Once upon a time, Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Tom Hanks were alone enough to draw attendance to theaters, making $100+ million blockbusters in their sleep - they were movie stars. Not just movie stars but global movie stars. However, somewhere between all of the sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes and adaptations, the idea of a "movie star" died. No longer can an actor be relied on to carry a film to box office success. Hollywood has turned to properties with built in audiences for that type of success. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, or in this case, the theater. It seems that maybe, juuuuust maybe, there is some hope for movie stars to make a comeback.
This year's summer blockbuster season is on fire, a fire started by the success of Furious 7, which has grossed over a billion dollars at the box office. Is some of it due to the untimely death of star Paul Walker? Sure, it could be, just as Heath Ledger's death helped The Dark Knight rule the summer of 2008. But a good film is a good film and Furious 7 is an action film that is hell of a lot of fun and boasts some great, daring action sequences. But perhaps the real engine in The Fast and Furious franchise was the testosterone-fueled addition of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Fast 5.
Before Fast 5, the highest grossing Fast and Furious film was 2009's Fast & Furious, which grossed $155 million domestically, $363 million worldwide. Hardly a failure, but considering the budget and success of the films before it, domestically, the franchise seemed to be running out of gas. But enter Johnson, and Fast 5 exploded for $209 million domestically and $626 million worldwide. The two films since then have not grossed less than $235 million domestically and $780 million worldwide. Those numbers are staggering. But not when you look at the success of Johnson previously (no film where he receives top billing has grossed less than $35 million worldwide), it's no surprise that he was just the shot in the arm the franchise needed to become the global blockbuster it is now. Even though the numbers may not be all that impressive for The Rock's box office performance (the $35 million stat I gave earlier), when you consider that his lowest grossing films are wholly original films not based on any prior material, that is impressive - proving he can draw at the box office.
This was proven this year when San Andreas scored the highest grossing opener for an original film in 2015 (before Inside Out crushed it) when it opened to the tune of $54+ million - and has since gone on to gross $415 million worldwide. Just like he did when he was an active superstar for the WWE, The Rock can still put butts in the seats.
Since we're on the topic of original films being successful, I would be remiss to not talk about the Melissa McCarthy fronted espionage comedy Spy. Spy opened to the tune of $29 million and has since gone on to gross $131 million worldwide.
This is a comedy, in the midst of a summer blockbuster season that has seen the sequel to one of the biggest films of all time (The Avengers: Age of Ultron), the seventh installment in what has become a global phenomenon (Furious 7) and a continuation of one of the greatest blockbusters ever made (Jurassic World) - and the film is fronted by a woman. But when that woman is Melissa McCarthy, it's not surprising when you hear of the film's success.
Fresh off of the heels of another blockbuster smash, The Heat ($39 million open, $159 million domestic take, $229+ million worldwide) Melissa McCarthy is on a hot streak. Arguably the go-to female comedian in Hollywood, whether you are a fan of her films and comedy or not, she has proven to be a bankable, bonafide movie star in today's market. Whether it is her irrestible charm, her quick wit, or perhaps her endearing and relatable personality, Melissa McCarthy is 3 for 3 so far with box office homeruns (you didn't forget about Bridesmaids, did you?), and might score another one with the upcoming Ghostbusters remake.
We can't talk about the biggest films of the year without mentioning Jurassic World who, despite only being out for not even two weeks, is already the biggest film of 2015 and will likely stay there….until The Force Awakens. But that's besides the point.
The numbers for this film have been thrown around so often lately that I will not dive into them as I have with the above films, but what I will talk about is Chris Pratt - who is awesome. What's not to like? He's attractive, funny, charming, endearing and relatable. Sure, he's attractive and has a killer body, but his personality reminds me of all of my friends and always seems like a regular dude doing extraordinary things - and people love that. Harrison Ford made a career out of that. (Speaking of Harrison Ford, can we talk about how Chris Pratt would be an incredible Indiana Jones? Seriously Disney, make it happen)
Chris Pratt may be the hardest to make an argument for because his two biggest films are a comic book adaptation (Guardians of the Galaxy) and a sequel to Jurassic Park. But GOTG is not exacly Batman or Superman and is a pretty obscure comic. In spite of that, it went on to gross $94 million on its opening weekend, $333+ million domestically and $774+ worldwide, making it a bonafide blockbuster franchise. Again, this isn't Batman or Superman or even Spider-Man we're talking about here where even the most peripheral of fans have knowledge of. This is a rag tag group of characters that include a giant talking tree, a pint sized talking racoon with an attitude problem and two characters that are different colors. That film that I just described made over $750 million in the worldwide box office. That accounts for something, and Chris Pratt had a lot to do with it. But there's also the success of The LEGO Movie, which opened with $69 million, and went on to gross $257+ domestically $468+ worldwide. The LEGO Movie is an original film having no prior storyline, characters, or material to be adapted from. Other than being a children's toy and a successful video game (which use other films as inspiration), it was a huge success - and Pratt was at the center of that voice cast.
Jurassic World would've been a success either way, but this box office juggernaut it's become is due in part to the likability, bankability and relatability to Chris Pratt - who is now the biggest movie star in the world.
Are movie stars making a comeback, or is this just a product of the current landscape in Hollywood? Only time will tell for one, but two have already proven track records - but can they sustain it?
Well that's all, folks! Let me know how I did in the comments and please, don't forget to follow! :-)
This is Jovanni, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.