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Eoin Munster explores how film genres can go stale amongst audiences.


 

Trends in cinema fly in and out of fashion every few years. The lifespan of even a whole genre can be finite. The horror genre has the largest number of sub-genres under its cap that continually come in and out of fashion. After its commercial bomb, 2017’s Geostorm appears to be the latest in the cinematic trend of “disaster movies” that has brought an end to the genre.

As disaster movies go, the film Geostorm is an impressive one, on a budget of $120 million it has grossed a whopping $30 million so far, a complete disaster indeed. Some critics have suggested that this financial flop could spell the end for the disaster movie genre. With the genre no longer being a financially viable place for studio producers to invest their time and money, it very well could be.

Some critics have suggested that with this financial flop, this could be the end of the disaster film genre.

The genre has had a very good run throughout the last couple of decades. Beginning in the ‘90s with Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, surviving 2012 in 2009, and perhaps finishing with San Andreas. Independence Day: Resurgence, which was released just last year was by no means a box office bomb, but received low scores from review sites such as Rotten Tomatoes.

However, this is not the first time a genre has fallen out of favour with audiences. One would only need to look back to the western, to see a film genre that is a shadow of its former self. Reduced now to the occasional reboot or genre flip, the Western was once a staple of Hollywood cinema. It was there from the get-go with one of the first feature-length films being a western.

It was in the late 50s that the traditional western began to grow stale. What is currently occurring with today’s disaster movies is what happened to the American western.

How did the western overcome this major downfall? By handing the genre across the pond, thus making large stylistic changes. With the emergence of new, European directors, productions received a harsher treatment. Rather than clean-cut, wholesome sheriffs as the stars, there were gritty, Clint Eastwood types hunting down outlaws. Traditional orchestral scores were replaced by jazzier, haunting tunes. Sets did away with shiny polished guns and refined saloons and introduced sex and violence to the frontier. Most renowned being Italian director Sergio Leone for his A Few Dollars More Trilogy, and so, the Spaghetti Western was born.

Marvel already managed to revitalise numerous series that had gone stale and predictable under rival studios: can they do the same for its own productions?

It is due to this change in style and tone that the western genre managed to remain as big a box office giant as it was during the 20th century. The question is, can major studios today learn from this example of the past? Likewise, can we apply this sort of thinking to the modern giants of cinema right now that audiences are already beginning to grow tired of? The biggest colossus in cinema today is the comic book movie. Marvel Studios have managed to release 17 films in one franchise and grossed a total of 5 billion US dollars. However, murmurs in the audience after the release of Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 might lead us to believe that Marvel is losing its pull. Marvel already managed to revitalise numerous series that had gone stale and predictable under rival studios: can they do the same for its own productions?

Three of the most recent stand-out superhero films to be released in cinema are Deadpool (2016), Logan (2017), and Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Each were a collaboration of genres and a breath of fresh air to audiences. Two of the above were out-right comedies. Meanwhile, Fox, having released the final chapter of Wolverine’s life Logan worldwide, have been grossing even higher than Marvel Studios’ with their films with Logan being the most highly praised of the three. Adopting a thematic presence of the spaghetti western, Logan is brutally real and astonishingly self-contained. Abandoning the world-ending calamities typical of superhero films, Logan is surprisingly small-scale, dealing with a strong character rather than dastardly schemes.

Returning to the genre of the disaster film, with everything aforementioned, is the genre capable of growth? With the basic premise of the films being mass destruction, how much growth is possible in the genre? Could a change of focus be essential for its survival, or would it sacrifice the essence of the disaster movie as a genre?

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