For those still in love with the theatrical experience, North American multiplexes presented movie-goers with a variety of choices this past weekend.
Entering its third weekend, It: Chapter 2 found continued success for an R-rated three-hour horror film about childhood trauma. Although, not as leggy at the first chapter from September of 2017, the continuation of the Losers Club’s battle against Pennywise is making huge horror box-office dollars for a horror film. The new release, Downton Abbey opened to number 1, riding a wave of critical praise and an intense audience appetite for fans of the PBS program looking for a dose of British melodrama. Brad Pitt returned to the screens for the “Lost in Space” sci-fi tale of Ad Astra and for those looking for revenge-porn and a blood soaked tale that exploits the impact of PTSD, erases the complexity of current US border politics and misrepresents an entire country, Rambo: Last Blood stormed into theatres with more blood than any horror release in recent memory.
Specifically, in regards to Rambo: Last Blood this past weekend provided for an interesting inquiry into the relationship between culture and box-office. Through a critical and cultural lens, the box-office has the potential to speak to the shared values of a particular time. For example, as First Blood arrived into theatres in October 1982, as a complex character study within a survival tale, the moderate box-office success of the critically praised film, spoke to a United States at odds with the aftermath of Vietnam and not yet engulfed within newly imagined Reagan politics that re-shaped America’s sense of self after years of domestic and international hardships.
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Whereas, three years later in 1985, Rambo: First Blood Part 2 was far less critically reviewed than its predecessor, but became the highest grossing film of the year at the North American box-office. This film, unlike the first, which saw a PTSD Vietnam veteran displaced and abused by local small-town American police authority, was not about the Vietnam veteran at home but the need to re-win Vietnam and thus re-imagine history shaped within a hyper explosive comic-box landscape. Through that cultural lens of cold-war American foreign policy, the success of the film reinforces that movies are indeed a mirror onto ourselves and box-office numbers can certainly tell us quite a bit about our culture at any particular time. What is popular, forces us to ponder “the why.”
So, for Rambo: Last Blood which entered this weekend tracking at a number one opening (but was overtaken by Downton Abby and Ad Astra, respectively), the muted critical and box-office success may be a sign that in a world full of rage and bigotry, a brutal and hyper-violent film that paints Mexico through a Trumpean perspective, is not what mass audiences wanted. Or, perhaps the target audience of males 35 and older, recognized that this was not their Rambo. At a time when diverse action films like those of the Fast and Furious franchise embrace diversity, Rambo: Last Blood is a blunt, gore laden tale that suggests that in Trump’s America, Rambo is the ultimate border wall.
Ultimately, with the variety of stories being told on the movie screens across North America, the theatrical business keeps on booming. In the world of streaming, audiences are still going to the movies for thrills, drama, laughs and action.
The Top 5 movies this weekend, courtesy of Deadline are:
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