While I don’t agree that this article‘s argument that the following is a bad thing:
Let’s look ahead to what’s on the menu for this year: four adaptations of comic books. One prequel to an adaptation of a comic book. One sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a toy. One sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on an amusement-park ride. One prequel to a remake. Two sequels to cartoons. One sequel to a comedy. An adaptation of a children’s book. An adaptation of a Saturday-morning cartoon. One sequel with a 4 in the title. Two sequels with a 5 in the title. One sequel that, if it were inclined to use numbers, would have to have a 7 1/2 in the title.
I do think the author is totally correct about how Inception’s success has been so easily dismissed as a fluke:
Consider: Years ago, an ace filmmaker, the man who happened to direct the third-highest-grossing movie in U.S. history, The Dark Knight, came up with an idea for a big summer movie. It’s a story he loved—in fact, he wrote it himself—and it belonged to a genre, the sci-fi action thriller, that zipped right down the center lane of American popular taste. He cast as his leading man a handsome actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, who happened to star in the second-highest-grossing movie in history. Finally, to cover his bet even more, he hired half a dozen Oscar nominees and winners for supporting roles…That film, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, received admiring reviews, became last summer’s most discussed movie, and has grossed, as of this writing, more than three-quarters of a billion dollars worldwide.
And now the twist: The studios are trying very hard not to notice its success, or to care. Before anybody saw the movie, the buzz within the industry was: It’s just a favor Warner Bros. is doing for Nolan because the studio needs him to make Batman 3. After it started to screen, the party line changed: It’s too smart for the room, too smart for the summer, too smart for the audience. Just before it opened, it shifted again: Nolan is only a brand-name director to Web geeks, and his drawing power is being wildly overestimated. After it grossed $62 million on its first weekend, the word was: Yeah, that’s pretty good, but it just means all the Nolan groupies came out early—now watch it drop like a stone.
And here was the buzz three months later, after Inception became the only release of 2010 to log eleven consecutive weeks in the top ten: Huh. Well, you never know.
He makes the case for why Inception was good, but I don’t think he really makes the case for why any of those things like “four adaptations of comic books” or even “two sequels with a 5 in the title” are bad.
I know he’s not directly saying that a movie based on a Stretch Armstrong action figure will have to be bad or that its creators are somehow plotting against good cinema to make it, but he’s sure implying it.
This article does a lot to summarize the great points that he makes. My problem with the full article though is that those really valid points about how the movies don’t cater to certain audiences because marketers aren’t interested in learning anything about those audiences (which he does prove), is muddled by the subtext of the article: that Hollywood’s “bland assembly-line ethos” creates end-products that aren’t as good as they could be (which he doesn’t really prove).
The other conclusion that I can agree with are that good movies die and mediocre ones get greenlit because of fear. Just like any business where a lot of money changes hands, the people who control the money tend to be risk averse. When you can lose millions of dollars in one weekend, it makes sense to hedge you bets with known commodities — even if your commodity isn’t any more certain than a Magic 8-Ball.
For the studios, a good new idea has become just too scary a road to travel. Inception, they will tell you, is an exceptional movie. And movies that need to be exceptional to succeed are bad business. “The scab you’re picking at is called execution,” says legendary producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network, True Grit). “Studios are hardwired not to bet on execution, and the terrible thing is, they’re right. Because in terms of execution, most movies disappoint.”
Just look at Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Brilliant execution, but for one reason or another, people didn’t come. You can blame the marketers if you want, but at some point, you the paying movie-going public is responsible as well. You get more of the types of movies that you go support.
Critics: imagine a five-part Hollywood movie as a classic movie serial, and you might feel good enough about it to actually give it a fair chance. It’s a shame that if a summer movie is based on a Philip K Dick short story critics will give you a pass, but as soon as it’s based on a comic book, you movie somehow becomes guilty until proven innocent. Movies are movies no matter what their source material are.
I’ll even go further and say that I personally welcome any innovation that will keep the movie industry in business whether that be bad, misguided 2D-3D conversions or flavor-of-the-week event movies because those are the things that keep the industry alive, allowing them to make movies like Inception every few years.
If you want to name your movie after an action figure, a video game, or a brand of soda to get people in the seats go ahead…
I’ll be happy as long as you also make sure to make that movie good.
Photo Credit: Chung-Cha