Blockbuster season: Hollywood pulls out the big guns
How to escape this summer with the best of Hollywood's big films
Tuesday 26 May 2009
We've already had Fast & Furious getting petrolheads excited about exceeding the speed limit in disco-coloured cars back in April, while Star Trek, X-Men Origins:Wolverine and Angels & Demons are still raking in the cash. Now, with the school holidays on the horizon, the next few months herald the summer of zero-subtext, from Christian Bale's turn as the Terminator all the way through to August's GI Joe: the Rise of Cobra.
Hollywood's thinking behind plying our screens with entertaining nonsense is quite simple. The world is gripped by recession and depression, but the studio suits still want to plunder the public's purse. How to do that? Give the people some uncomplicated bang for their hard-earned buck.
Turn back the clock 70 years to the Great Depression and the movie business was playing the same role. "Hollywood knew the most precious commodity for the times was escapism and they were in a unique position to deliver it via their best films," says The Huffington Post film critic John Farr. "They served as a tonic for battered souls in dire need of laughter and reassurance."
Hence It Happened One Night (1934), Bringing Up Baby (1938) and a whole host of screwball comedies that allowed fed-up audiences to laugh at the protagonists' shallow absurdities and to forget their own, deeper woes. "If the public had to survive without all the good things that money could buy," explains Farr, "at least they could live vicariously through on-screen characters that did possess them."
So, GI Joe: the Rise of Cobra and JJ Abrams' Star Trek are to the straitened Noughties what It Happened One Night and Bringing Up Baby were to the austere Thirties – but with added lycra and extended fight scenes. What this year's blockbusters share with the Great Depression films is a desire to amuse, albeit with far more CGI and a whole lot less screwball.
Perhaps cinema will be the recession's great survivor. Already, many huge US productions – Gulliver's Travels, Clash of the Titans, Nottingham – are set to shoot in the UK because of the strength of the dollar against the pound, while statistics released by the Film Distributors' Association show cinema attendances up 16% year-on-year for the first quarter of 2009. If cinema owners want to keep the people coming – and there's no World Cup or Olympics to distract this year so the public is there for the taking – they could do worse than latch on to the tactics of the Great Depression. Back then, as extra incentive for the poverty stricken, enterprising cinema folk offered deals or bonus cartoons and B-Movies ahead of the "Featured Attraction".
It's about giving the audience that little bit extra, something they wouldn't get from sitting at home and watching the television with a can of supermarket own-brand lager. Suddenly the explosion of 3-D movies – Bolt, Coraline, Up, Avatar – seems suspiciously well-timed. For two hours, you've got to help the people to forget.
Additional reporting by Alasdair Glennie
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food