(Controversies, Missteps, and Bad News)
4. Bad B.O. – Despite the number of hits this year, there were several box office results that were quite painful. In March, Power Rangers surprised by being better than it had any right to be, and as a non-fan of the property, made me excited to see where the planned seven film arc would take the characters. Yet, despite a great release date and great fan reaction, Power Rangers was DOA and failed to gain any traction. May gave us a double-dose of disappointment with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and Alien: Covenant, two films that I found particularly refreshing, and deserving of multiple sequels. While King Arthur’s box office was a bit more expected, Alien: Covenant really should have had longer legs, especially considering how the studio and Scott gave into the post-Prometheus fan requests to focus more on the xenomorph. Baywatch also belly flopped in May, and while the film wasn’t anything spectacular, it was an enjoyable enough movie that was surprisingly perhaps the first major blow to Dwayne Johnson’s moniker of “box office Viagra.” June failed to launch Universal’s Dark Universe with The Mummy, and less than six months later, Dark Universe shuttered its doors and put the monsters back in their crypts. Between 2014’s Dracula Untold and The Mummy, we’re hoping that whenever the third time comes that it will prove to be the charm in this monster cinematic universe. In July, War for the Planet of the Apes made significantly less than its predecessor, despite how well received Dawn was. Critical reception didn’t help its legs, and between that and the Disney buyout, that may be the end of the rebooted franchise, which still had further entries planned to get us to the point of the original film. Critical reception also didn’t help Blade Runner 2049 in October, despite it being a near masterpiece. Blade Runner may be regarded as an all-time classic but most general audiences weren’t interested enough in the property to sit through a three-hour movie. The final major blow of the year came from November’s Justice League, a film that despite reshoots and retooling (we’ll get to that) failed to even make $100 million over its opening weekend, and will end its box office run making less than formerly relatively unknown Doctor Strange, a sad state for our most iconic heroes. 2017 was a year of failed would-be franchises, most of which deserved far more than what they made. We’re expecting significant changes to be made in-house at several studios, and not all of them may be for the better.
3. 21st Century Mouse – In an unprecedented move, 21st Century Fox sold their film and TV assets, with the exception of sports and news, to Disney. While many film fans and websites fixated on what this means for superhero movies and an Avengers vs X-Men showdown, a significant number, myself included, are more concerned with how this acquisition lessens the artistic license of filmmaking and who gets to tell those stories. It’s not an issue of the quality of films Disney turns out, but the fact that in a monopoly someone always loses. Disney is notorious for risk-aversion, something Fox in its post-Rothman state was becoming quite good at. Sure, the Silver Surfer can interact with the Guardians of the Galaxy, which will be cool, but I wonder what will happen to properties like Alien, Planet of the Apes, Predator, The Fly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and all of those X-properties that refused to be molded into superhero films.
2. Studio Meddling – This year we continued to see the fallout from hyperbolic, negative critical reactions and bandwagon jumping in the form of studio handwringing. While a less grievous offense, it was no secret that Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant took a different shape after complaints about Prometheus straying too far from 1979’s Alien ran rampant. The result was a compromise, that allowed Covenant to continue its most interesting arc with Michael Fassbender’s David, while also returning to the horror roots and creature terror of the original film. The result still left many audience members and critics unhappy. Lucasfilm made its own share of internal choices, not as a result of critical and fan reactions, but in an effort to preserve their brand. The firing of Lord and Miller from Solo, and their subsequent replacement with Ron Howard won’t be able to be fully examined until next year, and we may never know the full story. But I do think the right decision was made in firing Colin Trevorrow from Episode 9 and replacing him with JJ Abrams, particularly given the high bar that The Last Jedi set. Warner Bros., partially because of the tragic death of Zack Snyder’s daughter, allowed significant reshoots and rescoring on Justice League and never took control of the narrative of what was happening behind the scenes. The end result was a film I enjoyed, but found lacking in Snyder’s style and ambitious reconstruction of these iconic heroes. Neither fans nor critics were receptive of the final product. The takeaway from all of this is that studios shouldn’t give in to the demands of critics or audience members afraid of change because most don’t know what they want and will spurn it anyway. Filmmakers should be hired to make films, not used as hired help for movies made by suits looking for their next pay bonus.
1. Sexual Predators – The biggest story in Hollywood this year was the unveiling of sexual predators in Hollywood, beginning with Harvey Weinstein. The dominos only continued to fall from there with Kevin Spacey being revealed as a man with a long history of perversion and abuse, which led to his removal and replacement by Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World. While Weinstein and Spacey were perhaps the most significant revelations, given their bodies of work and seeming respect for them in the industry, more individuals from stage, film, television, and music were outed by the brave women and men who came forward through their stories, private messages, and #metoo. But it wasn’t only women in Hollywood who came forward with the urging to “believe women” but also women in the film journalism industry. These women brought forward allegations which saw the likes of Devin Faraci, Harry Knowles, and the Alamo Drafthouse revealed as practitioners and enablers of gross sexual misconduct. If something good can come out of the hurt of all these victims, it’s hopefully that women will be given greater respect and prominence, both in these industries and in general. If there’s one thing we should take away from all of this, it’s that this system of power and abuse doesn’t just happen in the entertainment industry. It happens everywhere, every day. Listen to women.