In Criticism of the Hollywood Blockbuster

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A Blockbuster movie is one that is defined by its extravagance. These movies usually have a huge budget that surpasses £100 million, a large crew, many notable actors, an expansive marketing campaign aimed at a wide audience and, rather crucially for executives, will be a financial success. Just this year this has included the likes of: Avengers: Infinity War, Solo, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Ready Player One and many more.

The history of the blockbuster can be traced back to the likes of Steven Spielberg with the film Jaws and George Lucas with Star Wars, two franchises with varying success in the following years. These films kick-started a trend in Hollywood cinema that saw production companies begin to spend more money on individual films and focus their marketing to promote these films around the summer of each year. The success of these large productions often prompts the production of further sequels and/or spin-offs.

But it is this very practice that has become far too commonplace in modern cinema. A great example of this in action is the recent trend in superhero blockbusters, with the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and DC expanded universe (DCEU). Whilst one of these is evidently more successful than the other, there has been a huge overstauration in superhero films in the past few years, with the MCU itself putting out three films a year in the hopes of keeping viewer attention on their cinematic universe. Production companies are clearly following a trend, churning out large profits. But how long can this last? Will superhero movies continue to prosper in the years to come? Or will they go the way of the western and die out almost completely due to over-saturation?

Another huge issue with the mentality of the Hollywood Blockbuster is the sequel and the prequel. Nowadays, companies like Disney are so confident that certain properties will do well that they greenlight sequels before the prior film in the franchise has even been released, only to backtrack on this should said film under perform. A great example of this is 2014’s Fantastic Four reboot. This was originally planned to be a franchise for 20th Century Fox, but after a poor reception and lacklustre box office sales, the planned sequels were cancelled, with the rights to the franchise eventually being sold to Disney.

A further issue is a lack of creativity. The success of a film brings a large profit. So how do we make more money? Just do the same thing again. But this only seems to lead to laziness on behalf of writers and directors. The best sequels use the original story as a jumping off point to explore new ideas, potentially with new themes and characters. The worst sequels are those that wallow in the success of their original, merely imitating the prior story and changing very little. Unfortunately for viewers, the latter of these two possibilities is far more commonplace, as directors increasingly play it safe to ensure an amicable box office return, and it is only many years and sequels later that returns begin to diminish when audiences grow sick and tired. This problem is taken even further by reboots, which usually end up an obvious attempt to cash-in on a franchise that is experiencing fatigue by promising a “return to roots”.

Now I may be a hypocrite, as I do love a good Marvel movie, but I find myself visiting the cinema less than ever before. Instead I try to focus on what I love most about certain movies and invest in these aspects over the names of certain companies or franchises; this could include favourite actors or upcoming indie directors. But for the time being at least, the blockbuster reigns supreme, with its overblown production and many sequels raking in the cash from the masses.

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Biomed student. Excessively lazy fan of all things Game of Thrones. Sometimes watches other stuff and plays video games.

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