The Filmtransition.com’s ‘about us’ section promises to review literary everything, but so far we might have been a little bit elitist. Cine Imperfecto, Hyperrealism, Uruguayan Cinema…All well, but maybe it’s time to select some of the most best American blockbusters of the last decade up to 2014. Accessible, entertaining stuff. No food for thought or whatsoever. Movies. Maybe the kind of films that made you fall in love with cinema as a kid. I mean, everyone growing up in the 80’s/90’s probably still has vivid nostalgic memories of classical scenes from Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Terminator and the likes. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore, you might think, but probably time just has to pass by to be able to recognize todays’ Hollywood blockbusters brilliance. The Hunger Games means to kids these days what Indiana Jones once (or still actually) meant to me.
Anyway, what exactly is a blockbuster? ‘A thing of great power or size, in particular a film (…) that is a great commercial success’, is how the Oxford Dictionary defines the expression. The term rose to prominence in the late 1970’s, after the immense success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975), which was one of the first New Hollywood high grossing, mainstream successes. (Make sure to check out TFT’s list of 25 New Hollywood classics). So a financially super successful movie is a blockbuster? Not per se. Take the highly successful film Intouchables (2011) for example, which grossed almost half a billion worldwide. Not considered a blockbuster, even worse; often considered an art house film in the Americanized world just because it’s French. And because it deals with ordinary people. A criminal immigrant helping a disabled aristocrat out; it’s touching, but it’s not epic in its scale. Blockbusters are a genre as well. A blockbuster is meant to be epic. And sometimes they are, but they don’t make the money the producers hoped for: 47 Ronin and The Lone Ranger were big box office bombs for example, but they are blockbusters nonetheless. And with epic, I don’t mean the actual storyline per se. Last year’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was as much epic as it wasn’t a blockbuster. Battlefields, extra-terrestrial stuff, enemies of states, dystopia, knights, spaceships, medieval times, the future, visual effects, big actors, you know… Well, what follows is a short list of my favorite blockbusters of the 2010’s – all highly nostalgic films. Seven ‘big’ films which, in my eyes, distinguished themselves from mediocrity.
Top 7 Hollywood blockbusters of the decade so far (2010-2013)
These great blockbusters are arranged in no particular order. The new 2014 Hollywood blockbusters are listed below.
Super 8 (2011)
Directed by J.J. Abrahams
Featuring Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler
Director J.J. Abrams is surely no stranger in the world of big budget popcorn entertainment. Before Super 8, he directed a Mission Impossible (2006) and reinvented the Star Trek universe (2009). Super 8, coproduced by Steven Spielberg, is a warm and nostalgic homage to the late 70’s/early 80’s blockbusters. A film about a group of kids, led by the most sensitive, intelligent an brave boy of course, stumbling into something extraterrestrial. It’s The Goonies, it’s Close Encounters, it’s E.T. There was literary nothing new going on in this film, and yet it was highly refreshing among all that superhero/robot shit Hollywood is producing these days.
Directed by Ryan Johnson
Featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis
I remember seeing the trailer of Looper for the first time and thinking ‘this is something to avoid’. I was terribly wrong though. Looper is one of the most original and enjoying blockbusters of the last couple of years with a great, good old twist at the end. Taking place in the near future, Joe (Gorden-Levitt) is an assassin, a ‘looper’ who kills guys from the future. One day, he recognizes one of his victims as his older self. Unable to shoot himself, the story takes off, his older self becoming his enemy.
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Featuring Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen
Hugo is a bit of an odd title in Martin Scorsese’s long and impressive body of work, as it is a family film. To be fairly honest; I don’t really remember that much of the plot anymore. There’s an orphan boy living in the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930 looking for a key that gives access to something exciting and adventurous. The film is beautifully crafted though and pays tribute to Georgie Méliès’ (the actual film pioneer whom the boy befriends at the station) universe in an amazing way.
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Featuring Leonardo Dicaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy
A film that by no means can be missing from this list of Hollywood blockbusters. Inception was from the moment of its announcement bound to be a box office success. Christopher Nolan already gathered a bit of a cult following after Memento, but established himself as one of his generation’s most beloved directors with The Prestige (2006), but above all with The Dark Knight (2008). Famous for his ingenious ideas and his smart and spectacular filmmaking, he delivered with Inception his most mind-blowing film so far. In my opinion Inception relied a little too much on its brilliant idea, but was great in terms of nostalgia – it has blockbuster written all over it.
Directed by Sam Mendes
Featuring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem
Skyfall is the twenty-third Bond film and without a doubt the best. Every piece falls into the right place this time: being James Bond finally suits Daniel Craig, there’s a truly great bad guy (Bardem), there’s a beautiful classical Bond song (Adele) and there’s the soulful directing by Sam Mendes, a guy we know from directing sincere, American family drama’s (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Away We Go). And last but not least the strong and clear plotline, which felt like a respite after the needless complicated Quantum of Solace. It’s nice to hear Mendes is directing the follow up as well!
Cloud Atlas (2012)
Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Featuring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Ben Whishaw
A lot of supposedly unadaptable books have been adapted to motion pictures recently, with mixed results. Life of Pi was alright, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was horrible, and I still haven’t seen The Perfume for some reason. Cloud Atlas, written by David Mitchell, is probably the most unadaptable book of all time, as the story takes place in five different periods of time (both in the past and the future) and is written in styles that vary enormously from one another. Somehow the Wachowski Brothers (the Matrix Trilogy) and Tom Tykwer succeeded in making a dazzling, ambitious film about the interconnectedness of everything.
Best new US blockbusters in 2014
Little is known about Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, but given the director’s status (Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception) as a creator of huge films that are both entertaining and intellectually engaging, this one will definitely be worth your time.
The Hunger Games – Mockingjay part I (2014)
The first part of the grand finale of this highly successful series of dystopian adventures is set for a release at the end of the year. I wonder what they’re gonna do with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s part. The first two films proved to be outstanding among all those horrible young adult novel adaptations.
Darren Aronofsky latest 2014 project deserves to be mentioned here. But not because of its brilliance (we have already seen it), but because of it intentions and spectacle. Definitely a blockbuster, but one that takes itself way to seriously, while not living up to what it says to deliver. Quite a disappointment after Black Swan.