By Ryan Suppe
What makes a good movie? Does it make you laugh or cry or scream? Does it make you think? Do you value narrative or character development or cinematography? Do you only like movies with Matthew McConaughey? Does it depend on viewer interpretation? Or is there a set of rules that every filmmaker should follow?
I think all of these things are traits of good movies, but I believe there is one characteristic that should underlie all of them: originality.
I’m not a professional movie critic and I’m not a professional filmmaker. I’m just a guy who watches a lot of movies. I’m also a human being who is only going to live for 60-120 years. I don’t want to waste two hours of my life watching a film that I’ve already seen.
Unfortunately, I think I’m the minority in this regard; at least that’s what the movie studios in Hollywood have decided. Since original movies don’t make enough money anymore, the big studios are buying the rights to all the stuff we’re already familiar with. They’re adding some computer-generated imagery, paying the biggest celebrities to be characters we already know and charging us $10 to watch it.
Let’s use The Walt Disney Co. as an example. Disney is a wealthy company. They have theme parks, hotels, radio stations, TV channels, clothing lines, etc. In our lifetime they’ve purchased Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Why? Because those are the studios that make all of your favorite movies, and Disney wants to make sequels and sell you T-shirts.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” made almost $1.5 billion at the box office this summer. The movie is a sequel to a reboot of a cartoon television show based on a comic book. Why are we still paying to watch these movies? How are they going to destroy a city this time? Spoiler: They raise it up in the sky and drop it. Plot twist: Tony Stark is the bad guy in this one.
Who cares? What are we learning from this movie? Better yet, what could you be learning instead of watching this movie?
Twelve of the top 15 highest grossing movies of 2014 were sequels, prequels or reboots. So far in 2015, nine of the top 15 highest grossing movies are sequels, prequels or reboots. And you can expect to see the new “James Bond” movie, the new “Hunger Games” movie and the new “Star Wars” movie added to that list before the end of the year. And expect to see all of the merchandise at Target.
When our kids take a film studies class in college their professor is going to refer to the last decade of film as the “cash-grab sequel era.” I want my kids to know that my favorite movie is “The Goonies,” not “The Goonies 2.” The best movie from 2014 was “Birdman,” the one that made fun of all those superhero sequels. The most original movie when I was 20 years old was “Frank” because I’d never seen a guy who wears a papier-maché head all the time.
I wish I could change the movie culture right now, but I can’t. I’m still going to pay $10 ($5 on Tuesday at the Riverside Theater) to see “Avengers 6: Dawn of the Age of the Dark Planet.” So, I’ll just whine in opinion articles. Thanks for venting with me.
Ryan Suppe studies philosophy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @salsuppe.