Take it From a Dad, There's Just No Summer Blockbuster

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Take it from a dad: This summer movie season’s a dud.

Don’t bother me with box office numbers, I can see it in my kids’ faces. And do you know what I see in those 11 and 12-year-old faces? Not a lot. I wouldn’t call it boredom, but I certainly wouldn’t call it, “Dad, can we see this movie again!”

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That’s not happening this year, not even close, which could explain the relatively brief trajectory of some of this summer’s more anticipated “event” films. If you want to know the real reason why Hollywood’s having such an awful summer, I think I could sum it up with all these big blockbusters. They’re big out of the block, and then they go bust. And here’s my prediction: “Guardians of the Galaxy” will repeat the pattern.

The Marvel Studios took in a jaw-dropping $94 million this past weekend. I suspect it will tumble next weekend. That’s not because the action figure epic is bad – when it comes to special effects and expanding a franchise, it’s stunning. Here’s the problem though – it’s predictably stunning. My novice take? Again, speaking just as a dad whose parental mission in life seems to be taking his boys to such movies, is that all these movies are kind of beginning to look the same.

Please don’t confuse my musings for that of an accomplished and learned critic. I’m neither, not even close – just a dad who sees his kids increasingly numbed to all the action in all their action heroes. Allow me to explain it to all you super heroes competing for our attention this summer – “we’re just not into you anymore.” Or at least not as much as we were, or our kids were.

Let me stress, my super hero friends, that’s not because you’re super bad – you’re actually good, very good, and not just at fighting bad, of course. You’re just getting super predictable. The problem is there are just so damn many of you, spread among so many sequels and prequels, and in the case of “Days of Future Past,” a sequel and a prequel in one, that you’re all just too many, too much.

What used to be special, is now everyone’s same special effects. It’s like all the Hollywood studios bought the same CGI graphics equipment at the same time, and boom!! Blockbuster Bonanza!! Just the high tech animation alone is a jaw-dropping constant. But that’s the problem right there --- It’s a constant in darn near all these films. Computer-generated action sequences have gone from novelty to numbing faster than you can say, “large buttered popcorn” these days. We’re getting used to them. We expect them. We even lose patience if we don’t start seeing them – early and fast. So Hollywood’s been obliging us, increasingly upping the high-tech ante with each film, and darn near every film.

What’s remarkable this year isn’t just the sheer number of these action hero films, but this “new and improved action formula.” As far as action and sheer adrenaline-pumping special effects, they’re now all off the charts. In the latest Transformers movie, eye-popping fights scenes and incredibly detailed animations dominate three-quarters of the film. And that movie, like the latest Spiderman sequel, gets to that action quickly, and repeatedly. But “souping” things up with so many additional characters immersed in all that action, tends to make “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” a heart-pounding, but eventually numbing, ride…again, just speaking as a seasoned connoisseur dad devotee of the genre!

I actually blame my kids. Hollywood spoiled them and continued to up the ante for them. So they wanted more, and Hollywood gave them more – more fight scenes, more stunning graphics, more often and in more films. That’s why all these films’ have such boffo opening weekends. Their audience is composed of largely, although not exclusively, pre-pubescent digitized drug addicts, desperately looking for their latest “hit.” And once satisfied, they’re on to their next hit, their next fix, their monster jolt.

That might explain the whole “Godzilla” phenomenon. The film opened to an impressive $93 million its first weekend, but dropped 67% the very next weekend. That’s not to say it wasn’t a hit. To date, it’s made more than $600 million worldwide. Thank God for those foreign audiences, by the way; their action learning curve seems to be significantly behind ours.

Don’t get me wrong. This dad sees plenty of potential in some of these breakout blockbusters. For example, I think Captain America’s second solo run in “The Winter Soldier” could prove a valuable extension of a franchise that risked getting tired. But this unabashedly patriotic character just might have legs to match his green-screen fight scenes. We’ll see.

The problem now is that all of these films are wowing us as a given. We expect they’ll be stunning to watch, and they are. But what’s happening is they all seem to be relying more and more on those stunning graphics and digitized battles. I swear, the guys behind “Transformers: Age of Extinction” quickly decided to make the plot extinct! And speaking as a dad, I can say they succeeded perfectly.

Gone are the days Hollywood tried to weave in some underlying storyline (think the original “Star Wars”) – and don’t tell me Peter Parker’s tortured superhero soul qualifies, it doesn’t. I’m thinking more like “Dawn of Planet of the Apes,” which seemed to shrewdly and carefully build on a franchise by branching out beyond the initial limited bounds of that franchise. It did so by making the lead figure, an ape named Caesar, almost human in quality (yes, I know, he actually was a human in costume, but you get my point!).  In other words, action was still big in this movie, but far bigger was the dark and foreboding world the director was establishing in this movie, while nicely teeing up what looks like a heck of a blockbuster sequel to follow!

So, there you go, movie fans. Take it from a dad who knows, this summer stinks because Hollywood didn’t consult enough dads and moms, who do know. We’re the folks who take our kids and watch their reactions (as we’re shuttling back and forth in the theater, getting them stuff from the snack bar). We see it in their faces. They just expect you to wow ‘em on the screen. That’s your problem, all you movie honchoes and super hero stars – you’re always blowing them away. And now that there are so many of you doing the same thing, they’re now blowing you away. No wonder they’re not coming back to see your flick again. These little Einsteins are Imaxed out, and waiting for their next fix, always due out.

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