Five Things I Liked and Didn’t Like about Blade Runner 2049

I saw Blade Runner 2049 last night and though I would write some thoughts in the form of things I did and didn’t like about the film. This post will contain spoilers, particularly after the first point.

  1. Blade Runner 2049 is absolutely worth seeing on the big screen. Unlike some blockbusters that entice viewers to lay out cash with explosions, though, this film does with scale and attention to detail. This film clearly works from the same template as its predecessor and the overwhelming immensity of its world is a perfect match for for the theater. Most of the fight scenes are subdued, but it makes wonderful use of camera work, including an imaginative sense of scale, use of light and darkness, sound and silence, and an all-around immersive experience that conveyed depth. The same goes for small allusions where, for instance, Gaff (Edward James Olmos) makes an origami ram and Deckard (Harrison Ford) dreams of cheese. The run time is long, but all of that time is used.
  2. Continue reading Five Things I Liked and Didn’t Like about Blade Runner 2049

Seven Things I Liked and Didn’t Like about Rogue One

I did this same sort of recap last year for The Force Awakens and figured I should just go ahead and do it again for Rogue One. Even though I am a book person and have read a lot of Star Wars books, I have read basically none of the novels set during the time of the movies. Still some caveats apply: I have read few reviews and almost none of the background on the reshoots, so it is possible I am mistaken about some aspects. Similarly, I these are things that stood out to me and may not be the same issues other people had. Overall: I enjoyed the experience of watching the film a great deal, but only if I didn’t think about it too much.

Fair warning: the rest of this post will contain spoilers for the movie, at least such that they exist. Anyone familiar with Star Wars is familiar with the ending writ large.

Continue reading Seven Things I Liked and Didn’t Like about Rogue One

An observation about the Marvel Cinematic Universe

I’ve consumed most of the recent Marvel content, mostly because it is available and easily watched. Calling it a drug would be too dramatic, but as far as televisual media goes, there are parallels. Some of it is good, some is pretty bad, but there is something that bothers me about the entire extended universe project: there is too much emphasis on the cataclysmic event.

Other people have written on this topic and accurately noted both that the movies are pivoting from this trope and that the material has often been strongest when dealing with the fallout from the events rather than dealing with the events themselves. However, my specific complaint has more to do with the TV show Agents of Shield. The show essentially deals with the relationship between normal people and mutated people. This season’s arc had to do with the unleashing of “Hive,” a being that can control people with mutations–and is the powerful being associated with the Devil that Hydra had been trying to bring to earth. His scheme involves a massive bio-weapon that would destroy humanity. The scrappy heroes have to fight against this thing that is much more powerful than they are. As one would expect, this leads to all sorts of tension and human stories, which, in a vacuum, work. But this narrative isn’t taking place in a vacuum. It is taking place within a larger cinematic universe.

Agents of Shield as a show about the events taking place in the shadow of the ECU movies works. It is a universe that has to grapple with increasing numbers of super-powered individuals and there are many more stories to be told there than simply reducing it to an “imminent doom” arc, but, after a season of doing just that, Agents doubled back down on the action, while nominally being a step down from the movie stories in terms of both resources (for production) and power level (resources and powers to apply within the story). The movies and the shows are doing different things, but still professing to overlap, which, in turn, leads to a dissonance and strains credulity.

James Bond

Elsewhere I wrote that one of my frustrations with Hollywood action films, above even escalating body counts, is the common scene of careless heroes wantonly causing collateral damage in the name of stopping “bad guys.” Yet, when I recently re-watched the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, I noticed the same type of collateral damage and was reminded of similar scenes in past installments, including Brosnan driving a tank through a Russian city, but the damage didn’t bother me nearly as much as in generic action films. Although the studio equation is not nearly so nuanced (boom = $), I wanted to tease out why the message in James Bond films bothers me less than the message in other films, even though the actual scenes are practically interchangeable.

James Bond to me: the perfect embodiment of British imperial hubris. Women, even if they really want to kill him, are compelled to sleep with him first, he has a tendency to tell everyone his name (useful for a spy), and, to the best of his ability, Bond operates as though no foreign government has the ability or authority to impede his mission. Bond is a sort of imperial terminator more than an actual hero meant to be emulated.

Because I see Bond as this sort of caricature, a personified tentacle of the Leviathan, collateral damage is par for the course. Perhaps this is a grim view of the state, and, certainly, government shouldn’t want to destroy cars and buildings, and should respect the territorial integrity of other states, but, well, as anyone checked the news recently? This minor difference makes it possible for my hackles to stay down when watching it on Netflix.

I don’t have anything more profound to say than that. Bond is imperial wish fulfillment. Flipping the narrative or turning the monomaniacal/communist/totalitarian/monstrous villain into a scrappy freedom-fighter would make Bond practically interchangeable with Mr. Smith from the Matrix.

Reflections on Guardians of the Galaxy

I read two reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy before seeing the film and heard two discussions of it since. The judgements, broadly speaking, fall into two camps: terrible soundtrack, shallow, cheesy, interchangeable with other action-comedies OR amazingly funny, clever, and beautifully composed. To these, I say “yes.”

Some bullet-points:

  • GoG was a ton of fun to watch. Chris Pratt was perfect for the goofy-yet-roguish hero (who really just wants people to take him seriously when he tells them his name is Star Lord). There were jokes, both verbal and visual and anytime it seemed that the film was going to fall back into serious mode, something would happen to remind everyone that this was a comedy first. Admittedly, some of the jokes were aimed at a younger audience and so erred toward the juvenile, but there were others, included dated material and topical inclusions, that had the adults laughing out loud and the kids silent.
  • Along similar lines (and as pointed out by the Grantland pop culture podcast), GoG maintained and even reveled in a sense of wonder in a way that is rare for action films.
  • I really enjoyed the jokes they got from tossing the whole story into space and then playing with what could happen when alien cultures bump into an American (well, human, but really American) culture.
  • The backgrounds were usually impressive, but, after the initial euphoria of the film wore off, it seemed to me that the world-building was minimalistic (in part because other off-world settings are usually backed up by extensive canons, such as Star Trek, in a way that this film was not). The approach worked here, but I would want more going forward.
  • GoG is incredibly referential, visually, cinematically, and in terms of plot. One of the reviews, though I forget which one, pointed this out in that GoG had little that was uniquely memorable. I agree with this critique, though I thought that this was by design. Nearly every shot, line, scene, etc referred the audience to something else. Likewise, the music drew the audience back to the 1970s, which I filed under “fun.” In this movie, it worked. I am skeptical that this model can work as a franchise. GoG made Scrooge Mc-Duck money (94 million opening weekend–largest ever in August), so it is guaranteed to be a franchise, of course, and I am sure that the subsequent movies will do well commercially, but I could see this being a reason to for the second film to be a letdown.
  • GoG was decidedly in the vein of good people do good things, bad people blow up things, and, in a refreshing change, they even made a point of having the good guys hold off the assault in almost its entirety until the line came over the channel announcing that the city was evacuated. I liked this. I just wish it had actually been true. First, the announcement came after an impossibly short time; second, in the scene that immediately followed the climactic crash, a crowd of (what looked like) civilians surrounded the heroes for the decisive event. Oops.
  • Saladin Ahmed speculated on twitter a correlation between shooter and adventure video games and the gratuitous on-screen body counts in action movies and, yes, GoG had one. For the most part, I think there is a reciprocal relationship between video games and movies and rising body counts, but I was glad that there was no one scene where I thought the sequencing was specifically designed for the video game tie-in.

In sum: GoG was fun enough that most of the cracks only showed through upon further reflection.

[Additional point: I agree with the critique that the film could have used more female characters, but I file this under a problem of Hollywood as a whole more so than this film in particular.]

Eleven Thoughts about “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Needing a break and looking to tear myself away from my usual routine, I went to the movies last night and watched the latest installment of the X-Men franchise. It was okay. Here are eleven thoughts I had at or that were stimulated by the film.

  1. I’m not wild about the secret or alternate history genre in movies (more so than books) because it is often done in a ham-handed way by going to the largest or most notable events in the past and attributing them to the central conceit of the story. It might appeal to some people, but I find it simultaneously dull and pandering.
  2. The longer a franchise runs and the more any of the movies nod toward true ensemble casts, the more likely that later installments devolve into a string of cameo appearance.
  3. I really like Peter Dinklage’s voice.
  4. Eric Lehnsherr (Magneto) is a brilliant character, and I like how Michael Fassbender/Ian McKellen play him. He is a powerful character, but beyond his manipulation of magnetism, he is a Holocaust survivor with incredible charisma and will power, one who melds both the outcast ideology of Zionism with the Nazi ideology of racial supremacy, a revolutionary and a terrorist, but one with a (e)utopian vision, a man who has a God-complex, but who is also a good friend. These combine to make him really compelling to watch.
  5. One set of cameos was mutants serving in the army in Vietnam. They are about to be taken away experimented on when they are rescued. It was early enough in the film that I assumed that this would be some sort of Chekhov’s Gun. In a way, it was, but the men being rescued only served as bit-pieces for a cheap tug on the heart-strings. Again, a ham-handed effort to show depth to the world of the story, but comes across poorly because clumsy sleight of hand reveals exactly how deep the story is rather than creating the illusion that this is just the beginning.
  6. I cannot think of a dramatic portrayal of Nixon that I have ever found compelling.
  7. There were some pretty special-effects in X-Men and between some good acting, interesting characters, and the effects, there were the makings of a good story. It made sense in the past-present are brought together for the time-travel portion of the plot, but the transitions between the two timelines were often nearly symmetrical, a feature that I found oddly jarring.
  8. The “present” timeline really only served to heighten dramatic tension to the movie, which was a waste, given the actors whose role was to sit around and act concerned…or over-used since its main point was to remind everyone that they were on a deadline that would inevitably expire just as the “past” timeline reached its resolution.
  9. The frequent glossing between “mind,” “brain,” “psychic energy” and the like bothers me. I realize that this is super-hero/comic book neuroscience, but I’m waiting for the Marvel documentary that explains “the science” at work here. In the meantime, this strikes me as a verbal dodge of the sort found in bad science fiction. I can suspend disbelief to a point, but when you start pulling obvious word-game mumbo-jumbo it is a bridge too far.
  10. I am a sap when it comes to the obligatory motivational speech about humanity with the proper musical accompaniment, but while there was the occasional excellent line in this film, the writing was not transcendent or even consistently clever and interesting. Good writing punches up good characters, and it is unfortunate when characters cannot constantly present themselves as interesting/intelligent/charismatic as they are supposed to be because the writing doesn’t allow it. But this may be a topic for consideration on its own.
  11. The central plot of X-Men is that they go back in time to rescue a defense contractor in order to save the future. It is a nice message that you shouldn’t kill people and the contractor doesn’t entirely get away, though only through his own hubris, not his experiments on people or the central project he worked on. But saving the future by saving a large defense contract is a fairly depressing conceit to hang your plot on. At least in the animated series they had to rescue the President.

There are eleven thoughts. The movie, with its 8.4/10 ranking on IMDB was solidly okay 7 or 7.5/10, plus or minus a bit depending on what you care most about in a movie. I had hoped to go somewhere where I could not multitask and didn’t have a dozen other things to do as a means of hopefully recharging my spent fuel cells. Sometimes the movie theater experience can re-focus me. I did not achieve the ideal outcome, but, in X-Men’s defense, it is entirely possible that I was unable to get that immersive experience because I have several dozen other things on my mind.

They just don’t make heroes like they used to

I watched GI Joe Retaliation…and feel the need to justify myself…it was background while I did odds and ends at home. The point is that I watched GI Joe Retaliation. It is a bad movie, but the impressive part is how much of the absurdness of the first movie they trimmed out and still managed to make a movie just as bad or worse. the lesson here is don’t skimp on writers, I guess.

For the uninitiated, GIJ I ends with Cobra having captured and replaced the president without anyone knowing. In GIJ II, the faux-president frames the Joes as traitors and has his Cobra allies wipe them out.♠ Of course, three survive and trek back from Pakistan♣ to find out why the President betrayed them and to stop Cobra when they find out the President is not hte President. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the world, the US military/Cobra have built a series of satellites that drop rods from space.♥ The not-President then brings all the nuclear powers, including North Korea (it is unclear whether Iran attended) to a disarmament summit at Fort Sumter, prompts them to launch their nukes (all of which are on missiles) by launching the US nukes at their countries and then coerces disarmament by himself volunteering to destroy the US nukes.♦ Voila! The threat of a nuclear holocaust is over! The president then demands their surrender, revealing the rods-from-space weapon and destroys London, just to prove his point. Cobra then threatens to destroy the rest of the countries in attendance, but the ‘Joes show up just in time to stop them and destroy the satellites remotely. Naturally, the bad guy escapes.♠♠ The ‘Joes, finally, are treated as heroes. Fine.

My big problem with GIJ I was the excessive destruction caused by the good guys as they rushed to prevent Cobra from destroying the Eiffel Tower.♠♣ This time was more of an old-school action flick where the good-guys are limited in their ability to cause collateral damage, but there was still a damage quota to fulfill♠♥….so they leveled London. Don’t worry, though, the ‘Joes saved Tel Aviv, so they can still call themselves heroes. But suspending disbelief about everything else, what about the fallout from this event? Let’s recap: the Not-President used the US military, presumably, to build a series of super-advanced satellites and then after a push of a single button launched the entire nuclear arsenal, used his sole authority to get the US military to launch an unprovoked attack on the close US ally.♠♦ That’s alright, though, because the bad guys did it and the ‘Joes stopped (most of) the destruction.

At the end of the movie, I quipped on Twitter that someone should make a mockumentary detailing reconstruction of the world post-action movies. The same could be said of the US position in the world. The ‘Joes might have won, but that does not change the fact that the United States military wiped out London and the resolution amounted to “oops.”

I do not hold with the doomsayers who claim a causal relationship between the violent movies and video games and violence in society, but there is an escalation of movie violence that bothers me. First, I dislike the wanton damage and tendency to shrug aside collateral damage by the people the audience is supposed to relate to. Second, blowing things up substitutes for dialogue and plot, which degrades the quality of the movie. When that happens, it is insufficient for those heroes to stop the first cataclysmic event because that would stop some of the “cool” CGI that is really the only reason people are watching. So bring back clever dialogue and, barring an actual narrative contingency, let the heroes stop entire cities from being destroyed. Please.


♠ Or at least the ones on the team we care about. There were surely more and with secret bases in GIJ I… *waves hand* these are not the details you are looking for.

♣ National borders matter not to super famous-yet-secret US commandos *waves han…you get the idea.

A real thing, actually.

♦ All nukes in this world are controlled by wireless/satellite capable briefcases carried around by world leaders.

♠♠ How else would there be a GIJ III?

♠♣ They failed there, too.

♠♥ Lives, sq km flattened, value of property damage…it is unclear what unit of measure Hollywood uses.

♠♦ A certain defense from Nuremberg comes to mind

A Night at the Museum

Home for the holidays, I end up watching movies with my mother. Two nights ago on TV was the sequel to the “Night at the Museum” (the one set at the Smithsonian). I hadn’t seen the first movie, but the basic plot of both was fairly simple: each night a magic tablet from ancient Egypt brings to life the exhibits at a natural history museum (in the first) and the Smithsonian (the second), with the exhibits restored at dawn. Ben Stiller plays a night guard who befriends the exhibits in the first movie, and in the second saves them from a power-mad pharaoh, Napoleon, Ivan the Terrible, and some mobsters after the exhibits were transported to the Smithsonian for storage.[1] Along the way, Ben Stiller meets Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams, who falls in love with him), Einstein bobble-heads and Abraham Lincoln. The movie had its cute bits (Amy Adams among them), but it mostly just annoyed me–had I not been home (or had I the remote) I would not have watched.

Here are a couple of the reasons:

  • “Natural History” – I have some misgivings about history based museums as a general rule, though I do like looking at the art. This movie is set with exhibits of a natural history museum–which mixes animals, dinosaurs, Sacajawea, neanderthals, Mongolians, Romans, cowboys, and Teddy Roosevelt. As is hinted to in the plot of this movie, the key to the exhibits has little to do with “natural history” and everything to do with drawing visitors. Nevertheless, the general idea that natural history is stuff that happened outside and in the past without a link to science persists. This description has bothered me more as I age because it draws a distinction between civilization and nature and places the pre-modern beyond civilization.[2]In some ways, this is a semantic complaint since they could just call it a catchall museum (or antiquary?) and be done with it. Yet, sometimes the semantic concerns are the most insidious because it is possible to be entirely oblivious to what is happening.
  • The entire movie was reduced to stereotypes and caricatures. General George Custer being obsessed with his hair and being a terrible tactician, Napoleon’s obsession with his height (likely a product of British propaganda, as much as anything), and the romantic version of the photo “the kiss,” which, by all accounts was not nearly so welcome. The plot of the movie is designed as a vehicle for cameo appearances. The story can be done well (e.g. “Midnight in Paris”), but it can also result in excessively cheesy reductionism, which was the case in this film.

[1] The museum replaced the exhibits with animated and interactive displays.
[2] Throwing Teddy Roosevelt into that category also provides a level of unintentional comedy.

The Desolation of Smaug: a review (spoilers)

I had thought to reread the latter portions of Tolkien’s The Hobbit before writing my review of Peter Jackson’s movie, but, as the folks on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast demonstrated this week, no such diligence is needed to completely trash this movie. From what little there I remember of the book, there are a number of truly unnecessary, egregious changes, but I want to focus on some of the broader issues from the movie rather than the picayune, which are frustrating, but, ultimately, not the greatest flaws of the movie.

A few of the key complaints laid by PCHH this week:

  1. tDoS basically operates on a single, helter-skelter pace, with just a few brief lulls where people were incapacitated.
  2. tDoS simply begins and ends without much in the way of introduction or conclusion, or even picking up where the last one left off. If the third movie picked up as much removed from the second as the second did from the first, Smaug will likely be dead off camera.
  3. the distinction was drawn between action and spectacle, tDoS clearly being the latter in place of the former instead of the latter supplementing the former.
  4. Not enough Martin Freeman

In addition to these, Linda Holmes made the comment that many of the scenes looked like a high-end video game rather than a movie. I had a similar complaint about tDoS, except that it was not just the visual effect that I had a problem with. I noted last year when I wrote about the first installment that the chase scenes felt like a video game level in that the characters had to hit the right button in order to advance, an unfortunate technique that Jackson expanded upon in this movie. First, while walking through Mirkwood, I had flashbacks to Final Fantasy X and then, in the escape downriver, it felt like a repeat of the escape from the goblin caverns from the first movie–and an easy tie-in for the merchandising department to make a video game level from.

It had troubled me last year that Jackson downplayed Bilbo’s street-cred as a burglar, something that he re-establishes in the waxing moments of the film. In a way I was glad that tDoS reestablished this plot point, but the rapid change between the first installment and the second as to what was worthy of respect in Bilbo’s character was irritating precisely because it should have been unnecessary.

Some issues that bothered me in passing:

  1. One of PJ’s shticks seems to be shoe-horning more elves into every movie he makes and, if possible, to invent or foreground love stories that contribute to the bloat in his movies. It has been a while since I have watched his King Kong movie, but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised to find an elf or three.
  2. Why was there a huge amount of greenery around the forest until you got down to Lake Town and suddenly there was ice everywhere? This seemed to be an abrupt change because PJ needed to demonstrate how much everyone in Lake Town was suffering, but just sort of came in from left field.
  3. A good chunk of the waning period of the movie (I have no idea how long it was, exactly) involved the dwarves running around their deserted kingdom trying to enact a plan that involves some sort of preset Rube Goldberg machine. Except that it seemed “the plan” involved them all instinctively knowing where to run without ever really explaining what they were doing or what they hoped to accomplish. As it turns out, they didn’t hope to accomplish anything of much significance and the whole episode was just an excuse for flashy CGI.

But one last thing that bothered me in tDoS that seems to be cropping up in a lot of movies these days is unnecessary diversity. Peter Jackson would not go so far as to make any of the hobbits or dwarves a person of color because that does not fit with the story and yet when there are shots of the crowds in Lake Town, particularly when they are there cheering on the declarations of Stephen Fry’s portrayal of a repugnant Master of Lake Town, a sizable percentage of the people look black or Asian.

I have problems with this on two levels. First, other than a few hair color/race issues with the elves, this is the only real artistic license taken with race thus far in the Hobbit films. Tolkien did not make all the people in his world white, but he did draw distinctions about generally who lived where. If one was going to take the other races largely at face value, it seems forced to include this much diversity here, particularly since–and this is the second level– it was still the poor, huddled masses who are black and Asian cheering on (particularly in the PJ version rather than the JRRT one) their oppressive white overlords. [1] I am, generally speaking, a purist when it comes to my preferences in the visual representation and I believe that in the realm of Tolkien-esque fantasy literature, themes of racism are often transposed onto the tensions between the actual races rather than the skin color within a single race. [2] When this is the case, it seems excessive to force diversity into the films.

If one were to claim artistic license in this instance and make the world more colorful than it was in the books, there is a right and a wrong way to do it. What happens in Peter Jackson’s film is what I would call the wrong way–where the people in charge, both good and bad, are white and the under classes are people of color. But why couldn’t the heroic Bard be a person of color? Again, this is not the artistic choice, I would have made and to make the population of Middle Earth more colorful would have changed the overall films and probably made a lot of people really mad, but to force this little bit of diversity in just seemed unnecessary.

Now that I have spent over a thousand words trashing the movie, I want to close with something I like. It remains the case from last year that I am intrigued with what PJ decided to do by filling out the details of a slim children’s story in order to make it a true prequel to the Lord of the Rings movies that he already did. I may be in the minority, but one of my favorite things about fantasy stories is the pageantry of world-building and so I usually don’t mind getting to see more of the world. The problem with this movie is not necessarily with concept, it is with execution. This movie was painfully bloated, with jarring transitions, painfully wasted acting talent, and is more designed to show off the technical wizardry than tell the story. [3] There are plenty of other ways in which PJ’s choices in directly the dramatically alter the morals found in The Hobbit, but I have already gone on too long. In the end, tDoS is simply not a good movie.[4]


[1] And, surprise, they will also get to cheer on their white liberator in the next movie.
[2] These are also worlds where true evil exists and they should not be cleared of all racist implications since the black skinned people, whether the Haradrim of Tolkien or the Drow and Duergar of Dungeons and Dragons, are far more likely to be black skinned, while the white skinned folk may be either good or evil.
[3] In this way it seems like the same critiques that were so devastatingly leveled at George Lucas in the transition from Episodes 4-6 to Episodes 1-3.
[4] I will likely see the final installment of PJ’s Hobbit movies, if only for completion’s sake, but tDoS mostly served to redouble my conviction that I am done with movies made out of books I like.

Why I Hate Hollywood III, are you not entertained?

My third installment of thoughts on why I dislike most movies.


Over the last few days there has been some news about The Hobbit film(s) directed by Peter Jackson. The plan had been to make two films out of the book, but now there will be three. I have seen some speculation about what, exactly, the films will portray and how the narrative will work (see, for example, Tim Burke’s thoughts), and at least one person has mentioned his concern with Peter Jackson getting too epic-y (particularly after the adventure with Godzilla), quipping that Jackson needs to learn how to edit. These are valid questions and concerns (as is his development of a female lead for the Hobbit, but I am a stickler for detail), but I do not care that much about the films. I will see the films, but had considered not doing so on the grounds that I have been disappointed by every film or movie created about a book series I like–including Lord of the Rings.1 My resignation and disgust about splitting the film further has little to do with Peter Jackson, though, since it feels to me like a move designed by the studio in order to get people to go see the story in three parts, rather than two. This, then, is another reminder that filmmakers are only beholden to the audience so much. The higher up the corporate ladder the calculation goes, the more this is true.

I am reminded of a blog post that John Scalzi wrote wrote on Whatever in 2006, wherein he annoyed a number of people by saying that Star Wars is not so much entertainment as “George Lucas masturbating to a picture of Joseph Campbell and conning millions of people into watching the money shot.” Lucas created a mythology and then put it on film and licensed it out so that a whole bunch of other people had an opportunity to play in that mythology. I enjoy Star Wars tremendously, and somewhat disagree with Scalzi about its entertainment value,2 but I agree with him in the sense that a lot of people mistake what Star Wars is. It is George Lucas’ playground that he merely licenses out to the rest of us. The entertainment value of Star Wars is an unintentional byproduct of the creation process.

Then there is the issue of rebooting series. A blog post on the economist suggested that the rumors about a new Batman series already in the works is a response to Christopher Nolan’s infidelity to the Batman comic books in his own reboot of the earlier movies. While there may be some truth to that underlying rationale with the people pitching scripts and plotlines, and in how the studio will publicly justify the reboot, and there may evern be some truth to that rationale as to why people would go see another Batman film, I suspect that the studio is planning another reboot of the Batman film because the last one was spectacularly successful and there is money to be made from such a venture. It is the same reason that a studio purchased the rights to 50 Shades of Grey and there is a plan in the works to re-do the Twilight films.

Yes, some films are excellent for their plotting, their acting, and the overall appearance, but far more make (or try to make) money based on other charms, sexual or otherwise. The basic fact is that most of the movies that come out are bad, but for one reason or another they appeal to an audience and people go fill the seats. Certainly, not everyone is as mercenary as I am describing, but more often than not I feel that what is put on the screen is a noxious attempt to make money rather than to create any legitimate artistic entertainment. This does not mean that I require every film produced to be high-brow entertainment, but there does need to be some sort of readjustment as to what we consider entertainment.

To start, I would prefer that people just stop attempting to recreate written stories when those stories are already available for people to read, but I understand that that is not likely to happen any time soon. Surely there are other stories to tell, and stories that are better suited to a visual medium. After that, there is a difference between providing a smart product and a high-brow product. For example, I would not consider the sitcom How I Met Your Mother particularly highbrow, but it does attempt to give actual story lines between the jokes. A comparable example in film might actually be the new Batman films, which I believe bring in a lot of different thematic and narrative elements and are well acted, but still having a lot of violence, explosions, and, at the end of the day, a guy who runs around in a cape beating people up. Part of the problem here is that there is often no attempt for movies to appeal to anything but the lowest common denominator, which is basically a pair of tits and some explosions, or some fast cars and a sex scene or three. I like action and adventure films, but, most of the time, those, films aren’t entertaining. Distracting, perhaps, but not entertaining.

The idea that movies are inherently meant as entertainment bothers me because I don’t believe it to be true, at least not now that they are ubiquitous almost to the point of being obsolete. Once upon a time, perhaps, movies had an inherent novelty and therefore were entertaining in and of themselves, but no longer. No, the job of the filmmakers is to get people to pay to watch whatever they put on the screen. I won’t go so far as to say that the entertainment and artistry of film is an accidental effect of this process, but it is close. Screenwriters, directors, actors, and producers probably do care about their product, but, ultimately, the film itself is a commodity that the industry wants people to purchase and nothing more. As it so often seems (particularly with books, and not that this is anything new), there is more profit to be had by catering exclusively to ratings and rankings rather than the quality of the product in question. These are not always mutually exclusive, but there does seem to be a growing gulf between them. My frustration is that more and more I get the impression that films serve no purpose but to scam me and everyone else out of our money rather than showing us a story we can actually enjoy.


1The films were pretty good, but I had significant problems with them. I believe that it is impossible to get the level of accuracy in film that I desire and it makes more sense for me to avoid seeing the movies. I will be happier as a result, my imagination works plenty well, thank you very much.
2Then again, when I am reading a book set anywhere other than earth, I look first and foremost to the world created by the author and have been known to overlook other literary flaws if the world pulls me in. Star Wars is a perfect trap for me.