Take the events of this week for example. We saw the release of irritatingly chirpy Abba-shaped sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, a film that manages to raise the bar for cliche subtitles whilst simultaneously following-up a story no one really seemed that bothered about in the first place. A decade ago, critics and fans alike frowned upon Pierce Brosnan’s flat, weird speak-singing so much they awarded it just 54% on Rotten Tomatoes. Cut to 2018 and at the time of writing Here We Go Again somehow finds itself certified 79% fresh, with audiences and unlikely critics singing its praises despite themselves.
So what happened? Well, the fact that the world today is going to shit almost certainly plays a part. The first Mamma Mia arrived nestled in a year where Barack Obama had won an liberated election and one of the biggest media scandals involved Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand and Manuel from Fawlty Towers. 2018 on the other hand is a much darker place, a bit like an episode of Black Mirror minus all the humour, smarts or twist endings. Each day that passes reveals another revelation shocking enough to make you question what’s fiction and what’s reality. In short: Maybe audiences are in need of a bit of escapism.
The signs started to reveal themselves a few years ago. Remember when news broke about the Paddington movie and it seemed like the worst idea ever? Colin Firth’s exit did little to reassure audiences that this was something worth their time and money and yet the film - and most notably its 2017 follow-up - emerged as two of the most fondly reviewed family films of recent years. The trend continued with 2017’s saccharine singalong The Greatest Showman which polarised audiences on Rotten Tomatoes with a 54% critic rating Vs a 87% audience score. Clearly, levity is in great demand at the moment. It’s no wonder there’s currently six (yes, six) features currently in the works surrounding the uplifting real-life rescue of the school kids from the caves of Thailand. No word yet on who might play Elon Musk.
It’s a stark change in a relatively short space of time. Back in 2008, our collective favourite film seemed to be Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight - a gritty terrorist tale disguised as a superhero epic. Who’d have thought that a decade later it’d be Cher, bad singing and Abba that’d be topping our critics list and pleasing audiences worldwide? Mamma Mia, indeed.
Do you think we need more levity in our movies? Let me know in the comments section below!