Alissa Wilkinson writing for Vox, ‘The summer without blockbusters’:
“We can all just sit here on Earth, wait for this big rock to crash into it, kill everything and everybody we know,” Bruce Willis’s Harry Stamper says to his fellow oil drillers in Armageddon. “United States government just asked us to save the world. Anybody want to say no?”
Sure, we nodded, back in 1998. Makes sense. The US government wants some ordinary guys to go into space and save the planet. The fictional version of the government had issued a similar call two years earlier, in 1996, when Independence Day’s President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) personally led a fighter jet attack on an alien saucer. And then again in 1997, when a pair of American secret agents dressed in black — one of whom was a former NYPD officer — saved the galaxy from another extraterrestrial threat.
Not so much in 2020. The very reason Americans — and the rest of the world — couldn’t go see any new blockbusters this summer has to do with American failure. And that failure spans all levels, from the White House to average citizens, in the face of a humanity-threatening virus. As the summer of 2020 has worn on, and other economies have warily but safely reopened around the world, the US has looked less and less like a leader and more and more like an ostrich with its head buried deep beneath the dusty ground.
And so, strangely, the dearth of Hollywood blockbusters in 2020 perfectly illustrates where the US stands in the world at the end of a long, maddening summer. Because it’s a story that’s not just about a commercial product that wasn’t shipped to customers at home and abroad; it’s a story about what the American blockbuster stands for, the myths it weaves, and the place in our collective cultural consciousness it occupies.