An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Go down

An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  Banjo on 2012-04-27, 15:30


Have blockbuster movies lost the plot?

As Avengers Assemble, Prometheus and The Dark Knight prepare to slug it out in cinemas, Robbie Collin asks how Hollywood snatched defeat from the victory of Jaws
Image 1 of 2

The Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise is one of the highest grossing blockbusters of all time... Photo: DISNEY

By Robbie Collin, Film Critic

7:00AM BST 27 Apr 2012

There are two different accounts of the origin of the word blockbuster and, as tends to be the way with these things, the bogus one is the most appealing.The version most often given by those who work in the film industry – the wrong one you wish was right – claims the word has its origins in jazz-age Hollywood, where it was used to describe films and plays that were so popular they enticed customers away from all of the rival theatres and cinemas in the surrounding area. At the expense of one soaraway hit, so the story runs, an entire block would go bust.

It’s a romantic image – just think of that brilliant scene in The Artist, when the silent-movie star George Valentin sees the crowd for a talkie stretching all the way around the block and only then realises that the age of sound has arrived – but regrettably, it’s also an entirely fictional one. The word actually made its way into Hollywood parlance from the munitions industry, where in Forties Britain, the term “blockbuster” was coined to refer to the RAF bombs also known as “cookies”: 4,000lb, 8,000lb and 12,000lb monsters that were big enough to flatten an entire Nazi neighbourhood in one go. It was seized upon by the showbiz journal Variety, among others, and was used as a slang superlative for describing a play or film that was enormously successful, or failing that, just enormous.

The pyrotechnic origins of the word were spookily prescient: cast an eye over Hollywood’s offerings for the impending summer season and it becomes clear that blockbusters are now films in which we watch things being destroyed by the noisiest, costliest means imaginable. In a list of this summer’s most successful films, it is likely that Avengers Assemble, Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises will be placed very highly, and the trailers promise extensive scenes of buildings and people being elaborately rent asunder.

There is no reason to think the inevitable box-office success of any of these films will be undeserved: Joss Whedon, Ridley Scott and Christopher Nolan, their respective directors, are three rare talents able to marry intelligent storytelling with grand-scale mayhem. But zoom out a little and the contemporary blockbuster landscape starts to look increasingly odd. Two of the most successful multiplex franchises of the past 10 years are Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean. Although they share common ground with older blockbusters such as the Indiana Jones films and Top Gun – in their blending of history and fantasy and sensualisation of warfare, for a start – in terms of quality, there is no comparison. But what the Pirates and Transformers films lack in style, suspense, pathos, structure, characterisation, tragedy, comedy, artistry, cineliteracy and coherence, they make up for in the size of their budget. It is hard not to conclude that nowadays blockbuster status is bought, not earned.

With emerging audiences in Russia, India, the United Arab Emirates and China keen to spend big on spectacle, it often proves to be a shrewd investment. Disney’s risible science-fiction romp John Carter was branded a flop by the trade press on release and broadly ignored by Western audiences, but has quietly made back its vast £160 million budget, and more, in places like Russia, Brazil and south-east Asia. The most recent Pirates of the Caribbean film, which was almost as bad, took three quarters of its £630 million gross overseas. When James Cameron’s Titanic was re-released for the Easter bank holiday weekend, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation, which owns Titanic studio Twentieth Century Fox, triumphantly announced on Twitter that the film took almost twice as much on its first night in China as it did in America. “New markets fast expanding for US films,” he tweeted, his ability to use the present continuous tense temporarily stymied by the thought of all that money.

In fact, the international blockbuster market is in such rude health that previously recession-cowed studios are upping the annihilation levels in what might otherwise be run-of-the-mill action films in the hope of cashing in. Battleship, a dim-witted alien-invasion romp released in Britain last week, found itself “upgraded” to blockbuster status by Universal Pictures with a reported £22 million budget hike midway through production, and has been rolled out internationally a month before its American release – in other words, to the audiences most likely to appreciate it, which, depressingly, include Britain.

Every cent of additional funding was earmarked for either improving the existing special effects or adding more computer-generated destruction, not in the original script. Accordingly, the film’s running time was stretched beyond two hours and the volume of the explosions increased. “It was one of the craziest meetings I’ve ever had,” the director, Peter Berg, has recalled. “They said, ‘We want to go bigger.’” Over its debut weekend, Battleship was the most popular film in 20 countries, including the UK and Germany, and set new box office records for Universal in South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The film took £35 million in three days, notably, without the help of either Russia or China (it opened in both countries yesterday). In the current market, bigger is always better.

It wasn’t always thus. Arguably the first modern blockbuster was Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws: compared with this summer’s offerings in terms of both budget and on-screen carnage, a small fish indeed. But the way Spielberg’s shark tale transcended its creature-feature roots to become an international pop-culture phenomenon set out the template by which almost all future blockbusters would be marketed.

Previously, films had been launched with a glossy Hollywood premiere, followed by the first tranche of reviews and then a gradual spreading of prints across the US and, eventually, the UK. Jaws opened simultaneously on 464 screens, many in seaside towns not unlike the one depicted in the movie. It was advertised in prime-time slots on all three American television channels for three days beforehand. Universal’s advertising campaign included “public service shark facts” posters as well as more conventional bills. Discussion of the movie filtered beyond entertainment journalism and into the hard news agenda. Like the great white itself, there was no escaping it.

This saturation approach to marketing was designed to weaken the effects of bad reviews and negative word of mouth (not that Jaws had much to worry about on either front) and also to turn the film’s release into an international – here’s that word again – “event”. It worked. Jaws took more than £300 million worldwide and single-handedly doubled the share price of Universal’s parent company, MCA.

The decade that followed yielded Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET: The Extra Terrestrial, Ghostbusters and Back to the Future; an unprecedented purple patch in blockbuster history. These films – thrilling adventure sagas with a fantastical bent and a broad, almost universal appeal – collectively make up what I would describe as, without a flicker of irony, the classical era of blockbuster film-making.

The philosopher Hegel believed ancient Greek sculpture represented the apex of fine art because the sculptors’ creative spirit was embodied by the very substance of those sculptures: simply put, marble was the ideal medium through which to communicate the gods’ unearthly beauty. Similarly in the late Seventies and early Eighties, the emergent special effects industry allowed the likes of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ivan Reitman and Robert Zemeckis to fully articulate their ideas on screen for the first time, and the blockbusters’ form and content existed in a kind of perfect Hegelian balance.

Quite what Hegel would make of the likes of Battleship and the pornographically cynical (what does this mean ? That the fan boys of Megan and Rosie will never be able to consummate their love ?..snicker) scratch Transformers movies is another matter. Since the Eighties, setting aside very occasional special cases such as Christopher Nolan’s Inception, the Wachowski brothers’ The Matrix and James Cameron’s Avatar, special-effects technology has hopelessly outpaced and outclassed film-makers’ ideas, and that crucial equilibrium has been lost.

Yet the lack of worthwhile ideas does not seem to have demoralised cinemagoers, who continue to turn out in their hordes. Michael Bay has said, with perhaps a trace of sarcasm, “I make movies for teenage boys – oh dear, what a crime,” but his three Transformers films have made in excess of £1.6 billion for Paramount, Hasbro, various cinema chains, and Bay himself. If Bay’s films, the seemingly endless run of superhero flicks, Battleship et al really are aimed squarely at teenage boys, why are people who are neither teenage nor boyish going to see them?

For the answer, we need only look to Jaws – or rather to its marketing model, which is now being pushed to increasingly solipsistic extremes. Trailers are now trailed with teaser trailers – and in the case of Prometheus, teasers for teaser trailers. Behind-the-scenes shoots are released before we get the chance to actually see the scenes behind which they’ve been shot. Positive buzz from preview screenings laps the planet in seconds thanks to Twitter, while the grumbles remain embargoed. When we go to the cinema to watch a blockbuster, it doesn’t mark the commencement of our experience of the film, but the culmination.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Inspired by the ideals of the slow-food movement, I’d like to see a return from today’s junk cinema to slow blockbusters: handcrafted, artisanally produced summer entertainments made by directors who actually give a fig about what they are pumping out. Encouragingly, there are stirrings that suggest such a move may already be in the offing, thanks to another emerging market: teenage girls. Gary Ross’s The Hunger Games, a terrifically intelligent science-fiction film based on the book by Suzanne Collins, is aimed foremost at that demographic. And Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror, the first of the 14 fairy-tale adaptations on Hollywood’s release slate, had all the wit and dash of the old blockbusters and none of the barefaced stupidity of the new.

Naturally, it’s still about the money: last weekend, The Hunger Games broke the £300 million barrier and is now on track to gross more in the US than any of the Twilight or Harry Potter films. But with any luck, this influential young audience could give us more blockbusters worth queuing around the block for. In a battle between the teenage girls and the Russians, I know whose side I’m on.

CLASH OF THE TITANS
Your guide to this summer's biggest films

Avengers Assemble
Comic book legends Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Incredible Hulk, along with a host of supporting players from their respective solo movies, join forces to save Earth from an other-worldly menace in this winningly glossy superhero spectacular. Pop culture maven Joss Whedon directs.
Release date: 26 April . I might see this if I can find out how much screen time Cobie has..

Prometheus
Ridley Scott returns to the Alien universe with a sprawling space exploration epic in which a crew of scientists travels to a distant planet in the hope of finding mankind’s origins. Instead, they find something considerably nastier. The red-hot cast includes Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender.
Release date: June 1 I'll see this, and I don't even know who Noomi Rapace is. scratch

Snow White and the Huntsman
In her first blockbuster role outside of the wildly successful Twilight saga, Kristen Stewart stars as a sword-wielding Snow White in this expensive-looking, Tolkien-inflected spin on the evergreen fairy tale. Ian McShane, Ray Winstone and Bob Hoskins number among the dwarfs.
Release date: June 1

The Amazing Spider-Man
Columbia Pictures takes Marvel’s web-slinger back to his roots, again, in this moody reboot of the superhero franchise starring Surrey-raised 28-year-old Andrew Garfield alongside Emma Stone and Martin Sheen. Not only is director Marc Webb ideally named for the project, his previous film, (500) Days of Summer, suggests he can handle the swirling twentysomething angst.
Release date: July 4

The Dark Knight Rises
The third and final instalment in British director Christopher Nolan’s broodingly solemn Batman trilogy pits Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader against the drawling terrorist kingpin Bane, played by Tom Hardy, and Anne Hathaway’s light-fingered Catwoman. Breathtaking set pieces and a relevant social subtext are both promised.
Release date: July 20

_________________
Brought to you by a Powerful and Influential Member of the Viewer Class

-me-
avatar
Banjo
Moderator
Moderator

Age : 80
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-04-03

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  sandisea on 2012-04-29, 17:54

Are we supposed to be happy with dumber movies? Sometimes sure but I still want movies like Inception to be made.

I was planning on seeing Avengers, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Dark Night.
Spiderman nah not really...I'll wait on reviews.
Prometheus (looks like alien)...well, yeah and Battleship...granted they both look dumb but how can you not go see Battleship...had way too much fun yelling, "You sunk my battleship! My Cruiser! , My PTboat! etc", to skip it. I almost went to see Lockout just because it looked like ConAir...in space...lol Skipped it though....easy, lots of worthwhile movies on the horizon.

Liked reading about the comparatively non-ad campaign for Jaws. That movie still has me freaked out about shadows in my swimming pool...it does. It came out the same year we went across country and when we got to the Atlantic...there was no talking either my brother or I into going in...and we grew up going to the beach every chance we got.

anyway, here's to hoping the movies will be good this summer. Cutie
avatar
sandisea
Transformation
Transformation

Age : 51
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-05-21

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  Berry on 2012-04-30, 04:01

These are not exactly my style of movies. Will go see them if Ben wants to. I did just rewatch the second Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. That held up well.

_________________
Hang in there. Remember, it’s always better to fight for something than against something. Stay warm, stay sane! (Tom Rush)
avatar
Berry
Moderator
Moderator

Age : 71
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-04-08

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  sandisea on 2012-04-30, 05:03

Berry, I saw the preview for this and I wondered if it's your thing?

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel- Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy...you know...that lot.
I always end up loving the grand ensemble movies they do...besides who could pass a movie with Bill Nighy in it? okay, Banjo... biggrin . So I'm planning on this one as well. It's supposed to be out May 11th but it's art house..so different rules.

anyway, trailer; http://www.foxsearchlight.com/thebestexoticmarigoldhotel/

I'll get Sherlock 2 from the library...after the first one with the slow mo, w/ diagrams, fight scenes, I just wasn't sure I could spend the money to see that again...I got fussy, but if you say it's good...I'm up for it. biggrin
avatar
sandisea
Transformation
Transformation

Age : 51
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-05-21

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  Berry on 2012-04-30, 05:36

With that cast, I'm in. Don't even have to know the plot. clap

_________________
Hang in there. Remember, it’s always better to fight for something than against something. Stay warm, stay sane! (Tom Rush)
avatar
Berry
Moderator
Moderator

Age : 71
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-04-08

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  Banjo on 2012-04-30, 11:27

Who's Bill Nighy ?......... . Prometheus is on my list and The Avengers because of Cobie, but the news/talk shows are only interviewing the main Avenger characters. But they are giving good publicity to Albq. Studios where it was filmed. Last year when Cobie was here filming her part she said she felt very intimidated and amateurish when she saw the big, imposing set and all the big name stars she would be working with.

_________________
Brought to you by a Powerful and Influential Member of the Viewer Class

-me-
avatar
Banjo
Moderator
Moderator

Age : 80
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-04-03

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  sandisea on 2012-04-30, 19:48

Who is Bill Nighy? I'm trying to think of something he's done that you would've seen...Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean? There's lots and lots to choose from but I don't know what you like movie wise...not really. scratch

Berry, I thought you'd like that one. Race you to the popcorn! biggrin
avatar
sandisea
Transformation
Transformation

Age : 51
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-05-21

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  BoardMomma on 2012-04-30, 21:40

Bill Nighy

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0631490/

pics

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0631490/mediaindex

"The Sunday Times reported in 2003 that Nighy had been approached to play the Ninth Doctor, supposedly singled out by Russell T Davies."

http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Bill_Nighy

Wink

_________________
On the field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.

Pressfield, Steven (2011-04-20). Do the Work (Kindle Locations 55-56). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.
avatar
BoardMomma
On Gossamer Wings
On Gossamer Wings

Age : 67
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-03-17

http://blu5community.editboard.com

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  Banjo on 2012-05-01, 13:01

I remember seeing Bill Nighy in various films but didn't associate the name with the face.

"Who is Bill Nighy? I'm trying to think of something he's done that you
would've seen...Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean? There's lots and
lots to choose from but I don't know what you like movie wise...not
really.
".......S-F films in general would be a good place to start, not that I automatically run out to see each one billed as such.

_________________
Brought to you by a Powerful and Influential Member of the Viewer Class

-me-
avatar
Banjo
Moderator
Moderator

Age : 80
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-04-03

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  sandisea on 2012-05-02, 20:03

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Slartibartfast...the guy who takes them through the planet factory?

Love Actually...drunken has been rock star.

I'm not surprised about him being a pick for Doctor Who...but you know they had to pick younger for a chance at an American audience.
avatar
sandisea
Transformation
Transformation

Age : 51
points :
0 / 1000 / 100

Registration date : 2007-05-21

Back to top Go down

Re: An interesting philosophical piece on current films...

Post  Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum