As we round up 2011, it’s been interesting to reflect on the Hollywood movies that turned out to be international success stories, and those that did not. In fact, this year alone, two of the highest grossing movies of all time were unleashed onto the public:
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, (the 3rd part in the Transformers series) which was released on June 29, in 3-D, went on to gross over $1 billion dollars, despite mixed and negative reviews. On the other hand, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, (the final Harry Potter film) opened to universal critical acclaim, and is among the best reviewed films of 2011. Similar to the Transformers film, it claimed the worldwide opening weekend record at the box office, earning $483.2 million, as well as setting opening day and opening weekend records in various countries. The film is currently the third highest grossing film of all time, the highest grossing film of 2011, the highest grossing film in the Harry Potter series, and the ninth film ever to gross over $1 billion.
When we compare these films to other huge money-makers from the past 5 years, (some of which were not necessarily critically acclaimed) but all box office winners, such as Avatar, or The Batman and Spiderman sequels, we can detect obvious themes that emerge, common to all. The films had at least 3 or more of the following characteristics; they were action packed, (full of explosions) featured fantastical (other-worldly) stories, clear hero figures, rags-to-riches stories, cutting-edge technology (or magic), basic comedy, romantic liaisons, and beautiful female characters.
Can we safely say then, that THAT is the recipe for a movie’s guaranteed international success? If yes, then why?
As it turns out, the themes mentioned are all easy for international audiences to swallow, because they transcend culture and local customs; we can all relate to rags-to-riches stories, and romantic tales. Even better, if the story defies physics and the realm of reality, then it is the perfect escape, an entertaining reprieve from our everyday demands and stresses. Who wouldn’t love to jump off a building and land unscathed, or witness their car turn into an alien fighting robot?
This is the meeting place of transnational cultures, where the creative industries converge and deliver a packaged, ready-to-export ‘hybrid’ product across the globe. Do those products lack in true flavor and deeper lessons? Often-times yes… but then again, any economist will tell you that customization is usually the trade-off for mass production.