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As 2017 wraps up, it’s time for some end-of-the-year movie musings

POSTED: December 28, 2017 3:19 a.m.
Chris Hicks/

"Coco" is the best of the 20-some-odd animated films that opened in Salt Lake theaters during 2017.

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As 2017 comes to an end, here are some movie musings about the past 12 months on your friendly neighborhood theater screens.

Another year, another superhero — and for 2017 it was Wonder Woman (aka Gal Gadot) who gave impetus to the notion that women can indeed succeed in the male-dominated genre of saving the planet from monsters.

Radical, I know.

And then, before the year was over, she showed up again to lead a gaggle of superheroes in “Justice League.”

Really, though, in an age of ever more heroes with supernatural abilities — both of the human and alien-creature variety — isn’t it about time women were more than merely sidekicks?

Next year, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow) will still be surrounded primarily by men in the new Avengers picture, but perhaps with the enormous success of “Wonder Woman,” there’s hope on the horizon that she — and others — will also get their own movies.

Any way you look at it, superheroes are here to stay, which is understandable since they continue to dominate movie theaters and box-office hit lists.

The strongest example is still Marvel, which released three blockbusters this year — “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

According to Box Office Mojo, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the first film franchise to gross more than $13 billion (in worldwide theatrical releases).

And with its ownership of both the Marvel and the Star Wars franchises — and now the new deal struck with Fox — it really is Disney’s world. We just go to the movies in it.

Speaking of Fox, now that we’re about to embark on 2018, isn’t it about time 20th Century Fox became 21st Century Fox? That’s the name of the parent company — but the movies continue to live in the past.

Each Fox film still begins with that 20th Century Fox spotlight logo and the familiar trumpeted fanfare — you know, that tune that preceded all of the Star Wars movies before George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney? (And which my wife still wants for our doorbell, and which I continue to resist.)

And speaking of Star Wars, in the scenes on the planet Ahch-To (gesundheit!) there were a bunch of little puffy birds called “porgs” running around, and I couldn’t help but think of Christmas two years ago when BB-8 dolls were poised on toy shelves. Were porgs on toy shelves this year?

Anyway, to no one’s surprise, superheroes, comic book movies and fantasies of every stripe dominated movie screens in 2017 — as they have for too many years now — but animated films remained a close second.

More than 20 cartoon movies played in Salt Lake theaters this year — including two each from Lego and Pixar. (From this corner, Pixar’s “Coco” was by far the best.)

And like the fantasy genre, animated films had their fair share of sequels — with Lego Batman, Smurfs, Cars and despicable Gru all back on the scene.

But adults who prefer live-action to CGI should not despair, as there were also quite a few films with actual people, including about 50 based-on-a-true-story movies (though how true they are is up for debate).

Plus faith films, dramas of various kinds, documentaries and, of course, comedies (with way too many of the latter once again taking the low road to try and out-raunchy each other).

One of the more surprising trends this year was the number of PG-rated movies that targeted adults.

Over the past decade, the number of PG-rated movies released to theaters each year has remained pretty steady, about 15 to 20, including animated films and documentaries.

But there was a jump in 2016, with the number of PG-rated movies doubling the norm at 41 — and this year it went up to 44.

Half of this year’s 44 PG-rated titles were still animated and a good number were documentaries. But there were also more live-action movies than usual.

Some of that has to do with the rapid rise in faith films being released to theaters each year — independent productions that often earn PG ratings.

But, in a very unusual move, several were actually produced by Hollywood.

In fact, three of those major studio PG-rated efforts are in theaters right now, and all three are highly recommendable — “Wonder,” “The Man Who Invented Christmas” and “The Greatest Showman.”

Maybe studio moguls are beginning to realize that throwing in their favorite cuss word simply to ensure a PG-13 or R rating isn’t really necessary — if the film is good and its marketing connects with an audience.

Meanwhile, as per usual, more than a third of this year’s films carried R ratings, just under a third had PG-13 ratings and just two had G ratings, both from Disney: the Earth Day documentary “Born in China” and the Pixar animated sequel “Cars 3.”

For some reason, 2017 also had a lot of movies with “Wonder” in the title — no less than five. First came “Wonder Woman,” then the documentary “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” the unique time-shifting drama “Wonderstruck,” and, finally, two that are in theaters now, “Wonder” and “Wonder Wheel.”

No wonder moviegoers were confusing them with each other. (Don’t be confused — go see “Wonder,” which is still in theaters. It’s truly, ahem, wonderful.)

And what about 2018?

More sequels, more superheroes … in other words, more of the same, including “Aquaman,” “Justice League 2,” “Black Panther” and sequels to “Jurassic World,” “The Incredibles” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

Along with a sequel to “Mary Poppins,” an all-female version of “Ocean’s Eleven” and the umpteenth remake of “A Star Is Born.”

Amid all these franchise flicks, however, you won’t have to wait until next December for the new stand-alone Star Wars movie. “Solo,” about young Han Solo, opens May 25.

So, may the force be with you … er, I mean … happy New Year!
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