Now I’m the first to admit I am not a fully educated movie geek. I don’t like The Godfather Trilogy, I prefer Trek over Wars and I found The Shining to be dull and unfulfilling. I can’t stand Adam Sandler movies, musicals (with the exception of Les Miserables as I was in that one) and torture porn flicks such as Hostel and The Human Centipede.
That said, I think I have a good grasp of what makes a good movie and I can take a step backwards to see the things that others appreciate that I don’t. Normally these opinion articles are met with a load of abusive hate comments from people who only grow a pair when they are safe at home behind their keyboard. My articles aren’t meant for these people. My aim is to identify certain aspects of movies and how they are made, to give my take on them and perhaps offer it as an interesting talking point for you guys. So with that said, let’s get on with my first piece, tired movie formats.
A friend of mine has recently devoted his life to try and become a successful screenwriter. For the past few years he has poured thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears into honing his craft and he has just had a short student movie made. To see his name on the end credits filled me with pride as I have ready some of his superb scripts and can only wish that one of them will be picked up in the future. We often get together to catch up and end up ranting and raving over the current state of Hollywood and the movie business in general. We love to watch unintentionally horrible movies (such as Shoot ‘Em Up and The Core), but there seems to be a trend evolving with non-tent pole large budget movies in the past few years. Let me give you an example.
In January I went with a mate to see 47 Ronin. I thought at the very least it could be an entertaining few hours, given Keanu’s very competent action skills. First I saw a trailer for I, Frankenstein which looked like the editor accidentally burnt the actual movie and just mixed footage of Underworld and Van Helsing in the hopes that nobody would notice. Instead of a possibly unique and entertaining flick about a very underused literary character, I was met with a lazy hash of bad CGI, a gruff speaking broody lead male (original) with an obligatory topless money shot to entice the ladies, the muscular baddie, the older baddie boss (played by Bill Nighy playing what looked like the same character in Underworld), the McGuffin/contraption that must be destroyed/found/hidden/used before the baddies do, the big end war scene with lots of CGI’d people and some lame dialogue. No need to see it after that really, I knew pretty much how the entire movie would play out.
The same happened with 47 Ronin really, within ten minutes I could tell which stereotype characters were which, who was going to live and die and how, and the tone of the movie itself. What upset me most was the fact I felt like I had seen this movie so many times before, with pretty much the same results. That this movie had been watered down from what I feel was a 15 certificate originally, to become a 12 (PG-13) certificate in order to scrape some extra £££’s from the poor unsuspecting movie-going audience. The violence was watered down to the point where I can’t remember seeing any blood at all, not even cgi blood, and this is a movie about 47 Samurai warriors! The whole content of the movie felt as though it was initially meant for a more mature audience, but that version was sacrificed in order to get more bums on seats. Just look at how many “Extreme” or “Director’s Cuts” we get on DVD and Blue Ray releases these days. Let’s face it, The Wolverine should have been made a 15 so that the Director could have let loose with the raw, adult Wolverine movie based on the infamous graphic novels it was based on. A movie I still crave for. Instead, we got a decent, competent movie (with Hugh pouring his heart and soul into it), made as violent and adult as it could possibly get, with an unnecessary mutant/Poison Ivy rip-off and an unnecessary, overly-large CGI Silver Samurai for the end fight.
It seems that if your tent pole, or semi-tent pole movies don’t offer the prospect of a lucrative trilogy, the whole thing is diluted down in order to try and recoup as much money as possible, and when that movie can’t be watered down, they save on marketing costs and let the poor thing fend for itself with a limited theatrical release and obscure release date. Now granted, I feel that we have come a long way in the quality of big movies since the mid-90’s. Harsh lessons have been learnt, but the same lazy formulaic movie-making is still creeping its way into our Cinemas each year. With three duds (in my opinion) so far this year in the form of Robocop, 47 Ronin and I. Frankenstein, it seems like we still have a long way to go before people vote with their feet and start going for quality of quantity.