Seasonal Disorder: Summer-Blockbuster Fatigue

Audiences have been bombarded with big-budget spectacles — and the season is only half over

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Warner Bros.

Judging by recent reports, we’re now at the point of the summer-movie season when audiences no longer go see each and every new film. And as a result, the internet is awash in strange theories whose basic tone is: Who is trying to stop [Movie X] from succeeding? (I am, sadly, not joking.) On the Monday following the The Lone Ranger‘s dismal opening weekend it looks poised to become this season’s John Carter. That is, a big-budget would-be franchise that bombs and  invites much commentary about how a studio — in both these cases, Disney — can’t create a blockbuster series that doesn’t involve a superhero or animated character. Even accounting for bad reviews and miserable word-of-mouth — The Lone Ranger scored a dismal 25 percent score on the review-aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes —  might there be some other factors at work.

We are, by my count, more than two months into the summer-blockbuster season — I’m unofficially using the early May release of Iron Man 3 as a starting point — and in addition to the armored Avenger and the masked lawman, we’ve already been given Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, After Earth, Man of Steel, World War Z and White House Down.

And it’s not over yet; we’re still awaiting Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D., RED 2, The Wolverine, Elysium and so on. (Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s The World’s End, too, but I’m hoping that movie is the satirical antidote to all the posturing and pummeling in movies surrounding it.)

All told, we’ll be getting massive tent pole movies through August. The “summer movie season” will last something like sixteen weeks — each bringing a new movie with its own marketing campaign, must-see by trailers, commentary and social buzz. And that’s just far, far too long a period for anyone to stay as excited.

It might be different if the season was structured differently, but that’s almost never the case; the early months are front-loaded with the big movies, all trying to establish dominance at the multiplex. (That doesn’t really happen, though; Iron Man 3 is still out there, still playing in a few theaters, though, at this point, it feels like the movie came out in 2010).  It doesn’t help that there’s a sameness to so many of these titles. Villains who aren’t who they appear to be? Check. (Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness).  Imagery evocative of real-life terrorist attacks? Sure. (Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel)! End-of-the-world paranoia? You got it. (This Is The End, World War Z and After Earth)?!?

There are too many movies, and not enough differentiation between them; everything ends up blending into one generic action movie with lots of explosions, dramatic music, and uplifting finales that may or may not have been earned by everything that came before. It’s not simply that we, as an audience, have grown weary of all of the manufactured “excitement.” At least The Lone Ranger switched things up by swapping lasers for some horses.

I’m unsure quite what the solution to this summer malaise really is. I’d suggest more varied movies, but the variations seem to sink with even less of a trace than those that foliow tried-and-tested formulas. Better movies, then, so that they’re more memorable? A shorter summer season? I don’t know, to be honest. All I can honestly say for sure is that, it’d be nice to reach July without feeling quite so beaten down by movies and marketing.