Soapbox


As 2013 gets underway, there seems to a rather common occurrence of thematically similar films all coming out this year. It used to be a rare phenomenon, most notably highlighted by the fiery 1997 face off between Volcano and Dante’s Peak, only to be trumped by the great Deep Impact/Armageddon battle of 1998, and just last year, it was a dwarf-laden slugfest between Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror, Mirror.

This year, it’s past the point of being ridiculous.

Do you like movies set in a Post Apocalyptic Earth? Well, you’ve got Tom Cruise in Oblivion (April 19th), Will Smith and his son Jaden in After Earth (June 7th) and the sci-fi novel no one thought would ever see get made in to a movie, Ender’s Game, comes out November 1st. The Host (released Mar. 29th) pretty much fits in that mix as well and there are also a pair of comedies set right as Earth may be on its way out: This is the End (June 14th) and The World’s End (Aug. 23rd). The first comes from Seth Rogen and his celebrity friends (playing exaggerated versions of themselves) while the latter is travelling from across the pond via director Edgar Wright and its stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (completing their so-called Cornetto trilogy which began with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz).

What about movies where terrorists storm 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Olympus Has Fallen already hit theaters but the appropriately named White House Down is coming up June 28th. That one sees Magic Mike saving Django … only I doubt there will be as much hip thrusting.

Maybe you’re a fan of magic? You hopefully skipped The Incredible and disappointing Burt Wonderstone but maybe the upcoming Now You See Me (May 31st) will be something worth sitting through. Either way, Hollywood appears to be trying to make your money go presto chango into their pockets.

Heck, there are even a few sequels coming out at least 7 years after the last film in its franchise, which normally doesn’t bode well for audiences (*cough* Crystal Skull). Riddick (Sept. 6th) sees Vin Diesel up to his old space tricks. Tom Clancy’s most famous character is being cinematically resurrected 11 years after Ben Affleck played the role (following Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford before him) with Chris Pine playing Jack Ryan (Dec. 25th). 300: Rise of an Empire (Aug. 2nd) follows Xerxes after he took out The Phantom of the Opera and his band of shirtless men. Anchorman 2 will try to recapture classy lightning in a bottle on December 20th and to make it even more confusing, 8 years after Robert Rodriguez adapted the work of Frank Miller, the follow up, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Oct .4th), is both sequel and prequel (which is possible thanks to its multi-story structure).

What does so much rambling and ranting add up to? Sadly, not as much as it should. All of this inanity doesn’t even take into account the horde of sequels coming out that were made on a more traditional time table or the remakes/reimaginings/reboots of franchises that will be hitting theaters in 2013: Evil Dead (Apr. 5th), The Great Gatsby (May 10th), Man of Steel (June 14th) and Carrie (Oct 13th). (Look out for 2014, it’s likely going to see the return of Robocop and Dirty Dancing. I’m already so sad that I refuse to look at the calendar any more … ugh.)

Bottom line, the business of making movies is exactly that – a business. The people cutting the checks don’t care whether the script is good or the idea is original, they only want a return investment. And audiences looking for 100 minutes of escape from the real world have proven they’ll see anything and that they prefer it be as predictable as possible. Increasingly, the actually intriguing, challenging, and exciting cinema comes from the independent film world and other countries (though Hollywood then remakes them without those pesky subtitles Americans won’t read and usually without any of the edge that made the original so good, i.e. my expectations for Spike Lee’s take on the Korean film, Oldboy, slated for Oct. 11th).

I suppose after all of the blathering, what I’ve really learned is that looking at the schedule is a bad idea. That, and to look even harder for movies that don’t have $15 million dollars just for their advertising budgets. Last year, that meant finding really good films like Starlet, The Kid with a Bike, Your Sister’s Sister, Headhunters, Sound of My Voice, Smashed, and Beasts of the Southern Wild (which managed to make itself known via the awards circuit), among others I’m likely forgetting right now. Hopefully, some more gems will make themselves known this calendar annum. Otherwise I may have to subtitle this year as 2013: Déjà Vu … and no, I’m not talking about that Denzel Washington film.