Best of Times, Worst of Times. Editorial By Will Turner
Sin City, Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy... This is a year when Star Wars: Episode 3 was one of the worst films I've seen. And it was marred only by the usual melodrama (including a "shakes fist at sky" moment to induce cringing).
If critics want to travel back in time to 1997, they'd get Men In Black, but they'd also get Speed 2, The Avengers, Batman And Robin and Godzilla.
Do the critics appreciate this year's films? Not a bit! They complain—rather predictably—that Hollywood has run out of ideas and so many films this year were either sequels or remakes.
What these critics ought to realize is that some of their cherished favourites are remakes—Casablanca was an adaptation of the play Everybody Comes To Rick's; there were silent versions of Ben Hur and The Wizard Of Oz; the Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon was the third one filmed.
The best remakes (The Thomas Crown Affair, The Mask of Zorro, Shaft) take an aspect of the original or its source material and give a new take on it. In the case of War of the Worlds and Batman Begins, both films deal with the nature of terror from a post 9/11 perspective. Just as The Wild Bunch used its Western setting to comment on Vietnam, contemporary directors and screenwriters use this same clever ploy. While none of this year's speculative films will be winning Oscars (though I wouldn't be complaining if Christian Bale got Best Actor), they have raised the standard of crowd pleasing films, adding additional flavour to the usual fast food.
I steered consciously away from Fantastic Four—which was met with poor reviews by speculative fiction fans. It's bizarre then that this film was the one to rescue the American box office from its current "slump" (Bear in mind this "slump" was from $3.9 billion to $3.6 billion).
However, I feel the numbers are misleading. For a month, the American box office charts had seven $100 million grossing films in it. In effect, the excellent films have swung and cancelled each other out. Witness the chart switching of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Wedding Crashers. Essentially, the two just ate into each other's takings.
What frightens me is that studio executives will look at the figures and think: "We can't be trying to make quality films again, look what happened this year!" It's not the fault of the filmmakers that these films all came out in the same year. (And thankfully, none of them feature Jude Law.)
In short, we ought to cherish this year, because I don't think we'll get another year of quality blockbusters like this. Oh yeah, and did I mention The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, King Kong and Doom? (Alright, maybe not the last one...)
Will Turner is the author of Mix Tape, an anthology of short stories, poems, monologues, and sketches. He is also a screenwriter and filmmaker. He is currently developing a collaborative web comic, Reynard City. For more information, on all of his projects, visit his home page.