Not much has changed substantively over the past decade. Just take a look at the line-up that greeted viewers in 2012 and compare it to the class of 2022. The only difference is that the blockbusters are headed straight for our homes.
Same shit, different decade
First we had The Hobbit, the first serious Middle Earth spin-off. Two rather lame sequels followed and now we have The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Sept. 2 on Amazon Prime), rumored to be the most expensive TV series ever made.
Marvel Sudios released The Avengers, its first multiple superhero movie, but not its last. Ten years later, the absurd title She-Hulk: Lawyer (August 17 on Disney +) is another TV series that carries the brand.
Game of Thrones released its second season, with the fight scene in episode nine ‘Blackwater’ setting new standards for the industry. Several juggernauts followed until the inevitable conclusion in 2019, but raising the torch again is the prequel series House of the Dragon (August 22 on HBO Max) – a second season looks set to follow.
George Lucas sold the Star Wars rights to Disney in 2012, but few could have predicted the onslaught of films and series that followed. Andor (August 31 on Disney +) – the story of the male lead in Rogue One, again played by Diego Luna – is the latest.
And finally, DC Comics spawned perhaps its greatest cinematic triumph, The Dark Knight Rises. A couple of barren years have passed, but long-awaited series The Sandman (Netflix since Aug. 5; 66 on Metacritc) promises to restore its credibility among comics connoisseurs.
In Westeros and in elf
The timing of the Rings and Thrones franchise’s releases is almost too eerie: like Saruman has driven Melisandre. Released just 12 days apart, they are arguably the biggest series of the year, if not the decade.
With a budget of at least $1 billion spread over five seasons, The Rings of Power will end up dwarfing (pun intended) the $15 million that Thrones spent per episode by the end of its run. And it doesn’t exactly splash out on the cast, favoring suitability over stardom, assembling an ensemble of undeniable diversity, from faded British comic Lenny Henry to Ned Stark duo Robert Aramayo (young me) and Joseph Mawle (younger brother). Worryingly, most of the main characters have elf names, so permission to snooze.
In contrast, House of the Dragon has gone about recruiting almost every quality British actor who didn’t appear in the original – how the likes of Ian McShane and Richard E Grant must be kicking themselves for taking on such limited cameos in Season 6. Matt . Smith, Paddy Considine, Rhys Ifans, Olivia Cooke and Bill Paterson are cool at school, again with virtually no American actors (in 73 episodes of GoT there were only four).
The director’s heat
The big concern with these giants has to be the quality of direction. Although there has been a decade-long trend where the top actors (besides Tom Cruise, name me one who hasn’t…okay Jake Gyllenhaal, Nicolas Cage, Christian Bale and Angeline Jolie…we’ve looked it up!), big budgets and production . value expertise has steadily moved to television, and the top directors continue to work exclusively in the cinema.
Given the tendency for the showrunner to call the shots (as in the MGM era), ‘the auteurs’ just don’t make TV. Granted, a few take total control (Susanne Bier with The Night Manager, The Undoing and The First Lady, and Cary Joji Fukunaga with the first season of True Detective), and Marty has done a few one-offs – the aforementioned ‘Blackwater’ was helmed . by British director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) – but often series are let down by the varying skills of a mixed bag.
The Godfather origins Paramount series The Offer should have been the bomb, but instead it was released to disappointing reviews in late April. Take a closer look and you’ll find that four of the ten episodes are standouts—and surprise, surprise, they all have the same director: Adam Arkin (yes, Alan’s son).
The apple of our eye
While She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and Andor will be released later in August, The Sandman arrived last week and the reviews are halfway decent. Its mainly adult audience should be pleased. Also Thai diver rescue film Thirteen lives (Amazon Prime since August 5; 33.) will be streamed after a mandatory week in theaters.
Nevertheless, perhaps the critics’ highest praise this month will be reserved for the miniseries Five days at Memorial (Apple on August 12) starring the ever-reliable Vera Farmiga. This was the script that Ryan Murphy created for the third season of American Crime Story, and it is encouraging to know that John Ridley, who wrote five episodes of the riveting first two series of ACS (OJ and Versace), is on board – instruction.
Apple is a safe bet for quality these days, with two more potential gems on the way. The Danish actor Claes Bang has found himself yet another villain’s shoes to fill Bad sisters (August 19), although this dark comedy in an Irish setting starts with his funeral. Created by Catastrophe co-writer Sharon Horgan, it looks like a sure bet to please, and the same seems to be the case with the London-based comedy All I know about love (August 25), finally a star car for the talents of Bel Powley, the British intern from the first season of The Morning Show.
To be fair, Amazon Prime is having a good month too. Along with The Rings of Power and Thirteen Lives, it will have high hopes Samaritans, the tale of a superhero (Sylvester Stallone) who may not have died in a titanic battle, as was believed 25 years ago. With skilled support from the Danish actor Pilou Asbæk, director Julius Avery’s last film was the zombie WWII film Overlord.
There aren’t that many series returning this month – Never have I ever (S3; August 12) and Lock and key (S3; August 10) is back on Netflix, while The outlaws (S2; Aug. 5) returns to Amazon Prime — but there’s a returning movie: All-Women’s Baseball Yarn A league of its own (August 12 on Prime).
Do not board this train!
In the cinemas, meanwhile, the budgets are more modest, but there is still plenty of quality. British 2021 Dramas Ali & Ava (August 4; 77) and Juniper (Aug. 4; released but no score yet) is heartfelt and satisfying — the latter with another compelling turn by Charlotte Rampling. Jordan Peele has once again emphasized his skills in horror with Nix (4 Aug; 77), but none the less said about Imagine me (Aug 4; 59) the better. And the documentary The fire of love (11 Aug; 88), which charts the relationship between two volcanologists, is beautifully shot.
Perhaps the most long-awaited film is Bullet train (Aug 4; 49) but best avoided, despite Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock on board. Jump on instead After Yang (Aug 25; 79) with Colin Farrell, about a family dealing with the death of their android child; I came by (August 31 on Netflix), the tale of a Banksy-like artist (George Mackay) who gets more than he bargained for when he breaks into the London apartment of a big-wig (Hugh Bonneville); or Exchange (Disney+; 70), the latest Predator movie, an 18th-century prequel complete with Comanches.
Finally we have After 4: After Ever Happy (August 25; NRW). You would have thought that ‘after’ the first three, we would have had enough. The Lord of the Rings is certainly an example of that.
Source: The Nordic Page