Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back and exclaim how "plugged-in" they are with the movie watching public. They quote huge numbers and talk about how the state of the art of film making is growing by leaps and bounds from its early days of the silver screen, blah, blah, blah. Here, have another award. Aren't we nifty?
But the reality is that the stuff that is generated by the Hollywood machine in modern times is really just boilerplate templates, recycled stories, and schlocky, big budget nonsense that is only popular because it's been carefully marketed to the right demographic. Meanwhile, the fly-over states (or at least the red ones) like to talk about the liberal media and how its trying to infect the American public with its own message. To a certain extent, they are right. But the message is that its the almighty dollar that fuels and drives this machine. In looking at films today, you can see the formulas at work, the machinations going on behind the screen as the industry tries desperately to hang on to its finger hold on the movie watching public. But clearly, they have no clue, nor do they really care about what the public wants.
Here are ten of the most egregious reasons why Hollywood movies today are undeserving of the most important thing movie watching audiences can give them: their hard-earned money.
1. Tired, over-used story lines
There are literally hundreds of scenarios that have been done to death. How about the one where the experience-hardened veteran, eager to retire, reluctantly unites with the young, thinks-he-knows-everything rookie to solve one last major crime. How many films can you think of that fall into that category? Answer: too many. Right now, there are thousands of creative, imaginative well-written scripts collecting dust on a shelf in a closet of some executive's office and thousands of talented, insightful writers that are waiting tables or delivering pizzas.
2. Plot points visible from a mile away
No, I NEVER would suspected that the evil mastermind that you just locked up would get away. What could possibly go wrong with that brilliant idea? Why do attractive women in horror movies always go out alone, or decide at the worst opportune minute to take a shower? Because it gives the film a reason to show some T&A and doesn't take any creative thought to write.
3. Lowest common denominator humor
Sure, I laugh at the stuff the Jackass boys do too, but is it worth making a motion picture over? At best this is late night, community access stuff. Funny as Hell when you are stoned and hanging out with your buddies, but not a very good first date movie. Trust me on this one.
4. Unrealistic action
Wait, you mean that jumping a car 100 feet through the air while revving the engine and hollering like a hillbilly isn't possible without dying or at the very least rendering the vehicle completely un-drivable? Well until it's proven to me on "Mythbusters" I say that this is complete bulls...oh, they did? Uh, never mind.
5. Impossible scenarios
My favorite has to be "Independence Day" where the alien plans to destroy the earth are foiled by uploading a virus to their computer system from a Mac laptop. Complete with "easy for the mentally retarded kid in the back row to understand" graphics showing us in painful detail that the virus is being uploaded. See, its got a little skull and crossbones on it, so you know its bad. I didn't know aliens had the same kind of interface that they use on powerbooks. Does this mean Steve Jobs is not really from San Francisco?
6. CGI does not a movie make
When we first saw X-wings and tie-fighters screaming through the vacuum of space, we were all pretty impressed at how amazing it looked. But despite the advancement of modern technology and image manipulation, most of us can still tell pretty clearly that the pool of blood that just morphed into a big-ass monster in one continuous shot was created using computers. As a result, Hollywood is going to have to one-up themselves in this department. It's like watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat. Once you've seen a couple thousand magicians do the same trick, you tend to not be as impressed. Studios love to use CGI as a shortcut because saves time. But just because you can do it with computers doesn't mean you should. You want to blow up a bus? Blow up a bus. Problem is that when a bus blows up, its just not as impressive as it can be with CGI. Plus they don't have to contend with safety issues and all the time necessary to achieve the explosion in real life. Its far easier to just have someone work on some computers in a dark room and come up with something that looks real enough.
7. Popularity trumps creativity every day.
When even the worst film in the world breaks box-office records its' opening weekend, it really doesn't matter one iota to the executives that greenlit the turd if the movie is good or bad. Only that people are seeing it. Therefore it's a lot like a popularity contest for Student Body President when you were in school. Which one got the job: the nerd that analyzed the needs of the school and weighed it with the concerns of the student body, or the hunky jock that promised lemonade in the drinking fountains and getting out of school early? Marketing and public relations sells a movie. Spend the money for your movie's poster to be on bus sides and billboards everywhere, pay off a few critics to throw some positive adjectives around and you have a smash hit.
8. Got an alternative? I didn't think so.
What are your alternatives to movies: Television? That's even worse than the movies. On top of bad acting and terrible writing and all the other things mentioned above, television has to follow those same steps at an even faster pace, which makes for a lot of truly unwatchable stuff out there. So people go to the movies instead. And the studios know that, which is why they spend so much money advertising to the television watching audience all the time.
9. If it worked once, it will work 100 times. This is a variation of the "tired, overused storyline" concept from #1. Movies are a risky business proposition. A lot of money is spent to generate something that people will go see. To do something that is untested or (god forbid) original is to roll the dice that perhaps the audience will see through the charade and not go to your movie. As a result, the same scenarios are used over and over and over again because they've worked before. Originality is taboo. Creativity is under-rated. Its all about how many asses you can get in the seats and nothing more.
10. Sequels. Prequels and Remakes.
Also part of the "tired and overused storyline" concept. Say the producers dialed in the right balance of sex. violence, action, CGI and actors. The marketing and publicity departments were particularly successful in achieving their goal of convincing people to go see it. If this happens to a large enough total gross number, its a safe bet that they will be working on ways to duplicate the success again. Maybe change a few things around so that it looks a little different, but don't deviate from the recipe. Keep the same balance of stuff from before, throw a numeral on the end of it and call it art. Sometimes its not a sequel, but a"prequel" a crafty way to explain something that happened before the first film or simply just a "retelling" of the same story you watched the first time. (Batman and Superman are perfect examples of this).
The problem is that Hollywood really has no motivation to do anything good. If enough people go to see a movie and its bad, and they tell their friends that it was the worst film they've seen, chances are that those people will STILL go see the movie to judge for themselves. There is no direct competition with the film industry and even if a movie stinks, the studios will probably still recoup expenses on the back end with Pay-per-view and DVD sales, giving them another opportunity to pitch the same terrible film out there with only a little more hype and marketing needed.
If Hollywood really wants to appeal to a larger audience, they need to take risks and make stuff we haven't all seen before. They need to go out on a ledge and really work on the ART part of the Art and Science of film making. In the meantime, they will continue to take your money and never look back.