WB Just Fragged Itself

No. Not worth the frustration at a missed opportunity 

What have I got myself into? It’s 6 o’clock and I’m on my way to watch Suicide Squad, a movie that by all accounts has been mangled by extensive reshoots and a superfluous licenced soundtrack. I’m on a train and the guy in front of me keeps turning to his friends across the isle, saying “hello” and thumping his seat so loud it is drowning the music I am listening to. It’s important to note that he was originally sitting with them before moving to a smaller seat that could not accommodate all of them and then feeling insulted that no one followed. He throws an open and full bottle of water at them in indignation, drenching my legs in the process. He seems pleased with himself.

I shouldn’t let this and a number of other insignificant (though still salient) inconveniences stand in the way of me engaging with Suicide Squad on its own terms (whatever “its own terms” could mean for a movie that is part of a hurriedly conceived shared universe counter to a rival studio’s ambitious experiment). I am just trying to keep accountable to myself to try and look past anything that could colour my perception of the film. That thought is derailed as I catch a glimps of self-satisfied train guy, now reunited with his friends, reaching over and tweaking an unfortunate’s nipples and stroking their chest. At least he is having a good time.

I’ll also admit that I am not so fervently lost in the supposed majesty of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) that I preoccupy myself with conspiracy theories, following the money back to Disney rather than acknowledging the considerable flaws of the DCEU’s offerings thus far. I am, also not too proud to admit that there were things about Man of Steel and Batman v Superman that I did like despite not liking them as a whole.

So, with that in mind, let me be upfront, lay my cards on the table. Here’s where I stand going in:

  • I like Amanda Waller
  • I like Harley Quinn
  • I hope Killer Croc is as scary as he was in the opening to Arkham Asylum
  • David Ayer’s movies to date have been about violent, hyper-macho men’s relationships to each other as they do violent, hyper-macho things
  • WB has no idea what it is doing
  • Live action DC movies deserve better stewards
  • I am willing to bet Assault on Arkham is the better Suicide Squad movie
  • I don’t want this to be as bad as the critical consensus suggests

After dinner and a coffee, my friends and I make our way to the theatre. It’s a tiny, foul smelling place. There are holes in my seat and not enough leg room to allow people to pass. Four or five people trip down the poorly maintained stairs on their way to their seats. It hasn’t been too long since release. This does not bode well for Suicide Squad’s takings. It is also a full house. This confuses me until I remember we’re not in VMAX so we don’t matter as much to the theatre chain.

And then it begins. A garish, neon lit, hyper stylised flurry of cuts scored to a simultaneously aggressively pandering and culturally irrelevant licenced soundtrack serves as an introduction to three of the film’s key players, one of its identities, and its primary flaw. The third character we are introduced to is Amanda Waller. Her introduction serves as a means of introducing us to the film’s key players. A second time in the case of Harley Quinn and Deadshot. After this sequence, we watch as the group is assembled, giving us a run down of their abilities in a more show don’t tell kind of way. And it’s this third introduction to the film’s characters that feels like the one David Ayer had the most hand in constructing. Things don’t look good. But the third set of introductions feel so natural and slide by so quickly that I start to get swept up in the “rhythm” of the film before I realise the first act ends without anything actually happening.

Nothing happens in the first 30 minutes of the film because the first 30 minutes of the film are three, stylistically different attempts to do the same thing.

I slump in my seat and groan. The only thing that establishes any sense of context for the film’s narrative is Amanda Waller mentioning that Superman is dead, placing the film some time after the end of Batman v Superman.

This doesn’t particularly inspire confidence, and also serves as an augur for upcoming frustrations. Some of them are due to the reshot material being haphazardly inserted into Ayer’s original cut, some of them are due to Ayer’s own quirks. But the thing that is most evident at the current moment is that Suicide Squad is a film that’s in two minds about what it should be. One is a quip heavy and flashy feature length trailer, the other a more menacingly toned and character focused actioner (the sort of thing that is David Ayer boilerplate).

And now here I am watching a film with three styles and three rhythms. It frustrates me that one of these styles feels so much stronger than the others. The darker material is more assured, better staged, and less contrived feeling. That’s not to say the hyper-stylised stuff is terrible. It’s not. It gives the film a kind of anarchic, barely holding together energy that also fits well with the theme of the movie. At times Suicide Squad feels more kinetic than Batman v Superman and Man of Steel, with its own set of visually dazzling sequences. It’s just that it’s not David Ayer’s cup of tea and you do begin to see the facade start to crack when he tries for dark laughs without the flashy editing of a trailer company to obfuscate things. When he tries to do funny all by himself, it feels forced and half baked. They’re attempts to lighten the mood and give the film an identity all its own without consideration to context or character. And given they take up space without expanding narrative or character all that much, they make the remainder of the film pull double time to flesh out the world and the cast.

 

It doesn’t work.

 

I think to myself “why, WB, why would you do this? Why would you allow David Ayer to create his workprint, get him to reshoot and create a more comic workprint, and then hire a trailer making company to cut the two different cuts together without consideration for narrative continuity or structure?”

They panicked, that’s why. It still doesn’t answer why they didn’t just release either David Ayer’s original version, or the funnier version instead of frankenstein’s monstering the two of them together.

Are they trying to aim for a Guardians of the Galaxy type hit? All the “quirky” humour and attempts at getting disparate, self-interested people to wax poetic about how they now feel like a family definitely hints at that. But here’s the thing. Guardians of the Galaxy cared about its characters. The jokes came from a place of truth about the characters. It was purpose built from the ground up to be what it was. Suicide Squad wasn’t. The audience laughs anyway.

With so much of the film taken up by dead weight, the bits that do work better aren’t as strong as they could have been. It does get better as it goes along, in that its more conventional, generic strengths are more evident. The characters start palying off each other more ogranically. The focus on getting a thing done and then going to do the thing keeps the narrative relatively simple. And as the film nears the final act, there are fewer and fewer moving parts to confuse things. Though there’s still a little something missing. That something is the characters.

With the exception of Harley Quinn, Deadshot and El Diablo, none of the characters are fleshed out beyond the broadest of stereotypes. Captain Boomerang’s defining traits are he’s a bloke. Just an Aussie bloke. With fancy boomerangs. He robs banks. Killer Croc isn’t scary or at all intimidating. He is reduced to a series of African American stereotypes. He dons a hoodie, replies monosylabically in ebonics, and when granted a request by Amanda Waller, he asks for a TV to watch hip hop music videos. Enchantres is the Oracle from 300, except at full speed. And Slipknot only exists to fulfill the one purpose he had in the comics… which I suppose it isn’t fair to ding the film for.

So when the film demands that you spend time with and root for all the characters, does ridiculous things like show them bonding in the 3rd act and expecting you to believe they’re a tight family unit now, and asks you to care when any of them die, it doesn’t work. Things either feel forced, or hokey and untintentionally comic.

Speaking of unintentionally comic, a consequence of the mashing together of the two cuts is that narrative beats now need to take place in exposition dumps. Some of them are so obviously expository that it honestly sounds like the characters have stepped out of the film and are reading a summary of the screenplay to the audience. They don’t laugh at this, though. They also don’t find it incongruous that a 6313 year old witch would unironically say “you don’t have the balls”.

I leave the theatre after the obligatory end credits stinger. It serves no purpose other than to show us once again how justice is dawning. Two of my friends didn’t care to wait, nor did the majority of the audience. I don’t know what this says about their patience by film’s end. It might just be the fact it’s not a Marvel branded film. I’m frustrated by the mess it ended up being. It’s not unwatchable, actually quite a bit easier to get through to the good parts than Batman v Superman. That doesn’t stop me from shuddering as I am reminded of the fact Rogue One has befallen a similar fate.

I also wonder what we can expect from modern tentpole cinema when everything is trying so much to grow a franchise that they spend valuable screentime sowing the seeds of future entries that they don’t bother focusing on making the current film a strong experience. I just want to go home, forget about comic books and shared cinematic universe movie projects and just go to sleep. Modern cinema doesn’t seem content to let me.

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BRO-TASTIC BRO-VERLOAD~!!

I apologise for being away from this place for a while, I’ve been focusing on my game development studies and such. Assignments take away from free time and all.

However, I have come across something that I just felt needed to be discussed.

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual harassment and Violence Against Women will now be discussed.

It’s something that seems endemic to the geek/gamer culture. We have seen it in the Fake Geek Girl scare that has (had?) swept the internet, the Cross Assault Sexual Harassment incident, in which Fighting Game Community (FGC) member Aris Bakhtanians defended harassment of a female colleague because (paraphrasing here) “removing sexual harassment from the FGC is removing the FGC from the FGC”, and we have seen it in the many pieces of evidence posted up for all to ridicule on sites such as Fat, Ugly or Slutty. The culture appears to be exclusionary of women.

Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs Women in Video Games series started life with a gigantic hate campaign via youtube, and (I hesitate to say) culminated in the creation of a game in which you punch Anita in the face. I hope people can see that whether or not you agree with her thesis or the strength of her argument, this is not an appropriate thing to do.

It is not being politically correct to call out attacks on a person’s character and their likeness because of the fact they are viewed as an outsider to your culture, especially if what qualifies them for outsider status is their sex or their gender.

The exclusionary stance against women is something that needs to change. Games and Geek culture are things that should be inclusive of everyone. There should be no self appointed Gatekeepers tasked with keeping those deemed of “inferior stock” from our ranks. It is a sad state of affairs when I am more accepted than someone else by virtue of the fact I possess a penis and they do not.

That it is coming from the community itself goes some way toward reinforcing the notion that geeks and gamers are immature men getting lost in “inferior” product of little consequence because it allows them to engage in juvenile power fantasies in which they are “better” than they could ever hope to be in real life.

We are more than that, and our preferred media and products deserve recognition beyond what the mainstream give them. Our attitude towards women or others is not going to help this.

It would be one thing if this were an issue at the community level, where introspection, soul searching and some frank and open discussions about the way we treat outsiders could help us to be more inclusive and nurturing to those who want to enter the fold.

This is why it is with some degree of sadness, though without any real surprise, I stumbled across this site: corp.ign.com.

With all seriousness, a scroll at the top of the page states:

The Greatest Sites Known to Men.
The Greatest Sites Known to Gamers.
The Greatest Sites Known to Influencers.

“So what?” you may think. “I see nothing directly insulting to women, right?” Well, this is where things get ugly. IGN is no small thing. Ziff Davis recently purchased IGN and related sites for an undisclosed amount, though News Corp were asking for USD $100 million for the bundle. IGN is a big thing indeed. After the purchase, sites in the bundle were shut down with Ziff Davis wishing to focus on flagship sites IGN and Askmen.com. IGN has for the past 12 months (February 2012, to February 2013) boasted over 4 million unique visitors per month.

So it is a big site, worth a lot of money that gathers a large amount of unique page views. And?

Going back to the scroll at the top of corp.ign, everything is framed in terms of men. Men are gamers, they are influencers, they are MMORPG players. Never is it suggested that women partake in any of those activities. This language is exclusionary. It implies that women do not matter as it is men who are the gamers, MMORPGers and the influencers. Why would you care about women?

But wait, there’s more: Yes, this is real.

“BRO-VERLOAD!” The page reads:

“With a male composition index pushing one and a half times the online average and heaps of traffic, our original properties together reach 1 in 4 men online in the 18-34 age range. Simply put, we do a better job of applying your media dollar directly to the young male demographic you need to reach. Matched by our breakthrough creative and guy acumen, our pitch adds up to integrated, targeted campaigns with room to scale: it could only be better if our rate cards were printed on crisp bacon.”

Mmm, crisp bacon, the manliest of all meats. All kidding aside, the page goes on like that, talking about how IGN properties bring in the men, men that you, the advertiser have to target because women do not matter to you.

1 in 4 gamers, all men, women don't count.

1 in 4 gamers, all men, women don’t count.

It is a clear institutional and systemic exclusionary approach taken by games media that feeds into gamer culture’s exclusionary approach. It is not fair to blame only the gamer without taking into account the companies and outlets that feed them, and until we do, we will only be having a temporary effect.

The rise of independent game development tools, such that I have mentioned in a previous post, have enabled people of all sorts to share themselves through the medium of video games. Having mass media supposedly for gamers choosing to target the male demographic is setting our chosen medium back. We cannot progress if the audience is kept blinkered as to the possibilities of what can be done and expressed with games, and by whom.

I cannot offer a solution just yet, other than look elsewhere for your games related news. Perhaps Gamasutra and its sister sites will help in that regard. Pixel Prospector is a pretty decent source for independent games, with an abundance of tutorials and links to resources, and the TIGForums provide a community for independent developers.

The next thing you could do is make yourself known and felt within these communities. Make it known that women exist and matter and are part of the face of the gaming and game development communities.

PS:

Need I say this attitude is damaging to men as well? I wonder how many men out there are “bros”, or have a fondness for crisp bacon, or fall for all the pandering sites like IGN employ. How many men out there are the kind of man IGN says men should be?

How many men are better off believing that their culture is for men alone and that anything that deviates from this expectation is dangerous to the foundations of the culture?

An off white narrative

I am not white and I will never be.

It may be something that does not come across the minds of people I have only met online, most knowing me either by a handle or by my first name. It has, however, got me thinking about an article I read a while back called Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is. The article got me thinking that Straight White Male is also the default difficulty setting and the default narrative path through the game of life. Perhaps the game analogy falls down a little, but when people do not know much about you other than words on a screen, what do they picture you as? A Straight White Male or an, albeit, Straight Indian Male?

Looking to media and I can see a lot of Straight White Men being the protagonist and very few characters of differing skin colour, ethnicity, sex, gender, and any other distinction that I may have left out due to ignorance on my part. The Bechdel Test, something already much covered by much more qualified writers highlights a problem of representation in media. It is a little sad, really.

I recently picked up a copy of Anna Anthropy’s book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form, available here for Kindle, and was enthralled by the idea of video game as zine, self-published chronicles of whatever the author wishes to share with their readership. That Triple A Video Games (A quality video game expected to sell well, typically with a higher budget than budget software) cost so much to make and represent such a narrow viewpoint is disconcerting to say the least. In Hollywood you get the big blockbuster action movies, but you also get the comedies, the romance films, the dramas, and there are healthy scenes for film outside of the mainstream. Distribution may still be difficult to come by, but many films do get to see an audience.

In the Video Game space, there seems to be a rise in the popularity of indie games. Indie Game: The Movie came out last year and served as an, at times, heart rending primer on the indie development scene. Its reach was necessarily small in order to adequately profile the stories it chose to tell, but there is only so much one film can do.

In addition, sites such as Pixel Prospector, indiegames.com, indiestatik.com, and others, shine a spotlight on the indie game scene. Indie game developers are becoming Rock Stars in their own right. Jonathan Blow’s charming platformer, Braid was wildly successful. Hotline Miami, as of 12/12/2012, has sold 130, 000 copies, and is a favourite among some of the staff over at Gamespot, among other video game publications. (Hell, I bought three copies of the game myself).

The success of the indie scene is a wonderful thing to see. And branching off from this success, it would be even more amazing to see games that chronicle additional experiences to become more known to the public. We, as people other than Straight White Men (and I have nothing against Straight White Men), have something to say to the world, and the medium of video games has become increasingly open to outside perspectives. Software such as Game Maker and Constuct 2 allow those of us who are code-illiterate to create video games without the hassle of learning code.

For those of us who do know how to program, there are a multitude of solutions out there to suit our needs, from Unity to LOVE2D, UDK to even CryEngine 3 allow individuals and teams to realise their visions and release them for general consumption.

I have no idea which solution is best for me as I cannot code or script to save my life. I am currently learning Lua and Python, and am planning to experiment with LOVE2D and Pygame at some point in the future.

I have a story that I wish to tell, a view of the world that I need to allow others to see. I will no longer be content to remain silent in an age that democratises media creation.

The basic idea is of a boy of Indian origin being troubled by being the odd one out in his surroundings, wishing he were more white, and dealing with alienation and the nightmare that is early high school. It will be based on things I have experienced, though necessarily abstracted to allow for ludic engagement. It is something that bothers me to this day. Every time I gaze at myself in the mirror or in a photograph, I catch myself saying “Damnit, I am still Indian”. I am scared of getting to know people, or even attempting to find a mate because I rationalise that no one would want to know me, for I am Indian.

I forget what I am from time to time, and those are my happiest moments. I am no longer human, I am no longer male, and more importantly, I no longer have a body with a skin tone that used to make me stand out from the crowd. I am nobody, I am nothing.

It may not be healthy to feel that way, and I am hoping that this project will help me work through this issue as well as bring an experience, and maybe some understanding, to others who may not have considered what it would be like.

I may have to collaborate with someone more knowledgeable than I, but that is a necessary evil in a quest to bring about a greater good.

So far, this article may end up depressing people more than it gives them insight into the fact that someone can take up the challenge to make their voice heard. What happened to me in my past has defined how I interact with people and how I live my life, and I want to share with anyone willing to listen that even the most insignificant of actions can have far reaching consequences.

Now I could recommend that you read Anna Anthropy’s book (it is an interesting read), but that costs money, and money is not something all of us have in abundance. I’d like to suggest you pick up a free version of Stencyl or Game Maker and have your voices be heard.

We may be lost in a sea of bombastic advertising and big budget launch events, but we will be content in the knowledge that someone out there will have the option of listening to our stories if they so choose. The world will be a worse place for our inaction.

Fans vs Money: The “They made it for US” argument.

Full disclosure, I have not read nor watched The Hunger Games. I am basing this entry purely on my feelings about what was said in this review of the movie and this comment on the review:

The problem for Bob is it’s a movie adaptation for a book which he’s never read. The stuff about the arena is explained in the books. Much of the stuff is explained in the books. They made the movie targeting people who have already read the book, so they know the details.

Mind, I do intend on reading the book at some stage. I’m just not too sure about watching the movie.

Okay, getting back to it. This is something that I have been wondering about. Is it really a smart move to make a movie adaptation of a property for the sake of the audience that the property already has while locking out potentially untapped demographics because of the level of assumed knowledge required to appreciate the story?

Or perhaps, is it a smart defence of a movie adaptation that does this very thing?

I suppose it is indicative of the times when a $78 million production budget (not including marketing expenditure) can be considered a “low” budget for a film that is ostensibly an action/adventure/sci-fi flick, and a major release at that (sourced from box office mojo.). It is, at the same time, not a small budget. Sucker Punch was a movie with a $82 million budget (large for a personal project!) and really still managed to flop horribly, with a worldwide gross of $89,792,502. So movies in this price range still represent a decent financial risk.

That’s not to say that The Hunger Games will not perform well. With an estimated $68 million back as of March 23rd Domestically (read as: IN AMERICA!) the film is well on its way to making back its production budget. I do not have numbers on drop off, but that’s a fairly decent opening weekend for a movie that seems to cater to people who have read the book and be somewhat distancing for those who haven’t.

Of course, not everyone is going to get hung up on the ins and outs of the universe being built in a film. Just look at the Star Wars prequel trilogy and its many inconsistencies and utterly stupid decisions made by characters for no other reason than the sequel trilogy demanded that things end up going a specific way. You may even cast your eyes towards the Bayformers movies and how they did not care for crafting good action sequences with consistency, continuity, a sense of space, or a sense of orientation. They didn’t even care about creating a consistent plot! Hell, they even threw pacing out the window too!!! They are massively successful.

However, Transformers, despite what fans may say, isn’t really a property that has that much to go off of. There is meat in a novel, or one would hope. It is not easy to translate everything from the page to the screen.

I would like to talk about a specific example of a book to film translation that lost lot of the material from the source text, but still managed to be entertaining without having read the book. I am, of course, talking about Jurassic Park. This is a movie that is considered a cultural milestone. It was a movie of great significance, being the first movie to have DTS sound in Theatres and the home video markets. It was a high water mark for visual effects. It was also a damn good film.

The movie is missing a huge amount of content to be found in the book, some of which made it into the third movie. An example of something that was left out was an explanation as to why park staff never noticed the dinosaurs were breeding. In the book, it is explained that the population sensors stopped counting after the population reached a specific target population. Let us call this X. If the population rose above X, the computers wouldn’t bother counting. However, if the population fell significantly below X, the computers would let staff know. This is a seemingly small detail, but it ties into the theme of the arrogance of man in the face of unknown technology. The staff never programmed the counters to count for populations greater than X because they assumed they had control over the population, saw no need to code it in, and decided to cut that corner to save time and money.

In the movie, this scene is is instead replaced by the characters berating John Hammond about his lack of care in developing the park and a small scene later in the movie where one character finds a nest of dinosaur eggs. It is not the same sequence of events in the book. A number of scenes were cut, and as such a chunk of dialogue was missing. However, the point that Hammond was arrogant enough to not consider the possibility that his creations were already out of his control before Nedry did what he did is still driven home with the discovery of the nest. Point still made.

Things need to be changed in order to reflect the medium. With books, you have a lot of space to work with. In movies, not so much. Thus it is understandable that there will be missing elements. However, there are ways to work said elements into the movie without having them explicitly take away from huge bits of screen time. In other words, they can be implied. This does take a bit of creativity on the part of the cast and crew. Non-specific examples include set dressing, such as movies where space ships have love letters stuck to a crew member’s walls, adding a little texture to the character and the setting. I do believe Sunshine did this very thing, making the isolation and remoteness of the crew more evident on a subconscious level. Of course they are lonely and far from safety, they’re on a space ship where they have to plaster their walls with letters from loved ones to remember they still have something to return to! By the way, watch the movie. Regardless of what you think of the end, it is an interesting film.

As I said, I have not seen, nor read The Hunger Games, and as such I can only go by what is being said in the review. This is very unprofessional of me and I apologise. However, I am not a professional, so there is that. In any case, from the reviewer’s point of view, there were elements of the film that seemed to be lacking. The commenter pointed out that they were covered in the book, the specific example being the area in which the contestants have to fight. The reviewer believed, not having read the book, that the arena was not clearly enough explained in the the movie.

I can see this as being a problem for some people, especially if the people running the game are able to conjure up disasters at will. How do they do this? Especially after the arena seems to be mostly normal looking vegetated areas?

Judging by how the film is tracking, it is not a problem for all people. I have a few friends who have seen the film without reading the book who enjoyed the movie. Then again, I also have friends who recommended I watch Transformers, because it would be the most awesome movie I saw that year. How I have not murdered them yet probably speaks to my self control…

There is probably something a little more interesting at play, where people are willing to forgive inconsistencies as long as the movie is engaging enough. Returning to Jurassic Park, where the hell did that massive drop come from? You know the one I am talking about, the one which the T.rex drops the car down after its initial rampage? It was not there in the previous scenes. In the moment, people do not care because it is that well done.

This is becoming less and less the case in modern films where frenetic cutting and bloated “special” effects sequences try to take the place of genuine suspense and engaging action. Hands up who of you could really tell which robot was punching which robot in the Transformers movies? The busy character designs do have something to do with it, but it’s the way the scenes are constructed that are most to blame. I saw the movie with someone who didn’t even realise Jazz had died until the end of the Mission City sequence! This is an indicator of a badly made movie.

Unfortunately, it is in vogue to construct action sequences like this these days and with the increase in films being shot with jittery cameras and split second cuts in the action, there is less for the film to hide behind. If someone can’t invest in what’s going on because they can’t tell what’s going on, they may wander to other things. Things such as what the point of a specific arc in the movie’s plot is. Or things such as what rules the universe is playing by. And if these things are found to be lacking, well then, you have a pretty disappointing product. (Although studies have shown that the more someone suffers to get something, the more they appreciate it, even if it is something utterly worthless. Unfortunately, I have forgotten the citations for this D: ).

So could it be that people defending film adaptations because the book explains things and the film is really just made for them and no one else are really just trying to justify the “suffering” they have gone through by inflating the film’s worth? I mean, surely you wouldn’t have sat through it if you hadn’t enjoyed it, right?

And if they are not inflating the film’s worth, is it a good argument to make? Would a studio really allow a director to make a film to cater to a specific audience rather than go for wide appeal? This is where the $78 million budget comes back into play. As I have said, it is simultaneously small and not small. Sucker Punch proved that even a budget considered small by block buster standards (the first live action Transformers movie had a production budget of $150 million), the consequences of an unsatisfying film can be financially dire. Sucker Punch was a film with niche appeal, what with combat mechs and demonic samurai packing chain guns, and it suffered for it. A film based on a book that assumes intimate knowledge of the source material for a budget that can result in a reasonably big loss is a risky proposition. It is unlikely, in “normal” circumstances, for a studio to green light a project like this.

I said “normal” circumstances because a few interesting things have happened, namely Harry Potter and Twilight. These are two franchises based on young adult books that have seen amazing box office performance. If not for the performance of these francises, I am sure The Hunger Games would have been passed on, and if it was not passed on, more time would have been spent on exposition. So if a franchise based on YA lit is a licence to print money, why should a film maker really care about the quality of their film as a stand alone product? Is it really that the film was made specifically for fans of the book, not holding their hands because they have the knowledge required to make things make sense? Or could it be that they couldn’t bother with weaving detail into the world because YA lit film adaptations seem to be a guaranteed hit and quality doesn’t really matter?

I speak not to the actual quality of the film (even though my last sentence may have implied that) but to the quality of the argument. It is kind of naive, or maybe a little bit egocentric to think money minded people developing LUXURY products with huge initial investment could possibly make a product specifically for you, and not Joe or Jane Everybody just because the product they made cut some corners in order to get out within budget.

Seriously (and I do apologise for the all caps), this is the argument you are making:

IT DOESN’T MATTER THAT THE FILM DOESN’T EXPLAIN SOMETHING WHICH MAKES THE FILM SEEM FLIMSY AS A RESULT BECAUSE THE BOOK EXPLAINED IT AND IT IS A FILM MADE SPECIFICALLY FOR US PEOPLE WHO READ THE BOOK AND WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED BECAUSE WE READ THE BOOK AND THUS THE FILM IS ENJOYABLE BECAUSE OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH A PRODUCT THAT IS NOT THE PRODUCT IN QUESTION!!! IT IS ACTUALLY TO THE FILM’S BENEFIT THAT IT CANNOT STAND UP AS A PRODUCT IN ITS OWN RIGHT!!

Films are rarely, if ever, made for the fans. Take a look at video game adaptations. DOOM for example had almost nothing to do with the video game franchise in question. It didn’t go for the over the top lone man battles demons in hell approach of the first few games, nor did it really go for the atmospheric and sometimes terrifying Lone Man fights for survival against demons from hell after some idiot stuffed something up approach. It is a generic sci-fi action flick that tries too hard to be scary to be campy fun like the first few games, and tries too hard to be campy to be scary like DOOM 3, the game it cribbed most of its artistic design from. Also it completely drops the Demons from Hell angle because it would be too offensive to the general public. That’s right, the general public, not fans!

Also what the heck is Street Fighter and what does it have to do with the games?

Franchises are picked up because an executive or two think the idea can make money. More money is made the more people the film can reach out to. If a film is made specifically for the fans of an already existing property, how will that draw in new customers and by extension their new money?

Remember these two words should remind you of the errors of your thinking and of the dangers of niche products with large-ish budgets:

SUCKER PUNCH

On Movies and “Fun”

I have seen this argument a lot when talking to people regarding movies. I have questions regarding the point of movies. Are they really there to entertain? I think film is a medium that is considered to be art, and I am pretty sure art’s purpose isn’t just to entertain. If art were just for entertainment, then I’m pretty sure we could replace all works of art with blue ducks and nothing of value would be lost. I do recommend watching the linked episode of Dilbert. At the very least, it will explain why blue ducks.

One of the interesting qualities of the film medium is that unlike a painting, it is not static. In ways it allows audiences to feel more involved in the events being depicted. How much impact would “Jurassic Park” have had on film goers if it were nothing but a slide show? Sure, “Jurassic Park” may have been a bad example being a major major blockbuster movie.

Also that point wasn’t related to the purpose of this post anyway…

I wonder if people are as harsh on stage plays as they are on films they do not find ‘entertaining’. Would a play such as “Waiting for Godot” worked if it were a film and not a stage production? I do not think so. There’s an expectation one has when going to the theatre versus going to the cinema. One is ascribed a sense of culture and civility, whereas the other is seen as a means to allow audiences to leave their brains at the door and sit and drool for 2 and a half hours.

It is sad then that films that strive to be more than mere titillation are so often looked down upon as pompous or masturbatory while other media gets off relatively scott free. One need just take a look at Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” to see what I mean. When the film begins it appears to be your average home invasion film. However, the film subverts audience expectations and toys with them as much as it toys with the protagonists. I am sure you can find a number of user reviews on imdb deriding the film for this very reason. It’s not ‘entertaining’ when the audience is made to feel like a monster for appreciating films of its genre, yet it has interesting points to make.

Why is film not allowed to be challenging, bizarre, nonsensical, and in some cases profoundly unwatchable? It adds texture to an otherwise bland tapestry of creative works in the medium. One can only take so many ineptly crafted, lowest common denominator action/romantic comedy/other comedy/horror films a year. At least I hope that is the case. Not every film has to be a “Star Wars” or “Love Actually”. What a boring world we would live in if that were the case. Just take a look at the state of modern First Person Shooters if you do not believe me.

It’s perfectly okay to dislike a movie, but to say it fails as a movie because it failed to be ‘entertaining’ when it was trying to be something entirely different is just not on. If a film has no other reason to be than to be ‘entertaining’ and still fails, well… Okay fine. You win that one.

Hard Reset

I know there is a myriad of blogs on the internet that will cover movies, video games and other ‘geek’ subjects, but seeing as this is more of a personal project of mine, I shall not hold back from flooding the internet with the utterly pointless musings that I deem worthy of publishing.

That said, automated messages from large publishers can sometimes yield amusing results. Old news as it may be in the age of the information super highway and the Instant Gratification Generation, I am posting this here in the hopes that it will help “Perform a Hard Reset” becomes the new “Arrow to the knee”. It really should be “Arrow in the knee” anyway.

Oh hey, I forgot what else I was going to say after I accidentally hit the publish button instead of the preview button. I am silly like that. I am also stupid to a point it contradicts highly standardised and rigorously normed IQ tests I was given by trained professionals!! Self Deprecation!!

So with that said, I shall retire from this post.
The end!