modern movies

Five Problems with Modern Day Movies

With any era, be it sport, art, or politics there are always problems. Things always need improving, and that’s where movies come in, they create escapism from the problems in the outside world; however, it does not mean movies do not have issues of their own.

With Hollywood being a cash fountain these days, and the Chinese market providing most of the income to huge blockbusters, these changes have forced Hollywood Execs to move films away from an art-form and instead concentrate on what they think is financially “safe,” or which films are marketable.

This ultimately brings problems to directors, screenwriters, and producers because they may have to sacrifice artistic license for something that will “sell.” So let’s take a look at where I think modern day movies are having problems:-

1.      Big Movies Not Making Bold Choices

We’ve all seen it, and we are all used to it. The villain who wants to wreak havoc on the world because his planet was destroyed by humans, and the superhero who wants revenge – throw in a love interest and you have yourself a Hollywood blockbuster! Frankly it’s tiring seeing the same plot lines re-hashed for blockbusters like Man of Steel, Spiderman, and Thor. It feels like when you walk in the cinema you just know that the bad guy is going to be brought to justice and the hero is going to get the girl. It’s a formula that worked for Hollywood but surely they could throw in some curve balls.

For instance, make the hero a highly-flawed character, and the villain three dimensional so we can sympathize with them: that could ratchet up more tension if you see two characters you care about go at each other. Lately, in an interview with Empire magazine, Quentin Tarantino made the point that in modern movies “Everybody has to be so fucking likeable. You can write a novel about a perfect bastard, it doesn’t mean you don’t want to turn the page.”

It’s a great shame that studios aren’t allowed to take risks on films to bring a fresh or unique take on a superhero, or action movie, because Christopher Nolan recently showed with the Batman trilogy that superhero movies can be fun, but interesting when taken in new directions; like moving the Batman franchise to a more realistic, gritty approach and humanizing him. With little time spent on character development, partly because of such a big budget they have to fill it with explosions, explosions, and … more explosions. More focus is put on sprawling action sequences that feel tiresome after a while, such as last year’s Man of Steel, where Superman had a couple of the longest fight scenes I had ever witnessed, with the villain General Zod.

Those fight scenes are fine in small explosive bursts, if the pacing and tension has been built to a point where we are worrying about the characters; but throwing each other around every ten minutes isn’t my idea of building, or caring for, characters. Unfortunately with Hollywood Execs tweaking of scripts, it’s money first where they’re concerned, with prequels or sequels tirelessly flopping every year; I mean, just look at the Die Hard franchise. How can the same storyline happen to the same guy so many times? Because Hollywood thinks people enjoy watching aimless Russians firing bullets at walls while Bruce Willis takes them out single-handed. No, there need to be more bold choices in movies now.

2.      No Interest for European Films 

Yes, I am well aware many movie goers do not like “slow” European, or art house flicks, and that’s the problem. Many movie goers nowadays turn their noses up if they hear a film is deemed to be “artistic,” because they’ll just say it’s pretentious or self indulgent movie making, even though they have never seen the film.

There are so many great European films that have done well in their respective countries in recent years such as 2013’s The Great Beauty (Italian), or 2008’s Let the Right One in (Sweden) which gave a fresh take on the popular Vampire genre, and thankfully was aired overseas so American and British audiences could appreciate the film (and was very successful, taking 11.2 million dollars worldwide). So why is there not more ambition from studios to have faith in art house or European films when it could influence new movie makers to create something more original; and not be influenced by mind-numbing explosions in Die Hard?

Well the short answer is that the studios won’t take risks on ideas that might not be easy to advertise, as David Lynch, director of surreal, noir classics Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway said recently to The Independent: “It’s a very depressing picture. With alternative cinema – any sort of cinema that isn’t mainstream – you’re fresh out of luck in terms of getting theater space and having people come to see it. Even if I had a big idea, the world is different now. Unfortunately, my ideas are not what you’d call commercial, and money really drives the boat these days. So I don’t know what my future is. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to be able to do in the world of cinema.” He is exactly right, money does drive the boat these days, and that is exactly my next point.

3.      Huge Budgets

In this day and age, movies have to be big, with eye popping CGI and explosive scenes to draw a viewer to the cinema. Gone are the days of making smaller budget films independently. Studios now would rather take a leap of faith and pour all their money into one movie so that it can make a huge profit, especially as most of the profit comes in from China, where superhero and comic book films are extremely popular. It’s all about appealing to the market.

Even if a film flops, like last year’s The Lone Ranger, they are willing to gamble because when a film like The Avengers comes along (which gained 1.5 billion dollars worldwide) they’ll get their money back anyway. It’s sad because it does not allow the few independent movie directors to have a long run time at theatres, and to garnish any interest.

At least Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, is trying to save the business. He has reached an agreement with his studio to only make films under 27 million pounds, because he says he struggles with working with bigger budgets and prefers making smaller, more intimate movies. That right there is where more directors should be encouraged to take a route they might be more comfortable with, for instance Kenneth Branagh. He started by making smaller projects like Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V, now he is drawn to directing blockbusters like Jack Ryan which he doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with. Branagh’s Jack Ryan slumped to a rather formulaic approach including a Russian villain (like that has never been done before) however, it still took in double its budget. If studios start allowing filmmakers to make movies for less, then they will all be on the same playing field, all still making a healthy profit, and it won’t be taking a risk.

The only reason it won’t happen is because the big Blockbusters are in the way and not allowing any breathing room for anyone else. According to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, there might be trouble ahead for Hollywood “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen mega budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.” “You’re at the point right now where a studio would rather invest $250 million in one film for a real shot at the brass ring than make a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal – and even maybe historical – projects that may get lost in the shuffle.” Let’s hope that the days of stellar films like Donnie Darko, Mulholland Drive, Shallow Grave, and Taxi Driver can return. Bring originality back to Hollywood.

  4.      Trailers That Give The Whole Movie Away

It is truly bemusing that trailers now are obsessed with selling a film so much that they show all the exciting parts in a three minute trailer, and then realise “Oh, we’ve given away the entire story.” It seems now you can take your seat for the film and have a checklist of what you’ll be seeing. I always enjoy the trailers that are quick and always warrant the comment on Youtube “What’s the story even about?” that is when you know a trailer has done its job; because it’s snappy, sharp and kindles enough interest go and see it. I will give you two examples, one is a trailer of Fast & Furious 6 that gives away a crucial event in the third act, and the other one is of The Rover, that shows little of the plot but is attention-grabbing at the same time. Fast & Furious: SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN FAST & FURIOUS 6.

That clip of the cars on the runway is right at the end of the film; so people already have an idea of what’s coming. The Rover:

That was short and sweet. Which trailer did you find the most appealing and interesting?

5.      Horror That Is Not Horror

Gone are the days when you can be psychologically thrilled by quiet atmospheric films like Psycho, or cold, emotional films like The Shining. Now we have films like Insidious or hand-held camera idiots in Paranormal Activity where “horror” is created by the director who thinks making a film go … quiet, quiet, quiet BANG!!! Is his or her idea of frightening people.

That’s not horror or being scared; that’s just making us jump like when we see a spider on our bed: making someone jump because hundreds of kitchen doors fly open (see Paranormal Activity 2) is not something that leaves us thinking about it after we have seen it, or looking under our bed to see if Jack Torrance is there, wielding an axe.

If only horror and scares could be built through interesting storylines, or long, stretched moments where not much is happening and you’re waiting for that one moment, like in the 1979 sci-fi classic Alien, with the brilliant and shocking chest burster scene.

Hey, these are only what I think is going a bit wrong with modern day movies, so if you don’t agree, let me know in the comments section below.