Rarely are popular films a great success with critics. Some of this is snobbery and some of it is perspective on what makes a "great film" and what people simply enjoy watching. This has been generally true this year, as in the past. Presently the greatest box office films are
I Am Legend and National Treasure: Book of Secrets.
I have seen both films and enjoyed them both. I Am Legend is actually more than just a good box office draw. It is a pretty well done re-creation of several earlier versions of the same story. Will Smith is superb and the modern ending, done just for the screen and this edition, provides all kinds of messianic and redemptive themes, including blood being given as sacrifice to save the human race. The movie includes a prayer scene that is well-done as well as subtle references to the cross. It also includes a moment of hopelessness and agnosticism followed by a recovery of faith through human relationships that bring Will back to faith. For a fun time, with some real solid acting, this is a good film.
National Treasure is fun, but not great. It is not as good as the first film but at $200 million it has earned good money for the company that made it. The third leading film, in this week’s box office chart, is Alvin and the Chipmunks. I have not seen it but should take my grandchildren I suppose. It comes in at almost $200 million as well. So, who says pretty decent films, with story lines and without graphic sexuality, cannot sell?
Of greater interest to me, since I am an amateur film critic, is the fact that some of the big films, the ones that are up for Academy Awards now, are actually drawing pretty well also.
No Country for Old Men has earned $49 million. But There Will be Blood, which is a stunning picture, has only earned $8.7 million so far.
When it sweeps many awards, and it will, it should rise. Atonement, which I have previously said I think is only an average film, will win awards and has grossed nearly $33 million already. But the new film Cloverfield, a horror film with a huge built-in teen boys market, opened this past weekend with $46 million.
The Great Debaters, again a genuinely fine film, and one Christians ought to see, has only earned $28 million, which proves Denzel Washington’s
name doesn’t sell quite like it once did. His film American Gangster did better and is a fine film, but excessively violent, which you would expect by the title and theme. With Russell Crowe in the same film this is a big movie in my mind.
I still hope to provide a list of my top ten soon. Stay tuned. I believe 2007 was one of the best years for good films in a long time. Hollywood has listened and learned, so it seems.