05 October 2021 904 Views

What’s wrong with this Picture? The Things ALL movies are doing to destroy their own artform.

by James Murphy

Ok. I exaggerate. Not ALL movies. That would be ridiculous. But that in itself is the kind of panoramic hubris, posing real danger, to film in general. 

At a coffee break glance (non exhaustive; not empirical; just a hunch, like):

  • Thinking EVERYTHING is a FRANCHISE or EPIC SERIES! 

Sometimes, there is a readied 6 movie arc to adapt and audiences await each new instalment. But not every movie series or book /comic inspiration comes prepared with sequels and spin offs. Sometimes, you just have nowhere to ‘go’. And that’s fine.

Wait 30 years for another chance to remake it. Buy the rights to a similar IP. But stop trying to inject life into and thereby, cash, from, the already redundant embers of a film/book that has been and gone.

LORD OF THE RINGS = epic trilogy. Because Tolkien wrote it that way. THE HOBBIT = one and done simple cosy fireside book for kids and the movie should have matched that.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL was a cinematic panto of fun. Refreshingly so. Felt like the first STAR WARS, in fact. And yes, we therefore all wanted and welcomed more Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and indeed, still do. But that did not mean you needed an EPIC TRILOGY arc which quite literally tried to mirror Jedi/Hobbit verse, beat for beat.

  • Confusing marketing structure with cinematic ‘styles’

When THE DARK KNIGHT hit big? It was tempting to think ‘everything MUST be DARK!‘. I get that, Hollywood. Relax. But that movie did not just do well because of its doom and gloom, if at all. We tuned in because Batman v Joker is a big event. Because there was a top flight cast and crew, operating at peak power. And there was optimal hype, whilst avoiding unwelcome saturation, so its legacy was a pervasive influence on the film industry.

The problem was that even Warners failed to see what actually constituted a ‘USP’. The ‘unique’ part of the selling point IS that selling point. So whilst one should aim to replicate quality and marketing methods across IPs? Simply copying and pasting motifs and visual signatures and tones is a dead end.

So: whilst replicating the basic structure of BATMAN BEGINS for MAN OF STEEL (I like both films, btw) made sense? Having a ‘dark’ or ‘gritty’ Superman lacked logic.

You can have an action packed battle of the Kryptonians and retain a still fun vibe of optimistic joy. That IS the ‘USP’. THERE.

  • ‘IT’S ALL CONNECTED! (and ret-conned, to match?)’

Films are a bit like life. If you go seeking out unearned connections? Then you set yourself up for delusion, diversion and disappointment. I just contrived connection there via alliteration, overused. But this a coffee break blog. Not a billion dollar film investment.

When the ‘connection’ becomes the story? Then perhaps you have no story to tell and need a radical rethink before releasing a movie. Or at least be upfront and honest about it all. Go full on ‘um..we have very little by way of plot but enjoy the nice visuals and set pieces and performances’.

Don’t try and ‘sell’ me on the idea of ret-conned, unearned links between characters as some pseudo-erudite basis for ‘plot’. MARVEL perfected the idea of a shared universe for its characters.

Fine. It was a noble, bold, innovative experiment which was mostly a tease/hint, building toward the fun of the first few AVENGERS products. But now? Even their tightly woven plans have become too convoluted and complex and this new ‘multi-verse’ idea is a manifestation of that unravelling formula.

So if you are now copying that same Marvel template, directly? MIGHT want to think again. Maybe. I have named enough film franchises today. But I think we all know the one(s) I have in mind.

 

More exciting decline via cinematic self destruction next Tuesday. Maybe. Unless I decide to ret-con it with a long lost relative who designed the entire idea from a multiverse portal nobody knew about, while seeking revenge etc..



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