Monday, May 28, 2007

The Darling Duds of May

Spider-Man. Shrek. Pirates of the Caribbean. They are three of the top six biggest movie trilogies of all time. The "thirds" of these trilogies cost a combined $718 million to make, not including hundreds of millions spent on marketing campaigns, and they all came out this month. These were record-breaking, record-founding franchises to begin with, and now it is hard to find a record sheet of any kind in the industry whose top ten places contain less than five movies from these franchises. Biggest Friday Gross, Biggest Saturday Gross, Biggest Single Day Gross, Biggest Opening Day, Biggest Opening Weekend, Biggest 4-Day Total, Biggest 5-Day total, Fastest to $100 million, Fastest to $200 million, Fastest to $300 Million — three of the only five movies to ever make more than $400 million dollars in the US come from these three franchises. Not only is 2007 the first year in the history of cinema to have three $100+ million opening weekends, it had them all in the same month, a total of $365 million dollars for these three movies alone. All these numbers add up to only one thing: more Spider-Man, Shrek, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

I'm not impressed.

Sure, Spider-Man 3 and Pirates 3 were enjoyable movies, even entertaining, but great movies they were not. They had funny parts, exciting parts, sad parts, tense parts — far too many parts that never came together to make a coherent whole. It's disappointing, really. [For the sake of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I haven't seen Shrek 3, and I most likely won't so I will offer no opinion of it here other than my total avoidance of it.]

Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 were well-made movies that told compelling stories about relatable, believable (within the context and style of the movies) characters; in the genre of superhero movies they rank as high on my list as any movie can that was not made by Bryan Singer. Spider-Man 3 is a mish-mash of under-developed characters, hazy motivations, overly convenient plot twists, missed opportunities, and incoherent action sequences — it makes me wonder what happened to the people who made the first two. When I see a great movie, I think about it all the way home from the theater; sadly, I wasn't even thinking about this movie by the time I got in my car.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl introduced one of the most unique and inherently entertaining characters in film history: Captain Jack Sparrow. How can two sequels with this character fail to be hugely entertaining? The answer: if they fail to establish a unifying storyline and stick with it. Two hours into the second movie, I was still wondering where the story was supposed to be heading. My major complaint with the second movie ended up also applying to the third movie: they played like a succession of "cool scenes" with too little tying them together. I am starting to agree with most filmmakers' resistance to making more than one sequel at a time. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix, even to a much lesser extent The Lord of the Rings — all these trilogies had excellent beginnings, and were followed up by lesser movies simply because the filmmakers couldn't stop saying, "wouldn't it be cool if we _____" and lost the overall story. For the Pirates trilogy, at the end of five and a half hours of sequels, I am left with only two memorable scenes: the scene in the second movie where the woman (How sad is that? Two movies and they can't even get me to remember her name.) gleefully accepts the undead monkey as payment for information, and the scene after the end credits of the third. Dishonorable mention goes to "The Attack of the 50 Foot Tall Woman" and the end of the third movie, where you-know-who stabs the you-know-what and takes you-know-whose place. Call me picky, but that's a dumb ending.

It's not all bad news from May though. Surprisingly, the two biggest blockbuster movies of the summer were completely and utterly outdone by two hours of television. Lost capped off a spectacular third season with a two hour finale that ranks among the most excellent hours of TV I have seen. The twist ending managed to answer the most basic of all of this show's mysteries while at the same time posing about a hundred new questions to be answered next season (or maybe just forty eight, that being the number of episodes remaining in the series), and left me checking my calendar to find out how many months until the next episode (eight). Compelling characters, moving sacrifices, exciting action, intriguing storylines, mysteries galore — storytelling at its best. Take a lesson, Captain Jack.

(If you object, ironically, that Lost had an advantage over these two huge franchises in its 70+ hours of character and story development, I will point you to the pilot episode of the series and dare you not to be intrigued by the end of it.)

Here's hoping Hollywood can manage to stand on its own the next couple of months; the rest of the summer won't have Lost to redeem it.

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Blogger Kelly said...

The "Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman" and the ending of Pirates 3 both toppled that movie from "potentially good" to "waste of time" for me. It was disappointing....

Friday, June 15, 2007 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Mickyann said...

you really thought that highly of the lost finale? I thought the season as a whole was rather disappointing. I liked the finale a lot, but I guess it didn't tie up (or tie together, rather) enough for me. I do need to go back and watch it again, though. I was really frustrated at some of the more stupid plot twists and Ben is just getting aggravating. I like that he's not a conventional villain, but he's just a little too snively and spineless and it SUPER frustrating that #1 people STILL believe what he says and #2 NO ONE ON THE ISLAND WILL ASK A SINGLE INTELLIGENT QUESTION! As far as unconventional villains go, I much prefer Sylar from Heroes. ... but I haven't seen the finale of that yet. It won't air for a few more weeks here... and my cable is out because I was traveling and didn't pay for last month. Hmmm, maybe I'll have to buy it on iTunes.

Saturday, June 16, 2007 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger treeinforest said...

I certainly thought (and still think) that highly of the Lost finale, though I will admit that I haven't yet watched it a second time. I still have it recorded though, so give me time.

It fascinated me from beginning to end, and if at times it was outlandish, well, Lost has always been that.

Lost, at its best, leaves us always wondering what is going to happen next, and this time the writers have demonstrated that we can't even begin to guess. I think it's terrific.

Saturday, June 16, 2007 4:59:00 PM  

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