Another week, another comic book movie.
Audiences have already dished out over a billion dollars on superheroes this year (Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, Batman vs. Superman) and after an underwhelming X-Men movie sloshed its way through North American cinemas last weekend, we can put the shit-waders back on this Friday for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
Granted, a movie about talking ninja turtles featuring multiple explosions, '80s-punk bad guys, an anthropomorphized giant brain and Megan Fox acting her way through a variety of sexually charged outfits is aimed at a fairly specific (and juvenile) audience, but that doesn't mean it has to suck this hard. The heroes in a half-shell have been obnoxiously dumbed down into another "louder-is-what-they-want, more louder" Michael Bay sequel. Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael are now Mikey, Leo, Donnie and Raph, and if you prefer your ninjas to look like a boy band of green-hued meathead penises then I guess this one is for you. Cowabunghole.
There is an argument to be made that by repeatedly saving the world, comic-book movies are actually killing the Hollywood film industry as we know it. An interesting YouTube video called The Hollywood Crash is Coming by TimStarz04 tables the idea that, much like the death of the middle class in the Western financial world, a smaller and smaller percentage of movies is accounting for more and more of Hollywood's annual profits. Rather than a few highly lucrative movies and a couple dozen decently profitable movies, we are seeing more $500-plus-million blockbusters each year and more and more $50 to $100 million flops. And those big movies are nearly all formulaic, all-spectacle comic book flicks.
TimStarz claims that while big studios continue to turn massive profits, the number of people going to see movies is actually not going up; only the costs are (there's that 3-D extra charge and the price increase on popcorn). Thanks to a media-saturated world full of on-demand, niche, free and pirated options, studios are spending more for big stars and big marketing than ever before, just to get anyone's ass in a theatre seat. Rather than diversify and discover/reach numerous small niche markets the way Netflix or on-demand does, Hollywood goes the other way and throws more money at the (few) things that they think work. And a lot of the time they are wrong.
Of the five $500-plus-million movies we've seen this year, Disney has made four of them. That might be because Disney actually cares about and understands movies and their audiences, while so many other studios are run by bean counters and marketers. It's an interesting video anyhow; Google it.
Of course, people have been calling for the end of Hollywood for ages and those buggers just keep on trucking. When the audience tires of comic book movies we'll see the rise of big budget video game movies Hollywood does seem to be making lot of really big, really expensive piles of crap these days and it's highly possible some of us are to blame.
Here's why: big data and crunching numbers runs everything nowadays, Hollywood rarely relies on gut instinct with so much $$ at risk. So if you go to these shitty comic-book blockbusters but wait to watch the middle-of-the-road flicks like The Nice Guys online, that puts "theatrical-release" money numbers in the wrong column — the column that will inevitably dish up a Ninja Turtles vs. X-Men based on previous profits and audience size.
There's a whole other argument to be made that casting big-name stars in comic-book movies is stupid because the character Batman will always be more iconic than any superstar actor who plays him and what ends up happening is a clash of recognition that rarely ever works. The trick is probably lesser-known actors playing big roles (Tom Holland as Spider-Man) or well-known actors playing lesser comic heroes (Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man), but Hollywood needs those superstars to get you in the theatre.
Moral of the story: your money and your attention will decide the future of movies, and everything, so spend both accordingly. (The Nice Guys is still playing at the Village 8 and Twisted F*cking Sister is the Netflix Download of the week. Rock on.)