I give you words, you give me money. Isn't capitalism great?
If only film had more… More what, you ask?
How about more invincible heroes? Laughable villains? Battling robots? Talking chipmunks? Talking dogs? Talking anything-that’s-not-human?
No. No self-respecting individual who claims even the slightest interest in film could possibly want more of these. But the studio execs seem to think we do. Just a month ago 20th Century Fox saw fit to burn our souls with a third Alvin and the Chipmunks film. A franchise with characters so grating that just the trailer made me want to insert barbed wire down my throat, pull it out the other end and floss myself to death.
I’ll admit I’m not in the target demographic for Alvin and the Chipmunks. Maybe some kid somewhere finds it funny (I pity you, poor parents). But when there’s such quality kid-friendly animated fare as Pixar’s film library, How to Train Your Dragon (2010) or even Kung Fu Panda 2(2011) on offer, why do studios still try to peddle such vomit-inducing garbage? The same can be applied to any genre. Mark Kermode makes a similar argument for the blockbuster in his latest book, ‘The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex’, in which he ponders that if blockbusters make money no matter how bad they are, why not make a good one for a change?
Much of the film industry screams to me an inherent laziness. Plot holes abound in many a major film (take last year’s Captain America: The First Avenger, for instance) and it beggars belief that filmmakers, directors, studios et al just cannot be bothered to fix them. Similarly, it defies all basic instinct that such terrible films as Final Destination 5 ever make it to the cinema at all – of course, the financial rewards are enough for studios, as Kermode notes, but why should that be enough for the viewer? Or hell, even the director?
If filmmakers are content to sit and peddle this crap to their hearts’ content, knowing it’ll return a tidy sum, then maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to make films. I’m not proposing some kind of film dictatorship: just that I wish certain directors might be forced to sit and watch through their film once they’ve finished it, and just see how bad it really is. If they think it’s good, then fine: more power to them. Just don’t let them make any more. Clearly they’re in the wrong career. But if they know it’s bad and don’t care, then why let them only be in it for the money? Why not give some other young upstart director a shot, who might actually care about the film industry and the films (s)he makes?
It could be argued that some fault lies with audiences: they keep buying into it; studios think they can get away with it. It’s a vicious cycle, but one that was started by the studios, and for which audiences can have little blame. For example: the Cineworld complex in Bradford (which happens to also be only one of two cinemas in Bradford) never showed the likes of Melancholia or Take Shelter, both of which were in my top films of 2011. They never even gave them a shot. Instead, cinemagoers in Bradford (who already have to put up with living in the city, never mind that they be subjected to dross cinema offerings too) have to put up with the likes of The Darkest Hour and the aforementioned Final Destination 5. Studios push their crap with the big money, and genuinely good films don’t get a look in. So what choice do audiences have but to watch yet another Talking Dog Inspires Man or One-Dimensional Battling Robots?
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good big-budget blockbuster flicks. But my question is: why do the bad ones exist at all? You might say ‘bad’ is a matter of opinion – I agree. Films are subjective. Of course they are. But when the basic production values don’t hold up; when you can sift your flour in the script (that was a reference to it being a sieve. Because it’s full of holes. No, humour isn’t my strong suit, now you mention it); when the characters are essentially cardboard cut-outs of what some studio exec thinks its audience conforms to – these are all inexcusable.
Fine. Make another Final Destination. But let Christopher Nolan do it. And cast Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon.
Suddenly, a good film appears!
Studios use cheap, manufactured cash-cow alternative.