Monday, November 26, 2012

The year that filled up

Now that we're past Thanksgiving, it's time to get in that reflective mood as the year starts to close down.

Too early for year-end lists, mind you, but not too early to start assessing what kind of year 2012 has been.

I don't think this has been a great year for movies, but it certainly has been a full one.

When was the last time you can remember hearing about four major releases that had to be shifted to the following calendar year?

Most release years include one or two movies that must move their release dates forward for one reason or another. But in 2012, The Great Gatsby, Gravity, Gangster Squad and G.I. Joe: Retaliation all jumped to 2013.

Must have something to do with the letter G, though The Grey, Goon, Gone, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Good Deeds and God Bless America were all spared.

So the market is becoming more competitive but less good. What else is new?

Then again, the best part of the release schedule is still largely ahead of us. And it was from now until the end of the year that the first three of the four delayed titles were scheduled to come out.

With The Great Gatsby, the reason for the delay (to May 10, 2013) is listed on wikipedia as "delays in the production schedule." But conventional wisdom suggests that perhaps Warner Brothers didn't want to send Leonardo DiCaprio up against Leonardo DiCaprio. The Great Gatsby was supposed to come out at Christmas ... which is when Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, starring one Leo DiCaprio, is also going to quench our Quentin thirst.

Gravity -- Alfonso Cuaron's long, long-awaited follow-up to 2006's Children of Men -- is cruelly having an entire year tacked on to that wait. Originally slated for the day before Thanksgiving this year, the movie now won't bow until next October 18th. It sounds like the reason for the delay is all the CG required in post. I'm reading that Cuaron is experimenting with all kinds of innovative technology, including an "uninterrupted" 17-minute take (though the article suggests that the take is done with digital assistance, unlike the long takes in Children of Men, which were au naturel).

Gangster Squad fell victim to that old problem of having a trailer containing subject matter that was rendered controversial by real-world events. The Gangster Squad trailer they were showing this summer had a bunch of baddies with tommy guns blowing away patrons in a movie theater from behind the screen. The shooting in Aurora, Colorado during The Dark Knight Rises pretty much killed that particular trailer. And not only is that scene now gone from the movie, but the whole movie was moved by four months from September to January 11th (a release date that would be a sign of very low confidence by the studio in most cases). Maybe it was reshoots, maybe it was just trying to keep a wide berth from those tragic events.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation has the most number of apparent reasons for its delay from this past June to next May. The "official" reasons are that 3G is being added in post-production and that Paramount is trying to boost interest in international markets. (Since when aren't international markets interested in Hollywood action movies?) However, the unofficial reasons include all of the following: reshoots to avoid the early death of Channing Tatum's character, after Tatum had officially become a star in 2012 (hey, it's not a spoiler if it isn't going to end up happening in the movie); a desire not to compete with Tatum's Magic Mike, which was set to open the same day (in a situation that echoes the potential Christmas Day DiCaprio double feature); and, um, that's it, but the rule of three dictates I list three things.

And come to think of it, it isn't only movies that start with G that have jumped ship from 2012. I just thought of a fifth movie that was supposed to come out this year, but didn't: World War Z. The adaptation of Max Brooks' popular zombie novel would have been part of that crowded late December release schedule had it not been for production delays and the seven weeks of reshoots that were required earlier this year. With or without those reshoots, the trailer tells me this movie might be a bigger disaster than an actual zombie apocalypse.

Of course, now that I've analyzed the reasons for the delays of five major would-be 2012 films, it seems pretty clear that none of them were delayed only because "too many movies are already coming out in 2012." In each case there seem to be other factors, even if they are as simple as too many movies by one of the movie's stars coming out during the expected release window -- not too many movies in general.

What I think this really illustrates is how over time, making movies is becoming an increasingly complicated proposition, with studios finding profit margins to be ever thinner, and the need seeming ever more paramount to fine-tune the movie until it's a perfect product released at a perfect time.

Or, maybe it's just a statistical blip. 


Thaddeus said...

In particular, World War Z seems pointless and OTT in a Pavlovian-reflex way. I hate the slow-mo shots of Brad's beautiful face as he breaks the fourth wall and stares into the camera. I hate the "you're the X man for the X job because you have X skills and you're great" trope.

And I really don't like the hyper-fast CGI zombies. Not only do they look terrible, but if they're that quick and (for no g-d reason) climb over each other in hyper-speed like rats, then there's really no tension because everyone would die. It's the same as that stupid "they'll walk across a river" thing from Land of the Dead. I really hope this zombie trend is over soon...

Vancetastic said...

I've only seen the trailer once, so this description may not be entirely accurate, but I've been describing the zombies as "a tidal wave of zombies." Do they even have legs?

I wouldn't have high hopes for this film anyway, because I couldn't get through the book. Something about the structure of interviews with survivors takes the immediacy out of the zombie threat.

I agree that the zombie trend is sort of played, but I still eagerly keep up with every episode of The Walking Dead. (I'm actually at least two behind, so don't spoil anything.)