Wednesday, March 31, 2010

EDITORIAL: Blockbusters Have Only Become Dumber

Moviegoers are becoming dumber, and dumber, as the years go by.

In what has been a pretty buzz-worthy piece of writing, Slate’s Tom Shone posited the idea that modern day blockbusters, the films that make the money in the box office, have become far too intellectual for his liking, or their own good.

Going on to give examples like David Fincher’s The Social Network, Aronofsky’s Black Swan, and Christopher Nolan’s upcoming mind related thriller, Inception, the idea is stated, discussed, and then given examples of films that fit the style of blockbuster Shone is craving, all in a tight and fun little read.

However, it’s one that comes at it from the wrong mind set.

Big budget, action packed, blockbusters, the very thing that keeps this industry going, have not only gotten dumbed down over the past years, but are being intoxicated by stupidity, and the illness is only getting more and more extreme.

Network, Swan, or Inception are not truly considered blockbusters. Yes, Inception had a huge budget, and with name power like Fincher and Nolan attached, they are sure fire hits. However, they are the exception to this ever growing, and ever distressing rule.

Look at last year’s highest grossing films:

1. Avatar
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
3. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
4. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
5. 2012
6. Up
7. The Twilight Saga: New Moon
8. Sherlock Holmes
9. Angels and Demons
10. The Hangover

Wow, my brain is numb from how taxing those films were.

Avatar may be the biggest example of a film fitting Shone’s hypothesis, but the following nine films have the combined cinematic I.Q. of an Abercrombie and Fitch model. They don't have the highest of mental wave lengths, with Transformers and New Moon being the best example of the growing stupidity of box office juggernauts. Both are complete gender based wish fulfillment, and strive to be nothing more than that. Throw in a pair of racist robots, a dumb and incomprehensible group of teenagers, and then cut to shots of dogs humping, and you have the most intellectual of modern blockbusters.

Oh, and 2010 doesn’t look to be much better.

Featuring such films as The Expendables, Predators, The A-Team, and Piranha 3-D, not only is Hollywood attempting to lower the already ground level mental state of films and filmgoers, but they are being intoxicated by the ever growing sense of masturbatory nostalgia for a decade that brought us cheesy action films, dumb one liners, and Ahhhhnold; the ‘80s.

Ever since films like Rambo began hitting theaters, the collective I.Q. of film goers, according to studios, seems to be less that Kate Moss’ weight. And like the model, it’s only going lower. The newest trailer for The Expendables shows that while it may be fun, it’s not striving to make Stephen Hawking punch himself in the balls for fear of being out shined. It’s not that these films are not enjoyable; it’s that they are becoming dumber and dumber than even their ‘80s counterparts.

The problem with these films is that, instead of fitting within the genre of meathead action fare, it becomes what Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez’s addition to Grindhouse, was to 70’s exploitation films. A complete and utter pastiche. It’s what MacGruber is to MacGyver. It’s not a film meant to be taken seriously within the likes of Predator or Die Hard, but as a film playing off of those same beats. It’s like a cover band of a ‘80s hair metal group. Not quite good to start off with, but even worse when it’s covered.

And smart action has been done well recently. Look at the Bourne Trilogy. Not the biggest world shakers in terms of brain waves firing, but at least it’s there. The films are balls to the wall action, and have some rather interesting things to say when it comes to American foreign policy. However, people don’t go out to see these types of action films, just look at Green Zone. Yes, it’s an Iraq War film, but the trailers were making it seem like a kick-ass action film, which it was, and people avoided it like a Blockbuster rental shop. Even some dumb action films have at least tried to take the genre forward. Crank and Crank: High Voltage, may very well be the dumbest of the dumb when it comes to action films. However, with the team of Neveldine/Taylor, the films have been able to push the genre of action films forward, introducing more guerilla and seemingly verite filmmaking tactics to the genre. Yes, they are live action video games, but they work, where films like Transformers: ROTF are not only dumb and lazy, but they also offend those of us with a multiple digit I.Q.

Every year we get our occasional blockbuster with actual balls to try to be something more. Avatar, The Dark Knight, Bourne Trilogy, Inception, but again, these are the exceptions to this disgusting and truly depressing rule. Blockbusters have not become more intellectual. Blockbusters have been exponentially been getting dumber and dumber.

1 comment:

  1. Very good writeup. Personally, I think a lot of stems from the ever growing desire for "escapism" cinema... You know the people who say "I go to the movies to be entertained, not think." That sort of mentality. And while I would never say that's a bad mentality, I would say it's a dangerous one, especially if not kept in check.

    Also right now we're experiencing major blockbuster saturation. I bet if you compared (even doing the inflation rates) the number of $100m+ production budget films has tripled in the past 10-15 years. It's mind-blowing how much money is being dumped into marketing (I recall GI Jones nearly matched its entire production budget on marketing alone) for these monster films.

    So, it's no surprise they're getting dumber. It's easier to pump that much money into a simple, "guarantee" than anything else.


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