Maybe it’s climate change, but the summer blockbusters of 2019 have barely sizzled. We started the summer strong with Avengers: Endgame, pretty much the way 2018 started its summer run with Avengers: Infinity War. With all that build-up and a solid collection of movies holding it up, Avengers: Endgame was more or less a sure thing. Then it all goes downhill from there.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a divisive movie – the critics dismissed it as too much of a monster movie, while the general audience found it enjoyable. Dark Phoenix was a disaster, wasting the potential of the narrative and a talented cast. Despite the presence of Will Smith, the live action remake of Aladdin was always going to suffer due to comparison with the original. The same goes for Men in Black: International, no amount of Thor and Valkyrie chemistry is enough for it to beat the original. Are we seeing a trend start to emerge? The movies listed thus far are either remakes or expansions of previous franchises.
And even though John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum and Toy Story 4 are movies that performed much better, they also belong to established universes. Still not convinced? What about Child’s Play and Annabelle Comes Home? Once again, the same formula holds up,; either a remake or an unnecessary sequel. These summer efforts lack imagination, as old narratives are recycled and we get sequels that are poorly thought out.
However, it’s not like 2018 had a diverse bunch of movies. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom made dinosaurs want to go extinct again, and Ocean’s 8 is the same heist movie but with an all-women cast. As much as I hate to say this, and while the cast is talented, the heist element was lackluster and didn’t even make a lot of sense.
So why do we feel a distinct dampener on the summer of 2019? Do I really need to say it?
It’s all because of Disney.
Because of the way they dominate the blockbuster market, they set the pacing for other studios to keep up with. They have strategically placed one live action remake for every quarter of the year. We got Dumbo in the beginning, Aladdin and The Lion King for the summer months, and finally ending the year with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
If you have to choose between a Disney offering and another movie studio with a completely new blockbuster, it’s more than likely you’ll go with Disney – there’s just more certainty with them. However, because of the way they spaced out their remakes, it removes the anticipation. I remember how my best friend and I arranged our schedules just so we could go see the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast. Now that they are coming out like hot cakes, there just isn’t the same sentiment anymore. In addition, all these remakes are falling flat because you can’t recreate the past.
Disney also sets the trends. With all the hype surrounding the live action remakes, this is what film studios feel we want – nostalgia. So they try to feed it to us. Isn’t Crawl essentially Jaws but with alligators? Isn’t Stuber a buddy cop comedy we have seen a thousand times before?
But then again, isn’t that the essence of blockbusters, to be familiar, entertaining and a little mindless? The problem thus isn’t so much with the summer blockbusters, but more so with the changes in our viewing habits. Nowadays, I can get the same type of mindless blockbuster on Netflix, and I don’t even need to leave the house. If the movie isn’t great, at least I didn’t pay admission price for it. Critics and online consensus are playing a huge factor in people deciding whether to go to the movies.
With a more discerning audience emerging, and a less easily satisfied one due to all the different platforms they can get quality content, maybe that’s why we are feeling dissatisfied with 2019’s summer movies. It’s not really the movies that have changed – it’s us. We want more out of a blockbuster movie. Look at Ari Aster’s Midsommar, years ago a movie like this wouldn’t sell in mainstream theatres, and now it has brought in 11 million USD over the five day holiday weekend of its opening.
Time is precious and we don’t want to waste ours on mediocre movies anymore. So wake me up when summer ends.