Five Film Trends in the Last Five Years

While the past decade has boasted higher ticket prices at the theaters, the art of film, or plainly stated, the box office records, have show some major trends in movies over the past five years. While this list can easily exceed five trends, these are ones I have noticed and researched.

5) Dystopian book-to-film adaptations on the rise

Recently, I published a post on a comparison of The Hunger Games (2012) and Divergent (2014) films. Those two movies are part of only two of the major book-turned-film franchises to hit the box office over the past five years. Most film fans are no stranger to the dystopian film genre. The Matrix (1999) series started in the late ’90s. Tom Cruise’s film The Minority Report (2002) was based on Philip K. Dick’s short story. Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and Twelve Monkeys (1995) are only three offerings of the genre we were offered in the 1980s and ’90s. But in the past five years (2010-2014), I have noticed many dystopian books get a movie deal.

Never-Let-Me-Go-30929_5

The first one in the past five years I thought of was Never Let Me Go (2010), a British sci-fi drama that focused on the lives of three clones who exist for the purpose of donating their organs to others. Another popular, although unsuccessful film, is Atlas Shrugged Part 1 (2010), a dystopian film based on the controversial novel by Ayn Rand. One book that, while may not be considered dystopian in nature, nevertheless has its film adaptation fit well enough into the dystopian genre is World War Z (2013), starring Brad Pitt. Two other noteworthy films to include in this category are Dredd (2012) and Oblivion (2013), each based off graphic novels, the latter inspired by Joseph Kosinski’s unpublished manuscript of the same name.

Of course, the most well-known dystopian book-to-film adaptations include the box-smashing The Hunger Games series, with the final two movies getting released this year and 2015; Divergent, the movie based on the popular YA series written by Veronica Roth; The Giver, an unsuccessful film adaptation that didn’t sit well with critics, yet was inspired by a prominent book written in the early ’90s (you can see my review of the movie here); and The Maze Runner, the the first of three popular James Dashner novels that will be released next month in theaters.

4) Female protagonist films lead the box office

In the 1950s and ’60s, there were women-centered films and female protagonists. They were marketed in a much more sexist way then, but the times have changed, and more films have starred women. But in the last five years, films with female-protagonists have led the box office. According to Time‘s article “5 Things We’ve Learned in 5 Years of Box Office Reports,” published just this past April, the year 2012 included three movies in the top eight that starred women: The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence; Breaking Dawn Part 2, starring Kristen Stewart; and Brave, starring the talented voice work of Kelly Macdonald. The same article notes that last year, three of the top six films had female protagonists (Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Indina Menzel in Frozen).

Perhaps the most notable fact that supports the idea that female protagonist films are leading the box office is that 2013’s highest-grossing film was the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the first movie since 1965’s The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) to fill that top spot.

Of course, The Hunger Games franchise are not the only female-starring movies to make a splash at the box office over the past five years. Salt (2010), Hanna (2011), and Haywire (2012) were all female-led movies that obtained positive scores with both critics and viewers alike, with Angelina Jolie’s action film leading the box office with over $100 million.

3) Comic book movies no longer niche genre

When Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman (2002), I thought it was a special case. Personally, I loved that movie. My family regularly rented it from Blockbuster. It was the first superhero movie I had seen that wasn’t about Batman or Superman. The first Batman movie was released in theaters in 1966. I was amazed how odd it was that in 2002, it wasn’t considered a usual thing for a movie to be based on a comic book character, unless it was Superman or Batman. Blade 2 (2002), Daredevil (2003), Hulk (2003),  Hellboy (2004), and Catwoman (2004) were all released in the next three years following Raimi’s first Spiderman, just a few of the comic-based movies to get released in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized the first X-Men film, directed by Bryan Singer, was released in theaters in 2000.

In the early 2000s, there’s a sense that many film critics didn’t take the comic book based film as seriously as other film genres, such as dramas, biopics, and comedies. But times have changed, and there has been a new acceptance of comic-based films as Marvel has mapped out its future in movies for at least the next six years. (This is a fun article worth checking out, Marvel fans.) DC seems to take note of Marvel, now working on its own agenda for a Batman vs. Superman movie along with a Justice League film franchise in the works.

While it isn’t perfect, I found a list that compiles every superhero movie released, both on TV and in theaters, including both animated and live-action films. A quick view of the list would prove that comic book movies are no longer niche, but far more commonplace as they have found a place at the movies, considerably expanding its audience. I would personally credit Christopher Nolans’s The Dark Knight trilogy for giving audiences and critics a darker, more serious adaptation of comic based films, proving that just because the movie is based off a comic book character, doesn’t mean it can’t be a stylistic, entertaining, and bold film worthy of praise.

2) Sequels and remakes lead the way

Perhaps this trend has existed more than just in the past five years, but I imagine most anyone can agree that few original screenplays make it to the big screen today, and if they do, they usually do not sell the most tickets or perform as successfully. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, such as 2010’s Inception, the original screenplay penned by Christopher Nolan, but let’s get back to the point.

Fan art that just makes you laugh 🙂

Here is a non-exclusive, incomplete list over the past five years of major sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots that premiered each year:

2010: Clash of the Titans (sequel), Why Did I Get Married Too? (sequel), A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake), Iron Man 2 (sequel), Shrek Forever After (sequel), Sex and the City 2 (sequel), The A-Team (remake), The Karate Kid (remake), Toy Story 3 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (sequel), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (sequel), True Grit (remake)

2011: Scream 4 (sequel), Paranormal Activity 3 (sequel), Fright Night (remake), The Hangover Part 2 (sequel), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (reboot), Kung Fu Panda 2 (sequel), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (sequel), Fast Five (sequel), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (sequel), Cars 2 (sequel), Happy Feet 2 (sequel), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (sequel)

2012: The Dark Knight Rises (reboot, sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man (reboot), The Expendables 2 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (sequel), Men in Black 3 (sequel), Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (sequel), Prometheus (prequel), Wrath of the Titans (sequel), Total Recall (remake), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (sequel), The Bourne Legacy (sequel)

2013: Iron Man 3 (sequel), Carrie (remake), Despicable Me 2 (sequel), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (sequel), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (sequel), Kick-Ass 2 (sequel), Man of Steel (reboot), Monsters University (sequel), Red 2 (sequel), Evil Dead (remake), Scary Movie 5 (sequel), The Great Gatsby (remake), Star Trek Into Darkness (reboot, sequel), The Hangover 3 (sequel)

2014: Annie (remake), 300: Rise of an Empire (sequel), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (reboot, sequel), Godzilla (remake), X-Men: Days of Future Past (prequel, sequel), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (sequel), Transformers: Age of Extinction (sequel), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (reboot, sequel), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (sequel)

What’s even funnier about it is that if you google “remakes and sequels for the year [fill in year],” every year for the past five years contains articles similarly titled to “[insert year]” is the year of remakes and sequels!

1) A billion dollars isn’t a billion dollars anymore

A quick check at recent box office records, or the same Time‘s article I’ve been citing throughout this post shows that the billion dollar list, James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) becoming its first entry, has now grown to a whopping 19 movies, including both last year’s Iron Man 3 and Frozen.

List of Highest Grossing Films

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.” Green indicates the film is still playing in theaters around the world.

Looking at that list, you’ll notice that only three of those movies were released in the 1990s. Twelve of those films entered the list during the 2010s. But what’s most interesting about the list is that it isn’t adjusted for inflation, which changes everything, especially the list of highest-grossing films:

Highest Grossing Films Adjusted for Inflation

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.”

Now it’s your turn, folks. What trends have you noticed in film in the past five years? Which trends do you find to be most dominant? Have some trends lasted longer than others? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts! 

The Comic Book Movie Debate: the Serious, and the Not So Serious

I credit Christopher Nolan for sparking the ever-growing debate circling comic book films: colorful, or dark? campy, or serious? true to form, or realistically-based?

It must have been the release of Batman Begins in 2005, when the world was introduced to a comic book character–Bruce Wayne/Batman–and it wasn’t a pretty look. It was dark. It was a crime film. It was a serious take on a fictional character that had previously been rooted in a show that used “Bam!” and “Pow!” as the sound effects for Batman’s left and right swings.

Few, if any, could not at least admire the beauty and purposefulness of Nolan’s Batman films. Nolan is a student of Kubrick, using intent and style to craft his films. But let’s get down to the debate.

When Avengers was released this past May, it was a smash. Creative and geeky writer-director Joss Whedon was finally put forward to make something mainstream. The Avengers was a huge success at the box office. But the debate isn’t about whether Avengers was financially and critically successful or not. The question is, which comic book films are better–the Nolan approach (as I like to think of it) which uses a more realistic take, bringing a critical eye to a story that is written with far more intent than desire to entertain; or the truer-to-form, source-material based comic book films that honor the comics more so in their character traits and settings, such as Thor and Captain America?

I know people on both sides of the debate. But maybe it’s people’s perspectives, rather than opinions, that ought to be altered today. On one end, as a person who appreciates a good film, you lower the importance of “source material” (which happens to be comic books in this case) because you prioritize the art of the film. It ought to be stylized. It should have all the marks of a good film, from following a good storyline, to reaching beyond mere entertainment. It should influence and inspire while bringing more to the table than just explosions and snarky one-liners. This kind of movie should treat the audience like more than just a bunch of superhero-wannabees; it should reach out to an intelligent audience, one that is capable of drawing its own conclusions. More critics respond to this more “realistic” approach.

From the other side, you have the readers, the comic book geeks, the writers, the superhero nerds (have I stereotyped people in this post enough yet?) who expect these films to live up to the comics they love. The actors should reflect the characters they’re playing. The mood shouldn’t be so stiff and serious as to detract from the true tone of the comic. They should include that lightness and fluff, because that’s how the comics were written! Yes, a good villain is necessary, and plot points should closely reflect that of the comics. The film should reach out to a more universal audience, because that’s what the stories of most comic books are all about–everyone either needs a hero or wants to be a hero at some point, right? It should entertain, because after all, you’re attending a comic book film, not a war film or something “based off a true story.” Comic books serve as a form of escape; shouldn’t you be allowed to turn your mind off for a couple hours, sit back, and relax?

In every attempt to not sound politically correct, I personally try to go by a single rule: the film ought to fit the format. Unfortunately, that rule can be applied multiple ways to comic book films, as we have seen various takes, from the more family-friendly popcorn flick, The Avengers, to Nolan’s darker shades, The Dark Knight Trilogy.

When it comes down to it, I can’t call one style or one method, better or worse than another. They’re all different visions for these fictional characters. While some comic book films exceed and others fall flat, while some are entertaining as hell and others force me to sit and think, I have enjoyed and appreciated films that fly on both sides of the fence.

Perhaps it has been the explosion of superhero films taking over summer theater seasons these past 2-3 years (X-MenGreen LanternGreen HornetThorCaptain America, Iron ManBatman to name a few) that have caused people to question whether comic book movies ought to take a more serious approach, or be what the comic books always intended the characters and stories to be.

Or, one has to ask, did the comic books ever propose a specific tone to be applied? I mean, after all, serious events do take place in comics. Serious crimes committed, serious truths implied, serious moral questions asked. Is it all within the way a person (read: reader or viewer, not director or writer)  approaches said comic book or film? Do we need to go back to the original comic book writers and ask them what their intent was when writing? Most likely there were multiple purposes: both to entertain, and to influence.

Both light-hearted and more serious comic book films do both of those actions, do they not? The Avengers offered food for thought–what about working together as a team? how much do people need to be stripped down before they can rally together? should your special abilities allow you to have a big ego? what about self-sacrifice, giving of yourself?

And doesn’t The Dark Knight Rises offer up a bit of entertainment as well? “Oh, so that‘s how that feels.” Catwoman screaming. “And yes, Mr. Wayne, it comes in black.”

At the end of the day, a good film is a good film. But isn’t determining what a “good film” is mostly subjective? Maybe I should just stop asking questions, grab a bowl of popcorn, and watch a movie that isn’t about a superhero. 🙂

It’s your turn now. What say you? Should comic book films be serious, or not so serious? Does it even matter? What makes a comic book film good, and what makes it not so good?

Backstage Spotlight: 2011 Film Scores

To my own surprise, I didn’t find Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo score as interesting as their award-winning score that accompanied 2010’s The Social Network. I felt let down by the second installment of Sherlock Holmes in part due to Hans Zimmer’s lacking, all-over-the-place score. I was especially underwhelmed with Cameron Crowe’s decision to feature only Jonsi on the We Bought a Zoo soundtrack.

With those disappointments in mind, I still found three scores surprisingly well-fit for the movies they served.

  • Michael Giacchino’s score for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

While director Brad Bird was a newbie to live-action film directing until the latest installment in the Mission Impossible franchise, he took with him music composer and collaborator Michael Giacchino, who is known more for his stellar work on animated films such as his Oscar-winning score Up, or Cars 2. Giacchino isn’t a stranger to composing for live-action film, however. His work extends not only to film, but also to the popular show Lost. One of my favorite Giacchino’s scores is the latest Star Trek reboot.

Giacchino did a nice job of subtly blending the well-known Mission Impossible theme while creating new themes for the locations the IMF team traveled, such as the track titled “A man, a plan, a code, Dubai.” The fast-paced, entertaining soundtrack well complemented the adrenaline-pumping film.

  • Alexandre Desplat’s score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2

You don’t need to be a fan of Harry Potter to be a fan of this exciting, beautifully composed score. Well-set theme tracks for certain characters to a gorgeous, sweeping end theme accompanying the epilogue, The King’s Speech composer Desplat pulled out all the stops to deliver one of the better scores for the Harry Potter franchise. With the likes of John Williams (composed for the first 2 films), Patrick Doyle, and Nicholas Hooper to follow, Desplat was given probably an easier opportunity to compose when he was writing for the epic finale in the series. Nonetheless, I applaud him for making one of the more listenable soundtracks that entertains in its entirety, unlike some of its predecessors.

If you buy the soundtrack, you’ll also get a Behind the Scenes music video featurette of Desplat conducting the final song on the soundtrack, “A New Beginning.”

  • Henry Jackman’s score for X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class introduced me to Henry Jackman, who I had never heard of before seeing the film. While I was seeing the film, I couldn’t help but wonder who had composed it, because it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Suitably entertaining, powerful, and emotional, Jackman’s score lends the needed feeling to both the action scenes and the more emotionally-focused moments. He retains a similar theme throughout the entire soundtrack, making it memorable in viewer’s heads. This was easily my favorite score from 2011.

Even one of the trailers for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy featured the track “Frankenstein’s Monster,” from the score:

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Patrick Doyle’s score for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Patrick Doyle’s score for Thor

Ludovic Bource’s score for The Artist

What film scores from 2011 were you a fan of? Did you like any of the ones I didn’t?

Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2011

The time has come for me to finally make this list. I haven’t seen Tree of Life or Drive yet, so I feel like this list could possibly be adjusted after a viewing of either, but despite those exceptions, I still had a difficult time compiling this list. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite movies of 2011:

10) Something Borrowed

Of course I’m the only person out there who will be putting Something Borrowed on my list. It rated 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and received poor reviews all around. HOWEVER, this is my “dud” on the list. There’s a reason Something Borrowed makes my favorites list (as I not so subtly bolded the word favorite earlier), and not the list I consider to be the BEST movies of the year. I know it’s not going to be other people’s favorite, but that’s the point, right? This film resonated with me. I enjoyed the story (and the book it was based off), and maybe part of my problem is that I have this thing for John Krasinski. I don’t know.

9) The Muppets

And now to hit the movies that are on other people’s lists. I ended up seeing The Muppets twice. This is one of the most fun films to come out this year. Jason Segel did an excellent job reincarnating this group of lovable puppets that stole many hearts of earlier generations. From the screenplay to the original music, The Muppets won me over almost without trying.

8) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I found this newest edition to the franchise to be the most adrenaline-pumping of them all. Nonstop action, and some of the craziest stunts I’ve seen take place in a movie. There was great chemistry between Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner for the latest IMF team. I really enjoyed the craziness of this movie and am happy to see Tom Cruise phoning in another good performance.

7) X-Men: First Class

This is one of the most exciting movies that came out this summer as well as the best one of the franchise by miles. Originally, I had never seen any of the X-Men movies, but on just a single viewing of  First Class, I was interested in the series. When a prequel can draw a non-fan in without annoying fanboys/girls with excessive detail or repetition (or really, just treating them like they’re stupid), then it can really be a great thing. I really enjoyed being introduced to the awesome Michael Fassbender as well as seeing James McAvoy play a young Professor X. And to top it off, a great soundtrack by Henry Jackman served as background.

6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II

I was one of the people who waited in line to see Deathly Hallows Pt. II and left feeling exceptionally underwhelmed, most likely due to steep expectations. After a second viewing of it, I came around and started thinking more about it. Deathly Hallows Pt. II was a great end to such a successful movie franchise. Although many fans of the books were left wanting with having many scenes changed or completely left out of this movie, it’s hard to argue that this movie didn’t move you in some way if you’re a Harry Potter fan. I was especially fond of the epilogue and the tone it left viewers with. There were so many great performances, that it’s hard to pick just one or two standouts. For me, it was exceptionally nice to see Daniel Radcliffe give all that he could to his Harry Potter role throughout the series, and then watch it all come together as he gave his life in Deathly Hallows Pt. II.

5) Midnight in Paris

I’m so happy to see all the critical chatter Midnight in Paris is drawing. I had heard almost nothing about it before I saw it, but I read a nice review by Roger Ebert. In the middle of a summer filled with lots of action, superheroes, and monsters comes this beautiful and creative stand-alone movie from Woody Allen. All the locations filmed in Paris alone serve as a great backdrop and historical picture of past and present Paris. I really enjoyed seeing Owen Wilson shine in a newer type of role for him alongside the gorgeous Marion Cotillard. From the music to the costumes to the humble, but smart screenplay, Midnight in Paris was easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

4) The Descendants

Since I first saw a trailer for The Descendants in theaters, I knew I would want to see the movie. I really enjoyed George Clooney’s previous Up in the Air, and I was excited to see him in an indie-styled film. Coming across as very grassroots, The Descendants takes a family that is seriously messed up and lets us journey with them through an especially harrowing time for George Clooney’s character, Matt King. What I enjoyed most about this movie was the realistic touch. Shailene Woodley gives her all in a dramatic role of playing a rebellious, but hurting teenager. It’s a story about family, making decisions, grieving, and dealing with unpleasant situations, and at the same time, it gives the audience a sense of realism. That pain and frustration and arguing and death is a real thing that happens every day, and shapes you as person as you deal with those times by your reactions to certain situations and interactions with the people close to you in life.

3) The Help

Based off the novel by Kathryn Stockett, the story of The Help is both moving and inspirational. This movie was able to accomplish both of those tasks–move and inspire viewers–without the unnecessary pizzazz or cheesiness that tends to accompany many films of the same genre today. Stripped of all the colors from the costumes, The Help makes you think beyond the movie theater and the book. Some of the best performances of the year took place in this movie, from Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to Emma Stone. Jessica Chastain was hilarious in her supporting role as well. Although there’s still controversy over this movie, The Help is no doubt one of the best movies to come out in 2011.

2) 50/50

Barely missing the top spot for my favorite film of the year, 50/50 made me cry and laugh and walk away very thankful for life by the movie’s end. Perhaps because the story was written by the guy (Will Reiser) who was actually diagnosed with cancer–and has now survived it and is in remission–50/50 offers the most realistic look at a young person dealing with a rare form of cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is both brilliant and endearing in this role, seeming to act the part from the inside out. A great supporting cast of Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, and even Seth Rogen ties this dubbed “bromance comedy” together. Both moving and hilarious to watch, 50/50 was one of my favorite movies of the year.

1) The Artist

Until this past Sunday, 50/50 held the number one spot in my list of favorite movies for 2011. And then I saw The Artist and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen one of the greatest films to come out in a long while. I walked in with low expectations, assuming I would be bored or disinterested, but found myself unbelievably surprised and thankful for the opportunity to see this movie gem. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are flawless in this Michel Hazanavicius film filled with great performances, a great score, great writing, and great cinematography. It’s difficult to restrain from overpraising The Artist, not only because was it that good, but also because nothing else remotely similar has come out in ages, much less would be comparable to it. The Artist will probably hit it big at every awards ceremony this year, and rightfully so. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please do so. It’s definitely my favorite of 2011.

What was your favorite movie of 2011? Did you like any of the ones on my list? What was missing from my list, and what do you think I should see still? I missed out on just about all documentaries in 2011, so I’m definitely looking for suggestions!