Thursday, 5 April 2012

FourZeroFourSix's guide to the multiplex, Part I: Bay-esque Explodathons

This blog post marks the beginning of a new series on FourZeroFourSix looking at the state of present-day cinema. To give you a flavour of what to expect, I was planning on calling the series ‘Aren’t Almost All Modern Movies Absolutely Shit’. First of all, lets carve up the corpse of the genre of film that will henceforth be known as ‘Michael Bay-esque Explodathons’.

If you’re not familiar with Michael Bay, you’ll certainly be familiar with his work. He’s the name behind Armageddon, Pearl Harbour, Bad Boys and, most notably (for us, anyway) the Transformers series. I must point out, I do enjoy Armageddon, and Bay is not an all-round awful film-person; but he has a bombastic style of explosions, loud noises, over-reliance on CGI and convoluted storylines which have influenced a whole modern genre of film. Looking at the film listings for this week (April 2012), and his influence can be seen in films such as ‘Battleship’, ‘Wrath of the Titans’, ‘John Carter’, and even the ‘half-term wallet emptier’ Journey 2. But what exactly do these films have in common.

We don't dislike you Michael. Just your contribution to film.

First; and a recent development that isn’t exclusive to just ‘Bay-esque Explodathons; is a slavish devotion to large scale special effects, especially CGI. Whether it’s animating a large space pebble gliding through the cosmos, a very large aquatic vehicle or a bunch of oversized Hasbro toys that change from cars into inelegant destructive robots from out of space; these films feature special effects at the expense of other facets of films, such as character development, or plot. Now, in the ‘olden days’; films could get away with spectacular special effects and nothing else, as the standard of special effects was generally a man moving a toy around in front of a black table cloth. But now, special effects and computer imagery are taken for granted (partially due to the rise in ‘Bay-esque’ movies), so audiences expect (and demand) more than just impressive special effects. But yet, these films don’t offer much more.

You can CGI a huge man on fire, but your fancy computer trickery can't implant a storyline.

The next common feature is, in general, a lack of originality. Look at the list of ‘Bay-esque’ movies currently showing. We have 2 sequels, a film based on a book and a film based on a game sold by Woolworths for £2.99 back in the day. And, even the two sequels are based on films based on popular stories. Transformers, of course, are based on the inane toys released when Reagan and nuclear Armageddon was all the rage. Comic books (Iron Man, 300, Thor), and theme park rides (Pirates of the Caribbean merits a place here purely for the barrel scraping desperation of the later films) are a common source other films that I’d classify as ‘Bay-esque’. This doesn’t mean that Bay-esque films can’t be original. Far from it, in fact, and the worst films of the genre (i.e. 2012) are original ideas. It seems basing your Bay-esque film on existing source material allows the scope for creating a car-crash of a storyline; at worst creating a mediocre hash of a popular cultural text; and at best making the storyline hard to find in amongst the film.

"I've got an idea for a film. It might seem a little 'out-there', but stick with me..."

Thirdly, bizarre celebrity casting is fairly common. As the storyline; and subsequently, characters; are peripheral concerns at best, this means you can cast anyone in your film. This opens the door for celebrities galore to inhabit roles they couldn’t get in other films that have any of that ‘character development’ crap. Take Rihanna in the forthcoming Battleship. What the hell? Rihanna? Rihanna? Was she cast on her ability to play or suitability for the role? Or was she cast because she’s Rihanna. A maybe controversial statement, but is Dwayne Johnson cast because he’s Dwayne Johnson (the action actor), or because he’s still seen as ‘The Rock’ (you could argue that he is now a successful actor, but his debut in the Scorpion King is harder to justify). Of course, having a celebrity in is a brilliant idea, as it attracts the fans of said celebrity to see the movie, SIMPLY to see their favourite star. I look forward to when ‘One Direction’ fans flock to see the boys in ‘MULTIPLE EXPLOSION LOUD NOISE MONSTER FILM IN ANCIENT TIMES BUT IN SPACE’.

Bay-esque films have flooded the film market in the manner similar to a blocked toilet. Most modern action, sci-fi, ‘historical venture’ and even family adventure films owe an unfortunate debt of gratitude to Bay-esque films. Bay-esque films, despite being as critically well received as a 4 hour celluloid ode to sewage, mostly do very well at the box-office, hence why studios will continue funding them. They’re expensive to make, but boy, do they make the money back. However, the complete and utter failure of John Carter might be a sign that cinema-goers are growing tired of the formulaic blandness of ‘Bay-esque’ movies. 

We can only hope, as it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to remake Blade Runner, with Deckard (played by Taylor Lautner) battling a 40 foot tall Roy Batty (Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino), on the moon, whilst trying to win the love of the replicant Nicki Minaj (played by Nicki Minaj) backed by Nickelback.


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