The Hollywood Blockbuster

Jaws is in many ways the first hollywood blockbuster. It changed the scope of everything before and everything that is seen today, and it proved to be successful as it was backed up by an even greater success shortly after with Star Wars. These blockbuster films have changed the power of the cinema going experience internationally, as nations all over the world share in the delight of this pop culture machine. The power and success of the blockbuster is contributed to high quality and heavily marketed films, to productions that are produced overseas and outside the home studio. There is also a power struggle that sees the independent film be overshadowed by these epic films that are more readily a language understood internationally.

The summer blockbuster, whether it is good or not proves to be successful from the marketing of a film. Each film is of the greatest production value at the time of its undertaking, with budgets that easily account for one hundred and up to two hundred million dollars. While money can perfect certain aesthetics of a film, it does not guarantee a great film, and for the most part a blockbuster must only be a good film to turn a profit. It is within the marketing that spans from billboards, to television spots, to merchandise at fast food outlets like McDonalds, and KFC that exhibit a film to be successful for studio executives who spend an undisclosed amount on the marketing campaigns, which can be estimated to be around fifty million per blockbuster. The power of the marketing pushed by executives is excessive to the point where anyone who hasn’t seen the film is at least familiar with the iconography of the film, and to some extent the plot through the tagline, or trailer. Most often these celebrated blockbusters are from a well known franchise with an audience who will see it because they have liked the set of characters in the past, and therefore are sold at the title alone. Not only is this marketing placed in the film’s national marketplace, but also internationally, and in the form of a runaway film.

A relatively new trend in blockbusters since the nineties is the runaway film production, which sees a blockbuster film produced internationally for tax incentive reasons. The primary reason may be money, but as attributed in the marketing of a film, filming in a foreign country is in itself marketing to that nation. Nations can find pride in a big budget blockbuster that will see major film distribution in their own country through a feeling of locations and being separated by less degrees of separation than a production shot nationally. Ironically, the most notable negative is for the crews who rely on the blockbusters to be shot in their own national vicinity for jobs, whereas a runaway production will impact positively on a country elsewhere in their economy with job creation and tourism. Ultimately it creates these great networks between international studio houses with places for example as Hollywood and Australia, and most recently Hollywood and South Korea.

While the blockbuster film has the power of strong marketing campaigns and star power, the independent film is crushed by this sort of stronghold on the industry. There are thousands of movies produced each year and a large percent of these cannot compete or recuperate costs because of the blockbusters that dominate the widespread release. This includes countries such as Australia, with a struggling film industry that sees its own box office dominated by hollywood films that take the money of the theatre going audience. These films of an independent nature are more of a niche marketplace and have their own audience and award seasons that propel it into the cinematic stratosphere that any average movie going audience would have knowledge on. Studio executives will also make predictions as to what the film going audiences will want to see within a five year track, which they in hand can create with the marketing of a film and make genre flicks for a set number of years, as “Zombie Apocalypse” has seen a saturation in the marketplace to now be taken over by the comic book film, which feels as if it is at least fifty percent of blockbusters produced today. Studios have spent time changing what an audience perceived as simply film and changed it into the blockbuster, something they can differentiate and know as a grand spectacle or a bang for your buck. This popular culture phenomenon is going to influence the audience in these years through social media, and idle talk to moderate fandom, where people will commit to costumes and exhibitions, living and breathing for updates on these films, but most of all to be included as international symbols.

These blockbusters create a shared commonplace of films that transcend the language barrier, while dubbed, they differ ever so slightly, but ultimately a man from Japan can see an image or poster from a blockbuster and has the knowledge of the popular culture behind it to communicate with western audiences whom have these characters that embody a certain celebrity element, for example the superman crest. This process of globalisation of the blockbuster is undeniably relevant at creating a social conscience in the entertainment industry over any other forms internationally. A science teacher I once had exclaimed that you could take only the periodic table to a martian planet and communicate with those figures alone that are at their base exactly the same wherever you go and this is the same as these blockbuster films. They transcend nationality, and come down to relatable stories of people like you and I, who strive to be better or see a prosperous new world from the ashes of everything bad. The blockbuster is not exclusive of any particular class, nor should it. If you look at a blockbuster film you can have every age bracket, every race all laugh, shriek and awe at the same things. The audience becomes one to the blockbuster that caters to all.

Robert Ring

2015 in Review

My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 was to see one film a week in cinemas, which I totally did! Below are all 52 films I saw from best to worst.

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Love and Mercy: I consider this my favourite film of 2015. It took me completely by surprise and I have been listening to the Beach Boys non-stop since, literally, my girlfriend is sick of hearing God Only Knows and Good Vibrations. My initial review is here.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: This was my favourite cinematic experience for 2015. It was not a perfect film, but it was a perfect Star Wars film. It’s also the first Star Wars film to have real acting!

Creed: This might be the most perfect film on the list. It innovates the way a fighting film can be shot and it has so much heart. Sylvester Stallone looks like he may even be nominated for an Oscar this year too. Ironically, my second and third favourite films of the year are the seventh title in a series with this being the seventh Rocky film.

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Jurassic World: So much nostalgia, and dinosaurs, and Chris Pratt (what more can you want?)

Kingsman, The: This is the biggest surprise of the year. Nobody expected this to be good and it was excellent.

Mad Max: Fury Road: Fuck all story in this movie, and yet I had the most fun I’ve ever had in a pure action film.

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Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation: Remember how good Ghost Protocol was? Yeah, well this is even better!

Amy: Beautiful, haunting, and real. My review here.

Straight Outta Compton: Excellent biopic on the N.W.A, the ending is a bit drawn out and effectively takes it away from being nominated for best picture.

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Trainwreck: Without a doubt the funniest movie of the year. My review here.

Sicario: We saw one side of Mexico in Breaking Bad, and it doens’t have anything on the dark crevices we discover of Mexico in this unforgettable film.

Bridge of Spies: Spielberg works his magic, and this time he gives us a solid, very good, political drama.

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Martian, The: The unofficial sequel to Intersteller (if you know what I mean), or Cast Away in space. Who cares? Matt Damon will have you in stitches even as his situation turns desperate.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: I like it just as much as the first Avengers and this time we get James Spader!

Inside Out: I was honestly disappointed with this one. They had too much for the kids in this when it was such a rich idea for adults. Good film, my expectations were just too high.

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Ant-Man: Solid heist film with the Marvel touch.

Cinderella: Really enjoyed this. Makes me very excited if they nail a live action Beauty and the Beast too.

Spongebob Movie: Better than the first?

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Man From U.N.C.L.E, The: This got a lot of flack from critics, maybe because we had a year with so many spy films, but I really enjoyed it.

Crimson Peak: Marketed as a horror film. Yeah, it’s not a horror film, just a beautifully shot and enjoyable little murder mystery.

Everest: It’s a crime not many people saw this one. Man against nature: Nature 1 and Man 0.

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Tomorrowland: The most unique film of the year delivers us something left better to the imagination. It’s a good watch, just misses many marks.

Ricki and the Flash: Decent.

Night Before, The: More laughs than I expected.

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Spectre: It’s James Bond.

Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The: You come for the characters, not the story.

Minions: Personally, I liked it much more than Despicable Me.

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In the Heart of the Sea: It didn’t know what movie it was trying to tell, and therefore you will be a little unsatisfied.

Entourage: The boys are back. Like four back to back episodes… I’m not complaining.

Age of Adeline: I love most of this movie, but I hated the ending. Overall, a unique fairy tale.

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Good Dinosaur, The: Apart from a couple of cute scenes I find it entirely unoriginal. Was The Land Before Time the last best animated dino flick?

Get Hard: A Will Ferrell comedy.

Daddy’s Home: Another Will Ferrell comedy with a crappy title. What was wrong with calling it Step Fathers? It’s essentially the spiritual sequel to Step Brothers.

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Vacation: Critically panned, but I giggled.

The Visit: Saw the twist from a mile away, although M. Night has now proven he can make a good film, your turn Michael Bay.

Project Almanac: Cool little time travel film.

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Poltergeist: Not bad. I recommend the original.

The Hunger Games: Mokingjay – Part 2: First three quarters are pretty good. Last quarter is a cop out ending with a crappy twist. Thank you for being the last.

Chappie: It’s Robocop with South African accents.

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Freeheld: Great cast, overall underwhelming.

Dumb and Dumber To: The films get pretty bad on this list from here on in…

Pitch Perfect 2: Terrible direction. Sorry Elizabeth Banks.

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Ted 2: I didn’t much care for the first one and I liked this one even less.

50 Shades of Grey: Exactly what I thought a studio film would do with this material. Zero kinky scenes.

Paul Blart 2: I loved the first one. What the hell was this?

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American Ultra: Utterly loathed it!

Paranormal Activity:The Ghost Dimension: The worst cinema going experience I’ve ever had.

I saw these films too, however they are technically films of 2014 so I thought to exempt them from my 2015 list.

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Nightcrawler: Very underrated. Jake Gyllenhaal was robbed of an oscar nomination. My review here.

Imitation Game, The: Solid biopic on a fascinating side of the war I never knew about.

Birdman: Understandable pick for Best Picture. I really liked it.

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Still Alice: Heartbreaking.

Foxcatcher: Brilliant performances. Chilling and masterful.

Anyway I had so much fun seeing a film a week at the cinemas that I’m going to continue doing it this year too.

What did you think of the films listed here? Let me know in the comments section below.

Wishing you a good 2016,

Robert Ring