Have Studio Blockbusters Become More of an Obligation than Anything Else?

2014 Blockbusters, Most Anticipated

There was a comment on my review of Thor: The Dark World last year that's had me thinking ever since. It read, "I'm excited, but only because I feel obligated to be." It's a comment that seems to appropriately sum up today's studio blockbusters rather well and as I sit here, trying to put together a list of my most anticipated films of 2014, I can't help but notice the majority of blockbusters aren't making the cut. Many I'm skipping over without a second thought.

Sure, a couple will find their way in there, but at this point is anyone really anticipating one of Marvel's movies more than simply planning on seeing it? This isn't to say Marvel movies are inherently bad, they're simply an inevitability. A new Marvel movie (or four) is just as inevitable each year as some sort of new, watered down disaster film (Pompeii), or a gritty retelling of a public domain classic (I, Frankenstein, Dracula Untold) or a new film featuring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (X-Men: Days of Future Past).

You can also expect a handful of young adult adaptations -- Divergent, The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 -- as well as another continuing trend in blockbuster cinema, giant robots (Transformers: Age of Extinction). Just as with the Marvel movies, I'm not saying any of these will be bad, though I do have my expectations for a few of them, but they are simply inevitable. You don't need to anticipate them because they are sure to arrive, just as you can count on The Hobbit: There and Back Again next December, but at least with that one it may appear our travels to Middle Earth will finally be coming to an end.

This brings us back to the headline. Is there something of a feeling of obligation to see these movies? If you haven't seen Thor 2 or don't line up for Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America: The Winter Soldier have you missed out on the conversation? Or perhaps was it 2013's crop of blockbusters that started this way of "obligated" thinking?

2013-blockbustersLooking at the top of the 2013 box office I see films such as Iron Man 3, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Man of Steel. Certainly these were movies a lot of people were genuinely anticipating. A little further down the list you find Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Thor: The Dark World. I'm sure people were genuinely anticipating these films and I'm sure some lived up to expectations, but I can't help but sense a feeling of disappointment over many of them, certainly a level of disappointment for the likes of Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness. That can't be just me... can it?

I asked readers on the RopeofSilicon Facebook page recently to offer up some titles they were anticipating in 2014 and among the comments were a pair of readers that mentioned upcoming blockbusters, the first saying, "More curious than anticipating the summer blockbusters which I thought were just terrible in 2013." The other added, "Blockbuster[s] I don't anticipate anymore cause they always tend to disappoint."

Certainly films such as Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, Wally Pfister's Transcendence, Darren Aronofsky's Noah and a handful of others will be anticipated by most, but I don't consider those your run-of-the-mill blockbusters. Even Guardians of the Galaxy comes with more anticipation than the next Captain America, even though both are likely to do very little to buck the safe system of storytelling the other Marvel movies have followed as blockbusters seem to be made with an embedded level of fear and zero risk.

Just watching many of today's blockbusters you can sense a fear of offending, a fear of confusing, a fear of stimulating the brain into thinking for itself. There are, obviously, exceptions to every rule, but I found it telling just how easy it was to pass right over the likes of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past when I began my list of most anticipated films in 2014, not giving either a second thought.

I understand we all hope these films will be good as a blockbuster level of escapism is one of the main reasons many go to the movies, but in recent years the disappointments seem to be never-ending and yet, audiences still show up, even though the level of excitement doesn't seem to be there the way it used to be.

I'll leave you with this, how excited are you and how much are you anticipating the likes of RoboCop, 300: Rise of an Empire, Captain America 2, Transformers: Age of Extinction or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Before you answer just think about that word "anticipation" and then think of a words such as "curious" and "hope" and ask yourself, Have studios instilled a need to see their tent pole features? Is there a sense of obligation that comes with each of them or just a matter of hope they will be good? There is certainly nothing wrong with anticipating these movies, but I just wonder if what was once anticipation has turned into something else.

Perhaps "obligation" isn't the right word. Maybe it's "hope", but I'd love to read your thoughts on whatever "it" may be as we move into a new year, one where I personally hope the blockbusters are more entertaining than those of 2013.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

    Of all the blockbusters listed, the ones i plan on watching are Hobbitses and Guardians Of The Galaxy. Robocop and X-men i'm likely to catch up on via rental and the rest, Netflix, if i'm either desperate or drunk. Or both.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Newbourne/ Newbourne

      I'm excited for DoPP mostly because of Singer tying up the two franchises together. I also plan on checking out Noah, Veronica Mars, Transcendence, Interstellar, HTTYD2, The Purge 2, Sin City 2, Gone Girl, Exodus and Unbroken. How many of those actually turn out to be GOOD or turn out to be HITS remains to be seen.

      I pretty much hated Nolan and Pfister's last movie so I'm treading on eggshells awaiting their next ones. I have yet to see a good bible epic since the 10 Commandments so I'm weary of Exodus and Noah, while the other sequels up there (including VM) might disappoint like many sequels do. And Gone Girl has Ben Affleck acting in it. So that's a huge bummer right there. Unbroken is the only one that has no negatives about it. With Jolie directing and the Coens writing, it can't go wrong... Woops, forgot it stars the charismaless cardboard cutout from Tron: Legacy. Great.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

        Aronofsky's my #1 director so i have high hopes for Noah, Biblical epics are a tough genre but i must admit to liking Passion Of The Christ. As for Interstellar, i love sci-fi so i'll surely see it, the director i don't have a strong opinion about but much like Del Toro he has a strong fan base which seems to give him a pass on product like TDKR.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/TheLastEquivocationofBrist/ TheLastEquivocationofBrist

    Blockbusters have pretty much lost me. I used to get truly excited for summer movie season, but not anymore. These days I only want to spend my time and money on a movie if I think it's going to give me something unique. Blockbusters don't have a major-league batting average in that department anymore.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ryguy815/ Ryguy815

    Out of all of the blockbusters you mentioned, I'll definitely see Captain America and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Some of the others, such as X-Men, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Transformers and Robocop are ones I might see in theatres. The rest are probably rentals. However, to answer your questions, I don't really feel obliged to see any of these. I just want to.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Newbourne/ Newbourne

    Quality is definitely down in Hollywood blockbusters. I don't think it has anything to do with perception, it's completely objective.

    2008 had The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Wall-E.
    2013 had Man of Steel, Iron Man 3 and Monsters University.

    2009 had Avatar, Star Trek and The Hangover.
    2013 had Pacific Rim, Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hangover 3.

    2010 had Inception, TOY STORY 3, TANGLED AND HTTYD
    2013 had Gravity, SMURFS 2, PLANES AND EPIC.

    2011 had Harry Potter DH Part 2, Ghost Protocol and Thor
    2013 had The Hobbit Part 2, Oblivion and After Earth.

    2012 had Django Unchained, Skyfall and Life of Pi.
    2013 had The Wolverine, GI Joe Retaliation, and Oz: The Great and Powerful.

    Blockbusters have just gotten crappier and crappier and it's not our fault. Best blockbuster this year was Frozen and I really can't list any other without going down to "it was okay" territory (WWZ, Croods, Gatsby, etc.)

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/TheLastEquivocationofBrist/ TheLastEquivocationofBrist

      Totally agreed on Frozen. That's the only movie of 2013 that I'd recommend to absolutely everyone.

      Also agreed on your premise, nice comparisons!

    • http://cineenuruguay.com/ Driver

      I didn't think a about it until now, but you nailed it saying Frozen was the best blockbuster of the year, because it totally was.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Hudsucker/ Hudsucker

      I saw Frozen with my little sister yesterday and it's my favorite blockbuster of the year, although I haven't seen Catching Fire. Also, Django Unchained and Life of Pi weren't considered blockbusters, where they?

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Newbourne/ Newbourne

        They were two of the highest grossing movies of 2012. If you make more than 200 mill (used to be 100 mill), then you're a blockbuster.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/BishopSummers/ BishopSummers

    Nostalgia is the only thing that fuels my anticipation of blockbusters. I grew up reading comics and watching monster movies like Godzilla. I could barely believe it when they started making all these comic book movies. But now it seems like overkill. Be careful what you wish for I guess.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Winchester/ Winchester

    In short, I guess I don't think they've become an obligation personally no. But I don't get quite as 'excited' about the majority of them the way I did when I was a child.

    They naturally cast their net wide and not all of them work for everybody. I don't personally think overall 2013 was a banner year for tentpole or blockbusters but my opinion generally is film year's are like crop seasons and some years you get a fallow field. A year or two later you could have a bumper crop by the time they make their way through the production process.

    They are subjective things, however. I thought 'Star Trek Into Darkness' was perfectly good and I thought 'Fast and Furious 6' sleep inducing. Someone else would have the total opposite viewpoint. We're both right depending on what we want out of a blockbuster. Now, it depends on what someone might have thought was a 'good' year previously (I thought 2009 and 2011 were relatively good personally) but you just ain't gonna hit the highs every single time.

    Based on what I know of them, trailers etc I'm genuinely looking forward to 'Edge of Tomorrow', 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' and 'Dawn of The Planet of The Apes'. The trailer for 'Captain America; The Winter Soldier' actually looked like it could be silly fun even notwithstanding the fact that it's part of a franchise. They could all be lousy though. 'Guardians' I'm more curious about than anticipating in fairness simply because I think it will be interesting to see whether or not Marvel can push out into talking raccoon territory and not lose the general audience that has shown up so far. 'Transformers' will just be shit blowing up and as thoroughly un-intellectual as that is, I'll go and see it for that alone like I did the rest.

    Then again, I'm not salivating over 'Transendence' purely because Wally Pfister is directing it and I'm not enough of a fan of Christopher Nolan anymore to be dying to watch 'Interstellar' either though I will go to see them come the time. Sue me or disregard me, but frankly I'm not as big on him as most others are though his films are unquestionably of a high technical quality. I also have pretty much no interest in YA fiction adaptions though I have seen a couple, so all of them are off the table for me but one or two I might check out at some point.

    On the flip side, I do think there's more a sense of nostalgia when it comes to some blockbusters because they are generally targeted at the sort of under 35's mostly and I think as you get a little older maybe some of them do lose their appeal just because to a certain degree you like to mix them up more with different types of films. There is nothing out there nowadays that really matches my childhood memories of the original Star Wars trilogy, Indiana Jones or even Back to The Future - nothing. But there are still tentpoles which get close in some of the ways your childhood favourites used to. I find J.J. Abrams does that well and I think his films, though blockbusters, are one which kind of evoke that childhood feel in me sometimes. He's not the world's greatest director ever, but he's pretty good for popcorn. I think you don't outgrow going to see something for the sheer fun and escapism of it, but you might be less inclined to actively anticipate them because you have other things to occupy your time.

    I don't know, I've never viewed the word Blockbuster as a pejorative and I believe that you can always still find good ones but I think everyone's idea of what is 'good' differs for a blockbuster as much as it does for a comedy, a drama, an indie film or pretty much anything film-wise.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

    I think part of the problem is our definition of the term "blockbuster." I think we may have put some sort of negative connotation onto the word itself. Brad hits on this in the article when he says, "Certainly films such as Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, Wally Pfister's Transcendence,Darren Aronofsky's Noah and a handful of others will be anticipated by most, but I don't consider those your run-of-the-mill blockbusters."

    Now I do this too, so this is in now way knocking Brad, but it seems a lot of us have decided that for a film to be a "blockbuster," it has to have some of the palatable, safe, boring qualities that we all love to hate on so much. Brad's quote seems to outline the three blockbuster films that have the highest chance of trying something original, and then discounting them for not being "run-of-the-mill." Well if we look at "run-of-the-mill" anything, we'll likely be underwhelmed. In short, (and once again I do this too) we can't lament that all blockbusters are unoriginal and then only count adaptations and sequels as blockbusters.

    I'll finish my point, by saying this. Recently Brad and Laremy were discussing their favorite blockbusters of 2013. I believe they both mentioned Fast 6, World War z, and Catching Fire, as the disappointing best three they could come up with. I distinctly remember neither of them mentioning Gravity (a film Brad gave a positive review, and made Laremy's top 10). Why not? It took place in space, starred George Clooney, had a $100 million budget, and made over $650 million worldwide, by my estimations a clear blockbuster. Is it eliminated from the conversation because of it's minimalistic storytelling, genuinely thoughtful cinematography, and emotional core?

    Anyway, great article, I just wanted to add my thoughts to the conversation. I agree that we see some of these movies hoping they will be good, rather than anticipating good quality. Will I see many of the films you mentioned with my eyes rolling? Sure. But I have genuine belief that Transcendence, Noah, Interstellar, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Mockingjay can be grew films, and in turn, great blockbusters.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I see what you're saying, but consider when Independence Day was released, it wasn't "run-of-the-mill" as the spectacle of giant UFOs destroying landmarks wasn't commonplace (at least not as it was portrayed in that movie), but blockbusters today have been recycling that idea ever since.

      Even more to the point may be the fact there simply are more of these "blockbusters" released today than ever before. More money being spent on the run-of-the-mill CG, explosion fests. I mean, four Marvel comic adaptations in one year? It may be a question of saturation as well at that point. How different can these movies be and with the money spent how many risks can they take, especially when the success of one is perceived to affect the rest?

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

        I think you hit on the big problem here, which is over-saturation of blockbusters. I'm sure we get just as many, if not more, sub-par indie Sundance white-people-problem movies every year. However its easy to ignore those and walk away. The blockbusters get shoved into our face 24/7, because the studios have so much money invested. So while we can all just sort of shrug off Kings of Summer as a C- film, we have to constantly be reminded of The Hobbit until that C- becomes a D-. (Obviously grades are idiotic, just using them to make a point.)

        If 2013 only had Fast 6, Gravity, Elysium (I know you didn't like it, but at least it tried to say something), Catching Fire, World War Z, and Frozen, everyone would be ecstatic. One quality blockbuster every two months, perfect! However when we sprinkle on a couple comic book adaptations, a few YA offerings, a sequel or two, and then whatever the hell The Lone Ranger was, the whole thing feels tiresome. Then multiply that feeling by 10 when each of these mediocre films are covered just as much as the good ones.

        Blockbusters used to be "the-must-see-movies" because there were only a few a year. Now there are about twenty a year, but we still hold that "must-see" attitude. That's where the problem you mentioned in your article comes up. We see these movies because we're told we're supposed to, and that's about it.

        Also, per your point of studios recycling things again and again, how wonderful would it be if someone in the Disney offices looked at the returns of Iron Man 3 and said "Hmmm... it seems people like movies that have a message of the way corporations exploit people's xenophobic fears for economic gains. Let's expand on that." Sadly, this will never happen, and instead we will get more metal suits and less Shane Black political commentary in the inevitable dark, gritty Iron Man 8.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          Couldn't have said it better myself!

  • Jake Gittes

    This year, I'm genuinely anticipating Noah (because Aronofsky and the reports that he's made an actually ballsy film), Godzilla (because that teaser is amazing), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (the first is one of the best animated films of the past few years, and I trust that Dreamworks were careful with the sequel), Jupiter Ascending (because the Wachowskis are always interesting, ambitious and, to some extent, unpredictable), Guardians of the Galaxy (because even it has conventional story beats, in terms of characters and the world it promises to be one of the more original comic book films) and Interstellar (because Nolan and the cast, even if I disliked TDKR).

    I'm also interested in what the Russo brothers will do with the Captain America sequel - it looks different enough from the first film to be a lot more interesting than Thor 2, and who knows, maybe they've got another twist up their sleeve - I'm all for one because the Mandarin reveal in Iron Man 3 is exactly something that big-budget cinema needs today. It was so great to witness an auditorium full of people get the rug pulled out from under them like that. I'm also curious about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as it looks like a genuine continuation of the story, and with a new human cast and a 15-year jump forward in time I'm curious to see where they take it.

    There are admittedly films I'm not particularly looking forward to, but will catch anyway - such as Days of Future Past, Transcendence, 22 Jump Street, Exodus and Hunger Games. And I guess I'll end up seeing the final Hobbit even though I couldn't stand The Desolation of Smaug - perhaps because it's very likely to be the very last trip to Middle Earth and damn it, I'm just too drawn to the universe to abandon it at the last moment.

    Those that I probably wouldn't have skipped a few years ago, but I'm not interested at all to see at this point - The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (I just hope Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone can get back to making real movies soon, they are so much better than this), Edge of Tomorrow, Maleficent, Hercules, Jack Ryan, 300 Rise of an Empire, Transformers 4, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Expendables 3 and Divergent. I could only see myself changing my mind if one or a few of those movies are surprisingly well-received by critics.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Kessler/ Kessler

    2013 certainly wasn't a great year for blockbusters, but there were still some movies that I enjoyed. I liked Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Fast 6, and even The Lone Ranger (the final twenty minutes are the most fun I've had at the movies this year). None of those movies will make my top ten, but they're good for what they are and I'd gladly watch them again. The ones that left me feeling cheated were Man of Steel, White House Down, Catching Fire, and The Hobbit (although Smaug was pretty terrific). Nothing was outstanding, but it wasn't a total bust either.

    As for 2014, there's nothing that immediately catches my eye. I'll go see Spiderman, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy, even though I'm not really excited for any of them. But I don't feel that it's an obligation though. I'm genuinely interested in them, I just can't excited for them like I was for The Dark Knight Rises or Star Trek Into Darkness. But I'd rather see those movies than 300, RoboCop, I, Frankenstein, or Hercules. The only 2014 blockbuster that looks legitimately great is X-Men: Days of Future Past. The teaser was terrific and Singer returning to direct is also a good sign. The two blockbusters that I'll probably see out of obligation are The Hobbit and Mockingjay. I don't think either of them will be any good; it's more of a mindset of, "well, I saw the first two, so I might as well see the last one".

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Your comments like " I'll go see Spiderman, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy, even though I'm not really excited for any of them." are what interest me as well as your final comment and I agree, I think we all do that. I know I do. I guess I'm just beginning to wonder if we are doing it more often now.

      Obviously impossible to tell, but I just get the feeling we may be.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Kessler/ Kessler

        If we are doing it more often, I think it's because there's a lot more movies being released nowadays. There's so many movies being released now that it's hard to get excited about one thing when something new is always around the corner. I think we saw a lot of that last summer with Iron Man 3, then Star Trek, then The Great Gatsby, Fast 6, then Man of Steel, etc.

  • http://themoviegurusblog.blogspot.com The Movie Guru

    Last year was a rather weak year for blockbusters. There were a lot of really good blockbusters, but not a ton of truly great ones. There were also big disappointments like Man of Steel, The Great Gatsby, GI Joe 2, and The Wolverine. However, I truly enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast 6, WWZ, Pacific Rim, and Elysium from the summer crop.

    This year, I'm excited, but just a little bit less. Despite my excitement for some of the movies, others look truly awful. 300: Rise of An Empire looks pretty poor, Need for Speed looks bad, Divergent gets no interest from me, 22 Jump Street looks like a retread and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks like it could be a disaster. However, I'm really looking forward to Interstellar, Godzilla, Noah, Captain America 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transcendence, Jupiter Ascending and many more. It's just a bigger split now than it was a few years ago.

  • http://couchpotatodigest.blogspot.com Matt Taylor

    I think calling them an "obligation" is a bit too much. While these films are certainly making lots of money, I think we're reading a bit too far into the box office results to determine why people are seeing this. Maybe it's just the people I surround myself with, but I find audiences flock to see "Iron Man 3" because it's a safe, largely accessible and relatively painless filmgoing experience- not to remain up to date with the 'plot' of "The Avengers", and certainly not to take part in some sort of national conversation regarding the movie.

    What I've found to be the problem with summer movies is that they've all started to become plain and forgettable. Not that previous summers had necessarily great offerings, but this year's films were (mostly) fine and good, but I really couldn't recall much about them by the next weekend. My brother and I were just recently talking about "Iron Man 3" and "Man of Steel" and neither of us could remember any serious plot details from the film, but we both agreed that the films were enjoyable during the actual theatrical experience. We'd never watch either film again, but we don't necessarily regret watching them either. I'd bet that a majority of the public feels that way too, outside of the diehard fan base. The only franchise film that I'd consider more than average was "Catching Fire", but even that had some problem. If Hollywood is going to insist on churning out accessible summer blockbusters, they should at least make them more than forgettable fluff.

    Still, 2014 does have some "blockbuster" films I'm genuinely excited for, mainly because of the talent involved. "Interstellar" should be interesting. "Noah" had an underwhelming trailer, but I expect great things from Darren Aronofsky. I'm a huge fan of the Wachowskis, and "Jupiter Ascending" is, at the very least, an original story. The trailer for "Godzilla" was pretty impressive, and I'm excited for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2" as I'm a huge fan of the originals. In fact, the only films that I'd say look bad are "The Amazing Spider-Man 2", "Divergent" and "Transformers 4". Luckily, I feel no obligation to see any of those.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      "What I've found to be the problem with summer movies is that they've all started to become plain and forgettable."

      Yet, they still make a lot of money because people continue to see them, but more importantly, will go see the sequels.

      • http://couchpotatodigest.blogspot.com Matt Taylor

        I know what you mean, but if we're talking about why these films make money, I think it's important to consider why different types of people will go see certain types of films and how they react to them.

        For someone like you, who's clearly very passionate about film and whose job it is to see as many films as possible for the purpose of writing reviews, a standard or subpar blockbuster might sting quite a bit. But from what I've noticed, the general public does not see many of these big blockbusters because of the film itself but rather for the social experience. It's much easier to bring a large group of friends or your family to a "four-quadrant film"as opposed to something that may be a "better" film, but might not appeal to every demographic. So, when they see a film like "The Hobbit", which you and I would consider bad, the general public still manages to have a good social experience watching a bad film.

        Obviously, we could have a discussion about whether or not it's good that Hollywood churns out "safe" films, but in terms of whether or not blockbuster entertainment has become an "obligation", I wouldn't say it has. Diehard fan bases will always flock to see films from franchises they love, critics will always have to see as many films as possible, and film enthusiasts (like myself and a majority of the ROS community) have the ability to, simply, skip a film that they don't want to see. From what I can tell, the general public, who I'd bet makes a majority of the audience for the highest grossing films of the year, don't necessarily see a film for the same reasons you or I would see a film- they are going for the experience, and I don't think seeing a film with friends and family will ever truly become an "obligation."

        By the way, thanks for responding to my comment. I really enjoy being a part of the conversation on this site!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Chris138/ Chris138

    With the exception of the next Hunger Games entry (thanks to the second film being surprisingly terrific, at least in my opinion) I can't say I am anticipating or really looking forward to any of the blockbusters listed in the article. The trailers I've seen for some of them, such as the Amazing Spider-Man 2, just look flat out boring.

  • http://moviereviewninja.com themoviewatcher

    I don't think they are an obligation. They can be fun if done well. The only ones listed that I am interested in are Divergent, Mockngjay - Part 1, Hobbit 3, Interstellar, Captain America, Galaxy, Transcendence, Noah, and 300. The rest including Robocop, Transformers and TMNT, I don't have interest in.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/MovieFan/ Israel Valencia

    I will definitely be seeing most of the superhero films as I just can't get enough of them and studios understand that. But seriously I am only excited or anticipating X-Men Days of Future Past because it's concept and cast seem very appealing though I feel more exited for Inherent Vice above anything

    • Ernie_Jena

      That's interesting because i want to see Inherent Vice especially for Jena Malone being part of the cast. I hope it'll be a good movie.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Beautifulm/ Beautifulm

    I kind of feel more obligated to see "Oscary" "Best film of the year" types of films, even if I'm not particular excited for some of them.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/TheLastEquivocationofBrist/ TheLastEquivocationofBrist

      I think even that sense of obligation is starting to fade for me, now that you mention it. For instance, I'm really looking forward to Her and Inside Llewyn Davis, but I have absolutely no desire to see Saving Mr. Banks.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Hudsucker/ Hudsucker

        I've seen Saving Mr. Banks. It's worth watching, although I seem to be in the minority in really liking it.

    • http://letterboxd.com/gman/ G-Man

      Agreed. I tend to skip the blockbusters I don't think will be up my alley (e.g. The Wolverine, Identity Thief).

      On the other hand, I felt obliged to watch Only God Forgives, a movie I didn't think I would like and it wound up being my least favorite movie of the year.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Roger/ Roger Judd

    We go and see what we like or think we will like. The level of excitement will vary for sure, but we only go see a movie because there is a level of excitement, not because of obligation. Even saying you'd catch a movie on Netflix shows a small level of excitement because you would still watch it. Just because I am excited for Captain America 2 does not mean I need to see the midnight premiere, just that I definitely look forward to seeing it. Why would anyone ever go see Amazing Spider-Man 2 if they didn't like Amazing Spider-Man 1? Or Transformers 4? At this point, we all know what we are getting with these type of movies, there's no excuse in complaining that they are all the same. You go because you like it, you don't go because you don't. With all the options we have every year, no one should feel obligated to go see any movie.
    I am excited for Captain America 2, 300: Rise of an Empire, TMNT and Transformers 4.
    I really don't care to see Robocop, whether in theaters or at home.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

    I don't feel obligated to see anything; maybe that's one advantage that we as general audience members have over critics. I don't have to ever watch another Marvel movie, Spider-Man movie, Transformers movie, etc etc etc. They're not good movies and I'd rather spend my money supporting artists who actually tell interesting stories. I'd say the only blockbuster I'm anticipating is Interstellar because even though The Dark Knight Rises had lots of problems, I've seen what Christopher Nolan can do when he's at his absolute best, particularly with original material. I'll also certainly see Mockingjay, but even though I've enjoyed each of the first two films I can't say I'm anticipating it in any huge way (though I might be if it was one film, not chopped up into bite-size morsels). I'll also see The Hobbit, but only as a Tolkien fan who wants to see that story through to completion in its cinematic form, as bloated and unnecessary as it's all been. Of course this means that I'll have to wait through eight months of garbage (okay maybe seven if I can spend January catching up on last year's limited releases) before the movies start to get good again. That's just the pattern Hollywood has taken on lately, and one I expect to continue.

    • Ernie_Jena

      Yes but i don't agree with you about the 2 parts of Mockingjay. It's a better thing to expand the movie so the novel's adaptation will be better. You can put more details into the movie being split up. I'm going to watch this ofcourse because my favourite actress is in it namely Jena Malone.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/kylejames182/ kyle coley

    The only superhero film i truly can't wait for is X-Men DOFP. thats it. Of course NOAH, Interstellar, and Transcendence. when it comes to transformers and 300 and so on. i cant say i am looking forward or even curious. the one film i am most curious is Scott's Exodus

  • http://letterboxd.com/gman/ G-Man

    I still love and anticipate blockbusters. Sure - they're usually not my favorite films of the year and oftentimes a letdown in terms of quality, but it gets general people excited about something I love - movies. Let's be honest - no one is having water cooler conversations at work or parties about 12 Years A Slave, Before Midnight, or Fruitvale Station. Heck, I didn't even love Gravity, but I loved talking to people about it not through my keyboard (no offense to anyone here).

    While I also generally prefer to go see movies after 10:00 p.m. on Monday or Tuesday so I can be either the only person in the theater or one of very few, it is fun to watch a blockbuster with an excited crowd. I still recall people cheering during Joker's pencil trick in Dark Knight or when Molly Weasley screamed "Not my daughter you bitch!" in HP and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Adu/ Adu

    I defintely dont feel the obligation to go seek out the Blockbusters in the cinema at least, but I do make sure to see them on rental. The ones I'll check out in the cinema and hence am excited for are:
    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    Hunger Games
    The Hobbit

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/jinjuriki187/ jinjuriki187

    i am genuinely excited for days of future past, dawn of the planet of the apes, godzilla, guardians of the galaxy, amazing spider man 2, mockingjay part 1, transcendence, interstellar, winter solider, and there and back again. I'm also interested in jupiter ascending, noah, expendables 3, the rock's hercules, and edge of tomorrow but i can't say I'm particularly excited for any of them.

    • Ernie_Jena

      Yeah like the movie The last days on Mars was a really crapmovie.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/kathrynlynn/ kathrynlynn

    I think you nailed it with the word obligation. I was just thinking today about how I have some films I'm looking forward to, but when it comes to the big blockbusters that have major marketing I feel like I have to see them. And I suppose a mix of hope comes into play, because I want these characters and these worlds to be fun and interesting. When I was a kid, I loved science fiction and big characters and worlds to believe in and pretend in...

    but most blockbusters have either lost that sense of fun by trying to be too dour, or have bought into spectacle over story- leaving me maybe with an experience that's okay the first time around, but i'm unable to watch again with any real interest.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/kathrynlynn/ kathrynlynn

      I think too- because these movies tend to be big spectacles... I get lured into the theater. Because if it's going to be good, I want to see it on the big screen.

  • awnuce360

    So true... and sad.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/topyxyz/ topyxyz

    Not excited for Noah, but I'm genuinely xcited for Godzilla, Transcendence, Edge of Tomorro

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    I completely agree, but as film fans, we should all bite our own cynicism(s) and beat on. The studios aren't showing any signs of letting up, although I am holding out hope that some of 2015's major tent-poles bomb, thereby encouraging Hollywood to try something new.

    Still, I can't help but feel as if the podcast has gotten a tad bit too focused on the bad that 2013 had to offer, especially in regards to Oscar politicking, blockbusters, and other aspects of the movie world. Make no mistake: I agree with you guys, but I also think that our New Year's resolution for 2014 should be to focus more on the positive. There are new films to look forward to from Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, and David Fincher. That's gotta be worth something.

    • TheOneWhoKnocks

      That being said, I am eagerly looking forward to the next HUNGER GAMES, although I am skeptical about how they can drag it out for two parts. Then again, I didn't like the book, so I hope to see the filmmakers improve on the source material.

      SPIDER-MAN, X-MEN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, GUARDIANS, and HOBBIT are all obligations.

    • http://hauntedbyhumans.wordpress.com J.R.Meehl

      Actually, Hollywood is trying more new things (by far) than sequels or remakes. Full report here for 2013: http://hauntedbyhumans.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/2013where/

      • TheOneWhoKnocks

        I agree, but most of the attention goes towards major blockbusters, as opposed to independent releases and more original ideas. That's where the problem lies. Ultimately, people want more of the same.

        • http://hauntedbyhumans.wordpress.com J.R.Meehl

          Yup. Which is why it is so frustrating when people complain about Hollywood, but won't see the good new stuff (Gravity and Nebraska for example)

  • http://hauntedbyhumans.wordpress.com J.R.Meehl

    In this situation, we really have to look at ourselves instead of Hollywood. If we feel obligated to see films, well thats on us. Every year there are films that all of us look forward to. I think "hope" is a much better word than "obligation." Am I excited for some films? Yes. I don't feel obligated to be excited though. As a Marvel geek I'm excited for Cap and Guardians, but I'm also excited for Budapest Hotel.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    Funny story: originally, back when I really cared about the Marvel movies, I hated IRON MAN 3. Why? Because it ditched the comics in favor of a more radical approach. Now, I would probably give the movie a C+, but I still find myself annoyed with the "fanboys" for calling it one of the worst movies of the year. At least it tried something new. It isn't a grand leap for cinema, but let's give Shane Black some credit for breaking away from the mold and temping the ire of fans.

    This also ties into the logic I employed when compiling my worst-of list for 2013: movies like ONLY GOD FORGIVES and THE COUNSELOR are undeserving of slots on such a list. They're too unique.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/chewbaca38/ Baca

    Summer movie season has almost turned into an anthropological study for me. While I still enjoy partaking in the three day long conversation following their release, I am almost more entertained by seeing if the movie satisfies the expectations of the masses.

  • http://www.mexicanchurros.blogspot.mx/ Abraham S├ínchez

    Is Jupiter Ascending a blockbuster?. I trust and love the Wachowski's work and I'm excited about it. Robocop is directed by Jose Padilla and is the best Verhoeven's film, director suits the theme, I really want to see that one. And of course I want to see what they do with Days of Future past, Trascendance and Interstellar. To me is as every year, a lot I don't really expect, but some I'm pretty excited about them.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/BishopSummers/ BishopSummers

      I agree with all your picks. I would also add Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes a lot more than I thought would. It may not be a good idea to hope that Marvel will create something different than their usual with Guardians of the Galaxy, but I still hope they do.

  • ShahBakht Hamdani

    very nice article, Brad. I have been thinking about this blockbusters trend for a while. Most of my friends love these movies, and so do I, but my love is perfunctory. I love the spectacle, I love the escapism and I love the CGI, but that's it. I see them as nothing but these. I enjoy watching them with friends in the cinema or my home, but I would not necessarily recommend them to anyone or even like to spend more than a few minutes talking about their merit, cause let's face it: blockbusters don't care much about merit (except a few, of course, exceptions are everywhere), their main purpose is for the audience to just sit there and "escape".

    The movies I anticipate are, and I hate myself for saying this, Oscar bait movies, cause they are actually good. There is a reason the Academy recognizes them, because they deserve the laurels. So, despite the blatant baiting of movies for "Critical Acclaim", I actually look forward to seeing them. The reason is simple: I started watching movies as a kid (blockbusters), but I fell in love with movies not "because" of them. It was only when I discovered the parallel cinema, so to speak, that I truly started appreciating movies.

    I do not want to undermine blockbusters. They are great entertainment, especially for kids and parents with kids, but you know, there is so much CGI one can absorb in a year.

  • Drew Sandoval

    I can agree with a lot of the sentiments mentioned here... but I also have to admit I am now 32-years-old. It takes a lot more to excite me now than when I was 24, or 15, or 7.

    I know there is something to the fact there are more sequels now than ever before... I am pretty sure you can empirically prove it, say sample the last 5 years for any random 5-year stretch in the 80s.

    I remember talking to my mom in 1992, when Batman Returns was on the verge of being released. I couldn't understanding how she couldn't be a pants-weting-ly excited as I was to see it. "Oh my god mom! It has Catwoman, and Penguin! And did you see that part in the trailer!" And my mom would smile and say she had seen all that before.

    I remember getting out of Jurrasic Park the very next year, and my Dad saying, "Yeah, the special effects are terrific, but those characters were so stupid." "No Dad, that movie is the most awesome thing ever made!"

    My cousin's kids (4-7) are thrilled senseless by the Avengers and the Transformers films. I don't understand how they can love those films so much and are not more enamored of Indiana Jones and Superman, but these kids aren't. And I remember that to my grandparents, they felt the best Superman stories were the 1940s serials.

    It is sad to outgrow things we thought were always meant for us. However when my 6-year old nephew breathlessly tries to recount for me the plot of Pirates of the Caribbean 4, I am made aware these films are reaching the same audience that has always loved them.

  • Mike

    I think people bottle up what they think a movie is supposed to be and expect every movie to be like that. There are different genres for a reason. Some movies aren't supposed to change your life on an intellectual level. they are just supposed to entertain and most on that list do. If you don't feel you are going to be entertained and it's just some cookie cutter movie then don't review it and don't go see it. Transformers is a perfect example, that movie has ZERO story and so does its source material but it's not a bad movie. It's not meant to have story, it's meant to show you robots blowing shit up and if that doesn't entertain you then don't go see it. Same with all of these comic book movies, the story doesn't always translate into something someone would believe on a big screen. Sometimes it's too goofy or silly so it gets cut but you can't veer to far from the comic or you will lose your comic fanbase. Like someone said earlier, the studios are just casting a big net to get as many people to like it. That's not a bad thing; no recent marvel movies are just flat out bad. What if they took a chance and it stinks horribly (superman returns) now you have to wait a couple years and reboot the franchise. I think people should realize what genre of movie they are going to see and be entertained based on that fact rather something they think or what it to be. With that being said, I'm going to see most of those blockbusters coming out with the exception of 300 (not the same without Leonidas), ninja turtles (depending on how it looks) and the hobbit, those movies just bore me. I'm just not a medieval type of guy but I know that and would never pay to see those movies.

  • http://www.custodianfilmcritic.com Tim Martens

    "have you missed out on the conversation" is the question that struck me the most here. I didn't see Iron Man 3, Star Trek, or Man of Steel this year and when you mentioned this I realized that I didn't miss out on any conversation with friends when it comes down to it. Maybe this was a matter of disappointment, but it feels to me like there wasn't really much worth discussing after seeing them. A true popcorn flick. When I think back to the last 5 years or so, films like The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises come to mind quickly. But I think this has to do with them not being the generic blockbuster we have gotten so used to.

    When Spiderman first came out, I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever. Seeing one of my favorite superheroes in live action on the big screen. But now we are coming upon the fifth different spiderman film, we have seen 6 x-men films, 3 iron mans (4 if you count avengers), 2 thors (3 if you count avengers), daredevil, green lantern, and so on. Outside of superheroes, this past summer had the 3rd hangover, the 6th fast and furious, 2nd despicable me, 2nd smurfs, and a 2nd Red film. And non sequels involved the white house being taken over twice, Oblivion, World War Z, and Pacific Rim. It just feels like we've seen it all by now. Hard to get excited about anything. In reality, I think more people were talking about Gravity (whether good or bad) than any of the other blockbuster films.

  • Backward Galaxy

    The X-film and Spidey franchises are fascinating experiments in the making as those studios look to expand in ways they haven't previously. My anticipation level for those actually is huge just because of the "verse-launch" implications. But your overall point, the thesis statement if you will, is sound and interesting, even if I don't agree with all of the examples you listed.

  • Josh McLaughlin

    Even though I am a big comic-book film fan, in the last 5 years or so, I have gotten more and more bored with franchise films (with the exception of Nolan's "TDK Trilogy," Raimi's three "Spider-Man" movies, and Marvel's "The Avengers"). Last summer, the only "big" movie I really enjoyed was "Iron Man 3," and even since then my feelings about it have been slightly tempered (a fun film with a plot that goes all over the place, decent and serviceable, but not as good as the 1st); as for some other summer 2013 movies, I felt that "The Wolverine" was okay, but was wrecked with the cliche'd third act video-game boss fight, and I was entirely underwhelmed with "Man of Steel" (setting aside my feelings about how it seemed like our hero from the film didn't act like the Superman I liked and remembered from the original stories). The tentpole movies that I'm looking forward to, but not necessarily "anticipating," are "X-Men:DoFP" and "Captain America 2: Winter Soldier;" however, the films that I am more excited about are the "different," more interesting movies like Aranofsky's "Noah," "The Monuments Men," and "Interstellar." The next (and at this point only) blockbuster I'm excited for is 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Rob/ Rob

    For me, it all comes down to one word: overkill. I think back to when I was younger, specifically 1996. Outside of a couple of films during the holiday season, all the blockbusters were during the summer. I still remember seeing the poster for Twister and getting excited, eagerly anticipating it. I also recall seeing Independence Day in a packed theater, and it feeling like an event. Now, looking at 2013, before the summer season even started we already got:

    - A Good Day to Die Hard
    - Jack the Giant Slayer
    - Oz: The Great & Powerful
    - The Croods
    - G.I. Joe: Retaliation
    - Oblivion

    By the time Iron Man 3 opened, it didn't feel special, since I had already seen 6 big budget movies. Now with studios trying to cram attempted blockbusters all year round, the magic is gone. 2014 is going to be no different. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 starts the summer season but before that there's already going to be big name films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Rio 2.

    The question is, where did this all start? What film, or films, initiated all this? It didn't come out of nowhere. Studios won't do something unless there is a precedent. When did this all change?

    • Drew Sandoval

      I enjoyed reading your post, and just wanted to drop in a little bit of film history on your take...

      For the first 70 years of cinema went without a blockbuster season. The biggest budget movies (gone with the Wind, Patton, Ben Hur) were parraded across the country one large city at a time for a few months, and then after money had been made from the top cities, these films were put in wide release to small town theaters (this is were the "second-run" saying comes from).

      In he 70s, there was a run of movies that the studios were worried about how how were gonna perform. For these films they skipped the first-run, and went straight to second run, dropping them in as many theaters as possible and hoping to collect as much money as possible before bad word of mouth got out. These films were Exorcist, Godfather, and Jaws.

      Each went on to become the number one film of all time, superceding the previous film. It is hard to believe now that the studios had no faith in these films, but at the time no one thought these films were worth anything. The studios were also noticing that going wide first had its merits.

      In '77 of course Star Wars was released, which fit the same pattern of unceremoniously dumped in as many screens as possible, and then turning into a massive mindblowing hit. It was released in summer, doubled the sales of Godfather and Jaws, and the studios realized what they were onto. The summer blockbuster season was born.

      Slowly but surely each studio began releasing at least one summer movie, then two, then they were building their whole schedules around the summer.

      For the longest time, summer movie season began Memorial Day weekend, that began to expand. Twister was actually the first blockbuster released the first weekend in May, 98 had Deep Impact, 99 had the Mummy. People would eat these blockbusters up sooner than hoped, expanding the number of weekends to release these tentpole pics.

      I would actually call 96 as the year studios began to see you could open these movies year round. That was the year they opened Broken Arrow, a summery r-rated action pic in February. And in 97 Sony pushed Starship Troopers out of summer and into Winter. Neither film was stunningly successful, but they grosses were impressive enough that studios saw audiences appetites for blockbuster filmmaking went year round.

      I hope this fills you in a little bit on the history of the blockbuster.

  • Brad

    The moment you see any film as an obligation is probably the time in which you should quit being a film critic. 'Attack the Block' director Joe Cornish said that being a critic made him hates films. Maybe you should ask yourself why you're doing what you're doing if you seem so blase about it?

  • The Dog-Biting Man

    About Margaret Gyllenhaal, the photo:

    reminded me of Nancy Allen out of the original "Robocop." I would have figured Margaret is as the perfect choice of portraying Anne Lewis but a male version came.

  • Scott Camp

    The Turtles is just plain stupid. The only reason it's being done is Nikelodean bought the rights and relaunched the brand and wants to sell toys and licensing. 300 will likely underwhelm which is why it's taken so long.

    I am looking forward to some blockbusters like Transcendence, Jupiter Ascending, Xmen, Hunger Games, Godzilla, and Interstellar.

    The biggest problem with blockbusters these days is the tech. The special effects companies, while have done a fabulous job with tremendous visual results, are bleeding the industry dry. 47 Ronin cost HOW MUCH?? Most $150m movies should cost half that to produce or less. 10-15 yrs ago, a big movie would take 2-4 yrs to produce. Now, a movie can go from idea to theater in just over a year. This is why most of the bombs are actually studio driven, not screenwriter driven. Instead of writers bringing ideas to the studios, the studio execs come up with the idea then hire a writer to bang out a script in a month. As long as people buy tickets, they'll keep producing this drivel no matter how many RIPD's they put out.