In Favor of Blockbusters: Cash, Explosions and Artistry

A distaste for blockbusters – so often rooted in snobbery – has escalated in the past few years, along with the rise of superhero movies, massive franchise tent poles and consistent reboots. To a certain extent, I sympathize. Even as a comic book fan, the innumerable upcoming releases make me feel tired. But with these caveats, I still find our anti-blockbuster culture baffling, because even with the negatives, the blockbuster scene has never been more exciting, fresh and unique.

For all the talk about the return of the studio system, as producers assert themselves, we are seeing a score of eclectic, auteur filmmakers being given the keys to big budget films. Animation director Brad Bird was allowed to resurrect the “Mission Impossible” franchise after five years and made something spectacular in “Ghost Protocol.” James Gunn went from making hyper-violent B-movies to making the effervescent “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a move characteristic of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is filled with strange and creative directors. And Chris Miller and Phil Lord were given the keys to “The Lego Movie” and turned what seemed like the most shameless cash-in idea ever into a masterpiece.

These aren’t yes men. These are artists with very specific visions and ideas being given millions to make films that are utterly theirs. The result is the most diverse collection of blockbuster films we’ve seen in quite some time. Since 2010, we’ve seen the likes of “Inception,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Gravity,” “Life of Pi” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and the only thing they all share is their arguable distinction as blockbusters.

We are also seeing a massive swell in diverse voices. “Selma” director Ava DuVernay has been signed on to direct a new “A Wrinkle in Time” adaptation. Ryan Coogler not only was given the keys to make the excellent “Creed,” but is now set to direct a “Black Panther” film. James Wann has now made three major horror series in “Insidious,” “Saw” and “The Conjuring,” as well as the monumentally successful “Fast and Furious 7.”

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And that’s before we get into more diverse roles in the blockbuster space, as more and more films star female leads — “Ghostbusters” and “Bad Moms,” to name a few. The independent genre is no longer the only place to find diverse creators; time and time again, these diverse voices are hitting home runs on the blockbuster scene.

Honestly, for all the rage against remakes, reboots and sequels, the ones that have been good are emphatically good, making the bad ones worth enduring. “Creed,” “Mad Max,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the “Mission Impossible” films, the latter day “Fast and Furious” films, “Ghostbusters.” This isn’t even including another Disney renaissance, where the animated field has studios firing on all cylinders, producing “Inside Out” and “Frozen” among other acclaimed works.

The sheer amount of films being made today hides the fact that the core of the blockbuster scene has never been better. It has never been as creative, strange, eclectic and exciting as it is now. And with people like Rian Johnson being handed the reins to “Star Wars,” it seems as though Hollywood wants to keep the spark alive.

Email Carter Glace at [email protected] 

Check out the rest of the Arts Issue here.

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