The Avengers Crushes the Competition: Year-End Box Office Report

With 2012 coming to a close, we take a look back at the year’s top box office performances. It’s no surprise that The Avengers tops the list, considering Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are now the third highest-grossing film of all time, both domestically and worldwide. The Marvel movie took in $623.4 million, earning a record-setting $207.4 million in its opening weekend.

Iron Man is Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers

The Dark Knight Rises comes in number two, grossing $448.1 million in theaters. Batman, Catwoman, and Bane had the second best opening weekend of the year, and the third best all time, with $160.9 million.

In third place is The Hunger Games, which kicked off a three-part series based on the popular young-adult novels with $408 million in ticket sales. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, and Elizabeth Banks star in the action-packed film, with the sequel, Catching Fire, hitting theaters November 22, 2013.

Skyfall and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 landed in fourth in fifth place on the year. The two films have earned $283.7 million and $283 million to date, respectively, though both are still in theaters.

2012 Box Office Top 10:

1. The Avengers, $623.4 million
2. The Dark Knight Rises, $448.1 million
3. The Hunger Games, $408 million
4. Skyfall, $283.7 million
5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, $283 million
6. The Amazing Spider-Man, $262 million
7. Brave, $237.2 million
8. Ted $218.7 million
9. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, $216.4 million
10. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, $214 million

Maniac First 6 Minutes: Please Don’t Scream

The first 6 minutes of the slasher film Maniac have landed online, and they’re pretty tense. Be sure to watch through to the end, unless you’re particularly faint-of-heart:

Elijah Wood (The Hobbit) stars as Frank Zito, a lonely, mentally disturbed man whose mother’s death sets him off. A deep desire to kill and scalp young women overtakes him, causing him to go on a killing spree. That is, until he begins to form a relationship with a potential victim.

Maniac is a remake of the 1980 horror movie of the same name. Nora Amezeder (Safe House), Liane Balaban, America Olivo, Jan Broberg, and Morgane Slemp also star.

Franck Khalfoun directs the film, which will open some time in 2013. Watch the Maniac trailer for more.

The Hobbit Passes $500 Million Mark Worldwide

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has passed the $500 million mark in the worldwide box office! As of today, the first in the J.R.R. Tolkien series has made $179.7 million domestically and $344 million internationally, for a total of $523.7 million.

Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit

The Hobbit broke the December opening weekend record after its December 14 premiere, earning $84.6 million for the three-day period. The film currently sits in 11th place for the highest-grossing films domestically of 2012.

Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness), Richard Armitage, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving (Cloud Atlas), and Cate Blanchett star in the fantasy film, with Peter Jackson directing.

As we head into the new year, An Unexpected Journey should continue to add a fair amount to its worldwide box office total. The second and third installments will hit theaters December 13, 2013, and July 18, 2014, respectively.

Pacific Rim Gets a New Still: Idris Elba’s Pointing Fingers

I hate it when movies do this. They reveal the biggest, most action-packed scene in a still before the thing even hits theaters! Pacific Rim is no different, as the new still shows us the hair-raising “finger-point” scene between Idris Elba (Thor: The Dark World) and Rinko Kikuchi.

Rinko Kikuchi Idris Elba Pacific Rim

The high-concept monsters-vs-robots takes place in a world where giant monsters have emerged from the ocean and ravaged mankind.

With their resources depleted, and the fleet of giant manned robots called Jaegers destroyed, the world’s last hope is an ex-pilot, played by Charlie Hunnam, and a young trainee, played by Kikuchi, who must un-retire an old Jaeger and defeat the monsters.

Charlie Day, Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman (Drive) also star, with Guillermo Del Toro directing. Watch the Pacific Rim trailer for more.

2012 in Movies: What This Year Could Mean for the Future of the Industry

In the future, we may look back on 2012 as a defining year for the course of the film industry. The first Avengers movie codified the “franchise” as the new unit of the business of filmmaking, with individual films acting as the branches of a family tree within a movie “-verse,” that come together every so often for a “family reunion” of sorts.

Warner Bros. is in the planning stages of their own version of this phenomenon, Justice League, which will act as a binder for a new “-verse,” currently under construction, which may or may not include Man of Steel, and a new series of Batman movies.

Iron Man and Captain America in The Avengers

Disney will be doing the same with their new acquisition of the Star Wars-verse. In addition to Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, preliminary plans involve offshoots of the franchise to explore individual characters.

As someone who generally isn’t crazy about large-scale, billion dollar blockbusters, I am surprised that this phenomenon does not bother me. I think it’s kind of cool. I’ve always been somewhat envious of comic book fans who get to truly immerse themselves in a living storyline that grows and changes and evolves while retaining the same essential heart that attracted them to it in the first place.

Not all films need to adopt this model, and surely not all will, but it offers a rich viewing experience not unlike that of professional sports, which connects the thing you’re watching at the moment with all these other things happening simultaneously and in the past.

But along with all this amazing potential for deep movie -verses, 2012 simultaneously saw the establishment of a less exciting trend: the low-concept, plot-heavy action movie that relies solely on the audience’s trust in the franchise.

The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Prometheus, the list goes on. Many enjoyed these movies for the action-packed stories and incredible visuals, but the plot of the “new action movie” is so convoluted and rife with loose ends, that what results is a disjointed pile of explosions.

Dark Knight Rises Joseph Gordon-Levitt

WARNING: THIS PARAGRAPH IS A LITTLE BIT SPOILERY. SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN SOME OF THESE FILMS. What does the black goo do? Why did the Engineers lead the Earthlings to a weapons factory? How did Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham? How could he (or any of Gotham, for that matter) have possibly survived a nuclear explosion just over the bay? How did James Bond survive that fall? What happened to the hundreds of MI6 agents whose identities had been compromised?

These over-complicated stories are written with absolutely no care toward continuity or completion. It’s not difficult to tie up a loose end. It’s even less difficult to just not create the loose end to begin with. The problem is, as it stands Hollywood is so focused on cool set pieces and revolutionary visuals, that they’re willing to throw disjointed loose end after disjointed loose end into a 3-hour mess of a film if it allows them to win the award for “most chases” or “largest street battle.”

I may sound like a curmudgeonly old crank, and I sort of am one (save the “old” part). But my issue isn’t with action. It’s with unnecessary plot building that leads viewers down the garden path with no direction home. It’s the movie equivalent to a bridge-to-nowhere (excuse the outdated political reference).

So while I’m excited about the future of “the franchise,” I am disheartened by the direction individual franchise films has been heading. If these two phenomena evolve concurrently, then we are in for a whole lot of confusing garbage. If Hollywood decides they can sacrifice a gunfight or two in order to allow their films some semblance of cohesion (and maybe a 30-minute-shorter run-time), then we could be in for a golden age of action/adventure/sci-fi/thriller blockbusters.