With a year that was dubbed ‘the blockbuster year of cinema’, 2015 has a heavy burden resting on its shoulders. There were dozens of films looking to cater to the largest sector of the business and deliver some truly hefty, big-budget smash hits to delight the crowds of all ages. The seemingly endless list of blockbuster bait was an appetite-whetting frenzy of A-list franchises, coveted studio offerings and heavenly throwbacks to classic eras of cinema, but sometimes on paper things can look mighty different to their eventual reveal before our eyes.
To say that I love blockbuster movies is a severe understatement as I love a good action and adventure romp or animated heartstring puller as much as the next person, but disappointment has shrouded much of the ‘bigger’ releases having already graced our screens this year. Of course, many will argue that in fact this year has seen a behemoth success for the blockbuster so far this year, with Universal posting their best ever box office takings for a year already, and the likes of Jurassic World, Fast and Furious 7 and Avengers: Age Of Ultron all smashing through the $1 billion mark, but in terms of enthralling audiences, it feels a somewhat different story.
To begin the argument the spotlight must be shone on one substantial release in particular that could be seen as the blockbuster sat on the pedestal at the beginning of the year to oversee those that would follow – Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Ever since its predecessor, Avengers Assemble, reared its head, Marvel fanboys and comic book adaptation followers were clambering for a follow-up, with Joss Whedon’s geek god-status promising so much more for the future. Further Marvel movies paved the way for the next team-up and 2015’s charge was to be led by Marvel’s world-beating collective, but expectation got the better of us and somewhat of a heightened sense of promise was quickly deflated.
Whedon’s movie peaked too early with an admittedly striking opening action sequence, contained some more impressive dialogue, but slowly became tedious, repetitive and immensely formulaic. The first big blockbuster of the year had let us down massively and paved the way for more displeasure.
Part of the issue of blockbusters these days is the necessity for over-promotion of properties from a studio point of view, Ultron being the perfect example of how to over-indulge in selling itself to an audience. With copious trailers released (we’re talking at least four or five), plus various TV spots and posters – including a needless reveal of Paul Bettany’s Vision pre-release – the sense of surprise and wonder was left for dust with Marvel’s biggest sequel to date and has been the case for many films within the same ilk. Much of the same can be said for films such as Insurgent, Jupiter Ascending, Terminator: Genisys and many others, with key scenes spoiled in trailers, particular elements of the narrative ruined by haphazard marketing and a real sense of deja-vu, in that we’ve seen it all before in the past.
Terminator: Genisys especially a guilty party in its role of revealing John Connor as a key antagonist within its reimagined timeline, consequently hampering any shock value upon viewing of the movie.
Admittedly, like with every year of cinema releases, 2015 is no different in that you simply have to take the rough with smooth and we’ve certainly been no stranger to some truly remarkable feats of cinematic vision and sculptured wonderment. Pixar’s Inside Out produced yet another reason why this is a studio thriving in the company of an audience that spans the ages, while George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road and Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service proved that action cinema is still invigorated with fearlessness and bravado.
Jurassic World ensured that dinosaurs were back on the map – as well as the beauty of nostalgia – and Fast and Furious 7 perfectly blended the outrageous, self-awareness of its series with a stark emotional core in its most successful iteration yet. These are films that deservedly stamp their mark on the year so far, but all too many others have provided the anchor that essentially leaves 2015 lingering below the surface.
All too often this year we as an audience have been privy to some questionably low-rate helpings that taint the labelling of a 52 weeks as the most promising in some time. When you’re dealing with films that include Taken 3, Fifty Shades of Grey, Terminator: Genisys, Jupiter Ascending, Pixels and the latest flop, Fantastic Four, feelings of great unhappiness are always going to creep in, especially when our levels of optimism and sheer excitement are at their peak.
As previously discussed, not all of these films are going to result in audience delight and box office buzz, but when previews and general emphasis is on successful horizons we can’t help but get whipped up into the storm. It’s not just the unfathomable failures of the year that draw the attention either, with a staggering number of films resulting in the mediocre, middle-of-the-road experiences that are nothing more than ‘decent’ watches.
Pitch Perfect 2 brought very little extra to the table in an affair that certainly didn’t match the quirky quips of its predecessor, audiences disappointingly failed to embrace the ambition of Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland and while action-packed, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation couldn’t quite match the dizzying heights of Tomorrowland director’s series effort.
While we can argue until the sun goes down as to what blockbuster movies have hit the spot and which fall way below our expected levels of quality, it is hard to argue against that sobering feeling of disappointment that 2015’s big-hitters are shrouded with.
I implore you to take a look at your favourite movies from the year so far and see just how many are those blockbusters I’ve mentioned in passing. One can imagine that some will contain this year’s Oscar contenders from what seems like eons ago, and possibly some of those indie gems that are so unfairly dominated by the big studio money-spinners – well at least many of my entries are under that bracket. Blockbusters are certainly one of the core driving forces of the industry but lest we forget that often they can instil levels of heightened excitement before deflating us.
2015 is currently in need of some helium to get it back on a high. Star Wars cannot come any sooner…