Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Summer Is Ready When You Are; or, Why the Internet Sucks

Posted by CinemaPsycho on July 3, 2010

You know, sometimes I really feel like people just don’t love movies the way I do.

I’m not being facetious when I say that either, although it probably sounds like it. I’ve just gotten really tired of so-called “movie fans” constantly bitching and whining about how “shitty” this summer has been. It seems like every time I go online, there’s somebody complaining about this summer’s movies not being up to their high standards for blockbuster films. I don’t really understand where they’re coming from, and besides, these same people seem to complain every summer, no matter what comes out. These are often the same people who describe Cameron Diaz as “fugly”, so their opinions don’t mean too much in this dojo. But they always say this stuff as though everyone agrees, and they use as examples such films as Iron Man 2, Robin Hood, MacGruber, Prince of Persia, Splice, The A-Team and now Knight and Day – all films that I really enjoyed and was very entertained by. I don’t know if any of them will make my Top 10 of the year or anything (well, Splice might make it, but that really wasn’t meant to be a “summer movie” in the first place, nor should it have been released as such), but I thought they were all solid escapist fare that met my expectations. So I think the question has to be asked at this point – what exactly do people expect from summer blockbusters anyway?

I’m not trying to suggest that people should love everything that Hollywood puts out (god no), nor am I one of those “turn your brain off” people. But I just have different expectations for summer blockbusters than I do for serious Oscar-bait films, indie films, foreign films, etc. It’s a different experience to watch a Jerry Bruckheimer production than it is to watch a Michael Haneke film. There are different standards at work here. Do I really need to explain that? Summer movies are, for the most part, meant to be pure escapism and nothing more. They are supposed to simply be entertaining, while hopefully not insulting your intelligence too greatly. So they should be judged based on how well they accomplish that goal. Of course, you have to want to be entertained to make a fair assessment. If you walk in expecting not to enjoy something, then you definitely won’t.

So you have to ask the question, what is it that people want from these movies? What do we expect them to be, other than what they are? If you’re expecting a mind-blowing experience from Prince of Persia, you’re in the wrong theater to begin with. It’s an old-fashioned adventure movie, and I thought it worked as just that. That’s what I wanted from it, and that’s what I got. I mean, what do people expect from a movie like The A-Team? It’s the freakin’ A-Team! It’s supposed to be big, loud and over-the-top. And a lot of fun, which I thought it was. It’s based on the cheesiest of all the cheesy 80’s TV shows, not The Cherry Orchard. Again, what did people expect it to be like? You go to see something like this because you want big, loud, and over-the-top. If you don’t want that, don’t go. I can understand criticizing something like Jonah Hex (yes, I saw it), because it’s a gigantic mess that doesn’t really work at all, and you’d have to be completely blind not to see that. But it’s not bad because of the kind of movie that it is – it’s bad because the filmmakers didn’t seem to know what the hell they were trying to make. Love them or hate them, you can’t say that about these other films I’ve mentioned. If you hate them, you hate them because of what they are, not how good they are at being what they are. That’s simply unfair, and bad criticism as well.

Some people have suggested that audiences are trying to “send a message to Hollywood” by not going to see most of this summer’s blockbuster films. That’s complete horseshit, of course. I think if you give people something they really want, audiences will show up in droves – Avatar certainly proved that. The question is, what do people really want? If the answer is “quality films”, then why are movies like Grown Ups making so much money? If you want to send a message to Hollywood about quality, you don’t pay to watch Sandler and his buddies take a paid vacation. I don’t understand why anyone would pay to see that, but that’s another question altogether. Nor do I think that The Karate Kid beating The A-Team at the boxoffice is any indicator that audiences are rejecting Hollywood – they just chose one 80’s remake over another, and they chose the more kid-friendly one. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. My point is, if you make something that the majority of people really want to see, they’ll show up. But of course, there’s no way to know what people will want at any given time, until you give it to them. I wasn’t surprised at all when Grown Ups beat Knight and Day at the boxoffice, even though a blind man can see that Knight is clearly the better film. But how do you convince people of that, when they’d rather watch Sandler and company make dick jokes for 90 minutes? You really can’t. Right or wrong, people want what they want.

10 years ago, Knight and Day probably would have been a smash hit (it’s basically Romancing the Stone in tone, and who doesn’t love Romancing the Stone?). Maybe it’s the Cruise thing (who cares if a guy jumps on a couch?), maybe it’s just the wrong movie at the wrong time. So maybe it’s time for the studios to re-evaluate what it is people actually want out of these movies. Maybe in this economy, it takes a little more to get people out to the theaters. And maybe those $200 million budgets and marketing campaigns just aren’t going to make their money back if you don’t motivate people to buy tickets. I don’t really know what the answer is exactly – I just know that the question needs to be asked. All I know is, this is one of the few summers that isn’t completely dominated by sequels and remakes, and watching most of the original films fail one by one, I have to wonder if it won’t be the last summer like that. Hollywood isn’t obligated to make films that don’t make money, after all. I always say “you vote with your money” and it seems like people are voting to put an end to summer movies in general. If all we get from now on is Sandler and Transformers, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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