Back to the roaring 20s

Back to the roaring 20s

Following a decade of franchises and streaming services, the boom is only going to multiply in the coming years

Perhaps the defining characteristic of the 2010s decade in the cinema industry were franchises.

Massive projects by Marvel and Star Wars, among others, have not only commandeered theatres around the world but also pioneered techniques that have become popular with the rest of the film industry.

And popular cinema in the 2020s is likely to be an extension of this very successful trend. The franchises were crucial in the development of computer graphics, which even filmmakers outside of the franchise started using.

Last year, a heated debate had started between artistes associated with the Marvel franchise and veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese.

Scorsese slammed Marvel saying that the sort of films it produced was not cinema and they resembled theme parks more.

Whichever side you agree with, it is undeniable that Marvel had a victory of sorts when Scorsese went on to use an age-reduction technique that was perfected by Marvel.

The 2016 ‘Star Wars’ movie ‘Rogue One’ had created a 19-year-old version of actor Carrie Fisher, who had turned 60 that year. The same movie had also brought back an actor who had died in 1994 using computer graphics and a stand-in actor.

The 2020s would see such techniques pushed to their logical maximum. One of the movies currently in the making is a Vietnam war film that counts actor James Dean among its cast members. Dean had died in 1955, the year the Vietnam war officially began.

Of course, a lot has been spoken about the ethics of such practices. Why are we not letting the dead rest in peace, and why is consent assumed when they are no longer in a place to give consent?

While it’s too early to tell who will win the consent versus freedom of expression argument, or if anyone will win it at all, there can be terms and conditions that will allow for the graphical reconstructions to continue.

For instance, future film contracts may see clauses which demand that an actor allows the graphical reconstruction of their bodies in case of their death.

And agreements can be signed with heirs of long-dead actors that give permission to use their ancestor’s face for graphical reproduction, which would be a semblance of consent.

The other major leap this decade in the cinema industry is likely to come from the streaming services. By the late 2010s, streaming services were off to a grand start.

And the competition between them, and between them and the traditional film industry, is only going to get tougher in the 2020s.

When cinema had just started out in the early 20th century, it was seen as a frivolous art form compared to the more respectable theatre.

Streaming has shrugged off the label of the ‘new kid on the block’ already. Netflix, for instance, has been investing in passion projects of some of the best filmmakers in the world. In 2017, it invested in Boon Joon-ho’s ‘Okja’; in 2018, in Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Roma; and in 2019, in Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ — all of which are financially heavy-duty gambles.

Netflix even re-edited and released Orson Welles’ last film, a lost swansong, a venture unparalleled in scope by the traditional film industry.

All this is in addition to the served-at-home lighter content that the streaming service has been putting out.

The development of personal technology has also favoured the rise of streaming services. The best smartphones and tablets today are designed to give audiences comfortable viewing right at home.

The traditional industry is also losing the spaces that were meant to celebrate it. While attempts were made by names as eminent as Steven Speilberg and Pedro Almodovar to keep streaming films out of the Oscars and film festivals, this has only backfired.

The quality content of the content that streaming services have been investing in is so high, now the question is, who is losing out by keeping these films out of festivals — the films or the festivals?

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