Filmism.net Dispatch October 3, 2021

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Movie stars. We all love them, don't we? Or do we? I'm a bit late to this party, but it's accepted wisdom in Hollywood today (and has been for the last two decades or so) that movie lovers line up for franchises nowadays, not stars.

The days of Jim Carrey's early films Ace Ventura, Pet Detective,, Liar Liar and The Mask all being hits because we cared less about the stories than in seeing Carrey do his shtick are long gone. It can be argued that Tom Cruise can still open a movie, but all he's done for the last 10 years is Mission: Impossible sequels, quick asides like Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow not doing 90s-era movie star business at all, so it's a bit of a biased assumption.

You don't have to look too far to see it's as true today as it was with the collapse of the star era, and nor are headlining names from two of the biggest film franchises of all time immune. At the close of the Harry Potter movies you'd think there'd be nothing Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson or Rupert Grint could do that wouldn't have rabid fans lining up around the block.

Grint's descent came pretty hard and pretty early. He had a blink and miss it role in Shia Lebouef renaissance movie The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, then appeared in the singularly awful story of an iconic 70s New York music club, CBGB. Last time I aw him he was lined up to star in a show from Sony's streaming service (yes, it exists) Crackle, based on Guy Ritchie's 2000 crime caper Snatch, but I haven't seen him in anything since. His last credit was a short film in 2017.

Emma Watson did better, although she was a lot quieter in her post Potter career. But she hasn't been the best at picking roles. She appeared in a string of small films (though I highly recommend Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring) before parodying herself in Seth Rogen/Jay Baruchel comedy This Is The End. She was in the bank-busting Beauty and the Beast, but you could have put a carboard cut-out in that movie and it would have raked in a billion (no offence to Emma, but a cardboard cutout might have had a bit more charisma than she did in that DOA performance).

She was in the shambolic big tech satire The Circle, was lucky enough to get a role in Greta Gerwig's triumphant Little Women remake, but we haven't seen her since.

Which leaves Harry himself. Of the three of them I thought his cachet would carry him far. It seems like only a few years back he was the subject of so much chatter for appearing in Equus in the West End, complete with his magic wand out. He'd done a few other films that were more dramatic and much smaller in amongst the Potter films but it wasn't until Kill Your Darlings that we saw what he could do without Ralph Fiennes in silly make-up and green screens to play against.

Then came a slow downward spiral. Horns, Victor Frankenstein, Imperium, Jungle, Guns Akimbo, etc, etc, each one disappearing from filmgoers' radars (if they ever appeared there) faster than the one before. We were prepared to camp out all night dressed in Hogwarts school uniforms waiting to see Harry Potter, but Daniel himself? How soon we forget.

Then there's the man who kick started the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (didn't I promise last time I'd finally stop talking about superheroes?) with a performance that lifted the character off the page and eventually saved the universe in what had evolved into the biggest film series in history?

Robert Downey Jr's career had been up and down so many times it must have felt like he was on a roller coaster. But no sooner than he'd commanded the highest salary ever for an actor in a single project ($75m for 2012's The Avengers), he was bringing the whole story home with a literal snap of his fingers, a moment that stopped the world.

He's had a single film since then, a shiny silver screen redux of the classic tale of the man who can talk to animals, Doolittle, a passion project Downey Jr threw his whole weight behind. The result was a damning 14 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a $145m budget barely doubled (not enough to make money in Hollywood).

Maybe we're just sick of new versions of Doolittle stories. They did it in 1967 with Rex Harrison and that was awful too. They tried it in the late 90s as an asinine Eddie Murphy vehicle, so asinine they made a sequel in the early 2000s. Ha, fooled you - as The Fast and the Furious and Star Wars franchises prove beyond doubt, we don't get sick of the same thing at all.

I think it's simply that Downey Jr, his agents, directors and the rest of Hollywood were fooled into thinking that because we loved him so much as Tony Stark, we'd lap up anything he did. But they were all wrong. We don't care a hoot about Downey Jr. What we loved was Tony Stark and his CGI-augmented friends. If Downey Jr and the rest of Hollywood cared to listen we'd actually proved that back in 2014 when he and Robert Duvall headlined family drama The Judge, which made $84.5 million out of a $50m budget (a flop).

I can't help but feel a bit sad. I used to have favourite actors and still do, and it used to be enough to convince me to go and see a movie I knew nothing about if they were in it. That whole movement gave way to the concept being the star, and as we all know, we're now in the age where the brand is the star. If you're still not sure, check out the theatrical take on Angelina Jolie's Those Who Wish Me Dead ($2.8m, barely enough to cover the doughnut budget on a Marvel movie) recently.

Or just try to imagine a world where they announce in 2025 that they're rebooting Harry Potter completely with new kids (and I'd put good money on that happening) and watch the kids of the original Potter fans camp out all night for tickets. Even if they took the cardboard cutout from Beauty and the Beast and cast it as Harry, it'd still make more money in its first two hours than every one of Daniel Radcliffe's films for the last ten years put together.

Other than that not much has grabbed me on screens lately so nothing else to report.

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