Nearly every big hit so far has been part of a franchise built on an established
In the case of the comedies, raunchy or romantic, thegenre functions as the brand, and in the case of “Up,” the Pixar label, almostuniquely in today’s Hollywood, carries its own cachet and appeal. But otherwise
(and to some extent in these cases as well) the last few months have been a
festival of the known, the stuff you already bought and, from force of habit or
loyalty or maybe even satisfaction, decided to upgrade.
Commercial success may represent the public’s embrace of a piece of
creative work, or it may just represent the vindication of a marketing strategy.
In bottom-line terms, this is a distinction without a difference. A movie that
people will go and see, almost as if they had no choice, is a safer business
proposition than one they may have to bother thinking about. In this respect
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is exemplary. It brilliantly stymies
reflection, thwarts argument, arrests intelligent response. The most interesting
thing about the movie — apart from Megan Fox’s outfits, I suppose — is that it
has made nearly $400 million domestically.
This last point might be the most important one Scott makes. There's only way to break this cycle of the movie studios spoon-feeding films to the public that appeal to the lowest common denominator, that gain approval based on marketability and not quality, that are familiar and un-inventive and bad: we need to vote with our wallets. Transformers received some of the worst reviews I've seen. I made an exception to my long-standing rule of avoiding movie reviews before actually seeing the film in order to read Roger Ebert's reaction, because I had heard that he offered such a thorough evisceration that his review turned out to be way more entertaining than the actual movie. And yet, the movie was a success because it earned tons of money.
The saddest part about the rise of a system which rewards studios for playing it safe is that we miss out on what should be cool films. I had about 8,000 G.I. Joes as a kid. They were my favorite toy, by far. The only way to keep me from seeing a movie based on my favorite childhood toy would be to inform me, in various ways, that this movie stinks. Paramount managed to achieve that. By refusing to let reviewers see the movie in advance and by releasing an awful trailer, Paramount communicated to me that they had decided to rely on nostalgia and familiarity--and not good movie-making--to draw in viewers.
If we want better movies we need to stop seeing movies that we know are bad.