very dark, bleak style of superhero escapism, and I think people have had enough of it.”

I have been watching old Alan Moore docuseries on YouTube (which is how I introduce myself, by the way) and the shamanistic comic book writer talks about exiting his era of dark deconstruction, most commonly believed ushered in 1986 by the publications seminal comic books Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and Moore’s “Watchmen.” Here, he postulates that, perhaps, it’s time to “put things back together.” Give the whole series a watch, if for no other reason than a peek into an unconventional, eccentric, and beloved creative soul.

Deconstructionism works when both audiences and creators have lost touch with reality but too much reality in our stories dilutes their purpose. Stories are not supposed to resemble reality; they just have to reflect it. Nobody experiences the same “reality.” We all walk our own Heroic Journeys that shape the narrative of our lives. This is my theory on why the reaction to the ending of the Superman reboot “Man of Steel” – wherein (SPOILER ALERT!) Superman and his equally-powerful nemesis Zod fight, laying waste to much of Metropolis in the process, and ending in Superman killing Zod after he refuses to stop the violence.

This deconstruction of Superman’s “Thou Shall Not Kill” rule came in 2013. Would it have been appreciated back in 2006, when the slow and operatic “Superman Returns” put people to sleep with a stalker Superman and his uninteresting super-powered child with Lois Lane? That film was drenched in nostalgia for a franchise that flamed out with the fourth (!) film, 1987’s “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.”

That series had forgotten what, at its core, it was about, not dissimilar to “Man of Steel.” I like the film, but I do agree with the sentiment that it deconstructed Superman to the point he did not even seem like Superman. Abhorring fun and humor is a bad philosophy for both life, love, and for filmmaking. Here’s to getting back to what makes storytelling matter.

BONUS: Hollywood is, for whatever reason, betting big on Jai Courtney

I first heard of this guy when he was cast as Bruce Willis’ son in the abominable A Good Day to Die Hard. My first thought was “Good for him, young actor, every guy needs a breakthrough, even if the film is terrible.” Then he joined the YA adaptation series Divergent. Then he was cast as the re-young Kyle Reese in the re-reboot Terminator Genisys. THEN he was cast as Boomerang in Suicide Squad. Any one of those roles would be a win for an up-and-coming actor but somehow Courtney managed to nab all of them.

For perspective, in Suicide Squad for example, somebody believes that Courtney has the necessary chops to compete on-screen with Will Smith and Tom Hardy. Even if he had wowed the audience in the past (he hasn’t) that is a monumental task, to not be completely squashed by the megastar that is Smith and the well-known and perpetual star-to-be and current “Mad Max” Hardy. If you haven’t seen “Locke” or “The Drop” this year, you’re missing out on two of the most underrated movies of the year, and Hardy absolutely kills it in both, whereas the most we can say about Courtney was that he physically appeared in I, Frankenstein, Divergent, and Unbroken. Here’s hoping there’s more to him than he’s shown up until this point, especially with the studio betting big on the new “Terminator” by dating two sequels for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

BONUS: Redemption for Ryan Reynolds?

I like Ryan Reynolds. I really do. He’s excellent in “Buried.” But there are few major stars who mismanaged their career as badly as Reynolds has, I’m sad to say. Whoever influenced his decisions, whether it was his agent, wife, or mother, he starred in a string of massive flops, starting with 2011’s “Green Lantern” and “The Change-Up.” He had success teaming with Denzel Washington in “Safe House” (most come out of that partnership on top i.e. Ethan Hawke) but followed it up with long-delayed action-comedy “R.I.P.D.” His return to indie pictures hasn’t gone swimmingly either, with last year’s Atom Egoyan’s kidnapping thriller “The Captive” and the psychological thriller “The Voices” both failing to light the festivals on fire, with the former in particular receiving negative reviews.

He’ll be at Sundance with indie gambling dramedy “Mississippi Grind”  and in April he’ll co-star with Helen Mirren in the true-story-biopic “Woman in Gold.” Then, in July and August he has two mind-swapping action-thrillers. In “Selfless” a dying man’s mind is transplanted into a younger man (Reynolds) who then goes on the run while in “Criminal,” a dead CIA agent’s memories are implanted into a dangerous convict. During all this, he will be filming his longtime passion project, comic book adaptation “Deadpool,” set for release February 12, 2016.

Reynolds is swinging hard this year to make up for some disappointing choices these last few years. I for one am rooting for the guy to take control of his career and hoping that, instead of forcing the immature, sarcastic, pretty-boy image of Ryan Reynolds Hollywood tried to sell for so long, he’ll stick to working with smaller films and interesting directors who know how to use his talents more wisely.

Thanks for reading! Got anything you’d like me to address in my weekly dump, be sure to send it to me via comment, Facebook, Twitter, smoke signal etc. Your feedback is what keeps me going. As my man Kevin Smith says, “Have a week.”


About Sam Flynn

Wasting oxygen since 1992, Sam thanks the gods he doesn't believe in everyday his parents didn't discard him as an infant. It would have been the sensible thing to do.
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