Three years ago in high school, while hanging out in a cozy basement with two of my best friends, I decided to try to be a cinematic Nostradamus. Preaching the coming death and doom that was to befall us, I told my friends to look out at the far distant year of 2014, our first year of college — it was that year that I predicted would lead to a complete overhaul in the film industry.
I looked out at all of the sequels, reboots, and everything that was going to be based on a popular young adult novel and decided that it all had to go to bust. All the years leading up to my prediction had become more and more blockbuster-heavy, and with the introduction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into our lives, the epidemic was getting worse.
However, I was wrong. 2014 came and went without the great cinematic ruination and the loss of billons upon billions of dollars. Instead, the world of cinema went chugging along even better than before. I was so wrong, in fact, that Hollywood Blockbusters proved to the public that they could be even more.
And by that, I mean more everything. “Captain America: Winter Soldier” taught us that superhero movies could act as self-aware political commentary, “Guardians of the Galaxy” taught us that superhero movies could be hilarious, and a second “Amazing Spider-Man” movie taught us that the world wouldn't need another Spider-Man reboot for the next twenty years.
I guess what really upset me was that I had gotten it so wrong. Not only was the blockbuster phenomenon not over, but the blockbusters were becoming better (at least for that year). The cycle now seems never-ending, one summer after another there is an onslaught of sequels, reboots, and remakes that are crammed into every weekend of the summer. Unless they really mess up, unless they are truly terrible, they never lose money.
This summer alone, look at the lineup: “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” ANOTHER SPIDER-MAN REBOOT, “Wonder Woman,” the never-ending reign of the “Transformers” franchise that keeps sucking in more good actors until it takes over the world — and I cut five movies out of that list. Don’t you stop and wonder if we will run out of space? Won’t the blockbusters start to compete with each other to the point of billions, billions, and billions of dollars lost?
Back when I made this prediction I couldn’t have even fathomed the other side of the coin, as I was optimistic about the future of Netflix and Amazon. “House of Cards” had literally just come out, no one knew that that or any show made by a streaming service could make a movie or — even more outlandish — produce its own films. With more people going TV-free, I’m now worried that the future of popular cinema is all blockbusters.
Now, it would be ridiculous to say that the big movie studios and the theaters that service them will literally only show blockbusters. Hollywood is still going to keep making rom-coms and kids movies because those always make money, despite the fact that they aren’t given such loving attention. No, I am merely saying the thing we already see happening will get worse: more blockbusters and less of everything else, every summer until the end of the world, because markets like Netflix and Amazon are starting to pick up the slack.
The indie markets and other genres are not dead. In fact, one could make the point that they are thriving more than ever, but for Hollywood cinema, the vast desert between the summer blockbuster season and the late fall/winter Oscar season is going to become more desiccated than ever.
Studios will continue to duke it out between one superhero franchise and another, and there will be a great gnashing of teeth as darkness will cover the land. But don’t take my word for it; I’m already a once-wrong Nostradamus — I hope I’m even more wrong this time.