About an hour ago, I posted news that Black Panther is officially the tenth highest grossing movie of all-time. Let that sink in for a moment. Marvel Studios’ 18th movie – a non-team-up film starring a fairly unknown character (i.e. not Cap, Spidey or Iron Man) – is now one of the most successful films ever.
Black Panther has taken more than $1.2 billion dollars at the worldwide box office and in the US is the No.1 Marvel movie (it’s beaten both Avengers films). The film is also the No.1 superhero flick (take that Dark Knight); and is the No.1 superhero origin story (sorry Wonder Woman).
While Black Panther’s financial achievements are clearly something to celebrate, perhaps the strongest achievement here is the fact this is a movie that everyone wants to see. Why? because Black Panther is a movie which offers something different.
And different is good. Different means that when we shell out £10+ at the cinema, to sit in a darkened room with complete strangers who will invariably talk and stare at their phones while we try to concentrate on the movie in front of us, we at least know we are going to come out the other end having had a new experience.
New experiences give us something to talk about; they give us different stories to share. New experiences can also result in GOOD MOVIES – something we’ve actually started to see over the past year.
Between 2017 & 2018, we have had some very good, very different movies, which have either achieved huge financial success or have experienced strong critical acclaim. These movies have presented stories of colour, of sexuality and of gender and have included Wonder Woman (2017), Get Out (2017), Call Me Be Your Name (2017) and Love, Simon (2018).
What is the thread that connects all of these movies?
Take Wonder Woman (2017) for example, a film which took forever to get into theatres. A film that for years was picked up and dropped countless times in favour of Batman and Superman pictures because according to studio heads, female-led comic book movies simply don’t sell.
Oh, really. I think someone might have their wires crossed a little, because when Wonder Woman finally made it onto the big screen the movie received huge critical praise.
What did the studio end up with? More than $821 million dollars in the bank (minus production & marketing costs).
What did the audience get? A good comic book movie, led by a woman, directed by a woman and offering a better representation of women than we’ve had before.
The success of Wonder Woman was not just one of those things. Audiences have been asking for a character like this for years because they want to see strong female characters on the big screen.
Now, let’s take a movie like Get Out (2017) – a horror/thriller written and directed by Jordan Peele. Peele – a black director who understands the race divisions that currently exist in the US – presented such a strong tale in Get Out that everyone was talking about it and the movie received a nomination at the 90th Academy Awards.
Get Out is easily one of the best horror movies of recent years. Sure, the film borrows elements from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Stepford Wives and the like, but it has something new to add and it is a movie which connects with people on a whole new level than we’ve seen before. Again, it’s all because of representation and presenting new stories.
And representation is really the key here; whether it’s representation through colour, representation through gender or in the case of the Oscar-nominated Call Me By Your Name (2017) or the critically acclaimed Love, Simon (2018) representation through sexuality. These are stories which stand out above the usual Hollywood fodder that we’ve all become bored of and these are the films that are causing a buzz.
Movie studios are struggling to get audiences into cinemas, but it’s not because of the internet or because of piracy as they might have you think (OK, so it is a bit); it’s because we’re bored of what makes up the majority of the movies which hit cinema screens. We’re bored of seeing the same old tosh.
And this is where we, as consumers, need to start making our voices heard. This is where we need to start demanding better movies – movies that represent all the many facets of who we are and opens us up to new ways of thinking.
If you want to see more films like Wonder Woman or Black Panther, which represent gender or race in a whole new light, then champion these films wherever you can. If you want Get Out or Love, Simon to be more than just one-offs, then recommend them to your friends, buy the Blu-rays or go to the cinema to show studios you want more films that take risks.
Money talks. Always has, always will. Studios are interested in dollars. If you’re sick of seeing yet another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, or you’re tired of the relentless sea of remakes that crop up on a yearly basis, then make sure you’re watching the movies that matter. Make sure you’re talking about the movies that matter. And make sure you’re telling people about the movies that matter.
We should all demand better movies. We can, we just need to start doing it.