EDITORIAL: New Year's Resolutions for the Movie Industry for 2013
As I said last year, plenty of regular everyday people make New Year's Resolutions, but I think bigger entities, namely movie makers and movie moguls, need to make them too. After much fun and success last year, welcome to my second annual "New Year's Resolutions for the Movie Industry." Back in January of 2012, I highlighted (more like implored) the needs of longer waits between reboots, not screwing up the big movies, making double projects, and not using British actors in American roles. All were for fun and some luckily worked out. Others, however, could get a repeat listing for 2013, like bringing back older movies in 3D to cash in more dollars (Jurassic Park, Top Gun, The Little Mermaid, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith will all be re-released in 3D and IMAX), letting Adam Sandler keep working (Razzie shoeins That's My Boy last year and Grown-Ups 2 this year), or pointless and undeserved sequels (Red 2, Insidious 2, and The Smurfs 2 , among others coming in 2013). To see that article to compare 2012 to what really happened, follow this link.
For 2013, let's roll out some new hopes, dreams, and expectations. Let's also speak out to put down some ridiculous trends, tendencies, and bad habits that are ruining the movie industry. I've been building this soapbox and working up a lather since writing the same piece last January. It's time to let it out now in hopes for a good year. With a strong list of 20, I give you my wishes for needed changes and corrected habits. You better hit the gym, Hollywood. Enjoy!
20) IT HAS TO BE SAID. DISNEY, PLEASE DON'T OVEREXPOSE AND RUIN THE STAR WARS FRANCHISE BEFORE YOU EVEN GET STARTED-- Ever since the daring multi-billion dollar George Lucas sale of his Star Wars properties to Walt Disney Company and the announcement of creating new movies in the series, the swirling rumors have been non-stop.
I know, when it comes to resolutions, that nothing is slated for 2013, but I'm asking right up front for some temperance and pacing. Thanks to the social media realm we live in and the rabid fandom for the Star Wars universe, every little B.S. whisper and supposed story steals front page news. If the industry journalism is this bad now, imagine how much worse it's going to be when they actually start rolling cameras and casting a new movie. It's already out of hand. Cool it down now, before it gets too crazy, Disney.
19) I'M GOING TO CATCH THE WRATH OF THE BIG-WIG CRITICS, BUT SOMEBODY PLEASE TAKE THE CAMERA OUT OF TERRANCE MALICK'S HANDS AND MAKE HIM WRITE A REAL SCRIPT-- This is a personal rant of warning that I need to get off my chest. In 2011, Terrance Malick got a great deal of awards and industry love with The Tree of Life, a divisive and wandering mess of art, to say the least. I get that he's an "artist," but movies can't be just pretty pictures and voice-over parables for three hours. They have to come to some semblance of a point. I slammed the movie with a hilarious must-read one-star review back then and berated anyone who gave it perfect reviews. Well, in 2013, he's at it again with the upcoming To the Wonder, opening in domestic theaters in April after premiering back in September 2012 at the Venice Film Festival. Here's the first trailer. At least To the Wonder is only 112 minutes. The Tree of Life was nearly three hours. Still, I don't know if I can handle another meandering thud of pointlessness.
18) SPEAKING OF DISNEY, SOMEBODY GIVE POOR TAYLOR KITSCH A BREAK-- I don't think anyone, from a box office standpoint, could have had a worse headlining year than the former Friday Night Lights heartthrob had in 2012. While I really enjoyed and spoke the praises of John Carter, the expensive Disney flop only started the shipwreck of Battleship and Savages that followed. Taylor's not Daniel Day-Lewis, but he's not that bad. Full banishment isn't necessary. Maybe the guy needs another spicy TV role to get himself some success before starring on the silver screen again. I predict he could follow the path of Jeremy Renner, who had early successes and failures before elevating himself since The Hurt Locker to the A-list.
17) I KNOW IT'S CONTROVERSIAL, BUT DON'T CENSOR YOURSELF TOO STRONGLY-- If you didn't notice back around the time of the tragic Aurora, Colorado theater shooting in July, Ruben Fleischer's Gangster Squad, starring Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn, was poised to be a great throwback of mobster action and a big fall contender. However, through no fault of its own, the plot contained a prominent theater shooting scene. Gangster Squad and its marketing (which did hint at the scene) was pulled, re-shot, and re-edited for a January release, bumping it from Oscar contention. I get avoiding the connection to tragedy, but movies are meant to be escapism and should be taught to be nothing more than that. I know there are crazy imitators of movie and video game violence out there (much like the Aurora shooter himself), but I feel bad for Gangster Squad and the state of the business
16) ENOUGH WITH THE ZOMBIE TREND ALREADY-- We can thank movies (Zombieland) and basic cable (AMC's The Walking Dead) for blowing this trend out of proportion. Now Hollywood wants their piece of the pie and chunk of your wallet. This coming winter, you'll get Warm Bodies. Brad Pitt's epic World War Z is poised to be a summer blockbuster and there's always R.I.P.D. with Ryan Reynolds. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Hit the overkill alert.
15) YOU CAN CALL IT A PREQUEL ALL YOU WANT, BUT DON'T TRY TO PRETEND TO REBOOT OR REMAKE A GREAT LIKETHE WIZARD OF OZ WITH OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL-- Shame on you, Disney, and shame on you too, Sam Raimi. Both of you are more creative that this (trailer). As I touched on during a 2012 editorial on sequels, The Wizard of Oz is one of the "untouchables." The musical Wicked can get away with it because it's on Broadway in a completely different medium and art form. Alice in Wonderland can get away with it because most of us know it as an animated Disney movie. A new palette works there. This one just doesn't feel right, even in the talented hands of Sam Raimi and a flashy cast (James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz). There's not a enough sepia and song to match Judy Garland and company.
14) SPEAKING OF CLASSICS, STOP MODERNIZING OR "ACTION-IFYING" FAIRY TALES OR NURSERY RHYMES-- Sure, Snow White and the Huntsman made a little bit of summer money, but did Mirror Mirror do anything for you? I understand that classic stories will always be remade for each new generation (take this newest Les Miserables) to enjoy, but keep them classic. There is absolutely no need for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters or Jack the Giant Slayer (Bryan Singer's amped up "Jack and the Beanstalk" retelling). What's next, the three little pigs showing up in The Expendables 3? The dumb ideas never cease to amaze me. Don't waste your money at these movies this coming year. Send a message with your wallet.
13) ALONG THE SAME LINES, IF YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT A CLASSIC CHARACTER, MAKE SURE THAT CHARACTER IS THE STAR, NOT HIS OR HER SIDEKICK-- This resolution is squarely aimed at Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger. You would think a movie about The Lone Ranger would feature The Lone Ranger. Who's on all of the posters and gets all of the cool spots and lines in the trailer? The Social Network's Armie Hammer playing The Lone Ranger, right? No! It's all selling the sidekick Tanto played by megastar Johnny Depp. I get that you have to sell movies and Depp fans come out for anything, but come on, kemosabe. I've seen Depp play a seemingly drunk and wiry guy in heavy makeup 15 times already. Give someone else a chance.
12) WE'LL GIVE YOU THIS COMING YEAR, BUT PACE YOURSELF ON THE ORIGINAL SCIENCE FICTION A LITTLE BIT-- I'm as stoked as anyone for some original science fiction that is taken seriously and not another lame remake or sequel (Total Recall anyone?). However, spread them out or they are all going to end up looking the same to uninformed audiences. The trailers and teasers that have been coming out for After Earth, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, Elysium, and The Host. They all raise great eyebrows and garner solid interest (as will Ender's Game when it gets a trailer), but I fear they are all after the same niche in the same year. They might end up cancelling each other out, especially beside big-name stuff like Star Trek: Into the Darkness. While we're here and prognosticating early, Pacific Rim looks like the beast to beat, literally.
11) PLEASE DON'T LET MAN OF STEEL SUCK-- Last year, I begged and pleaded for The Avengers not to suck and it delivered. I felt it was too important to fail. Karma and superstition causes me to hope for the same for director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel. Please be more Watchmen and 300 and less Sucker Punch. Thank you for getting Christopher Nolan as a wise overseer and producer. That will help. If he could make 2005's Batman Begins immediately wash the taste of 1997's Batman and Robin out our mouths after eight years, then he's the right guy to make sure 2006's Superman Returns becomes a footnote as well. The teasers and trailer have been pitch-perfect for a legitimate serious reboot for the greatest superhero of them all. He deserves something good and big. If this movie flops the way Green Lantern did and Batman is really done for a while (see next resolution), the state of DC Comics as movie properties is dead for a long while. Once again, it's too important to fail.
10) WHILE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT DC COMICS, PLEASE DON'T REBOOT BATMAN AFTER THE DARK KNIGHT RISES-- Go back to my resolution from last year about waiting 5-10 years for a movie reboot and listen. Writer-director Christopher Nolan just put a dynamite ending and appropriate bow on his extremely good Dark Knight trilogy, one worthy of putting alongside the great movie trilogies. Don't ruin that for more money. Just because Batman always sells and Marvel is rocking The Avengers doesn't that mean we need an immediate new Caped Crusader (even if it's Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Let Nolan's vision last as the gold standard for a while. He and the trilogy itself have earned that respect.
9) WHILE WE'RE STILL TALKING ABOUT DC COMICS, WARNER BROS., PLAN JUSTICE LEAGUE BETTER THAN YOU ARE RIGHT NOW-- On the heels of The Dark Knight Rises's monster success, Warner Bros. is supposedly trying to fast-track a full-fledged Justice League movie to compete with Marvel's Avengers (and even tried to court Ben Affleck to direct). They want it as soon as 2015. I get that your heroes are classic and just as good as theirs (even better to some degree) to make blockbuster money, but it's too soon, too fast, and too incomplete. Green Lantern tanked and is going to need either a dramatically better sequel or a complete overhaul (likely both). Batman just ended with proper closure and shouldn't come back this soon. Combining Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and more for a 2015 release isn't going to happen without being messy and substandard. That and The Avengers 2 is slated for 2015. Justice League would get crushed. Take a page from Marvel's blueprint and start with individual movies. Let Man of Steel get established and set a new tone for that world. Build from there. Give The Flash and Wonder Woman worthy movies and then see what can be done with Batman down the road. Two years is too soon and pure insanity to go directly against The Avengers 2. You want to separate what makes your crew better and different than theirs, not compare and compete with them.
8) NOW THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT MARVEL, KNOW THAT IRON MAN 3 IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYONE REALIZES-- Great job, Marvel! You've just executed the most ambitious long-term movie franchise plan in Hollywood history to the tune of grossing over $620 million stateside and just under $900 internationally with The Avengers. You did it, but now you want more. You're talking a "Phase 2" which is wilder than the first six movies, and it all begins with Iron Man 3. If that movie lays an egg (and with Iron Man 2 in mind, it's capable) coming off of The Avengers, this franchise could derail and fall before Thor: The Dark World (also coming in 2013), Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and, finally, The Avengers 2 ever get here. Has Marvel bit off more than it can chew or are they still geniuses? We'll find out in 2013.
7) BEFORE LEAVING THE TOPIC OF MARVEL, PLEASE GIVE THE INCREDIBLE HULK ANOTHER CHANCE AT A SOLO MOVIE OR SEQUEL-- I'm pretty sure anyone who saw The Avengers last summer walked out of there with renewed joy and love for the mean, green, Thor-punching, and Loki-swinging Hulk. He flat-out stole the show and Mark Ruffalo nailed the character after Edward Norton bailed from playing Bruce Banner again after 2008's The Incredible Hulk. I know the busy Marvel Films is a little bit on the verge of overkill with the six-film "Phase 2" I just outlined last resolution, but surely there's room for Mark Ruffalo and his Hulk getting another bite at the apple. Let's see a green light on this project come to fruition in 2013.
6) LET BEN AFFLECK KEEP DIRECTING SMALL MOVIES. DON'T MOVE HIM UP TO BLOCKBUSTERS-- I hinted at this two resolutions ago when I mentioned that Warner Bros. was trying to court Ben Affleck to direct Justice League (he wisely passed). Instead, word around the campfire is that he has replaced Harry Potter director David Yates for bringing Stephen King's immense The Stand to the big screen. That's too much, bro. I say let him stay small. His resume as a director is flawless with engrossing character-driven drama/thrillers Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and this past year's Argo, which is poised to score multiple Oscar nominations for Affleck himself and others. Let him keep growing into the new Clint Eastwood rather than a new Michael Bay. He and blockbusters don't mix. Just look at his acting career. Avoid this at all costs, Ben. Justice League was too big and so is The Stand.
5) MAKE SURE THE GREAT GATSBY WAS WORTH THE WAIT AND NOT JUST WORTH THE WASTEFUL 3D-- Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet director Baz Luhrmann better know what he is doing. It's been 39 years since Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and high school kids need a new and reliable movie to cheat with Cliff Notes on for F. Scott Fitzgerald's master work. No pressure. This can't be a zany modern-swinging take. Make it as decadent and gaudy as the times it showcases. If anyone can do decadent and gaudy, it's certainly Luhrmann. This film was hyped and marketed last summer for an awards-friendly Christmas Day 2012 premiere (which, coincidentally, would have put Leo vs. Leo and Django Unchained). However, it was bumped for a summer release on May 10, 2013, just a week after Iron Man 3, with the goal of converting it to 3D. I'm not sure if this was Luhrmann's call to add to the experience or Warner Bros. being out for extra cash, via 3D surcharge ticket prices. While you're there, hire an extra editor, just in case. The move to summer already costs The Great Gatsby Oscar momentum as few summer movies sustain themselves as viable Best Picture contenders and, if the 3D ruins it, you've now sunk a lot of money into a lemon. Put this on the "I hope it doesn't suck" list.
4) MAKE SURE THE HANGOVER III ISN'T JUST A COPY OF THE HANGOVER PART II, WHICH WAS ALREADY A COPY OF THE HANGOVER-- One of the most disappointing sequels from a creative standpoint was 2011's The Hangover Part II. Sure, it was funny and made a ton of money, but it was a foreign-set carbon copy of the first one. You guys can do better than that. So far, the makers of The Hangover III are saying it's different this time around. I'll believe it when I see it (and I know I will be doing just that).
3) PLEASE MAKE MORE THAN ONE JAMES BOND MOVIE EVERY FOUR YEARS-- Skyfall was just outstanding in every way possible. While I know 2007's Quantum of Solace was less than stellar, Skyfall showed that four years was too long between James Bond movies. Don't be too long this next time and lose the great momentum created by Skyfall, easily the highest grossing film of the 50-year franchise and the highest grossing movie in the history of Sony Pictures. Besides, Daniel Craig isn't getting any younger and his window may be closing. I'm not saying it has to be 2013, but at least get it going for 2014.
2) PLEASE MAKE MORE THAN ONE STAR TREK MOVIE EVERY FOUR YEARS-- Much like the gap betweenQuantum of Solace and Skyfall, by the time the heavily anticipated Star Trek: Into the Darkness hits theaters on May 17, 2013, it will have been over four year since its rebooted debut from 2009. That is a little too long. I get that Star Trek films are enormous productions that require huge post-production time, but just a little clout and momentum is lost with a wait that long. I blame the multi-tasking director J.J. Abrams, who keeps dabbling in TV projects that occupy his time. I could be wrong. The Dark Knight Rises waited four years after The Dark Knight. If the new Star Trek was three years, it would have competed against The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers this past year. If it was every two years, much like the timetable between the 2007, 2009, and 2011 course of Paramount's other huge franchise, Transformers, it might burn itself out as that series did. I think the quality of the films keep away the burnout. Just look at Harry Potter. They got better with time and Star Trek has a mark of quality already.
1) FINALLY, HURRY UP AND GET THIS YEAR OVER WITH, HOLLYWOOD, SO THAT WE CAN GET TO 2014. I WANT TO LIVE LONG ENOUGH TO SEE THE HOBBIT END-- In the words of Rodney Dangerfield from Caddyshack, "let's go, while we're young." It's bad enough Peter Jackson took a book one-third the size of any of the Lord of the Rings series and split into three long movies, but then it gets spread out over two-and-a-half years of release. I know the first trilogy made you wait every December from 2001 to 2003, but this is stretching things a bit far. I loved The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and preached patience in seeing his vision through all the way toThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, but a wait this long is going to make me read the book. Ugh! My regular readers know how much I am NOT going to do that. Hurry up and get to June 2014!