2017, a year that opened with something of a bang, seems to have ended with a dull sigh. True, there are still people getting killed in Syria, Iran is have some sort of mild civil unrest, and our Fat Little Dictator from that One Asian Peninsula has been waving around his nuclear weapons once a month, but at this point, very little of any of this is outside the realm of the norm. About the only thing that’s been a surprise has been France’s slow and steady realization that the mysterious centrist candidate they elected in order to avoid “their version of Donald Trump” is turning out to be someone who has an even more radical position on immigration and ethno-centrism than Le Pen had initially suggested.
But on a more serious note, 2017’s entertainment is now, thankfully, a thing of the past. We rough & tumble bourgeois Westerners have survived another year of Hollywood trying to convince us that it still makes entertaining, relevant movies for the white majority, rather than the increasingly dumber visual experiments in abstract expressionism so blindingly abhorrent that they almost have readings on a Geiger counter. Seeing the previews for the new CGI-laden commercials billing themselves as action films should remind you of how empty our cinema has gotten. It’s either made for critics or it’s made for overgrown teenagers that have approximate IQs of 75. 2017 made it clear that movie executives aren’t even asking anymore how to tap into the sort of demographics that once paid to see The Thin Man movies, Casablanca, or hell, the downright modern Chinatown. Even as good as Blade Runner 2049 was, it’s a very different film from its predecessor, and that’s partly because no one in Hollywood would ever make a movie like its predecessor today.
So away with 2017. What about 2018? What can we expect?
I predict that we’ll have more of the same to look forward to in 2018, although with a twist. I foresee Marvel fatigue setting in sooner rather than later. I also foresee this fatigue extending outward into much of the rest of the Disney machine, but it will take longer than 2018 (possibly another five years) for the fatigue to really come to fruition. The undoing of the Marvel treasury will especially be spelled out when the actors’ contracts expire. The success of these formulaic Marvel extravaganzas hasn’t been due to the advances in visual effects or the abhorrent quality of the dialogue and direction in every film. These movies are just friend-simulators. Audiences have subjected themselves to these characters long enough that the fictional universe comprised almost entirely of quips and throw-away one-liners has become an idealized world to escape to. This explains the dismissals of, say, Guardians of the Galaxy, a movie that opens with the traumatic death of a boy’s mother and his subsequent kidnapping by extraterrestrials, as just some mindless adventure romp that you have to turn your brain off to enjoy.
If this sounds like some kind of weird, juvenile thing that you’d expect eight-year-olds to participate in, then congratulations!—you’re still holding onto your dignity. The last rallying cry of 2017 Hollywood front was to sling unbelievable amounts of praise on a major Disney blockbuster that is, quite possibly, one of the most baffling examples of moviemaking in recent memory—the reactions to Star Wars: The Last Jedi so perfectly sums up the worrying infantilization of grown men and, ironically, provides a glimmer of hope for a demographic that until now seemed so utterly destitute. You’re supposed to be ginned up into a euphoric mood of excitement over Star Wars. You’re supposed to be overcome with emotion when the preview for the next film drops. You’re supposed to proselytize it to your friends and prove your devotion to the mythos by seeing it in the theatre and purchasing Porg merchandise for the kids that you’re never going to have. When those fans who had been so voluntarily taken for a ride by the Mouse walked out of The Last Jedi questioning whether what they had just watched was even Star Wars underneath the lightsabers, AT-ATs, and hyperspace jumps, they may have stumbled into that horrible realization—that they’re thirty years old and they purchased their indulgences in a children’s story at the expense of their dignity as men.
This will be a general sentiment among at least large minorities of fandoms. It won’t go very far, and it will be fought by those nu-male types that insist that movies can be good if you turn your brain off. However, with the fields of popular movies and video games becoming more and more inundated with this sort of offensively stupid content, there will be more fans who stumble out of this commercially-induced stupor and realize what a waste their hobbies have turned into.
I’m not optimistic enough, however, to believe that this will significantly impact the industry. A Marvel fatigue might temporarily impact how these comic book movies and these video games are made, but not the fact that they actually get made. Superheroes will continue to be held up as a sort of American mythology, as garishly colored, ham-fistedly moralized, and extortionist as American consumerism requires it to be. Maybe it’s fitting that a country increasingly defined by the hyperbolic interplay between an out-of-touch, hysterical liberal elite and a lobotomized consumer underclass would find comfort in the super-flattened imagery of costumed vigilantes played by people who look like the friends they never had in high school. The hollowness at the core of the present-day American experiment can only be sustained for so long, but I don’t expect it to collapse this year. Maybe in 2020.
New movies still won’t be good. New video games will still be a waste of time. And of course, the less said about new music, the better. But 2018 might just be the year when the tide begins slowly to turn. Hollywood friend-simulators will begin to have diminishing returns, and with any luck, Hollywood might find itself without their giant cash cows to milk anymore.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.