Hollywood’s Blockbuster Makes Victims of Us All

Hollywood’s Blockbuster: Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Theater.

Over the last couple of years there’s been a steady upsurge in the number of big budget, high concept films fueled almost entirely on catchy, gimmick-ridden premises.  They flood the market with outrageous budgets and ridiculous scenarios that simply cannot hold the weight of their own water.  OK.  Enough water metaphors but clearly we’ve been submerged beneath the tide of expensive, bad movies far too long.  Too much is too much even though they continue to make money and we can’t seem to get enough comic book adaptations, video game ride franchises, remakes and prequels.  While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with spectacle, escapism for the sake of 90 minutes of non-stop devastation followed immediately with a rapid-fire wrap up so all the unknowns become known in four minutes so fifteen minutes of credits can scroll to an empty room.  Let’s face it, we all need our escape ships from the sinking mother ships of our lives, but now more than ever we’re seeing the same blueprint for movies that cost too much and don’t go anywhere, movies that are quite obviously thrown together for the sake of ‘product’ and we’re left paying too much for popcorn and nachos.  All  this Hollywood genuflecting and no one is complaining.  Why?  For some reason we’ve lowered our standards or maybe mediocre is enough or perhaps we just don’t care.  It’s not enough to say a movie was “OK” or “pretty good” or “entertaining”.  We shouldn’t have to resolve the fact that a franchise was just getting started so all the exposition and drawn out history lessons were important for the sake of the original comic book or just because Disney did it on a stone tablet we should keep on doing it the same for the sake of tradition.  We need to make a stand and start demanding more from the movie makers or scrap the whole lot of them and start over.

Above the Line: Practical movie reviews with Rory Dean

It used to be that blockbusters were smart, character driven and well thought out.  We embraced these behemoths because for all the grandeur and landscape epics there remained a solid foundation of story, and for all the archetypes and generalizations that fueled the characters they were also unique, charismatic and cavalier.  Indiana Jones with his hat and bullwhip, Princess Leia had Luke Skywalker and those spiral hair bob things and she could handle a weapon just as good or better than the boys.  Story was a starting place with a plot that developed over time, rewarded us with exciting stunts and amazing locations, explored familiar themes and projected curious scenarios about space, afterlife, greed, avarice and the hereafter.  It wasn’t that long ago that these big films commanded our attention and we gladly became audiences all over the world based entirely on the quality of the experience not because of how many zeros were in the budget or box office receipts.  These films became part of the world lexicon and remain widely recognizable, celebrated, quoted, imitated and revered.  There’s a reason why Spielberg gets to make OK movies these days or Scorsese can make a movie as bad as Shutter Island and people still go see it.  There is a legacy of smart, sophisticated films like E.T., Close Encounters, Blade Runner, early Indiana Jones and the first couple of Matrix films.  At some point though, we started lowering our expectations and instead of every other film paying us for the price of admission it was every fourth or fifth film and we were paying for the occasional Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes scattered among really bad Adam Sandler films and everyday ordinary films based on painfully boring jobs like zookeepers and mall cops.  Then we were enticed with gross budgets, IMAX, 3D, and if we’re lucky we get an action toy with our hamburger and processed cheese theme meal.  Lethargic plots and thrown together stories are now the norm with films like Armageddon, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Source Code.  All of sudden the blockbusters of an entire generation are forgettable, laughable yet bankable.  In the end it is up to us to make the water safe again.  If Hollywood is the giant metal shark of our generation, of the now generation then one of us needs to pick up the badge, put on the hat and pick up a pair of those stylish 70s shades and become the Chief Martin Brody of today and put the bomb in the shark’s mouth.

No matter what you’re told or sold, convinced brilliance lives in convoluted interpretations of the reinvention of tired superheroes and comic book characters that were vastly better written and realized on paper, we can and must demand more than we’re getting from Hollywood.  OK isn’t OK when you’re paying for good.  A movie simply cannot be labeled a thriller or suspense if the sum of the plot is replaying the same 8 minute scene a dozen times as tiny, nearly imperceptible changes occur.  Making the climax of a film our realization that the whole film took place in the protagonist’s last minutes, that he was stuck somewhere in a vacuum chamber the whole time, that a secret shadow agency figured out how to keep him alive long enough to save the planet from exploding (Source Code) is not only ridiculous but insulting to the senses.  A film should not require the totality of dialog to serve the plot so as the audience can follow along (Inception) and when we are told that a beloved children’s book is the source material for a film that is an interpretation of that material rather than in the spirit of the original (Where The Wild Things Are) we must complain either in voice or by action and demand more from those we’ve elected with our ticket stubs to make our movies.  Plot is not akin to body count or devastated space stations or giant talking robotic cars and Tonka trucks throwing each other around along with some of the worst dialog ever written.  Sorry, it’s not.  We have to demand more from Hollywood or they’re going to keep shoveling us manure and laughing when we step in it and track it all over the carpets of our lives and spare them the stink.

About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
This entry was posted in Essays on Film, Movie I've Seen, Movie Makers & Shakers, Movies You Should or Should Not See, My Review of Their Review:, Online, philosophy and film, Rants & Raves and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Hollywood’s Blockbuster Makes Victims of Us All

  1. Bob says:

    So many movies, so many disappointments..but there lots of good fun too. What do you like?

  2. Somebody give this man a Hollywood budget, so he can show us how it’s all done.

    Great stuff here Rory, well written and most assuredly thought provoking! I agree about audiences expecting less and less from the Hollywood system and calling it “great”…. and I nearly snorted my pepsi up my nose when I scanned that Adam Sandler infographic… so true. I shake my head in dismay at much of the content coming out of Hollywood, although, in response to this, I’d say that even while we deplore the lack of originality in modern filmmaking, I think there’s enough brave souls making great creative films outside the Hollywood box to counteract the drain of intellect inside it. The major problem, in my view, is less the acceptance of the modern blockbuster as the pinnacle of modern fimmaking, but the seemingly ignorant manner in which vast audience numbers skip past excellent films like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, or Von Trier’s Melancholia, to go see Michael Bay’s Transformers 3. There should be a balance, even though expecting this is a lot like pissing into the wind these days, what with exorbitant budgets for advertising multi-million dollar extravaganzas at the expense of creatively superior less expensive fare.
    If I may also add: there’s a single studio keen to buck the trend of spectacle over story, and that’s Pixar. Is it any wonder that this is one of the most successful smaller studios in recent years? It goes to show that a good story will trump spectacle in the minds of the masses – films may make a bazillion dollars at the box office, but in the long run, you’ll often find them in the bargain bin at the rental store just as quickly as the other stuff.

    • rorydean says:

      Ha! Please! I do agree there are many great talents struggling against the fray to bridge the gap – too bad the gap is a chasm and the bridge a thin rope coming apart at the ends! I so look forward to finding the little gems out in the world, great films like Small Town Murder Songs that I reviewed here give me hope not all is lost. Points well taken. I think convincing mainstream audiences otherwise is an entire article in and of itself, indeed. I’m still baffled that more filmmakers aren’t picking up with the Pixar model. I’m working on a review of Rango which is every bit a Pixar film in style, story and character with enough originality to make it all its own yet follows with many of the elements we expect from a Pixar experience. I suppose all in all it boils down to people getting what they want and deserve when they don’t have the senses to demand more. Ah, the lovely bargain bin. Cheers Rodney!

  3. interesting page, happy i took the time to read it, if you have more similar articles will be checking back to read them sometime.

  4. The end of the Production Code of America in 1964, the financial successes of the low-budget gore films of the ensuing years, and the critical and popular success of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), led to the release of more films with occult themes in the 1970s, such as The Exorcist (1973), and scores of other horror films in which the Devil represented the supernatural evil, often by impregnating women or possessing children. The genre also included gory horror movies with sexual overtones, made as “A-movies” (as opposed to ” B movies “).

  5. Plunkett, Lisa Gunn, Aaron Letrick, Stephen Ryder, Celine The Abduction Of Zack Butterfield Movie Review Shockya.

    • rorydean says:

      Not sure how I missed you Robert. Let me see: Plunkett was indeed a helluva quarterback in his day but to be quite honest I have no idea what became of him. Announcer? Retired armchair quarterback? If you’re referring to Lisa Gunn the abstract artist and her body of work, the work that has “..has become more about the abject body over time through personal life experience” as it applies to our movie going experience, perhaps. I think we abstract our viewing experience over time referring back to our childhood and the impact of what we saw then and knew nothing about with what we see now and know too much about, fusing the two often diabolically opposed realities into a new kind of delirium that forces us to forgive bad films or not care while simultaneously abandoning our otherwise high regard for smart, funny, sexy, irreverent and human in place for a gluttony of everything all at once. And that’s before we ever arrive anywhere memorable. I don’t know anything about actor Aaron Letrick other than he seems to have fallen off the radar. Returned to busing tables? Packaging porn and putting those neon discount stickers over the private parts so they will sell at Wallmart?

      Oh, you mean this: http://selinaiad.over-blog.com/pages/movie-the-abduction-of-zack-butterfield-online-8095488.html

      I must investigate. Stay tuned. Thanks for dropping by.

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    • rorydean says:

      It’s almost funny, all these links and spirals – when did it get so hard to draw straight lines in the sand? I figure this is going to be one of those moments, seconds really, beginning and ending like traffic light yellow – red – green again, but don’t go just yet, stick around just a bit – at least until the first person honks, then again, then another and you realize you’ve made an eel of cars waiting to make a move, slither to pieces already forgetting the cool of making something from nothing..

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