Thursday, May 22, 2014
Film Pet Peeves: Money Is Everything!
If you were to ask me what my biggest complaint with Hollywood is, it would be its constant hunt for fast cash instead of making a worthwhile movie.
This has slowly but surely creeped in since the invention of the summer blockbuster, such as with "Jaws" and the "Star Wars" movies. Movies were being marketed more and more towards getting a huge payoff for one film, especially when multiplexes were introduced and audiences did not have to go far to watch multiple movies in the same theater.
But back in the 1970s and 1980s, this wasn't that big of a problem. Most of the huge summer blockbusters were still solid and well-put together movies. For example, in 1982 the highest grossing film was "E.T. The Extra Terrastrial", with the next highest being "Tootsie," only grossing roughly half of "E.T." In fact, that isn't even Steven Spielberg's highest grossing film, with "Jurassic Park" gaining the edge.
This doesn't even count all of the tie-ins, toys, product placement, games and so on that probably made more money than the movie.
But this wasn't so much a problem back in 1982, because "E.T. the Extra Terrastrial" was loved by everyone and is still accepted today as one of Spielberg's best films and a wonderful achievement in filmmaking.
Now let's look at some of the highest grossing films of the last twenty years: "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," "Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End," Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland," "Spider-Man 3," "Independence Day," "The Dark Knight Rises," The Twilight Saga and, everyone's favorite, Michael Bay's "Transformers" series.
I'm just going to put this out there: None of these movies were made to add something to cinema or even to be watched years later and looked upon fondly. These movies were made with the intention of making money and nothing else. They were designed to put the most butts in theater seats as possible and to get their money. The filmmakers could not care less about whether the audience actually enjoyed the movie, because they just the big bucks.
There is an old saying I heard and have lived by for a while now: If you make a great movie, you don't have to worry about advertising or anything. Audiences will pay to see a great movie. That is why there was not much advertising for films like "12 Years A Slave," this years' winner of the Best Picture Academy Award.
But the more I look at the highest grossing films of the year against the reviews those same films are getting, the more I realize that saying isn't true any more. Some of the biggest blockbuster hits of the last few years are terrible movies, yet audiences go to see them in droves.
There is something wrong with this picture when more people are watching the rage-inducing, unfunny and insulting "The Hangover: Part II" over the clever, well-written and engaging "Kung Fu Panda 2." Both of these films were released on the same weekend, yet more people saw the carbon-copy than they did the great animated feature.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather spend my money on a movie that I know will be entertaining and thought-provoking than one that is sure to be brain-dead and boring. I'd gladly take one "Pacific Rim" over ten "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" anyday.
The problem with cinema is that, when you're going to watch a film for the first time, you're not sure if you're going to like it or not. You are literally spending money to find out whether this film is going to be good or not. You don't know if its going to be entertaining or boring and you are gambling ten dollars to find out.
But nowadays, that risk is far less effective. With the abundance of sequels, reboots and focus on computer-generated images, you can often tell when a movie is destined to fail. Just look at the "Transformers" films. Each film is doing the exact same thing as the previous entry: Shaky-cam fight sequences between two giant robots that look exactly the same, with a brief cutaway to Shia LaBeouf being confused and screaming at the top of his lungs.
The movie is going to make plenty at the box office, but that does not mean it is good or that it was a success.
Now don't get me wrong, there have been plenty of good movies over the last decade or so that were huge hits at the box office and were still well-made films. For example, the previously mentioned "Jurassic Park," "The Avengers," "Skyfall," "Toy Story 3" and "The Dark Knight." So just because it makes a lot of money does not suddenly mean it sucks.
What I am saying though is that I am disappointed in seeing all of these terrible movies and continued remakes and reboots get money simply because of nostalgia or clever marketing.
While I think this could say something about the kind of audience that watches these films, I think it says more about Hollywood and their continued need to make these bad movies. Their motto now seems to be quantity over quality, and that is what really pisses me off.
Filmmakers should make movies that they want to see. Movies that they can come back to, again and again, and never get tired of, like "E.T. The Extra Terrastrial." That movie has survived for over thirty years now and still entertains audiences as much today as it did back in 1982. Not because of flashy effects or appealing to the lowest common denominator, but because it treats its audience like adults and tells a compelling story with timeless and relatable characters.
My one comfort is knowing that movies like the Twilight series are just passing fads. The thing about all fads is that they will fade away after a while. They might have some momentary success, but over time people will realize that these stories do not hold up and go back to the good ones.
The good news is that Hollywood has gotten better over the past few years, with some of the bigger hits being good movies, like "Iron Man 3" and "Frozen," but there are still some stinkers that sneak in there, like "Grown Ups 2" and "The Lorax."
In the end, this is my biggest film pet peeve. When a movie makes a lot of money at the box office, it does not tell you anything about the film anymore. Only that a lot of people went to see it. Nowadays, a terrible film like "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon" can make just as much money as a great film like "Finding Nemo." Something just is not right about that.