Was it so long ago? In 2004, there was incredible optimism in the film business. “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy had arrived to thundering conclusion. The third installment of the series, “The Return Of The King,” had just swept the Oscars and grossed over a billion dollars in worldwide box office.
The future for other such projects was unending. Think of the possibilities. You could have very successful films that were also vast award winners. But alas, it was not meant to be.
Through a combination of factors, many of the decision-makers in Hollywood developed a small panic. Many felt that films should be used for political advocacy and not just entertainment, while others feared all films would turn into what they called “hollow epics,” without any real narrative direction. They didn’t want to see every film become a “Troy” or “Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World.”
So sadly, because of a combination of these two factors, decisions came fast and furious in Hollywood to stop this perceived menace. Films were scaled down and many films were turned into more “self serving” modules where filmmakers could create infomercials that covered political issues, social issues, and anything else they felt was needed to change what they perceived as evil in the world. And why stop there? They even went so far as to create characters based on real-life people they despised. (“Day After Tomorrow’s” infamous Dick Cheney character come to mind).
Wow. So creative…
For those of us who just wanted more spectacle like that which made “Lord Of The Rings” so iconic… Well, we lost. Filmmakers grew addicted to the political narrative they were building and saw themselves as political forces.
The only problem was that none of these films made any kind of serious money. In fact, in most cases these films lost money. Films that now barely pulled in over $30 million would now be crowned successes because they “advanced” a movement. Unfortunately for them, that money made couldn’t even cover marketing costs. DVD sales also tanked (along with the rest of home media) and a steady decline began that is still steadily declining today.
Then the unthinkable happened. “The Dark Knight” opened to high acclaim and crossed the billion dollar mark. At last, could it be — a film loved by movie-goers would follow in the Oscar footsteps of “Return of the King”? Unfortunately for the “Dark Knight,” the industry had changed. Instead of welcoming it into the Best Picture race like “King” or even “Titanic,” “Knight” was ignored completely. It didn’t even garner a nomination. Why? It didn’t further the “correct” politics like, say, the flop “Frost/Nixon.” And with all due respect to “Nixon,” who even remembers that film?
But fear not. Like a White Knight arriving to slay the dragon, there is hope. In 2012, Peter Jackson returns with “The Hobbit.” Could we have another grand spectacle; another “Dark Knight” or even parts of “Avatar”? Could it really happen and awaken the film industry?
The answer is a resounding yes. Hollywood’s vision is changing, not by choice, but because of financial realities. The flop after flop after flop of political films is undeniable. With their green, audiences overwhelmingly vote for fare such as “Transformers” and “Twilight.”
And “Hobbit,” if it’s good enough, can bring about more positive change.