2013 was a great year for movies. Take a look at the listings for your local theater, and you’re likely to see four or five great films that are worth the trek to the multiplex. But not everything this year was worthy of a Best Picture nomination. There were a fair share of bombs, and several of the summer tentpoles fell short of box-office and fan expectations.
So as we enter 2014 and everyone begins to make resolutions that they may or may not keep, why shouldn’t Hollywood make its own set of goals to aim for in the New Year? We’ve done the studios the favor of laying out a few aspirational resolutions that could result in a better time at the movies for everyone.
Leave The Marvel-izing To Marvel
After “The Avengers” became an enormous global hit, it was only a matter of time before every other studio attempted its own branded crossover event. Like any movie trend, there’s a waiting period between when something new and exciting comes along and when audiences see the reactionary films. About six months ago, Disney’s rival began to unveil their plans to beat Marvel at its own game. Warner Bros. is bringing Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman together in 2015. The X-Men and Fantastic Four now exist in a shared universe. Even “Terminator” will crossover between a new TV series and film trilogy. But here’s the thing: The model worked so well for Marvel because no one had done it before, and the superhero house spent years laying the groundwork. All of the copycats might turn out to be fantastically entertaining, but wouldn’t it be more exciting if all of these powerful franchises broke the mold in their own way instead of just following Marvel?
Be More Like ‘Her’
Spike Jonze’s sci-fi romance has yet to open wide, but when it does, audiences will get to experience the many mini-lessons that the story of Theodore Twombly and his OS girlfriend Samantha have to teach Hollywood. First of all, Chris Pratt should have a role in every movie. Seriously, the future “Guardians of the Galaxy” star is a movie enhancer; he just makes everything better. Secondly, the caricaturizing of Asian Americans is one of the most prevalent forms of racism in movies today — looking at you “Pitch Perfect” — but “Her” sidesteps cheap gags entirely and presents all of its characters, refreshingly, as actual human beings (except the artificially intelligent computers, of course). And finally, the story of “Her” could have been laughable in the wrong hands, but Jonze and his stellar cast approach the high concept with a straight face and put the characters at the front. It is a smart, adult movie, and it is so many of the things that are missing from films today.
Keep Better Track Of Finances
Like pretty much everyone, in the New Year, Hollywood needs to watch its budget more closely. There’s no reason for a movie about a 1950s radio star to cost $215 million, a samurai fantasy with Keanu Reeves to cost $200 million or a ghostly “Men in Black” rip-off to cost $130 million. “The Lone Ranger,” “47 Ronin” and “R.I.P.D.” represent some of the biggest studio losses of 2013, and none of them had to turn out this way, regardless of quality. Hollywood is spending too much and relying too heavily on star recognition and CGI spectacle, old ways of attracting audiences. If studios rolled back the budgets, they could make more movies without spending a penny more than they already are, and more releases means more chances for a hit. Makes sense, right?
Learn That A Good Movie Always Beats Brand Recognition
Just because we’ve heard of a character maybe once from our grandparents or a cartoon we used to watch as kids doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to see your gritty reboot of the property. Because studios have become averse to risk in any form, they now almost always require that big-budget efforts have a connection to something audiences are aware of, whether they have a particular fondness for it or not. This is why we’re about to see two Hercules movies, a bunch of Peter Pans and a couple “Jungle Book” adaptations, public domain properties that don’t cost the studios anything to use. But focusing on what audiences already know as a way to build in an audience keeps Hollywood focused on the past instead of taking the risk to find new characters and create new properties.
Acknowledge That ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘Frozen’ Aren’t Flukes
It’s been a belief too long held that women-led movies couldn’t be hits. The studios believed this because demographically, it’s the young men that buy the most stuff, but this year, three women hopefully killed off the belief for good. Katniss, Anna and Elsa led two of the most successful films of the year. “Frozen” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” hit theaters so close together that their dominance, jockeying for the top two spots, certainly seemed like the final blow for the old way of thinking. With the first part of “Mockingjay” set to hit next year, don’t expect the box-office results to be any different for 2014, but what we need to see is development of female-led properties.