Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are warning that movies as we have known them for the last century are pretty much through.
The two mavens of spectacle who keep trying to top each other with box office extravaganzas told USC students that soon the big franchises—Iron Man, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, whateverman—will implode, possibly taking a studio or two with them and causing ticket prices to skyrocket to maybe $25 per film. And that’s for the relatively small number that get the green light. Furthermore, they’ll all be the very sort of action extravaganzas that are sinking studios, as the suits continue to bet the house on the one big summer grand slam. Sort of the way all the institutional stock investors bet on Facebook. Look how that turned out.
Spielberg says this is inevitable as the cost of making these films soars higher than Henry Cavill in front of a green screen. What’s the cure for overbloated productions? More of them! If you’re morbidly obese, isn’t the answer more cheesecake?
Buddy George commiserated with Steve, pointing out that his mediocre film Red Tails, about the Tuskegee airmen of World War II, flopped. The fact that it lacked even the intellectual depth of Star Wars The Phantom Menace had nothing to do with it, I imagine.
The Dynamic Duo said most theater owners exhibiting the Big Budget Blockbusters will start charging huge prices and running their films longer and longer, the way Broadway does now with its bloated shows. More down-to-earth fare without special effects and wall-to-wall THX ear-shattering sound? That will all go to TV, Spiels explained, lamenting that that’s where his own Lincoln almost ended up. (And it belonged there in my opinion, but that’s another post.)
“You’re entering the industry at a time when even established filmmakers are struggling to get their projects into theaters,” he said, adding it’s gotten tough even for George and him. To me, this is like Willie Sutton and John Dillinger complaining about bank robberies.
Do these two cinematic bozos forget who started this mad rush to money money money and sequels sequels sequels? It wasn’t Horton Foote. (Actually, George once pinned the blame fort the explosion of special effects extravaganzas on the James Bond films. Yes, he really did.) After creating the modern genre of pure spectacle, and then seeing it largely get beyond them as younger directors paper the screen with even more special effects and action sequences than they did, they complain that cinema as we know it is dead.
Guys, could you accept a little more of the responsibility from atop your piles of lucre? (Incidentally, Spielberg is the guy who said, back in the 80s, he’d never make a sequel, because there was no challenge in that, it was like playing slots that were rigged. Yeah, the director of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park The Lost World, Jurassic Park III, and the upcoming Jurassic Park IV and Indiana Jones V and VI said that.)
We have a generation of film-goers who can’t sit still for ten seconds if something on the screen isn’t blowing up or engaging in a laser battle or high-speed chase. Dialogue? That’s boring! Character development? Who cares? Plot? Slows down the action. Plus you can’t sell these movies in many overseas markets unless the stories are cereal-box simple and there’s lots of spandex and skin. I’m sure someday self-styled “educators” will lament that under the shiny new Core Curriculum measures sweeping the nation, children can no longer read books with any depth either, and ain’t that a shame.
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