With the year almost over, it’s time to look back and wonder if 2009 actually left any wisdom for future generations behind in its whirlwind of franchise-maintenance, Obama-adoration* and dream-crushing. Here are some potential morals from the last 12 months.
Get The Nostalgia While The Nostalgia Getting’s Good
The failure of Jennifer’s Body at the box office punctured the myth of Megan Fox, but in doing so left Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen’s epic success even more inexplicable. You mean that everyone who went to see that genuinely wanted to see giant robots fighting for the right to appear in a story that made sense instead of Megan Fox’s ass? Really? (To be fair, maybe it was John Tuturro’s ass they couldn’t resist.) Of course not; they wanted to relive memories of their childhood/the first Transformers movie/the Go-Bots by proxy. Same reason that Star Trek was such a hit, and the dismal Terminator Salvation made money at all. The problem with this for movie studios is that there’s only a limited number of things to be nostalgic about, and they’re burning through them quickly (Next year’s Tron Legacy and The A-Team show that we’re already up to the mid-’80s); when there’re already plans to reboot Battlestar Galactica as a movie franchise months after its conclusion as a (rebooted) television show and restarting the Fantastic Four movies from scratch just a few years after the failure of Rise Of The Silver Surfer, you can tell that there’s nervousness. With good reason; the lawsuit over the rights to Superman show that nostalgia could get more expensive for filmmakers in years to come. Maybe one day, Disney’s $4 Billion buyout of Marvel Entertainment’s IP will look like a bargain.
Find A Voice With Something To Say, Then Let It Speak
2009 was a year of extremes when it came to the creation of movies and television that didn’t (entirely) rely on IP graverobbing. On the one hand, it was the year when the phrase “production hiatus” became widely known as code for “The Powers That Be don’t like what’s being done and are about to ‘fix’ it” as the trains seemed to come off the usually-smoother-running TV production track more often, and more publicly, than usual (See: Dollhouse, FlashForward and V, which has had two such hiatuses, and “coincidentally” switched showrunners twice, as well). On the other, it was the year when smaller movies like District 9 and Moon garnered critical acclaim - and, in the case of D9, a pretty amazing box office haul - for being individual, unusual and something other than generic production line blockbusters. Avatar, too, is being hailed for being the singular vision of James Cameron and, maybe most importantly, that being a good thing. Maybe this was the year that started a renaissance in an appreciation for the auteur theory after all?
On Television, Burying The Lede Will Kill You
We’ve said this more than once recently, but the fact that Dollhouse’s second season was promoted to critics with its lackluster first episode may have damaged the show’s chances irreparably. You can’t blame the promotions people, because it makes sense to sell something based on the product itself; the “blame” lies with those making the show, who thought that they had the time and space to ramp up the season slowly, reiterating the central concept of the series with episodes that (sadly) repeated the rhythm of the first season. As the creative teams behind V (Put on hiatus after its first four episodes, and before we’d even seen a complete lizard reveal and/or any rodent eating) and the upcoming Day One (Restructured from a full season to a four episode mini-series to test the waters for a regular show) can attest to, there’s no time for a slow build on network television anymore. Both Fringe and FlashForward sped up their timetables to try and meet demand for near-instant gratification, and both are still dogged with rumors of cancellation. Remember, television people: Put your best foot forward immediately.
Goodbyes Should Always Be Brief
Yes, yes: We loved Russell T Davies’ run on Doctor Who as much as anyone, but the year of special episodes seemed weighed down by a sense of its own self-importance that reached epic proportions during this weekend’s “The End of Time, Part One” (On the plus side, Now we know that Barack Obama will save the world with his economic announcement or something. Not that that’ll seem horribly dated, oh, anytime after February 2009). Battlestar Galactica, too, approached epic levels of pomp and pretension during its final days. It’s not that we would rather have rushed either show offstage unfinished, but there’s something to be said for brevity and not getting too wrapped up in your own ego. Lost, consider yourself on notice.
Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
One word: Watchmen. Yes, we get it; we have the technology to make Doctor Manhattan look like he exists in a particularly shiny version of reality. But, months after all the hype, hoopla and multiple versions on DVD, it’s still worth asking: Did Watchmen gain anything from the transition from comic to movie? Besides Zack Snyder’s bank account, did anything? Sometimes it’s okay to leave the original alone.