Thursday, September 18, 2008

Now That's How You Make A Blockbuster


Alan at Burbanked is offering up a sort of Summer Movie Roundup. Specifically, he's asking everyone if they enjoyed what Hollywood had to offer. It's a valid question because I think that different from the past, this Summer provided some extra buttery popcorn that was just the right temperature and not too salty.

I speak specifically about Iron Man, The Dark Knight and Wall*E. Three very good, very entertaining movies. Iron Man was just the right balance of fun, action and drama and Wall*E brought American animated storytelling back to an art form. And then there's The Dark Knight, the movie that made a whole lot of people act pretty kooky. First there was the pre-Oscar buzz of Heath Ledger. Then there were the initial reviews where some called it without a doubt, the best and most important picture of the year and one compared it to The Godfather Part 2.

No doubt The Dark Knight is a good film. A very good film. I've already been down the Heath Ledger road here, so I won't trace those steps again. But in reflecting upon the Summer, it's impossible not to talk about the reactions to the film. To me, comparing The Dark Knight to The Godfather Part 2 is a testament to the state of cinema in general. Has the bar sunk so low that we lay praise like this to the first thing that surprises and delights us? I remember as a child I attended a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas concert with my parents. As a kid I enjoyed the music and when the concert ended, most of the audience stood and applauded. Caught in the moment, I did as well. One of the people who did not stand was my father. I asked him about it after the concert and he told me that if we stand for that, how do we praise the next Mozart? That statement stuck with me and I have been very thoughtful with my accolades ever since. In short, The Godfather Part 2 is Mozart and The Dark Knight is not his second coming.

What The Dark Knight is, is one hell of a Summer Blockbuster. In fact, it is what a Summer Blockbuster should be. Over the years we've been inundated with so much crap from Michael Bay and George Lucas and Will Smith that we've forgotten true quality when we see it. We've mistaken Blockbuster to be defined as a bad film with lots of explosions that makes a lot of money. Lest we forget, the first Blockbuster ever was Jaws. The story was excellent, the direction fantastic and the performances spot on. It handled all the elements of a Blockbuster and gave each its due without pandering too much to one or the other. The same could be said of The Dark Knight. But you would never find me putting either one alongside The Godfather Part 2.

There's such a divide in what Hollywood produces. There are those films that are great and those that are dreck. And the dreck pile just gets bigger and bigger while the great films pile seems to only gets smaller. I don't blame the guy who said that The Dark Knight is as good as The Godfather Part 2. I don't question his taste. I just think he's guilty of coveting a little nugget he found in this big pile of poo that is the Summer movie season.

11 comments:

kramer said...

Amen. I loved Dark Knight, but it's a summer movie. And there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's better to say it's great in the tradition of films more like Raiders of the Lost Ark; action films that don't insult your brain, but would never claim to be the Godfather or Goodfellas either.

One can only hope that Hollywood sees the trend. Bay's movies always open big, (marketing can often buy you a decent opening weekend) but when a movie is actually GOOD, word of mouth can carry it to another level.

Piper said...

Kramer,

I would probably put Raiders in my Top 100 (I think I did) along with Godfather Part 2. But if I were doing a Top 10 and Godfather Part 2 were in that, I would not include Raiders as well. Nor would I include The Dark Knight. Still great movies, but not among the great, great movies.

elgringo said...

First of all, your dad seems like a darling man. Life of the party, really. Haha.

Dark Knight was a fine blockbuster, like you said. But give me No Country for Old Men any day. Hell, give me The Puffy Chair any day. Maybe it's just my particular tastes but comparing a superhero movie (even if it's the best superhero movie) to The Godfather is silly and not worth paying any attention to.

Burbanked said...

Excellently said, Piper. To me this topic recalls all of the boneheads who defend crap like TRANSFORMERS with that idiot nugget "well, it's a summer movie; it's not supposed to be deep". The fact that something as terrific as TDK can be intelligent AND blow shit up all pretty is simply the mark of filmmakers who take their jobs a bit more seriously and try to tell a story instead of one-liners and piss jokes.

Piper said...

burbanked,

Whenever someone says that Transformers was "good Summer fun" or calls me a movie snob for not liking it, I remind them that a giant robot pissed oil on someone's head.

Kramer said...

LOL PIPER! That was the exact moment of the movie I gave up on Transformers! I hated that scene!

You know that'd be a good sequel to your walk out post: The moment of the movie that ruined it for you no matter what came next...

Ray said...

Your father sounds like a very demanding man. I can only imagine the obsessive discipline he doled out to a young Piper to make him the blogging perfectionist he is today.

I agree with you, however. Our standards have fallen after years of ARMAGEDDON, TRANSFORMERS , and GODZILLA. When a movie comes along that flashes even a morsel of substance, we collectively fall into a euphoric frenzy.

Fletch said...

Please don't forget Man on Wire. I saw it last of the big three you mention...and I maybe, just maybe enjoyed it the most. Right now, the only certainty I know is that Iron Man would finish 4th amongst them. The other 3? In a dead heat for the top spot.

Joe Valdez said...

The Dark Knight has been the only movie I've seen in a theater in 2008. And I do not disagree with anything you wrote, Pat.

What's really apparent to me is - after years of producers like Jerry Bruckheimer trying to make TV more like the movies - is that movies are now taking their cue from TV. It's another example, I think, of how Hollywood has run out of fresh ideas.

I see more and more movies following the lead of The Dark Knight or Harry Potter and serializing themselves into a franchise. So one movie will just be Chapter One in a three chapter or five chapter or ten chapter series of films.

As a movie lover, this has a lot of possibilities, but I also wonder how difficult it's going to become to sell a movie like There Will Be Blood that's not a franchse.

Piper said...

Joe,
What's interesting about the two franchises you pointed out is that I don't really look at them as sequels. Especially as it relates to The Dark Knight. I'm not sure exactly why. But no matter, you're points are valid. It's another example of how making movies isn't about making good movies, it's just about making money.

Fletch,

Brian saw Man on a Wire and said it was very, very good. I have to check it out.

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