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Hollywood Produces More of Same as Box Office Dwindles

by Anne Thompson
March 25, 2011 9:46 AM
4 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

"It's content," says Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman of the continuing downward trend at the box office in 2011. What that means is that the movies being churned out by the studios during the first quarter are not connecting with audiences. Fellman denies that the young male demo has departed the multiplex: just wait until Hangover 2, he says, along with all the commercial films coming this summer. Warners will present a show reel of their upcoming product to exhibitors at the new NATO-controlled CinemaCon next week, where Paramount is expected to screen 22 minutes of J.J. Abrams' Super 8, among other reels.

But the studios should really be afraid of their slates of same-looking content. Why would anyone leave the house to see a movie that looks just like something they've already seen before? How to choose between Battle: LA and Skyline, Kick-Ass and Super, or yet another revisit of a Houdini biopic or age-old fairy tale, from Red Riding Hood to Peter Pan?

Thompson on Hollywood

For better or worse, at least Sucker Punch looks original, even if Zack Snyder gets repetitive as he goes. The guy has ideas, powerful cinematic images in his head that he knows how to execute. I was compelled to check out the movie because even while Snyder's Watchmen was often silly or incomprehensible, it was always watchable, and hallucinogenic images such as a hulking blue Dr. Manhattan walking in slow-motion are unforgettable.

The same is true of Sucker Punch, which starts off strong--I love the premise--and though it loses steam as it veers off track with too-similar action fantasy episodes starring his girl-pal team of provocatively clad babes, the acting is fine (except for mustachioed bad-guy Oscar Isaac, who also chewed the scenery in Robin Hood) and the visuals are splendid. (See this story about Sucker Punch and the fanboys.)

Presumably Warners and Legendary will ride herd on Snyder with a strong script (from David Goyer and Chris Nolan) and casting for his reboot of Superman. Story is not his strong suit. But man, the guy can deliver arresting visuals.

Andrew O'Hehir of Salon is among the critical minority with praise for Sucker Punch's "twisted stupid brilliance." He agrees with me to a degree:

"Sucker Punch" doesn't all work by a long shot, but it confirms my sense that Snyder belongs near the top of a very short list of directors who are trying to reinvent a personal, auteurist vision of cinema at the most commercial, mass-market, attention-disordered end of the spectrum.


4 Comments

  • ken | March 27, 2011 3:44 AMReply

    ^I'd go farther than that, Mark. I'd say Hollywood is still stuck in the 1960s. Judging by content (Superheroes, chase movies with lots of explosions, and now Westerns) we are in desperate need of originality.

    I'm just glad that the author of this article did not put down "Sucker Punch" because it has lots of female characters, unlike other reviewers who would chop it down immediately, whether the film is bad or not.

  • Obvious | March 27, 2011 2:30 AMReply

    Hey Hollywood, the Country is diversifying. Since you enjoy throwing away money, keep making films with the same faces and the same superficial mono-racial standards of beauty. A look at the iTunes movie trailers page on any given day shows only one group of people at any given time. With the recent census report it's no wonder the movie's are losing money except for the Summer Blockbusters. Latinos would rather stay home and watch Univision, African-Americans would rather avoid the theater and wait for the next Tyler Perry film (even when they know it's bad), Asians can't catch a break unless the character demands martial arts skills. It's sad. It's 2011. And the films slate still looks like we're back in the 80's. There actually seemed to be more diversity in the 70's. Hollywood is regressing and with this generation of kids who increasingly see the world as multi-racial, the omissions are jarring.

  • Mark | March 26, 2011 9:01 AMReply

    Snyder's 'films' are completely soulless - he's the wrong man for the Superman job.

  • Richard Tarle | March 25, 2011 11:53 AMReply

    Anne, I agree with Fellman -- summer is the true test when young folk come out.

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