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Need a movie break? Good luck finding one

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ChrisJust like many people seeking to escape their lives for a few hours, I love going to the movies. Because Wednesday showings at the local Wehrenberg Theater are so affordable (two tickets for $6), I try to see as many movies as possible. Recently, I have seen some fantastic films (“12 Years a Slave” and “Captain Phillips” to name a few), but some movies I have seen in the last few years have been a complete drag.

Large film studios are to blame. They have turned their films into mega-budgeted brand names that are more interested in putting butts in the seats than in the content displayed on the big screen.

Let me explain: I know I am in the minority when it comes to superhero movies (based on the gross income these movies make when they debut in theaters, I have to be in the minority) because of the fact that I do not particularly enjoy them.

Everytime I watch a superhero movie, I feel as if I have seen it already. The plot is incredibly predictable: the superhero introduces him/herself in some extravagant way, hot chick/dude appears on screen to make the film more aesthetically appealing, everyone ogles the hot chick/dude, the villain does something evil, superhero saves the day and the credits roll. Obviously, some superhero movies have more complexity to them than this bare-bones explanation, but most of the time, I feel like I wasted my money on a movie that has been made before, but with different characters. Even some of Hollywood’s most prestigious directors are noticing this lack of originality in the film industry, and have publicly expressed their concerns for the future of filmmaking.

John Landis — the director of the cult comedy Animal House — recently expressed extreme animosity toward mega-movie studios about 10 days ago at the Mar Del Plata Film Festival in Argentina. He was quoted in the Hollywood Reporter saying, “It’s very common now to spend more money selling a movie than making a movie. So the reason they make remakes and sequels is because they are brands, like Coca Cola. They remake movies because they have presold titles.”

Furthermore, he uses the example of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre to demonstrate that original ideas are being recycled by large movie studios in order to put people in the seats. He describes it as “tragic,” with which I completely agree.

Like I said before, an abundance of movies in the theaters right now have recycled ideas for long periods of time (“Iron Man,” “Spiderman,” “The Hunger Games,” “Thor,” “Superman,” the list goes on and on). None of these movie sequels possess a single original idea, and are taking advantage of the “brand” the originals have created. Think about it: advertising for these movies is everywhere, because they are trying to ensure people show up to the premiers in order to cover the astronomical cost of producing the movie. Other films that are not produced by billion dollar film studios have a disadvantage in the advertising department, so what movies do you think the people show up to? That’s right, the unoriginal, large budget films that billion dollar studios have recycled for years.

The lack of originality and the existence of billion dollar movie studios are ruining the film industry. As this continues to exist, originality will not be found on the big screen for much time to come. In times like these, Netflix has never looked so appealing.

Chris Chipman is a junior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to dv_chipm2@ilstu.edu.

 

One Response

  1. David Shaw

    Dear Mr. Chipman,

    I would like to say that I both agree and disagree with your article. I have felt for a long time that the movie industry has lacked a certain degree of creativity, but this lack of creativity is not simply limited to movies. Video games often suffer the same lack of creativity.

    You mention Superhero movies as a major source of discontent. The reuse of heroes and villains doing approximately the same old dance of: here is a Hero, there is a villain, villain does or attempts to do something sinister, and Hero stops villain. While I personally do not go to see superhero movies, I can understand the skeletal structure of the movies. Many movies follow this guide because as an audience we want to see good win, and who ever heard of a superhero failing to stop the villain, unless there is a sequel. I remember the disappointment of friends who went to see a Batman movie where Batman retired because he achieved only a partial victory.

    I think the problem is not so much the structure of the tale used by movie creators, but the meat the directors and producers put on the bones of their movies and games. I will use the last two Star Trek movies as examples since I saw them. Star Trek has a long history of telling fairly detailed stories in its shows and movies, but the last two movies are almost entirely action driven instead of plot driven or character driven. It is the combination of action, plot, and characters that make a production truly unique. The problem that producers have is that they are no longer balancing the combinations. Because it is easier to display fight scenes than to tell a character progression in ninety minutes, we see more fighting and less deep characters. The same scenario occurs with creating a deep and moving plot-lines.

    In the same way, many video games are experiencing problems with creativity. I do not care how one looks at them, Call of Duty, Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 4, and so forth are mostly all the same. Character development is minimal, and the plots are relatively bland. Instead of focusing on new plots, story-arcs, and characters, the focus is on bringing better graphics, effects, and AI to the game titles. Leading to sharper looking and harder games, but otherwise the same old things.

    I would also like to add that I have no problem with remakes. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was absolutely wonderful, and the Hobbit looks like it may be as well, though there is some more emphasis on fighting orcs than in the Hobbit book. Remakes and sequels need to handled with much more care than most producers do, however. A producer should never attempt a sequel or a remake unless it is better than the last installment or has something new to offer in the way it is made.

    In short, I think the problem lies not in the overuse of the skeletal structure of plot, but the lack of depth that many producers give their movies. When watching a superhero, Star Trek, Star Wars, or any other kind of movie, I want to see something that gives me a sense of connection to the characters, a principle to debate or think about. That is what makes good television shows and good movies. If all I see is here is a hero, there is villain… or for other genres here is a guy, there is a girl…, then I have wasted my time. The structure can stay, but there needs to be some sort of meat to give the story purpose.

    Sincerely,
    David Shaw

    Reply

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