Are we living in an era of the mid-budget blockbuster?


“Since we’re three months into 2018, it may seem weird to be looking back on trends in 2017. But I think that what’s happening in the recent past is going to influence the present almost immediately. 2017 was a great year for film for many reasons, from the breakout indies to the higher profile films that embraced diversity, to the slew of auteurist masterpieces. However, one of the most interesting trends I noticed last year was the popularity of the mid-budget blockbuster. These are films like “Baby Driver,” “It,” and “John Wick: Chapter Two,” all films with a budget between 30-40 million dollars. In a landscape dominated by hulking $100mil plus movies, these smaller scale crowd pleasers are such a refreshing change of pace. And their success could affect the industry in a number of ways.

R-rated action movies are back for good

One of the great things about the eighties (and there aren’t too many of them) was that the action movies weren’t afraid to get a little violent. Characters cussed, blood was splattered, and heads rolled. And it was pretty glorious. Watching movies like “Die Hard and “Lethal Weapon,” I was reminded of how exciting action movies can be when you actually see the consequences of all the destruction and mayhem. Now, with bloodfests like the┬áJohn Wick movies or “Deadpool,” R-rated action is beginning to make a comeback, making for a slate of great genre films skewered towards an adult audience.

An emphasis will be placed on practical effects

A lot of superhero movies are pretty fun, but I always tend to tune out during the action sequences. At some point, they just turn into an indistinguishable blob of grey things hitting other grey things. I figured that I had just been seeing too many action movies recently and that I needed a break. But then, I saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” and I realized that the problem wasn’t with me – – it was the overdose of CGI. Now, “Fury Road” definitely had blockbuster money, but due to the expensive nature of CGI, chances are that mid-budget genre movies are going to be relying on smaller scale set pieces that incorporate more effects caught on camera.

Large-scale blockbusters will be relegated to Disney

OK, this one’s a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. Almost every successful blockbuster release in recent years has been a property of Disney. Whether it’s the ever-popular MCU, their slew of live-action remakes like “Beauty and the Beast,” or “Star Wars,” Disney is looking like an unstoppable juggernaut. On the other hand, you have “Justice League” (a financial and critical disappointment), “Blade Runner 2049” (a critical darling but financial loss), “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” (a film that many studio heads would prefer to forget), and “Transformers: The Last Night” (which tanked at the box office against all odds).

There were a smattering of successful blockbusters like “Wonder Woman” and “Dunkirk,” though the latter was probably helped by the director’s star power. But the overall trend seems obvious, Disney has been the only studio to have this many successes over failures. So, mid-budget action movies will probably be relegated to the other studios. This is probably a good thing for the genre, as studios will be less willing to one-up the last over bombastic spectacle.

Overall, things are looking pretty bright for our future “Baby Driver’s” and “It’s.” These types of films have always been a favorite of mine. They manage to always be entertaining but never going too far to sacrifice story and character for random explosions. Hopefully, this boom is going to last.

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