The news this week that Star Wars Episode 7 is to be released in December instead of the franchise’s traditional May spot is perhaps the final confirmation that the blockbuster is no longer just a summer entity.
To be fair, we kind of knew that already. Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings films have long meant that the Winter season holds significant box office for the American film industry, but Star Wars is particularly symbolic given its status as the king of the blockbuster medium. Sure, it wasn’t the first, but it’s the one that shaped it more than any other, with it’s franchisisation, merchandise and assorted spin offs.
The blockbuster is currently in a really interesting period of transition, whereby the basic structure of the form is shifting in strange and exciting ways. Thor: The Dark World opened in the States this weekend, meaning that Marvel bookend Summer 2013, while, under the tutelage of Disney, Marvel have actually already developed the underscored tentpole picture, having introduced a television series that runs concurrently with their theatrical releases. While the success of Marvel’s SHIELD from a creative perspective is neither here nor there, the model being employed by the studio is truly fascinating. And it’s set to get even more interesting, and perhaps even a little too complex, after Marvel this week revealed a deal which sees no less than four of their characters being granted their own small screen adaptations, which will eventually lead to an Avengers-style “bringing the team together” mini-series, in what looks set to be a major new era for Netflix, the institution behind the project.
It’s perhaps apt that in a week which saw such broad strokes of innovation unveiled UK theatres finally saw the opening of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Gravity is unusual in that it steps away from this trend of blockbuster movies that rely on a grand arc mythology and instead strips the whole thing down to the bare minimum. Whole there’s certainly nothing “old-fashioned” about the technology employed (or rather, invented) to bring Gravity to the big screen, there’s something rather humbling about the form the picture itself takes. I noted in my review of the film how Cuaron has stripped down the spectacle-driven blockbuster to a single scene, resulting in a film which is the cultural antipode of the contemporary blockbuster cinema. If there’s one thing that’s inevitable with matters that concern the public interest, then it’s that attentions will eventually wane, leading to a counter-revolution in what satisfies the widest range. While the Marvel behemoth continues apace, one can’t help but be comforted by the great “What If?” when the answer can be found in a film such as Gravity.
Adam Batty – Editor