By Doly Mallet
We have learned so many things from movies throughout history, but 2023 was an exceptional year in film. Following the pandemic, people are finally going back to actual theaters. In 2022, this was thanks to Top Gun and Tom Cruise, but now, his airplanes seem small compared to a much bigger toy, Barbie.
From 2020 to 2022, we thought that maybe streaming was winning the competition, that TV was reigning, and that people would prefer to stay home than go and enjoy the big screen experience. Then, producers were going crazy. They thought we would only want to go back out there if they used nostalgia (remakes or sequels) or the proven formulas of the same old superheroes and princesses.
Yes, Top Gun was playing the nostalgia card, and we fell for it (it was the good kind of nostalgia, and it was respectful), but then audiences started to get bored with Hollywood’s lack of creativity. The box office didn’t lie when Indiana Jones, for instance, wasn’t as successful as they thought it would be, and there were many similar cases.
Then along comes Greta Gerwig, an independent filmmaker who was ignored by the Academy when she presented Little Women in 2019, and she dispelled all of the industry myths about female directors. Let’s not forget that there was a belief that movies with female protagonists were just not that successful. So, those people who thought Barbie was just a “dumb blonde” had to shut up. And then there was the apparent box office fight against Christopher Nolan and his Oppenheimer, which was titled Barbenheimer. The truth was that both of these movies were winners. What did they have in common? They are not sequels nor remakes. They are original stories, and they confront people.
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So they confront people, then? What about Sound of Freedom? Same traits, same success. The dark horse that nobody saw coming. The revolution it started has been so significant that one of its producers, Eduardo Verástegui, will run for President in his native country, Mexico. Yes, it’s getting very political, but that’s another story.
The three films, which apparently have nothing in common, show the industry that the audience is hungry for creativity, new stories, profound messages, and social critique. We want to answer questions; we’re feeling philosophical; and we wish to be treated as active viewers, not passive ones.
Marvel is falling behind. D.C. is trying to launch a new Superman (Already? Really?). Is Star Wars still Star Wars? Is Disney panicking and trying to win back the audience that is starting to look elsewhere? And what about the actors’ and writers’ strike? They are also clamoring for more creativity and for being considered some of the most essential factors for the success of a movie.
Remember, Everything Everywhere All at Once won so many prizes at the Academy Awards. Isn’t it obvious yet? Let’s hope that Hollywood really gets the message that we want movies that shine a light on big, philosophical human topics, not something written by artificial intelligence. It is scary that they think that real success will come simply from making more movies about toys. It seems like an algorithm is making that decision. Right, Polly Pocket?
The author is a bestselling author and a professional film and TV critic.
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