Plenty of regular everyday people make New Year’s Resolutions, but I think bigger entities, namely movie makers and movie moguls, need to make them too. For the third year in a row, I bring my film critic credentials to the editorial side and have fun taking the movie industry to task for things they need to change. As always, some resolutions (Thank you, “Barbenheimer” originality and a buried DCEU) come true while others never get fulfilled (no extended theater-to-streaming windows). Welcome to 2024! Now let’s make a few suggestions for improvement.
RESOLUTION #1: EMBRACE MORE ORGANIC FAN BUZZ.
Two of the biggest successes of 2023 came from unintentional unification that began as competition. That would be the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon which combined Barbie and Oppenheimer. Every film industry follower expected either Universal Studios or Warner Bros. to blink and move their respective tentpole rather than compete against each other. To great surprise, neither did and the fans embraced them together in the wackiest “opposites attract” combination of parallel success and counter-programming since There’s Something About Mary and Saving Private Ryan ruled the second half of the summer box office two weeks apart from each other in 1998. Rather than avoid each other, maybe more releases need to stack like Barbie and Oppenheimer did. Competition lifts everyone’s game. Let’s see more of that.
RESOLUTION #2: SOMEBODY COME AND RESURRECT THE ROM-COM.
I know Barbie wasn’t billed or built to be a pure rom-com, but it kind of was. The bubbly and whip-smart fun of it made me miss the days of Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers. Somebody, whether that’s a director, a producer, or even a committed stewarding actor/actress, needs to resurrect the romantic comedy. We can’t be stuck with– forgive me– the has-beens of a returning Meg Ryan in What Happens Later or the regurgitated Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and Diane Keaton in Maybe I Do. Having romances and comedies on resumes used to create dual-threat, multi-talented movie stars. Look no further than Tom Hanks. Jennifer Lawrence is one of those movie stars who tried with No Hard Feelings and deserved better material. New blood is needed, and the movies can’t just go straight to streaming where a few good rom-coms pop up from time to time, like the superb Love at First Sight at Netflix. Seeing Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell make the leap to big screen rom-coms with Anyone But You is a promising start. Keep the efforts coming and make a few PG and PG-13 ones for wider audiences while you’re at it.
RESOLUTION #3: KEEP COMMITTING TO ANIMATION.
2023 was a banner year for bankable animated films, led by the big hits of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse and The Super Mario Bros. Movie. The former made nearly $700 million while the latter netted an astounding $1.3 billion globally. Even Disney/Pixar’s Elemental, thought to be a disappointment, still made $4 million short of $500 million worldwide. If you count the 2022 carryover of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish ($481 million), and the entire animated marketplace is on a year-long roll. Even international offerings like Suzume and the current The Boy and the Heron have made over $100 million. Movie moguls, take note. Families, and even cinephiles, will still come to the movie theaters for animation (and even video game adaptations as an adjacent subgenre), as long as you make the movie an event and not just dump it on streaming in two months.
RESOLUTION #4: WELCOME FOREIGN CREATIONS TO DOMESTIC THEATERS.
Speaking of Suzume and The Boy and the Heron, it’s time movie theaters continue to add and welcome international hits stateside. Look at the love going around right now for Godzilla Minus One, which may very well net some Oscar nominations in the the arts and technical categories with a $15 million budget. At the box office, it’s earned that budget back five-fold and counting. I know India’s RRR last year couldn’t quite boom all the same way, but there’s a hungry audience for exciting new things and overseas films can help feed that crowd. You’ve got 24 screens at the multiplex. They all can’t be for Barbie.
RESOLUTION #5: EASY ON THE 1980S NOSTALGIA
Hey, Hollywood, we know the 1980s nostalgia worked like gangbusters in 2023. Between Barbie, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Air, Creed III, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, The Little Mermaid, The Exorcist: Believer, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, old vibes were revitalized and money was made. Beware! That old horse can be beaten pretty quickly. Will enough of that joy and interest still be there when Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, a Road House remake, Alien: Romulus, Beetlejuice 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and new Garfield and Karate Kid movies arrive in 2024 and the long-rumored Lethal Weapon 5 and Tron: Ares come after that? At some point, that juice runs out and results tank.
RESOLUTION #6: TAKE YOUR TIME AFTER THESE SETTLED STRIKES.
You can put this very writer in the camp of “absence away makes the heart grow fonder.” I had zero problem with the strikes putting a temporary dam up on new films. Hell, I wish it went longer. I was rooting for the chaos of an Oscar season that stopped cold in July. I didn’t lament that the second Dune was pushed out of this Oscar season.
Why? Releases have been over-saturated for a long time and not just in the superhero movie fatigue department. After the COVID pandemic pause a few years ago, Hollywood responded over-dumping their logjam of delayed content in 2021. Don’t do that again. Marvel, in particular, had five TV series and four films in one calendar year. That’s too much. When big event movies or top-line awards contenders are more spaced out, they feel special and have better chances to succeed. To hear Marvel is essentially taking 2024 off with only one show (Echo) and one movie (Deadpool 3) sounds wonderful. That’s the way it should be. I say that and they have four films alone slotted for 2025.
RESOLUTION #7: HAVE ONLY ONE BATMAN AT A TIME.
While we’re on the topic of superhero fatigue, the post-strike bubble was the best thing that could have happened to James Gunn’s new DCU. The four-film funeral parade of failure that spanned Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, showed that audiences are checked out of Warner Bros.’s mid-level heroes. They want a break, and James Gunn needs to get as far away from the Snyderverse leftovers as he can. Having his Superman: Legacy hold until 2025 is a good amount of time. The next problem is Batman. Let Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson play their Year 2 rookie Caped Crusader universe out and pause the proposed Brave and the Bold. I’m all for consolidating the splintered trajectories that DC heroes had between movies, TV, and etc., but not everything has to connect to some galactic big thing. WB, you tried already chasing Marvel once and look how that turned out.
RESOLUTION #8: MAKE THE DIRECTORS CUT THE ONLY CUT.
I’ll put on the cantankerous Lewis Black-level voice for this resolution. I’m sick and tired of the delayed and unfulfilled promise of directors’ cuts that follow the public cuts of major film releases. More often than not, they are not an improvement and hammer home the multiplied incompetence of both filmmaker and the bankrolling studio. To the filmmakers, if you can’t shape a fluid, approachable, complete, disciplined, and marketable film experience on the first try, then you don’t have a good movie to begin with and that’s your fault. To the studios, you hired these supposedly revered and valued artists for what they can do. Either rein them in or let them do their thing for a final cut. Between the two of you, make the directors cut the only cut. Sorry, Napoleon, Ridley Scott, AppleTV+, Rebel Moon, Zack Snyder, and Netflix, but there’s no money or subscriber bump in a double dip. It’s just the optics of looking stupid and not on the same page.
RESOLUTION #9: BE CAREFUL OF THOSE MERGERS
Look, Warner Bros. and Paramount, we all know you’re losing. If it wasn’t for Barbie, WB would be circling the toilet with its dying comic movies. Beyond the absent momentum of previous Star Trek reboot, the shrinkage of the Transformers franchise, and the ticking clock conclusion of the Mission: Impossible series, Paramount has little to hang their hat on to compete with Disney and even slums it with substandard Saban Film releases that go straight to streaming. Fox is gone, bought by the big Mouse monster years ago. Your combined debt is ugly. You probably do stand a better chance of surviving together with this rumored potential merger, but think long and hard if that’s the best decision for the both of you. Is that really working smarter instead of harder?
RESOLUTION #10: CLEAN UP ROTTEN TOMATOES AND KEEP LETTERBOXD FROM BECOMING FILM BRO CENTRAL.
This last resolution is on us raters out there, casual fans and knighted critics alike. First of all, Rotten Tomatoes needs to clean up its ledgers and its act after 2023’s review manipulation scandal. Kick out the inactive critics and those pegged to not have professional integrity. Strengthen your vetting and application process. Studios still value Rotten Tomatoes in their promotional efforts and fans still trust them. They need to hold up their end of that trust. The second realm is trickier and less easy to govern, and that’s Letterboxd. It’s a wonderful watering hole where amateurs and professionals can log and review movies side-by-side, but it’s losing its appeal as a home of discerning taste. Thanks to an influx of the snarky Film Bro and mobilized stan crowds, Letterboxd is turning into a review-bombing battlefield of recency bias. The app tweaked their rating computation methods in June, but it hasn’t been enough. More vigilance is needed or they’re going to become a newer, more militant, and more meaningless Top 250 than IMDb’s.