I recently had a conversation about what it was like to go to the movies as a kid. Take for example Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I was pretty young when I saw it. I learned about the movie after seeing the trailer in the previews for a different screening. It looked good, I asked my aunt if we could see it, and she took me and my siblings. I loved it, and at the time considered it the best action movie I’d ever seen. I went home and probably played “Atlantis” with my siblings or neighbors or something along those lines. Life was good.
Movies in the internet age suck. I’m speaking now as a form of venting given a downpour of dramatic movie news. Articles covering the drama between Tim Miller and James Cameron on producing Terminator: Dark Fate are published to explain the movie’s massive commercial failure. due to inconsistent story choices. Rumors of a Joker sequel sprang out of control after “official confirmation” that one was in the works was published widely and prematurely, when in fact director Todd Phillips hadn’t even met to discuss the idea with Warner Brothers. Perhaps most profound is the current drama surrounding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The bloodbath resulting from furious backlash against The Last Jedi set a bad precedent for the production of the next (and “final”) film. As of this article, rampant rumors are circulating about nearly 70% of the film being re-shot, as well as the ending constantly being changed to appease test audiences, all while supposed leaks describe what sounds to be a truly awful conclusion to this franchise. Drama is everywhere, truth is shrouded, and in an age where anyone can become a film maker, it seems like the movie-making process has counter-intuitively completely lost any sense of magic.
Franchises like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will inherently grab a lot of attention during the production process. With social media, spillage of tightly kept or even NDA-confidential information is far more rampant, and much more difficult to control. Rumors and half truths characterize their creative processes, and executives are pressured by public reaction to alter their film’s narratives to appease the masses. A prime example of this is the DC Extended Universe, which crashed and burned after too many studio executives put their hands in the metaphorical creative-chili, and produced something that amounted to the equivalent of moldy white bread. The common denominator of all these big studio films is that the end product is always a glitzy color bomb of visual effects and powerful sound. Yes it’s often fun. But half the journey to that point feels like an arduous and annoying process. This is why I so vehemently agree with Martin Scorsese’s commentary that superhero movies are “not cinema” and are more comparatively “amusement parks”. Following the production process of these films, nowadays inescapable if you have ANY interest in movie-making, feels more like a 55 minute wait in line for Space Mountain. At the end is a super wild and fun time, but amusement park rides are not designed to give people profound and meaningful experiences beyond a rush. The completely open and drama-filled film production cycles of these movies only perpetuate this analogy.
I’ve been scoffed at already for telling people how much I enjoyed this year’s The Lighthouse. Beyond the sheer originality, part of why I loved it so much I think has to do with the circumstances of its creation. There were no inherent obligations it had to meet as a sequel, or to properly align with a core story as a prequel. There was no urgency to leak a script, no need for executives to keep a watchful eye on it’s production 24/7. It was some dude with a good track record and a creepy weird story just making a movie on his own. This to me is where movie magic is most prevalent. I don’t need to know if director Robert Eggers had some scuffles with a few big wigs, if that was even a thing. Yes the movie is far darker than those I saw as a kid, but it is a rare example of how I could walk into a theater with my popcorn, sit down, and see something that I haven’t seen before, free from any suspicion or predicated anticipation. I enjoy many of the big budget films as well, but the constant stories of infighting, angry discussions about creative decisions, and overall negativity put a damper on their successes.Follow @ReelMasterShots