The days of the super inflated and sub-par VFX pop corn films may be over. After DC's latest record breaking disaster many questioned whether Superhero Fatigue was the real deal. I'd like to take it a step further and say it a much bigger issue than that. (clean this sentence) looking at the box office totals for Ant-Man: Quantumania (125 million loss), Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (7 million profit), Indiana Jones: Dial of Destiny (currently at 249 million and needs an insane 600 million to break even), Shazam: Fury of the Gods (lost 120 million), and Dungeons & Dragons (lost 60 million), the Hollywood blockbuster is bleeding money. A majority of the films that were able to break even or turn a profit have been small genre films, low budget movies, and films with strong word of mouth. One of the major reasons is the success of Disney's comic book mega giant has moved the goal post for Blockbusters. The average break even point (based on films with a budget of around 200-250 million and after marketing) is usually around 400-450 million. This is now called the "400 million club," the new bench mark for a successful film. For blockbusters of these sizes to green-light a sequel or franchise, studios want a massive 700 million or more to consider the investment. Marvel pulled off historic feats at the box office and even those films have stumbled at the box office (save for Guardians of the Galaxy 3). Aside from under paying writers and over working VFX artists, studios need to understand that the content for profit market isn't sustainable. Not every blockbuster is going to make a billion dollars. It seems like Jones is the last mega-budget box office flop scheduled for the year as Marvel's The Marvels (130 million) and Dune Part 2 (122 million) are comparatively much lower. Oppenheimer (100 million) and Barbie (100 million) stand a good chance of making a serious summer profit. Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1 on it's massive 290 million dollar budget has a steep hill to climb but if Tom Cruise can pull off what he did last year with Top Gun: Maverick he's sure to come out on top.
The thesis lands early in this film by director Adele Lim. Lolo, one of several main characters, aims to detangle the discomfort people (mainly asian audiences) have around sex through her provocative and often funny art pieces. The script, written by long time Family Guy producers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, echoes the same sentiment. The film balances crass humor with sentimentality, featuring a beautiful story line of identity and family. Audrey, along with her childhood friend Lolo and her cousin Deadeye, journey to China for a business deal when all goes awry. Caught between a lie and a hard place, Audrey is forced to seek out her birth mother and along the way, discovers more about herself than she realized. Come for the laughs and tears and some unforgettable moments, including an insane tattoo that Stephanie Hsu clarified was not. 2023 has been a great year for laugh out loud comedies and this is one you don't want to miss. Don't believe me? Have a look at the review that went viral last week as well as the directors response.
In a shocking move, everything you watched in high school is getting the reboot treatment. Lionsgate announced a TV series reboot of the Twilight series. Stephanie Meyers, author of the book series, is set to be involved (most likely in a role similar to Rowling's involvement in the Harry Potter series). While it isn't entirely too surprising given Hollywood's hesitance to move forward as well as the longevity and popularity of these series, it is a bit disappointing to see. The news follows recent weeks announcements of reboots including new Lord of the Rings films and a Harry Potter TV series. All three of these franchises have been incredibly successful during their box office run so I won't be shocked if this trend continues. Maybe the next audience fatigue will be reboots and not superheroes?
This image, take from the Marvel teaser trailer for November's The Marvels has nearly double since the screenshot was taken two nights ago.
As of this morning, that number had climbed to a staggering 356 thousand dislikes, which is not surprising. Brie Larson was famously the target of a sexist online hate campaign 4 years ago during the release of Marvel's first female-led super hero film, Captain Marvel. While not shocking, it is a shame to see that the Marvel fandom seems to have not moved towards any form of progress. Twitter and Youtube are both flooded with thumbnails of content creators accusing Marvel of pushing a "woke feminist agenda." So much so in fact that youtube is flooded with videos arguing against diversity in the MCU. Mind you, the first film managed to gross a reported $1.131 billion at the box office. This could have been due to the release window (between Infinity War and Endgame) or, perhaps, the loud and angry minority is just that. While their hate is amplified online because no one is working to stop or place restrictions, off line, the film was a massive success despite the incredible backlash. In fact, Captain Marvel is the 8th highest grossing Marvel film and is 4th non-ensemble led film. For a character that has only appeared in 2 films and one camera (for Ms. Marvel on Disney+), The Marvel's stands a fair chance at the box office given its previous success and its November (a prime release window for fall block busters) debut date.
Even though we are in the era of super hero fatigue and Ms. Marvel did not have the biggest ratings, Teyonah Parris/Monica Rambeau made a huge splash with fans and critics alike after WandaVision. I have a feeling that the cast will be well received by critics regardless of the box office and since fans generally show up for things they hate, The Marvels looks like it is going to shine bright this fall.
Scorsese warned us. Ant-Man is on its fifth week and is struggling to hit the $500 million mark. Thats below the two previous Ant-Man installments which grossed $519 and $622 million respectively. The films holds a 47% critical score on rottentomates and is among the small handful Marvel films to land in the rotten category. After a decade and a half of leading the box office are critics and fans finally burnt out on Super heroes or is there more to this story?
Update: From the beginning of writing this story until today, Ant-Man 3's box office has fizzled out at an unimpressive $474 million dollars. With strong box office contenders like The Super Mario Bros. Movie, AIR, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, and John Wick 4, Marvel's chances for any profit from this film are dead in the ground. Not only did Ant-Man 3 underperform, it performed lower than pandemic era releases like Shang-Chi and Black Widow. Some could speculate that this was in part due to the lack of returning supporting cast or, perhaps, super fatigue is among us. Either way, topping out under 500 puts this film at a project $100 million dollar loss for Marvel.
My take? Audience just aren't that interested in the multi-verse for two main reasons. One, it makes everything feel temporary. One of Marvel's biggest issues is its inability to commit. In the realm of the fantastic (and with enough fandom demand) you could bring anyone back from the dead, make anyone have a happy ending, and churn out one dimensional villains who do nothing more than sell funko pop figures. The other, audiences don't want to do homework. The multi-verse is not only confusing but feels like a massive commitment. In order to understand what is happening in Phase 5, you need to keep up with both the theatrical releases as well as the Diseny+ series releases. In order to understand Quantumania you have had to have watched Loki. In order to understand The Marvel's, which is due out in November, you'll have needed to have seen Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, WandaVision, and Secret Invasion. Some of the films have chosen to not acknowledge the multi-verse at all like Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (according to James Gunn). Marvel has swung too wide, the stories are spiraling out and after 31 films, audiences seem to have had it.
(MASSIVE SPOILERS, DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM)
To make it clear, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is not a great film. Hilariously over-packed with fan service, the film itself is an uneven trek through a very unsatisfying end of a saga that deserved more. Closing a wonky loop, we say goodbye to Skywalker and company in this inconsistent and poorly structured film. Below is a list of things that have yet to leave my head since I saw the film several days ago.
- I can not stand the old "ah-gotcha," trope. This happens twice (spoilers ahead) in TRoS. When Daisey Ridley, in a force struggle with Kylo Ren, attempts to save Chewbacca from capture from an Empire ship before losing control and exploding the ship with force lightening. Of course, it's later revealed that he somehow was just in another ship and did not in fact get blown up. What is insane about this scene is how quickly she is forgiven. She kills a staple of the franchise and Poe and Finn are basically giving her a pep talk two scenes later, assuring her it isn't her fault. This of course is her leaning towards the dark side but fool me once, shame on you, full me twice and Abram's has made another terrible Star Wars film. The second is when the planet of Kimiji (where the audience is introduced to Zorii and Babu Frik, the only character that matters) is blow up. Of course, in classic Abram's fashion, its revealed later that they left the planet in time to make it to the final climactic space battle with Palpatine's ship (also, did he just have people in those ships ready at all times?). This is one of the laziest things you can do when it comes to film making. Let's make a bold choice to kill off a beloved character only to bring it back, making all repercussions essentially a waste of time. Now I know, it's a family film, but it does open with a scene of Kylo Ren chopping down numerous random space warriors so obviously Disney is not afraid of violence.
- Speaking of Kylo Ren, what in God's name was *that* kiss moment? We all laughed at the shirtless Kylo moment but, at what point were we supposed to believe that Rey and Kylo had any attraction at all? I mean, why kiss him? As a "thanks for saving me," after repeatedly trying to kill you and your friends? It was the beginning of the end of the film that felt like a blurry of Abram's saying, "here, you asked for it so have it." Of course, it ultimately means nothing because his body vanishes immediately afterwards. It is even funnier given the fact that they are linked by the force, being the ultimate ying and yang. She is the good Palpatine while Ren is the bad Skywalker. The moment is so tone deaf and ridiculous, it feels like the writers just felt the need to include one major straight kiss to balance out the unmemorable gay one.
- Also, Rey gets a gold light saber for some reason, not making her the second character in Star Wars without a blue, green, or red one. Why? I guess because she is the only Jedi now and this is just the way it is going to be signified.
- Also, what the hell happened to Kylo Ren's students? Where was the force sensitive boy at the end of the last Star Wars film? Whats the point of Finn being force sensitive if he's not going to do anything with it anyway?
- We can't forget about Rose (although no one would fault you if you did). After a character that faced an overwhelming amount of criticism and an actresses that faced real world bullying, it was massively disappointing to see that Disney did next to nothing for either of the two. Rose had, what felt like, equal lines to some of the randomly added resistance fighters, including Dominic Monhagan that you probably know as Charlie from Lost (and of course, LotR). She doesn't even get to leave the resistance base for the film. She's effectively grounded and forgotten about, leaving her legacy as a memorable character in the dust.
- General Hux being the traitor was too obvious but the fact that he helps Finn and the crew only to die immediately after by General Pride was also another disappointing moment. I mean really, Pride just knew right away it was Hux? Understandably, this was meant to make Pride seem a bit more evil and authoritative but none of it mattered because the funniest character on the dark side was now dead. Gleeson's interactions with Kylo Ren in the previous two Star Wars films were a delight and it would have been worthwhile to make him a defector and not another casualty. I guess comedy is a price of war too.
- Also nostalgia much? Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, voices from various Jedi, allusions and references to famous notable Star Wars events and more, all seem to make an appearance in this film. I get that this is the last in a very long running and beloved franchise but please, make the movie strong enough to stand on its own. It already exist within the SW universe, do we need to be constantly reminded of it too?
(Mild spoilers ahead)
Disney has seemingly heard the complaints of the masses and has doubled down in arguably the worse way possible. It should be no surprise that at this point, Disney with it's record breaking year, has not always been the most progressive studio when it has come to LGBT representation. Marvel was hinting at the inclusion of a gay character in Endgame only to give the audience a scene in which one of the two directors plays an unnamed character that mentions his husband was lost in the snap of Thanos. Needless to say, this is was more than a let down for many fans of the long running series. To imagine a film series with over twenty films introducing an openly gay character this late in the game felt less than a bold move but more of meeting fan demands. Even so, why do so little? That's where Finn and Poe, and their departure from any intimacy in the latest Star Wars film, come into play. The hysteria came quickly following the release of The Force Awakens. Actors John Boyega and Oscar Isaac had a natural chemistry that made every interview a re-watchable treat. Before you knew it, the corner of the internet that dives so deeply to project story lines on fictional characters, began to find reasons to do so on the latest big pop culture "ship." What really had no clear indication of being remotely LGBT oriented seemed to become a massive focal point of what fans wanted to see fleshed out in the franchise.
This misreading is probably nothing more than a lack of on screen male intimacy. We are so foreign to the idea of two hetero sexual men being this close without the possibility of their being a queer undertone that we begin to believe that the only logical step is to develop a romantic relationship. This leap seems to have backfired and from some of the choices from the latest Star Wars film, it seems like Disney was sending a clear example for these two characters while offering a treat they had behind their back. Poe, much more so than Finn, finds his machismo in this film. He's overtly heterosexual, even making several passes at Keri Russel's (although one wouldn't know it) masked Zorii in the film. The "lets get out of here," head nod at the end and even requesting a kiss, added an expected comedic element that fit Poe well but, Disney was clearly putting their foot down. Not only was that gay moment happening but, Poe Dameron is most certainly heterosexual. Finn's character leans heavily on the least interesting aspect of his story, his endless worrying about and following of Daisey Ridley's Rey. There ends up being two memorable moments for Finn in the final installment of this nine film sage. What he does not tell Rey, leaving the audience to wonder whether he will confess his love for her or if it will be force related, and Naomi Ackie's Jannah, another rebellious former stormtrooper who meets and quickly befriends Finn. Finn and Jannah go off one on of the films more dangerous quest, seemingly placing themselves in imminent doom to save the resistance. This of course, does not flesh out, as she ends up meeting Lando (who had a larger role than needed) after which it is implied that he will help her discover who she is? Both characters spend their final journey in such a hetero-centric parallel path, it begs to wonder if Disney's explicit message was that these characters simply are not now nor will they ever be, romantically linked. Not in this galaxy or a Galaxy far, far away.
That leads to what was easily the worst "blink and you miss it," moment of the entire film. The actual "gay kiss." The gay kiss being heralded as the franchises first. The inclusion of a singular LGBT moment can signify where the franchise is heading. If you had heard about the kiss before watching the film, you were looking for it. When would it arrive? Who would it be between? After two hours, anyone who had paid attention would have noticed that the chances of Poe and Finn's confirming their long sought after romance was more than unlikely. It occurs between the returning character, Commander D'Arcy, played by Amanda Lawrence, and another unnamed fighter pilot. In a busy scene full of movement, not prominently featured but tucked a bit further away from the screen, the two join in a celebratory kiss towards the very end of the film. And it doesn't matter at all. I won't go on to discuss the casting issues between heterosexual men playing gay men and how rare it is to be seen the other way around. I won't go into the problematic past with queer and lesbian roles in Hollywood films either. What I will say is this, cowardice has give us nothing, and we are expected to applaud far below the bare minimum. These, "historic," moments for Disney came for two of their biggest films (and what will no doubt be in the top five list of biggest films in 2019) in the cheaper way imaginable. Disney created a moment that feels like another in a long list of fan service-y nonsense stuffed in a winter Blockbuster, short enough to be removed for any international markets that will disapprove and there's no doubt in my mind that it will happen. So what do we hope for? More LGBT inserts between minor and unnamed heterosexual characters? More characters that we wish to see make it only to be pulled apart in the end (not that giving into the Poe/Finn narrative would have been the right choice anway)? Are our demands too high? Is it too much for this massive studio to gamble? Can we demand, not only LGBT representation, but representation that is played by actors who live it?
To be fair, I don't mind J.J. Abrams directing style nor do I credit him solely with this disspointment. I never finished Lost and I enjoyed the first Star Trek film and some of his other works, so I'm not anti-Abrams for the reasons most seem to be. My issue is that like The Force Awakens, Abram's played it extraordinary safe and that's why he was brought back for the final film. Rian Johnson created a firestorm around The Last Jedi after it's release. It went so far, that it garnered responses from Luke Skywalker's Mark Hamill as well as the returning Ridley and Boyega. Johnson himself even seemed to shade some of the early reviews around the latest Star Wars film, stating that he wants to be "challenged as a fan," and giving too much to fan demands is a mistake. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker currently sits at 58% on Rottentomatoes while Johnson's other film release, Knives Out (2019), was met with wide critical acclaim and great audience reception. Despite fan outcry towards Johnson's controversial TLJ, he will be back for more with Lucasfilm in the future. One can only hope that part of his challenges comes with the continuing trend of diversity and inclusion in the new iteration of Star Wars films.
We are just a little over a month away from the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield and Gamefreak is still rolling out brand new game play footage. With today's surprise announcement of new Gigantamax forms for some gen 1 favorites, there was some additional info given on how to aquire some of them including Pikachu and Eevee. It looks like you will get these special Gigantamax forms if you have a previous save history of Let's Go Pike or Eevee on your Switch console. We also got a look at a new Meowth, Charizard, and Butterfree form as well. Take a look at the trailer below and get excited for the games release November 15 2019.
Joker broke box office records and coming off an impressive film festival win, it was no surprise DC's most well known villain landed where it did. With loads of discussion surrounding the controversial clown film, everything from real life criminal inspiration to some disparaging comments made by director Todd Philips, there seems to be a part of the movie that is being over looked entirely, race.