You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Not-so-special effects

Variety Editorial

If this sequel-packed movie summer had a title, it would probably be “The Audience Strikes Back.”

Ever since “The Matrix Reloaded” pulled a fast one back in mid-May, there has been a distinct skepticism about razzle-dazzle tentpoles. Lately, the more straight-ahead the better. “Bruce Almighty” and “Finding Nemo” have thrived on comic energy, while the hype over “Hulk” and “Charlie’s Angels: Full-Throttle” has already fizzled.

As a result, summer grosses are lagging behind 2002 levels despite elevated ticket prices.

Could it possibly be that Hollywood has finally eaten too much of the devil’s candy? With their relentless emphasis on effects-driven franchise fare, studios have sucked up so much oxygen that more down-to-earth titles seem like breaths of fresh air.

It says a lot, for example, that all the talk at Monday’s “Terminator 3” centered on its bracing dose of old-fashioned action. In other words, it may be a $200 million movie but it’s a $200 million movie without a lot of pretense.

More Scene

  • Brandon Flynn, Timothy Granaderos, Alisha Boe,

    Alisha Boe Says Brock Turner Case Was Her 'Bible' for '13 Reasons Why' Season 2

    If this sequel-packed movie summer had a title, it would probably be “The Audience Strikes Back.” Ever since “The Matrix Reloaded” pulled a fast one back in mid-May, there has been a distinct skepticism about razzle-dazzle tentpoles. Lately, the more straight-ahead the better. “Bruce Almighty” and “Finding Nemo” have thrived on comic energy, while the […]

  • Yara ShahidiMTV Movie & TV Awards,

    Yara Shahidi, Noah Schnapp, More Talk the Dangers of Social Media at MTV Awards

    If this sequel-packed movie summer had a title, it would probably be “The Audience Strikes Back.” Ever since “The Matrix Reloaded” pulled a fast one back in mid-May, there has been a distinct skepticism about razzle-dazzle tentpoles. Lately, the more straight-ahead the better. “Bruce Almighty” and “Finding Nemo” have thrived on comic energy, while the […]

  • A Night in the Writers' Room

    'Vida,' 'One Day at a Time' Showrunners Recount Being Called Racial Slur in Writers' Room

    If this sequel-packed movie summer had a title, it would probably be “The Audience Strikes Back.” Ever since “The Matrix Reloaded” pulled a fast one back in mid-May, there has been a distinct skepticism about razzle-dazzle tentpoles. Lately, the more straight-ahead the better. “Bruce Almighty” and “Finding Nemo” have thrived on comic energy, while the […]

  • A Night in the Writers' Room

    Parity Takes Center Stage at Variety's 'A Night in the Writers' Room' Drama Panel

    If this sequel-packed movie summer had a title, it would probably be “The Audience Strikes Back.” Ever since “The Matrix Reloaded” pulled a fast one back in mid-May, there has been a distinct skepticism about razzle-dazzle tentpoles. Lately, the more straight-ahead the better. “Bruce Almighty” and “Finding Nemo” have thrived on comic energy, while the […]

  • American Black Film Festival opening night

    Trevor Jackson Was Originally Told He Was 'Too Young' to Star in 'Superfly' Remake

    If this sequel-packed movie summer had a title, it would probably be “The Audience Strikes Back.” Ever since “The Matrix Reloaded” pulled a fast one back in mid-May, there has been a distinct skepticism about razzle-dazzle tentpoles. Lately, the more straight-ahead the better. “Bruce Almighty” and “Finding Nemo” have thrived on comic energy, while the […]

  • Women In Film Crystal and Lucy

    Brie Larson Says She Learned Her Own Strength Playing 'Captain Marvel' Role

    If this sequel-packed movie summer had a title, it would probably be “The Audience Strikes Back.” Ever since “The Matrix Reloaded” pulled a fast one back in mid-May, there has been a distinct skepticism about razzle-dazzle tentpoles. Lately, the more straight-ahead the better. “Bruce Almighty” and “Finding Nemo” have thrived on comic energy, while the […]

  • 2018 NBCUniversal Upfront

    Andy Samberg on Returning to NBC With 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine': 'It Feels Like Home'

    If this sequel-packed movie summer had a title, it would probably be “The Audience Strikes Back.” Ever since “The Matrix Reloaded” pulled a fast one back in mid-May, there has been a distinct skepticism about razzle-dazzle tentpoles. Lately, the more straight-ahead the better. “Bruce Almighty” and “Finding Nemo” have thrived on comic energy, while the […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content