What is it about the Hollywood movie marketing machine? Headlines are everywhere about the latest box-office busting summer hit. This time it’s Wonder Woman, as I type the largest ever grossing film by a female director. Actually one of the most successful movies by a director of any sex. Said director Patty Jenkins has good form. Her debut movie, made some 13 years ago now, Monster, was a gripping account of the life of real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornus played by Charlize Theron at the top of her game. If you haven’t seen it, then I would recommend laying hands on a copy. Since that worthwhile success Jenkins has ploughed the TV world working as a jobbing director and I am ashamed to say, I haven’t watched a frame of any of her product.
There has been much discussion about the performance by Gal Gadot, in a previous life an Israeli model, who has made the character of Wonder Woman her own, much in the way that the late Christopher Reeve made Superman his own. Not only that, but it looks as if both Jenkins and Gadot have salvaged the reputation of the Marvel Franchise, which appeared to be in terminal decline having released a succession of true dogs, re-makes and spin-offs over the last few years. The list is long and unmemorable and I defy anyone to disagree with me. Yet, it is a sad fact of the Hollywood blockbuster that the film can be truly foul, yet it continues to make money. This has been the case with the Marvel Franchise too. However, Wonder Woman is a refreshing change and despite deep reservations about seeing the film I have to admit, I did rather enjoy it.
Does the summer blockbuster exist as a unique genre? My first memory of a summer movie that every one of my age saw was Summer Holiday, a 1963 musical directed by Peter Yates, a British hit starring Cliff Richard and the Shadows. I always thought of it as a typically British summer blockbuster, but as to the time of year I sat in the cinema as a 12-year-old in raptures; my memory fails me. Was the first genuine Hollywood summer blockbuster Jaws, Spielberg’s 1975 classic? Should the summer prefix to the genre limit the content of said films to pure fantasy as with the Marvel stable, or can it be a musical, a thriller, horror even? The one thing that a blockbuster has to achieve is box-office success. Yet, summertime is when we want to escape literally and metaphorically from the city heat and the world of work, so I suggest that a summer blockbuster has to conform to fantasy first and within many a genre; science-fiction being top of my list, followed by horror. Romantic comedy and musicals have their place here too. Mama Mia was an international summer blockbuster produced by Universal so it qualifies as a Hollywood movie. And let’s not forget, the director was a Brit; Phyllida Lloyd. The film grossed a total of $144 million. The latest Wonder Woman has already grossed $321 million in less than its first month on release.
As to my favourite summer blockbuster? Well, it deserved to be a blockbuster in my book, even if it did only gross a paltry $56 million. That summer of 1968 with revolution and a new world order pervading all it was Kubrick’s genius 2001: A Space Odyssey. Has there been a better summer since, or a better movie?