Holy blockbusters, Batman. Have you seen what’s set to run across the silver screen in 2015?
There’s Star Wars, Episode VII, a movie fans have been waiting three decades to see.
Avengers: Age of Ultron, which will have even more superheroes than The Avengers.
The Hunger Games trilogy is scheduled to conclude with part 2 of Mockingjay.
The thoroughly rejuvenated James Bond series will return, with all those questions from Skyfall to answer.
And Pixar is cranking out Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, arguably the best film in the studio’s catalog.
We may even get Avatar 2, the sequel to the biggest money maker of all time (they couldn’t exactly make a sequel to James Cameron’s other biggest money maker of all time, Titanic).
And there’s also a new Superman — er, Man of Steel — that brings in another famed superhero, Batman.
All this anticipation for 2015, and we haven’t even finished the summer of 2013 — Elysium. Percy Jackson. Kick-Ass 2, anyone? Anyone?
The buzz around 2015 must leave the summer of 2014 whining Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!
Move over 1939, the year that gave us Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Wuthering Heights, to name a few.
But could this anticipation be misplaced? Could the blockbuster year on the horizon be on a collision course with a public tired of blockbusters?
Right up there with stories about how awesome 2015 looks to be are stories about how the summer of 2013 has been a disappointment. A number of big-franchise and big-name films have delivered puny returns at the the ticket window.
Films including The Lone Ranger, After Earth and Pacific Rim that were touted as blockbusters before they even opened just turned out to be bust in theaters.
It was a situation that was foretold by the grandfathers of the blockbuster era, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who warned the current blockbuster-dependent model for Hollywood studios could implode.
“They’re going for the gold,” Lucas said, appearing at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts in June. “But that isn’t going to work forever. And as a result they’re getting narrower and narrower in their focus. People are going to get tired of it. They’re not going to know how to do anything else.”
At the same event, Spielberg said, “There’s eventually going to be a big meltdown. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen of these mega-budgeted movies go crashing into the ground and that’s going to change the paradigm again.”
It has not been lost on many observers that this is a monster Lucas and Spielberg helped create with films such as Star Wars, E.T., and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Still even casual observers could see an accelerating trend in the past decade or two toward the dominance big movies driven by marquee stars and characters and powered by enough CGI fireworks to fill the nation’s skies on the Fourth of July. Nobody is talking about what Woody Allen, Alexander Payne or Terrence Malick might do in 2015.
The advertising-induced excitement is for the behemoths of the week, including several video game-based films such as World of Warcraft.
The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson detailed why film studios are addicted to explosive and familiar fare in a recent story that pointed out the growth market for films is overseas, where clever American jokes don’t translate as well as cities under siege, and ticket-buying audiences increasingly favor the familiar.
“Movie-making has always been a risky business of hits and flops,” Thompson wrote. “But the globalization of profits makes the hits even more precious.”
But some of those movies are no longer hitting.
In an interview with American Public Media’s Marketplace, Grantland film writer Wesley Morris observed, “We are finally maybe getting fat on these high-calorie, high-cholesterol summer movies.”
He also alluded to a savvier audience that knows when it is being marketed to. It is also becoming increasingly easy to see the formulas behind some of these films that are more products of research and analysis than creative minds.
So, should we just bag all the 2015 hype?
Well, not entirely.
Yes, a certain number of these U.S.S. Blockbuster films are going to hit the rocks.
But, while many are ready for Star Wars VII to suck based on the prequels, the new film is helmed by J.J. Abrams, who is a skilled storyteller and has done a much better job rebooting the Star Trek franchise than many of us anticipated. This is also the movie a lot of us have wanted to see— the continuation of the original trilogy — since 1983.
Avengers has turned into a heckuva franchise with last summer’s enormously entertaining group film and a lot of great individual hero flicks such as Captain America and the Iron Man series.
This year’s Catching Fire will tell us how excited we should be for the Hunger Games’ two-part finale, and as long as 007 doesn’t pull another Quantum of Solace, there is every reason to anticipate Daniel Craig will continue the resurgence of the Bond franchise.
Now, as we get down the card, things get iffier. But maybe Woody Allen or Alexander Payne will do something great, to give the year some balance.
So it may be early to get wrapped up in 2015 hype. But we can be cautiously optimistic.