The 2005 summer movie season was reminiscent of the summer of 1977, when directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg competed for the blockbuster film of the season.
In both 1977 and 2005, Lucas had a Star Wars film in his corner. Twenty-eight years ago film audiences were introduced to Luke Skywalker, a young man believed to be the galaxy’s last hope against the ever-growing Empire led by the dark and mysterious Darth Vader.
In 2005, audiences were treated to Lucas’ final installment of the Star Wars saga when the hero, Anakin Skywalker, takes his final steps toward his transformation into the Darth Vader character moviegoers came to love almost three decades ago.
Spielberg opted to deliver a cinematic remake to moviegoers this summer. His film War of the Worlds reunited him with actor Tom Cruise and proved again that he could turn a story of extraterrestrial contact into box office gold.
Despite War of the Worlds’ financial success, many die-hard Spielberg fans are eager for the legendary director to return to his roots and make films featuring unknown actors and original storylines.
Unbelievably, Spielberg and Lucas were not the only directors coping with a lack of original storylines. Most of the major studio releases that opened in theaters across the nation this summer were sequels, remakes and the occasional adaptation of an older television show. Some of these recycled ideas, like Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, received a warm reception from audiences, thanks in large part to Burton’s direction and the portrayal of wacky candyman Willy Wonka by the eclectic actor Johnny Depp.
Other redone movies, like The Dukes of Hazzard featuring pop singer Jessica Simpson in her first film role, tanked after its first week of release. Despite the summer’s recycling trend, some films broke the mold and actually succeeded in doing so.
The summer’s most talked about film, March of the Penguins, was a surprise hit to many.
Written and directed by French director Luc Jacquet, the film chronicles the hardships of a group of emperor penguins who trek more than 70 miles across the barren continent of Antarctica each year to mate and secure the continued success of their species.
Jacquet captured both the happy moments and the depressing moments that remind the audience how much is at stake for these penguins and their natural drive to reproduce.
But in the end, both the penguins and the audience are rewarded for their efforts. The fuzzy little babies struggling to survive in these harsh conditions grow up, and the cycle of reproduction begins again.
Films like March of the Penguins bring hope to the cynical. If a documentary from France can attract so much attention and delight millions of people everywhere, then there is hope that films with original storylines and talented actors, penguin or otherwise, can be released.
Marta Rusek can be reached at MRusek@temple.edu.