The best movie I’ve seen this year was written hundreds of years ago.
William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
- Joss Whedon directed it
- It was filmed entirely in his house
- There are no explosions
It isn’t that Shakespeare couldn’t benefit from an explosion here or there (imagine a few well-placed grenades in the background as Hamlet walks epically toward the camera), but my point is that this movie didn’t need them to be good.
But more to the point: I didn’t miss them. Because the truth is, I love character. And I love plot. And I love good writing. And I enjoyed the fact that I was sitting in a movie theater watching what was essentially Joss Whedon getting together with his friends and filming a movie in the space of a few days. I found myself thinking: They can still do that? Throw together a movie with great acting, character, and plot, and people will pay to see it? Is that like, LEGAL in Hollywood?
Unfortunately, most blockbusters are missing all three of those things: great acting, character, and plot.
This is how I imagine most Hollywood screenwriting sessions:
Writer 1: So I have about five lines.
Writer 2: I have three more!
Writer 3: All I have is “GO GO GO!!!” “Take cover!” and a few lines of evil monologuing.
Writer 4: GREAT! Now all we need are fifty pages of special effects shots.
And thus, “Battle: LA” was born. Also, every other summer movie for the last FIVE YEARS.
Let’s try an analogy:
Pretend you’re going to make chocolate chip cookies. Now, sugar is GOOD, isn’t it? It makes cookies taste good. And say you have tons of sugar at your house.
SO WHY NOT PUT ALL THE SUGARRRR IN THE COOKIES? In fact, let’s just axe the flour while we’re at it and add more sugar??? THAT WILL SURELY BE BETTER THAN COOKIES WITH STUPID FLOUR!!!!!
I know from experience that you get cookie soup when you do that.
Now, if special effects are sugar (and great acting, character, and plot are flour)…well, you can see where this is going.
Instead of a delicious movie, you get a pile of crap that you have to scrape off a cookie sheet with a spatula.
And you have to PAY other people money for it.
I love the movie Alien. It’s kind of horrible. People die, and there are angry aliens. And it is spectacularly well written, acted, and directed. Sure, there’s action, but it isn’t center stage. Nor should it be.
The characters are center stage. The plot is center stage. And that’s what makes it amazing.
The special effects and action are just there to assist these things. They should not run the show. If they do, they RUIN THE MOVIE.
To sum up:
Do I love a good action movie? Yes.
Do I appreciate good special effects? Yes.
Do I want to continue to pay money to see inflated extended special effects demos on the big screen? NO.
no no no no no.
I should not have to take my spatula to the movies.