Friday, October 21, 2016

Movie Trendspotting 2016

Time for a little wild speculation. Back in 2013, I wrote up a post with some predictions about trends in media that I expected to see in the future. Well, the resurgence of westerns and the rise of mecha didn't happen, but three out of five ain't bad. So I thought I'd look ahead again and make a few more predictions. Just for fun, you know, and to get some of my own recent observations about the industry down on the digital paper.

Chinese Spinoffs - China is one everyone's minds lately, and studios are falling over themselves trying to ensure their blockbusters are friendly to Chinese audiences. However, the awkward product placement, token Chinese heroine, and pandering extra material in Mandarin haven't been going over so well. Neither have the predominantly Chinese films that have shoehorned a Caucasian movie star like Christian Bale or Matt Damon into the lead. I expect that more studios will start considering the "Now You See Me" option, where a Chinese-language sequel was recently announced, starring one of the Chinese characters. The franchise is a hit in China, but inly a modest performer elsewhere, so this makes sense. I wonder if they could get away with something similar for "Warcraft."

Television and Web Cross-Pollination - Rob Howard's epic "Dark Tower" plan, which would have told the story through interlocking theatrical film and television series didn't get off the ground. However, this year we did see the "Divergent" series turn to television as an option for its flagging fortunes, and rumors continue to swirl about whether the inevitable "Game of Thrones" spinoffs might include a few theatrical films. As the line between web and television and theatrical content continues to blur, I think it's inevitable that we're going to see more direct platform-crossing in the future, not just spinoffs and tie-ins like Marvel's "Agents of SHIELD." Though if the rumors are right, the bumpy third season of that series is apparently the reason why the "Inhumans" movie got delayed indefinitely.

Gender and Race Swapped Remakes - The "Ghostbuster" reboot wasn't a bomb, and apparently that was enough to push several gender-swapped remakes forward. The "Oceans 11" spinoff with Sandra Bullock is going ahead full steam, and now Channing Tatum and Jillian Bell are going to remake "Splash" - with Bell as the schlub and Tatum as the merperson. Reboots remain popular with studios, but most of the recent ones have fallen flat due to poor execution. Race and gender swapping the leads is an easy way to make the old stories look newer and more interesting, even if they aren't. So I expect we'll see more of this in the future, especially if audiences keep warming up to non-white male leads in films the same way they have with non-white male leads on television.

Augmented Reality - Pokémon Go! was massive this summer, and it's inevitably going to have an impact on the wider culture, including film and television. A "Pokémon" film is in the works, of course, and we're already seeing films about mobile gaming like "Nerve," but I'm more interested in the game's successful use of augmented reality. AR, which adds a layer of extra information on top of the existing world instead of being generated out of nothing, like VR, has been explored before in the mainstream media, but only in fairly shallow, simplistic terms. Be on the lookout for adaptations of existing sci-fi stories about AR, like "Memories with Maya" and "Denno Coil," and the new ones that are surely on the way. Smartglasses and visors are likely to show up in the big screen soon.

The Hamilton Effect - it's going to be quite a while before we see the big screen adaptation of "Hamilton," but its influence is already everywhere. I fully expect more hip-hop musical numbers in the media landscape, especially as the studios are still trying to capitalize on the success of "Straight Out of Compton." Lin Manuel Miranda, meanwhile, may conquer Hollywood the same way that he conquered Broadway. He's already helped to write songs for upcoming Disney musical "Moana," and has signed on for the "Mary Poppins" reboot with Emily Blunt and a live action adaptation of "The Little Mermaid."

And... Anime - This one's a stretch because we've seen so many failures and delays over the past few years. However, at least two major titles, "Ghost in the Shell" and "Death Note," actually are getting made. If they do well, that opens the door to more, and the studios have the rights to plenty of other titles waiting in the wings. Despite the whitewashing controversy, I expect that we won't be seeing more Asian leads soon, but the studios will probably be much more careful about localizing the material. Maybe my dreams of more mecha will still happen.

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