AUSTIN POWERS : International Man of Mystery, 1997
A 1960’s hipster secret agent is brought out of cryofreeze to oppose his greatest enemy into the 1990’s where his social attitudes are glaringly out of place.
It’s 2017 and Mike Myers needs a hit. Yes, he will always have his Shrek franchise, but he’s just a hired voice and it’s not the audience he is looking for. His last film, The Love Guru, was probably the worst film in 2008. It was that bad and you have to wonder if he’s lost his way.
Historically speaking in the land of the Hollywood movie industry where opening weekend box office results are the only thing that matter, whenever a star needs a hit he always goes back to his franchise series to make him a major player once again. So Myers will go back to his Austin Powers series eventhough they really concluded things in the last film. But Myers needs his hit so back to the franchise he goes that made him a star in the first place.
It’s 1994 and Mike Myers needs a hit. He’s finishing his Saturday Night Live run and understands that he’s never going to be a conventional leading man. He tried it in the underrated So I Married an Axe Murderer, 1993 and no one went to see it. His Wayne’s World series came to an abrupt end in the same year when no one went to see the sequel and no studio would ever greenlight Wayne and his sidekick Garth again. So Myers I’m sure wondered where he was headed. He seemed to be a talent not suited for the time his was living in. He was a man who created his own characters and needed to be a part of the entire creative process. Hollywood was only looking to hire actors with the conventional good looks and nothing more. Actors who just showed up on set whenever the call sheet told them to and went home when the director told them their day was done. Myers seemed caught between figuring out if he was going to be a writer or a performer as they kept telling him that he couldn’t do both.
Then the industry shifted a bit due to the developing independent film scene. These upstart production companies allowed a lot of freedom to the above-the-line creators of a movie and all of a sudden many talented people were presented to the mainstream. Creators who seemed to be very good at two or more jobs. And actors who were starring in the films that they wrote themselves. Hollywood always pays attention to success because there’s always a lot of money behind that success so they were now open to hearing new projects with actors who were also writers. Myers saw his window of opportunity.
So in 1996 while he was having a bath, Mike Myers created the Austin Powers character. The character that would make him a household name and give him a lot of creative freedom in the land of Hollywood for many years. At least until his bomb The Love Guru. Now he’s back to square one.
Austin Powers : International Man of Mystery was not a huge hit when it came out in May of 1997. In fact, many entertainment pundits assumed that this film would be a bomb. Mike Myers hadn’t been seen in almost 4 years and director Jay Roach was inexperienced and at the age of 40, seemed to be just a guy who would never really ‘make it’ in the industry. The opening weekend numbers were better than expected, but weren’t anything special. But week after week heading into the summer of 1997, Austin Powers never left the top 10 box office. Little by little the little film became the little film that could. Critics had mixed feelings about it, but the fans seemed to really enjoy it. And they were a mixed bag of fans. It had the young audience who enjoyed the catchphrases and sexy costumes. And it had the older audience who enjoyed the 60s James Bond parodies and other older pop-cultural references.
At the end of 1997, Austin Powers came out on DVD and VHS and people rented it in droves and was one of the top rented films for many weeks. And it was also a film that was bought in large doses at Christmastime. It was that movie that many people enjoyed watching again and again because of the many funny moments. And of course its studio saw the potential for a sequel and when they approached Myers about it, he always had it written and hoped to make it right away. Austin Powers 2 came out in 1999 and was the hit of the year and of course a third film was ready go to right after. All from an idea a guy had when he was having a bath.
When Austin Powers first came out I was one of the first people to see it because I was a big fan of Mike Myers for many years. It was a small crowd and not much laughter but I noticed a certain charm on screen that I never saw before. I remember my girlfriend at the time turning to me after the film and saying that she enjoyed it but didn’t think many people would see it.
This was a film that was very smart but also very stupid at the same time. Meaning, it had a lot of intelligent jokes and moments that many people only picked up after a second viewing. But it also gave us the lower-tier comedy of fart jokes and ugly naked people. It was giving up two types of comedies at the same time and there was a certain genius in how they pulled it off. And it’s these types of films that usually stand the test of time and set up franchises.