crimson typhoon

The United States no longer has the last word.

Love it or leave it, Hollywood is still where the biggest, most universally-appealing movies in the world get made. There are exceptions, certainly, but on the whole there's no bigger force for good or ill in global popular culture. And because since its inception Hollywood's primary revenue stream came from U.S. audiences, said U.S. audiences had de-facto veto power of what did and didn't "matter" worldwide. Oh, sure, Eastern Europe or Asia or Africa can have whatever tastes they wanted; but unless Americans shared that taste good luck seeing it get the glossy Hollywood treatment.

That this scenario would change has always been an inevitability of globalism, but this was the year we saw the first real signs that the rulebook is being rewritten in front of us. Earlier in the year the throwaway trifle Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters made minor headlines when it bombed stateside but cruised into a $200 Million international hit thanks to big turnouts in Russia and Latin America. A sequel is now planned.

But the real eyebrow-raiser has been Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim, a much-hyped actioner that opened soft in America but has done gangbusters business elsewhere - most prominently in mainland China, which Hollywood currently views as a market soon to equal or even surpass the spending-power of the U.S.

The optics of this become even more interesting when one considers that Rim is already more than a little Post-American in its basic makeup: It's an action-fantasy for the age of globalism, in which a multinational coalition unites under a banner of common cause. It's cast is international, it's sensibilities are all about One World cooperative spirit. The central conceit: Giant battle-robots needed to save the world literally run on the The Power of Teamwork. It walks a deft tightrope between utilizing archetypal characters while effortlessly breaking Hollywood rules about the function of women and people of color in "big" movies.

Timing is still everything.

Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down are both working from the same pitch, and it's a good one: Die Hard in The White House. Down would seem to have the edge: A bigger-name director, a hotter cast, an obviously higher budget and, oh yeah, it was also a way better, smarter, funnier movie that even managed to have a thing or two on its mind politically. But whereas the expensive Down had a disappointingly average debut at the boxoffice, the low-budget Olympus opened earlier in the year and did tidy business for itself. Lesson learned: Get there first.

NEXT WEEK: More Summer School.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet. Recently, he wrote a book.

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