Anthony Stokes believes that 2013 has been a disappointing summer for blockbuster movies…
This summer has been pretty good for movies and intellectual properties. We won’t see anther big event-filled summer like this until 2015 when we get Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: Episode VII, and supposedly a World’s Finest movie to name but a few. But for all of these big event films this year, there hasn’t been a definitive, uncontested success of the summer. For the most part, this year’s big movies have been good, but they all have one thing in common that’s stopped them from being great, including Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim and The Wolverine…
Summer of 2013 will forever be remembered as the summer of sloppy third acts.
All the aforementioned movies start off strong with great a premise, story, or concept. But along the way they either throw away the story for action (Pacific Rim, Fast & Furious 6), or become so focussed on cartoonish spectacle that it doesn’t gel with the rest of the movie (Pacific Rim, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel). I actually think Iron Man 3 had a fine balance of spectacle and story, but it doesn’t stick the landing. Think back to all the movies I just mentioned. Where do the majority of the complaints come from? I know specifically The Wolverine, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Man of Steel have all been singled out for wavering in the last 30 minutes or so. I’ve already mentioned why Man of Steel’s ending doesn’t work, but personally for me Star Trek Into Darkness is the worst offender because 2009’s Star Trek avoided making the mistakes that Into Darkness walks – or rather cannonballs – into.
Studios need to realize that audiences don’t want what they think they want. This whole notion of throwing the kitchen sink at audiences is a new idea. Fan service and references are a double edged sword. Half the crowd will be excited, but the other half won’t care because they’ve already seen it, or they want to enjoy what’s in front of them now. Everybody loves a huge action scene, but that’s after we’ve fallen in love with the characters and a threat has been established. The Avengers has been the only movie in recent memory that has had a big blowout last action scene that worked because it further developed the characters, was well-paced, had been built up the entire movie, and had a point instead of just being mindless action. I listened to the commentary on The Avengers and the brilliant Joss Whedon basically structured the last action scene in five acts: they fight as individuals; they assemble; they start to lose; they triumph; the end. Doesn’t that sound nicer than: explosion; car crash; bigger explosion; sudden out of place character death; Deus Ex Machina resulting in defeat of bad guy with weak motivation; the end? When dealing with a franchise, we care about the characters. We don’t want Spock and Superman simply punching people in the face, we want them to grow as they’re punching people in the face.
Don’t get me wrong, I love action as much as the next guy, but there should be a consistent amount of story through an entire movie. And I absolutely love half of these movies – I’ll let you guess which ones – it’s just that they didn’t stick the landing and deliver a consistent experience all the way through, which is sad. I think this is more or less an echo from last summer when The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers had two action packed third acts, and hopefully filmmakers will learn from this and try to make more meaningful final battles, or at least ones that are choreographed with some sense of purpose, flow, or rhythm. More than likely, it’s the studios going, “we need more action or the audience will get bored”. There’s a diminishing effect though – the longer an action scene goes on the more boring it becomes, but that’s besides the point. Your audience wants to be entertained, but they don’t want to be insulted and doing so will only result in losses on both sides.
Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.