How to Make a Summer Blockbuster In 7 Easy Steps
It doesn’t take an overpaid Hollywood executive to figure out how to make a summer blockbuster. In fact, we’re pretty confident that any guy with a camera and YouTube account can whip up his own pretty quickly using our formula. Oh and you’ll probably also need access to a few major Hollywood stars…but they shouldn’t be too hard to find.
1. Black, white, and shades of grey
The stories we identify with the most are the ones that teach us something. For instance, Will Smith’s “Independence Day” taught me that alien’s are soft and can be beat with explosions and American colloquialism’s like “Elvis has left the building.” So heroes and villain’s are a must in any summer popcorn flick. The formula is fool-proof: an unlikely hero/heroine (simmer, feminists) arises, starts the journey, faces adversity, overcomes adversity/hubris, wins in the end.
Still, it seems that the movies that have broken the bank the most in the past few years have featured pro and antagonists that dabble in gray areas. In other words, if your bad guy is irrationally asshatted and your good guy is the squarest of square, you lose the audience.
Shout out: Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, The Joker, Autobots, Decepticons, Lex Luthor (Superman Returns), entire cast of “The Hangover”
Shut downs: Peter Parker (Spiderman 3), Superman (Superman Returns)
2. Powerful plot
What matters more than a movie that re-establishes your moral code? A flat-out good story. Explosions, CGI and action sequences can only take something so far. Okay, maybe it will take me so far. Seriously. I nearly fell asleep during the second “Transformers” because of some of the ridiculous plot holes and gaffs that the Michael Bay and his crew left in there. And don’t even start me on “Superman Returns”. The big reveal at the end was just…I still get upset by it. I won’t get into that right now.
Want a blockbuster that brings it wire to wire in terms of the plot? Watch the “The Dark Knight”. Man fights inner demons, chases his girl and ends the movie in a big enough pickle that people are going to want to see another installment. And thank God we finally got some word on that.
Well done: The Dark Knight, Knocked Up, Iron Man
Keep at it: Transformers 2, Superman Returns
3. T and A (talent and adventure…)
That parenthesis was used to throw off the censors and the FCC. Wait a second…good. They’re gone. Chances are high that your summer audiences are going to be mainly kids and dudes. Although when you think about, we’re one in the same. Anyway, if characters and plots are the foundation of a movie, then a nice piece to look at it is the aesthetic crap that we take care of last.
Ladies got their Christian Bale sans shirt fix in both Batman movies. And for the fellas: well if the “Transformers” franchise did one thing right, it was introduce us to the gift that keeps on giving named Megan Fox. If there was ever a moment that made her a star, it was when she bent over and, not a euphemism, tried to fix Shia LaBeouf’s engine. It’s funny what a flat tummy can get you when natural light hits it at JUST the right angle.
4. Signature Song
I feel that this has been a missing part of the summer movie scene for a long time. It wasn’t so long ago that when you knew a big movie was coming out during the summer, you had to attach a undeniably catchy song to it to jack up the potential grosses. When you think about the fact that a lot of movie studios have music subsidiaries, it’s a match made in heaven.
You know…back when people actually bought music. Now the recording industry is a rat race so you probably don’t blame Hollywood for the lack of emphasis on a killer song accompanying an anticipated hit movie. But if you’re in need of an example, look no further than the man in the black suit.
Is it odd that I am nearly 24 years old and like toys? Probably. But we’ll get to my issues later. Movies don’t just succeed in the theaters. That is a large chunk of it but there’s more to the game than that. Star Wars has lived on and on and ON through action figures, playing cards and dorktastic “further adventures of” novels. “Iron Man 2″ is getting the rub thanks to putting the “Burger Kind” mascot in his own Iron Man suit.
Summer movies have long been a “product” as opposed to a “film”. You absolutely have to sell it. If the four-year old version of me sees “Iron Man” being hawked all over television, I’m going to want to take my eight inch Tony Stark action figure with me to see the flick. Personally, I think those guys missed a grand opportunity to appeal to grown ups by not selling “Iron Man” prophylactics. An “Iron Man” condom that could prolong a sexual encounter? Allow me to quote Happy Gilmore and say “Talk about a HOLE IN ONE.”
6. Weekend Wars
They tell you to pick your battles in relationships. Same goes for opening weekends for summer movies. Picking just the right time to unleash your movie is important. If it’s a movie that won’t gross $100 million on name brand alone, you have to pick your spots. I keep going back to the first “Iron Man” because it provides so many perfect examples.
The greedy thing to do would have been to throw the movie out there on Memorial Day weekend and try to score big. Because Iron Man, to me, was one of the less celebrated Marvel Comics it was imperative to get the right weekend. Once the movie showed it had legs, going for the holiday weekends in the future didn’t seem so far-fetched. Holiday weekends (like July 4th) are saturated with established giants. So if you are a new kid on the block, pick your weekend wisely.
Why is this important? A stand out quote from a movie makes you money on a bunch of fronts: 1) it gets repeated INCESSANTLY, 2) it almost guarantees repeat viewings and 3) it will likely beat some random Joe into relenting and seeing the movie so he won’t have to listen to his friends repeat/butcher the line anymore.
“The Dark Knight” tied its whole promotional campaign around psychotic villain Joker and White Knight/comic book tweener Harvey “Two Face” Dent. Most posters for the movie had clown make up and the line “Why So Serious?” on it giving the film an instantly repeatable line. Catchphrases, people. Learn them. Live them. Love them.