A Sad Time at the Movies

It’s a sad time at the movies. For the first time in a long time, there’s nothing in theaters to be excited about it. Especially considering that the holiday movie season is upon us. And it’s nearly as empty as can be. There’s no theatrical experience that one just has to see on the big screen. No action movie or epic film that can’t be missed.  The days of the big blockbuster popcorn flick seem long gone. We are living in a post Covid world and a world that has fully embraced streaming to the point where nearly everything else is irrelevant.

It’s hard to believe that we’re living in a world where only a handful of years ago there was a new Bond movie, a new Bourne movie, and a new Mission Impossible movie around every corner. Now there’s no more Bond, no more Bourne, and they haven’t even started filming the next Mission film. Those might be just three films, but together they make a symbolic reference for where we are today, and how far we’ve fallen as far as the modern action movie and theatrical experience are concerned.

How did we get into this mess, where even superhero movies, (which became the last saving grace of theatrical movies, and monopolized the market, for a time,) have fallen apart? The answer is a combination of four things… Covid, the rise of streaming, the rise of superhero movies, and then a series of very bad decisions. It’s gotten so ugly that even Tarantino, who has been promoting that he only has one last film to make before he retires, for a some time now, doesn’t feel comfortable making that film. When asked about it, he commented something along the lines of that he doesn’t even know what the theatrical movie landscape is anymore. That’s how bad (or good, depending on how you look at it,) streaming has gotten.

So let’s examine those four points that led to this and see how each one of them altered the path of movies, molding it into the one we are currently on today. First was Covid. Because of Covid, theaters shut down. For about a year. And during that time. streaming services took over, really angling their footing by getting people comfortable with seeing big movies in their living rooms. In a pre-Covid time, there’s no way The Grey Man (action movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans,) would not have been released in theaters. There’s no way Red Notice, or Don’t Look Up would not have been released in theaters. But Covid happened, and people realized if they didn’t go out to see the movies, then the movies would come to them. At home.

So Covid led to the rise of streaming. And while all of that was going on, (really before that, but not much before it,) superhero movies took over. That’s not to say that they became the only game in town, (Avatar 2, Barbie, and Oppenheimer were all not superhero related.) But they definitely helped ween out other movies, like romantic comedies or just comedies in general.

So we got to a point where everything was either superhero related or streaming. There were still quality movies being put into theaters, such as Air starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but nobody was going to see them. And so those movies had a very short theatrical window before coming to streaming.

And that brings us to what might be the final nail in the coffin. A series of bad decisions all around. Where to start…. The John Wick movies have gotten repetitive. The Mission Impossible movies have become boring. And the Marvel movies have lost their line of sight… the one thing that made them so special to begin with… their interconnectivity from one movie to the next, seems gone. It’s the one thing they should have never dropped. And they did.

That Marvel situation, and the decision to oversaturate the market with their Disney Plus shows, were some of the worst of these bad decisions. Another one was Martin Scorcese’s decision to make Killers of the Flower Moon three and an half hours long. What the hell was he thinking? Scorcese compared it to streaming, saying people binge watch for hours and hours. But he missed the obvious… they do that from their couches at home. Where they can get good or use the bathroom whenever they want. Where they can pause or stop a shoot whenever they want. Where they have freedom. With a three and a half hour movie and no intermission  Scorcese was taking that freedom away.

We mentioned superhero movies earlier, and how Marvel dropped the ball, but they aren’t the only ones. DC is nowhere near being in the game anymore either. James Gunn has announced his reboot of the DC movie universe way too early, making movies like Shazam 2, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman 2 totally irrelevant. And he hasn’t even started filming any of his movies yet.

instead, there was loads of potential left in the DCEU that never got touched. How do you have both Shazam and Black Adam in the same cinematic universe, and they never meet? Black Adam is the villain from Shazam. How do you bring beck Henry Cavil’s Superman for a cameo in Black Adam, announce that he’s back, and then a month later tell the fans that he’s done, and it was all a lie?

So if Aquaman 2 (the last DC movie keft to come out,) looks lousy, what else is there? Not a whole lot. There are basically two awards contenders coming out…Napoleon and Maestro. Both are by proven directors (Ridley Scott and Bradley Cooper,) neither one looks incredibly exciting. And that’s about it.

even looking ahead to next year isn’t all that promising, with Matthew Vaughn trying to bring back the spy genre with Argyke. Vaughn is about as talented as it gets, but even this looks a little too familiar, with a trailer that looks way too short molar to the series Citadel, as well as  Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1. Maybe they shouldn’t have set their main trailers scenes in the cars of a moving train. But this is the thing about these proven directors now, they keep dropping the ball. David Fincher just made the Killer for Netflix, about an assassin for hire, and it’s the worst movie of Fincher’s career. It’s a movie that never needed to be made, and certainly not by him.

Let’s hope something comes along that ignites a spark. And sooner rather than later. Because we really really need it. We need a reason to go to the movies again. We want to go. But we need some theater worthy content, and we need it fast, before it’s too late.