Filmism.net Dispatch June 18, 2016

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I was watching Captain America: Civil War the other week and it suddenly occurred to me how sorry I felt for both Elizabeth Olsen, who plays that Russian telekinetic girl (look, I'm not a comics geek or a Marvel fanboy, I have no idea what they're all called), and Jeremy Renner, who plays the bow and arrow guy.

It's a fact in Hollywood that you're only the next big thing until the next big thing comes along, but the heat seems to have gone off on both of those actors very quickly. It seems only yesterday Renner was white hot on the back of The Hurt Locker, Olsen the same on the strength of Martha Marcy May Marlene.

But after a few indie drama efforts nobody saw (The Messenger, Oldboy ), today they're just more props in Disney's expanding arsenal to sell plastic toys and videogames.

It's possible to stay hot in Hollywood long after your Next Big Thing moment, as Jennifer Lawrence's continuing A list status proves, but it seems either audiences follow the lead of studio executives and casting directors (or maybe the other way round) and get bored quickly.

Two names currently on those same hot lists Olsen and Renner once found themselves on are Brie Larson and Rick Famuyima. Larsen commanded the spotlight in the last half of 2015 for her Oscar winning performance in the sublime Room, and Famuyima wowed Sundance crowds with his breakout hit Dope.

Now comes the news that both Larson and Famuyima are circling forthcoming superhero properties. Larson is in talks to play Captain Marvel, and Famuyima is directing The Flash movie for DC, part of the cinematic universe kicked off with Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

If I were an alarmist I'd be running through the streets screaming about how this superhero movie craze has got to stop. It's like that alien spaceship hovering over Hong Kong in Transformers: Age of Extinction, sucking everything up into its insatiable maw, except it's sucking up all the promising talent that emerges from smarter, smaller movies for grown ups.

Do I blame Larson, Olsen, Famuyima, etc? Absolutely not. They're new, they have huge buzz, they want to work and they want to expand their newfound clout. Just like when Olsen took a role in Gareth Edwards' big screen Godzilla reboot, Larson could either stay in ultra-cheap indies and forgo a house in the Hollywood Hills or go where bigger roles in bigger movies are. She opted for the forthcoming Kong: Skull Island. Now, with Captain Marvel, she's joining another franchise that's more about moving product than using art to explore the human condition.

Netflix, Amazon etc are spending ever-greater sums of money on edgy and interesting stories, as I talked about in the last Filmism.net Dispatch. But it's a drop in the ocean next to Hollywood's entire output, and so many people (actors, writers, more sophisticated audiences) are latching onto them because the big studios are only making two-hour toy ads these days. There's just not enough work in the industry for smart, creative people like Larson or Famuyima.

So no, I'm not an alarmist. But to see yet more promising talent sucked up into the assembly lines of the big franchise factories is kind of sad.

In other news, I watched Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens again with great excitement when I got the DVD release recently, and something strange happened when it was over.

I'd assumed I'd happily watch it again every six months for the rest of my life, like I did the original films throughout my childhood (even to the point I recorded Star Wars on audiotape and played it so much I learned the whole thing by heart, as I recount here).

But I kind of had the feeling right then and there I wouldn't watch it again. Did the quality drop after repeat viewings? Certainly not. As my original review says, JJ Abrams captured all the fun and delight of the original Star Wars saga.

Maybe I'm the problem. I'm in my mid forties now and I have neither the time nor the Lego to endlessly love just a handful of movies over and over again. Maybe certain films hit you somewhere very special when you're a kid and shape the movie lover you become, and I'm just lucky to be a member of Generation X, Star Wars coming along at the right time to entrance me like it did millions of other kids.

Maybe Hollywood is the problem, and as much spectacle and fun Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens had, there are just too many other shiny baubles to distract us coming along at a pace that doesn't give a movie time to settle into our collective consciousness.

When Star Wars came along there was nothing like it. You could argue it blew the lid off Hollywood as much through its point of difference as its creative vision (it certainly wasn't the script or acting).

These days there's something just as big, loud, and visual that aims to be just as entertaining about once a week. Maybe the multiplex is too crowded for something as eventful as a Star Wars movie (even good one!) to stand out...

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