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1997 Cinema: Looking at movies 25 years after their release

Last week, I rewatched that cinematic masterpiece called Anaconda in honor of the 25th anniversary of its release. It’s still great, by the way—keep an eye out for the shot where the waterfall is going backwards. And it got me just a little bit curious about what other movies were celebrating their 25th birthdays this year.

For some reason, 1997 has always stuck in my mind as being kind of a “down” year—maybe it's because Titanic sucked up all of the attention. To be sure, there are some genuinely great movies that came out that year—Ulee’s Gold, The Sweet Hereafter, Eve’s Bayou, among others. But when I looked at a list of 1997 releases, my eyes quickly went to a lot of the summer movies, and I noticed just how nutty some of them were compared to what we typically see today.

June alone saw Con Air, Face/Off, Speed 2: Cruise Control, and Batman and Robin. That’s two wackadoodle Nicolas Cage action movies in the same month. And yeah, the other two were both sequels, but remember Speed 2 included a villainous Willem Dafoe using leeches to suck copper out of his body, and whatever you think of Batman and Robin, the director, Joel Schumacher, certainly had a specific vision.

The Fifth Element came out in May, another truly bizarre big-budget movie, as was Paul Verhoeven’s $100-million adaptation of Starship Troopers, although they waited until November to put that one out. Probably hoping for some Oscar buzz there, I guess?

So, look, my point isn’t to say movies were better then and now they’re garbage. That’s not true. But also, I kind of miss the time when the outcome wasn’t predetermined. We more or less know what we’re going to get when we go to a major release these days, and we more or less know how it’s going to do at the box office. And that’s all well and good, but think about those movies I mentioned, think about Nicolas Cage switching faces with John Travolta, and tell me you wouldn’t kill for a lineup like that one this summer.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.