My name is Mario-Francisco Robles. I'm a writer/critic here at Latino-Review, but offline I'm someone who's dedicated my life to entertainment. I've been entertaining audiences professionally over 15 years. Entertainment, in all its forms, is my life. Some of my favorite moments have been up on stage, giving my all to a sold out crowd, but I've also had some equally life-altering moments being in the audience. In this ongoing column, I'll bring my passion, experience, and perspective to a number of topics that move me as someone whose life revolves around arts and entertainment.
Entry #1: Why Movie Studios Don't Care About You. Yes, You.
If you're reading this, then you're part of the online fan community that frequents film sites. You like to stay up-to-date on upcoming movies. You likely have a love of superheroes and/or comic books. You enjoy hearing the latest Hollywood rumors and rumblings. You probably appreciate hearing about the behind-the-scenes machinations that lead to the movies you love. You may, in fact, be a nerd.
And, guess what, studios don't care what you think about their blockbusters. Namely ones featuring comic book characters, or that are huge effects-driven spectacles.
Why? It's simple, really. Because they're going to get your money anyway.
Let's take Thursday, for example. The first trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit the web. All over the internet, you could heard the rumble of fan response. Of course, it was very passionate on both sides. Many hated it. Many loved it. Tons of folks thought it looked too busy with too many characters while others thought it looked like an epic comic book action-adventure. But at the end of the day, all these people that are bickering? They're going to see it anyway!
For better or worse, properties involving The X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, or any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe characters are bulletproof.
Whether it's out of morbid curiosity, or "getting dragged" by friends, or because they want to see "how bad" it is, or because their opinion is going to soften in the weeks leading up to the premiere so they want to "give it a chance," all the haters are going to see it. And that's all the studio cares about. They want your $12. Period. They don't need you to be excited about the movie. They don't need you to approve of the tone, or to agree with the creative liberties they've taken. They just need you to pay $12 to see it at your local multiplex.
It's the funniest thing, really. It's also very unique to this cross section of fans and type of movies. Would this happen during an election? If you spent months following two candidates, and you believed 100% in one and wished to support them, would you then go on election day to the booth and vote for the other candidate? In essence, that's what you do whenever you purchase a ticket for a movie that you've been protesting. You're giving them your vote. The way you vote for the other guy, the one you supposedly want (i.e. a movie that fits your criteria in terms of its tone/source material/or, in Spider-Man's case you want the character to revert to Marvel Studios) is by simply not going.
Money talks. Hit them in the wallet, where it hurts. Don't buy a ticket, don't get the t-shirt, or the action figures, or the tie-in books. If you really want to get the movie you've dreamed of, don't give your vote to the one you don't.
Problem is, can you really resist? It's hard, isn't it? Personally, when it comes to Amazing Spider-Man, I sat out the first one. Caught it for free via an On-Demand service two or three months ago. However, there is one upcoming comic book movie that I know, no matter how repulsed I am by practically every aspect of it, I'm going to go see on July 17, 2015. There's pretty much nothing about it that I agree with or am excited about, but it contains a few characters, and is based on a mythology, that I just can't ignore. So despite my protests, my scathing review of the first movie, and the countless hours I've spent arguing with others about it...they're gonna get my vote. They're getting my money; My indirect endorsement of a direction that I have no desire to support.
There lies the rub.
So I want you to think about that next time you find yourself embroiled in a flame war in the comment section of a movie site. Next time you're fighting someone tooth and nail about how terrible a movie looks, and how much you despise what the studio/director is doing with it, ask yourself: "Am I going to end up seeing it?" If the answer is "Yes," then maybe it's time to zip it and just go with the flow. You're going to indirectly tell the filmmakers, "More please!" anyway. If you want Spider-Man to go to Marvel, stop filling Sony's coffers and he just might.
Lastly, earlier in this column I referenced non-comic book properties- just general "effects-driven spectacles." That touches on an issue that's all the more troubling. In the last two years, a disturbing trend has taken hold. International audiences are eating up our blockbusters, more than ever. More and more, Hollywood is shrugging off what North American audiences think of a movie because they know certain types of films will do insane numbers elsewhere.
Let's take Pacific Rim as an example. During the first few weeks of its release, it was doom and gloom. It had a fairly soft opening, and didn't appear to be the fire-starter that Warner Bros had hoped it would be. It ended up making only $102 million here in the states- pretty lousy for a film that cost $190 million to make. But then it went on to make $305 million internationally- bringing it to $407 million. Now director Guillermo del Toro has reason to believe that he could get a green light for a sequel- for a film that got 75% of its total gross from overseas.
Even other famous bombs, like the 2012 Taylor Kitsch one-two punch of John Carter and Battleship made hundreds of millions of dollars overseas. While those films ultimately underperformed and won't be getting sequels, they definitely showed Hollywood that there's a massive market out there for CGI-heavy, spectacle-driven, action-first movies.
In short, Hollywood's disconnect from its most passionate fans is likely to only get worse. The one positive to come from the last two examples I cited, though, is that those films didn't get sequels. Here in the states, we voted. We voted by not going. So while Hollywood continues to think, "Let's cram as many explosions in there as possible cause those foreigners love them," they at least know that they have to try a little harder.
Which brings us back to the question, Can you resist the movies that you wish they'd stop making? Can you put your money where your mouth is? If not, and you keep giving them your $12, then the studios have zero reason to listen to our section of their fan base.
Who knows? Maybe resistance is futile. Maybe we, the passionate, vocal minority are only a drop in the bucket. Perhaps even if every single one of us stayed home, there'd be enough casual, mainstream fans to keep certain franchises afloat. But it's something worth thinking about, isn't it? Next time a studio does something that pisses you off, defiles your childhood, or spits in the face of what you hold near and dear, try saying "No thanks." Could be a step in the right direction.
Thanks for your time.