My response to “The Degeneration of BlockBusters”

Since I will hopefully be seeing the David Cronenberg TIFF exhibit on Saturday, I watched “The Fly” again in anticipation and was eager to discuss it with fellow film buffs. While on the board I came across a thread where the creator was asking if “The Fly” can resonate with today’s audience the same way it did back in 1986. As is always the case when comparing old and new, some of the posters got on their high horse decrying CGI as Hollywood’s great downfall. To be clear, I do not mind CGI in itself. When used appropriately, CGI can greatly enhance a film’s visuals without reducing it to a movie where you should “leave your brain at the door”. For example, while I believe The Hobbit series overuses CGI (which is only one of its problems), the original trilogy was able to have great special effects that served to add visual elements to its epic tale of courage, friendship and good vs. evil.

As the conversation on “The Fly” thread got taken over by the criticism of CGI the below post was also added by a contributor:

http://www.rogerebert.com/balder-and-dash/childs-play-the-degeneration-of-blockbusters

After reading the post, I can agree that the author did appear to put some thought into his post. However, there are still statements that I disagree with. The central thesis appears to be that there is a heightening trend of filmmakers pursuing their “inner-kid” desire for destruction, resulting in films with excessive destruction that lack any form of thought of sophistication.

My first problem with this post is that it assumes that the destruction in its case studies e.g Pacific Rim, come solely from the mind of its directors/writers. The idea behind the thesis is that directors use to have these same childish urges, but that the increase in budgets nowadays causes them to throw restraint to the wind. These scenes of destruction would surely not exist if directors reined in their thoughts. Pacific Rim seemed like a poor example to use in particular since the entire giant robot vs monster story device comes from a rich history of anime that director Guillermo Del Toro was inspired by. The concept of giant robots or mechas, fighting giant monsters has existed for decades in anime. In particular, Del Toro has cited Tetsujin 28 , a 1956 manga, as one of his biggest influences in creating the world of Pacific Rim. Obviously creating such a film will also involve a child like sense of fascination and passion for the idea, but to say that such a concept as Pacific Rim exists only to indulge a single director’s inner child is a grave over simplification. Another example of this fallacy is the reaction to Man of Steel, which I have discussed before. Two super powered beings, who are invulnerable to most damage, fight in a city and the city gets damaged. The reaction is that the film is terrible because of all the damage done, even though common sense should dictate that such damage is an inevitability. In the case of Man of Steel such fights are prolific in the pages of comic books: another form of source material that dates back several decades. Even Superman II (1980) had a devastating fight between Superman and his villains, which no one seems to remember when they criticize Man of Steel.

Another problem I have with the post is that the writer is yet another person, who views destruction itself as the sign of a bad film. As an avid detractor of Michael Bay’s Transformers trilogy, I agree that this can be true. To cite Lord of the Rings again, the third film has a battle that includes catapults hurling boulders and severed heads, winged beasts picking soldiers up and dropping them from to their deaths, a castle being overrun by orcs and trolls, a volcano exploding, a city crumbling away(Mordor) etc. In comparison, Transformers 2 could arguably have less destruction, albeit more flashy explosions. Then again, LOTR did not have terrible dialogue, poorly written characters and horrendous attempts at humour to hamper it. In the case of Transformers 2, the film had nothing to offer except its destruction and explosions. It was not a terrible film simply because it had destruction present. However, Huls appears to criticize films, not on their merit overall e.g performances, story, but solely on whether the film contained any set piece that could be considered the creation of someone’s “inner child”. Regardless of everything else a film can contain, if it has a lot of destruction present it instantly lacks any sophistication. By that logic, the original LOTR trilogy, Inception, Life of PI, The Cabin in the Woods (to name a few) are all unsophisticated drivel.

I do not mean to insult Huls’s article, which is well written. I simply needed to share my thoughts and offer a different perspective on the “degeneration of Hollywood”.

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