There’s no more distressing trait than being submissive. It is the epitome of the modern man and the only constant throughout time. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Introspection can be defined as “a reflective looking inward: an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings.” When we remove this singularity, we seem to proceed blindly in the footsteps of our fellow man. In 2022, the 3 highest grossing movies are as follows:
1. Avatar: Way of the Water – $2 Billion
2. Top Gun: Maverick – $1.4 Billion
3. Jurassic World: Dominion – $1.01 Billion
With numbers like this, the cinema experience will live on, and the age-old tradition of paying too much for a large popcorn continues. Though, is that a good thing? Within the fictitious galaxy of the Star Wars universe, at the height of their power, the Jedi Order was seemingly at its most vulnerable. They were unable to keep a balance between their teachings and the politics of the time. Their demise, which lead to the rise of the evil Empire, was brought on almost exclusively by themselves. Are theaters chains, and modern film copying this formula?
I had thought that perhaps the most powerful force behind the ‘Jedi Order’ running modern film, which had found its way into theater chains, was nostalgia, maybe there’s something else, a stronger motive than our memories. But, before we get too philosophical again, let’s examine the 3 highest-grossing films of the year, what connects them, what differentiates them, and see if they can help us grasp a transparent understanding on the current state of cinema.
“Hey Sully, How’s it Feel to Betray Your Own Race?”
We’ll begin with the highest-grossing film traveling to the magical world of Pandora with Way of the Water. 12 years later and all anyone could talk about was, “Can you name a single character from the first one?” Most people’s answer was no. So, how is Water the 6th highest-grossing film of all time, as of this article being written? From the movie that I saw, I’m really not sure. Visually, oh yeah, it’s amazing. If you were to tell me it took 12 years to film because director James Cameron literally traveled to another planet, I might believe you. The lighting and the water effects especially are outstanding. A very pleasing film to look at, from seeing the alien whales, to the forests, it all looks really good.
Aside from the visuals, there are some fantastic moments sprinkled throughout the runtime, yet, the story is unable to make the decade wait seem worth it. There’s nothing to help the film stand out, it’s not hard to believe people will confuse moments from the original and its sequel. The story of Jake Sully’s family is just not that interesting. The new water tribe they introduce is played out and idiotic at best, with the dynamics between Sully’s kids and the tribe being on par with 90s high school dramas. What will keep you to the end of the film is the action, with the final action scene making up for a lot of slow and needless runtime.
What’s most curious about Water’s success is that there’s not a lot here to grab your attention, and make the long wait worth it. There are definitely fun and memorable moments, yet I can’t see a reason to spend 3 hours watching blue people swim in the ocean.
What Year is it Again?
I hate the original Top Gun. The film has no plot and is only remembered because of 2 songs and the fact that Tom Cruise is now a household name. Maverick is definitely a sequel to the original, its tone is almost the exact same on every level. So, does that mean it’s also as bad? Seeing jets soar high past clouds and deep into canyons is something that is definitely worthy of the big screen. Where Maverick triumphs the most, would be its title.
Maverick is just that, a movie about Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchel. The story of a man who would rather live in the past than forget it. The events of the past film still haunt him, feeling responsible for the death of his wingman Goose. Having Goose’s son, Rooster played by Miles Teller, in this film was a perfect choice, the drama writes itself. The dynamic between Cruise and Teller is what makes the film, it’s very much 1980s dialogue, and I think that represents the film itself. For most of the runtime, it really feels like Tom Cruise just wanted to make an 80s action film with sharper picture quality, and that’s exactly what he did.
The 6th of the ‘Jurassic’ Franchise
Our final film is easily the most shocking of the bunch. I had vowed to never watch Dominion, as my hatred for the last in this series, Fallen Kingdom, is an itch that will never rid my soul. The final chapter in the Jurassic World trilogy was a stepping point in the eyes of many to return to theaters, and I can see why Dinosaurs are on the mainland. It’s a pretty good hook, I can’t deny that. Where the movie shines without question is the action, my favorite action scene concludes with Owen Grady being chased by Atrociraptors, a new type of velociraptor, on a motorcycle through city streets. Seeing the old cast interact with our new heroes was pretty cool, their interactions were great.
There are one too many questions here as well, what does locus have to do with dinosaurs, how have the dinosaurs just adapted to differing weather climates if they were genetically bred to live on an island, or why in 2 films have they managed to write a way for the T-Rex to be captured off camera? These are only a few problems I could think of, yet honestly of what 2022 had to offer, at least Dominion didn’t try to be something it’s not, It’s just not enough to carry the mediocre plot.
Examining these 3 films, can we answer why anyone went to see them? I can answer that question in one word – Spectacle. Can anyone really remember the plot of any 3 of these movies? Probably not, but they can remember that one part that was cool, with the thing near the end. Because what the modern blockbuster has transformed into, is waiting until the next action scene. Even something as cheesy as Rocky IV had a reason for montage sequences to happen and gave you a reason to care.
To me, the theater chain is more in line with your favorite theme park, than the nostalgia of our childhoods. To be submissive implies ignorance on the side of the consumer, which from what we’ve just discussed could very easily be the diagnosis for the popularity of the highest-grossing films from 2022. Pointing fingers only at the consumer would be a mistake, as perhaps the real reason is the simplest answer; most big-budget movies just kinda suck, but they sure entertain.
With each passing year, I just can’t see a reason to spend my time in a theater, it’s just not worth it anymore. This is because with what theaters chains offer, they themselves are submissive to the biggest name, or what they think will sell the most limited edition popcorn buckets, not what looks good. I get it though, it’s business, but that business is changing and your favorite theater chain isn’t realizing that. I watched both Maverick and Dominion at home, and don’t regret it. In fact, the one film I do regret seeing in theaters is Water.
What inspired me to look at the state of the industry I love is a quote from Luke Skywalker, that changed the landscape of pop culture forever, “I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Endings seem to be non-existent in the writers’ room of your favorite franchises. Modern-day film is overall not good, everyone knows this, but what’s scary is how that ideology is seeping its way into massive theater chains. For all one knows maybe that could be the problem facing theaters today, their only pulse is based on how much we want to see the same characters doing slightly different things, over, and over again. Though, only if it comes with a free refill, of course.
People will always want to be entertained, so film will always find a way to live on, whether on a big screen or a streaming service. The number of films worth the price of admission does not make up for the gas money spent driving to the theater. If modern blockbusters continue to produce mediocre stories, theater chains will continue to dive further and further into obscurity, and will, like the Jedi, bring forth their own demise.