Hollywood implosion: end of an era?
- Last month Steven Spielberg and George Lucas caused a bit of a stir when they predicted an impending "implosion" of Hollywood that would forever alter the filmmaking industry. Speaking at a USC event, Spielberg posited a scenario in which a series of big budget flops would necessitate a change in the Hollywood business model:
"That's the big danger, and there's eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm."
- These comments sparked discussion in the media and blogosphere. Forbes contributor Scott Mendelson unequivocally declared that Lucas and Spielberg were wrong; he cited recent mega-flops like Jack Carter and Battleship as evidence that the Hollywood status quo can take a licking and keep on ticking. But then The Lone Ranger flopped on the July 4th weekend, and industry watchers immediately noticed a troubling trend. The Hollywood Reporter called it "the third big-budget bomb of the summer," following the disappointing returns from After Earth and White House Down. A Vulture article cited Spielberg's warning of the impending implosion and said the Lone Ranger "represents everything that's wrong with Hollywood blockbusters". Den of Geek! writer Gabe Toro drew comparisons between the Lone Ranger and Michael Cimino's infamous Heaven's Gate, a notorious cinematic disaster often cited as ending the "new Hollywood" era of American director-driven filmmaking. (a great documentary on Heaven's Gate is available in pieces on YouTube) It seems that the trend is continuing this weekend, as this Telegraph article cites industry forecasts of R.I.P.D. bombing at the box office to continue the "summer crisis".
- The Lone Ranger received a score of scathing reviews, but my favorite analysis of the film so far is this io9 piece that sees the film as a statement on the overabundance of "shitty superhero origin stories" that have populated movie theaters for the last decade, as well as a discourse on power relations in pop culture hero figures:
People complain that The Lone Ranger is boring, that it's almost totally devoid of fun except for the final 10 minutes, that it's ridiculously violent and yet inert. And all of these things are true — but you have to understand, it's all part of a calculated strategy, to sink far enough to burrow all the way to the infarcted heart of the terrible superhero origin story.
The goal is to show you who is to blame for the crappiness of so many superhero origin movies — you — and to punish you for allowing movies like The Lone Ranger to exist.
We tend to think of superhero movies as power fantasies, in which the use of America's status as a superpower is reflected by the hero struggling to use his or her power responsibly. But Lone Ranger seems to be making the case that the real seductive fantasy of these stories is absolution from blame — the Lone Ranger gets the Native American seal of approval from Tonto, as long as he's wearing the mask. He gets surcease from America's original sin.