Have you walked away from a movie recently, and thought to yourself, “Why wasn’t that movie as good as I was hoping it would be?” That was a recent thought I had after I watched Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. While I loved being trapped in the retelling of an urban legend, I felt as if there was a disconnect somewhere in the film. There was a shift in tone that I hadn’t expected, and the movie’s themes were altered and thrown in the audience’s face at the last third of the movie.
Don’t get me wrong, DaCosta’s Candyman was still a good watch, but was it worth going to the theater for?
Mainstream movies seem to all be made with the same intent in mind: make as much money as you can. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money. That is what the entertainment business is all about. Hollywood has always been motivated to make money since D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. For a long time, Hollywood was good at making money from the films they released. Filmmaking is a business.
'The Birth of a Nation'Credit: Epoch Producing Co.
What happens when that business gets lazy? Obviously, the audience will get a half-baked product that does not fulfill their wants, or what they are told they should want. Sure, a movie can have a decent plotline that tackles some basic social issues, but movies often feel dissatisfying because they fail to be entertaining or dive into the themes fully. It isn’t what you spent $13 on, and that makes people reluctant to go back. Moviegoers become angry, demanding that they get the entertainment they paid for, and ask the studio to give them something worth their time. The truth is, we’ve been angry for a while, but nothing has changed.
Hollywood’s assembly-line approach, or factory filmmaking, isn’t working anymore. The modern Hollywood remakes, franchises, and expansive universes are being pumped out at a rapid rate in hopes to make as much money as they can, as fast as they can, and the lust for money has become too obvious for moviegoers to ignore. There is no one to directly blame, but there are two filmmakers who showed Hollywood executives the power of a blockbuster film.
'Jaw' on opening day in June 1975Credit: The Daily Jaws
The idea of a blockbuster was never thought of until 1975 when Steven Spielberg’s Jaws hit theaters and blew sales out of the water. People were waiting in lines that wrapped around the block to watch that new and exciting movie that everyone seemed to be talking about.
Since everyone went to see it, Jaws became the first film to earn over $100 million at the box office, and Hollywood responded to Jaws’ success by making shameless knockoffs in hopes that one of them would generate the same financial success Spielberg was able to create. Two years later, Star Wars was released, and people flocked to see the exciting space adventure. Like Jaws, Star Wars generated a good profit, and Hollywood executives became hungry for films that could produce similar results: therefore, the attempt to make a blockbuster film, a film that was fast-paced, exciting, and entertaining, became priority number one for Hollywood.
After the financial failures of high-budget films made by auteur filmmakers, Hollywood studios decided to work with projects that were in line with Spielberg’s and Lucas’s movies.
Sometimes, the attempt to make a blockbuster works. We get some of the most beloved movies ever like the first two Terminator films, The Dark Knight, and Mad Max: Fury Road. These films all are made from the filmmaker’s vision, and not necessarily the pressure to remake a story or to continue the story of a beloved character. The directors want to tell a specific story and make the best film they possibly can.
For every great film, there are a handful of decent films that just miss the mark. It isn’t always the filmmaker’s fault, but it is the pressure from the studio to make something quickly that will make a few million dollars. Every studio is competing with each other to produce the highest-grossing film of the year, and use their marketing team to entice as many people as they can to come and watch the film in theaters.
Hollywood’s marketing teams are simply amazing at what they do and can make any movie look interesting. The problem with these fantastic trailers and movie posters is that the film can’t live up to the expectation of the moviegoer. Think about the expectation for Spider-Man: No Way Home. We are all expecting three Spider-Men, the sinister six, two M.Js, Gwen Stacy, and so much more. Because our expectations are so high, we are going to be disappointed with anything less than what we think will be in the film, cursing Marvel for baiting us in with the multiverse.
While marketing is one of the points of contention, a majority of the failure falls on the shoulders of the executives who are pushing directors to make franchises because trilogies make more money than anything else. Some directors of franchises like Christopher Nolan never think about making sequels because they want to make the project at hand the best thing it could be.
We can’t blame Hollywood for all of the bad movies. We, the moviegoers, are also at fault.
We are the ones who consume the products that Hollywood puts out. From all of the news, trailers, exclusive photos, and willingness to camp out on a sidewalk to secure a ticket for opening night, we are telling Hollywood that what they are doing is okay. We will never abandon the system no matter how bad it gets because we still have faith in it. We all went and saw Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker even after the disappointment of Star Wars: The Last Jedi because we wanted it to be the thing we loved, but it turned out to be a messy cash grab.
The movies that do shine through the bad batch of films are made by directors who care about the film they are making. There isn’t a huge demand for the film, but the director wants to make a good and entertaining product. Dune, for instance, is fantastic. Dune is set to be a two-part film due to its run time (I couldn’t sit in a theater for four and a half hours),and Denis Villeneuve is focused on one film at a time. He has expressed his interest in a trilogy, but that is it.
It is when the franchise diverges from its original path that we have to tell a studio to stop by simply not going to see the movie. We are feeding the beast, and to stop it, we must chop off its head. I know, it sounds dramatic, but all I am saying is stop paying to watch movies that are just cash grabs.
What are your thoughts on Hollywood’s factory filmmaking? Let us know in the comments below!
Source: Film Courage