With the advent of technology and a world of resources at our fingertips, humans have never had more instant access to intelligence. Of course with great power comes great responsibility and once you’ve lost your tenth pub argument to the ever-editable Wikipedia you realise that this intelligence comes with a pinch of salt. One industry that has been hugely affected by it however is the film industry; movie-mistakes.com, behind the scenes temperaments, on set affairs and more – you could argue we know too much with regards to the celluloid experience these days. But is it really a bad thing?
What prompted this article in my head was when I recently had a debate with a good friend, for the millionth time, regarding Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. I’m an artsy type, scientific accuracy in films has never bothered me all that much, but said friend was on the entirely opposite end of the argument and found the concept of a space crew flying to the sun absurd (which it is). Usually I “win” the argument by pointing out that physicist Brian Cox served as a science advisor on the film and that unlike many other sci-fi flicks the creative team behind Sunshine did as much as they could, without hindering the artistic merit of the film, to find some scientific grounding in the plot. But does it matter?
Through the years the sci-fi genre has provided us with many wild and wonderful spectacles and I don’t use that word lightly. They were all about the popcorn effects work and plot held little relevance. What has happened today is that we have been getting fed more and more grounded movies, even our superheroes have to deal with daily issues and terrorists as opposed to intergalactic bad guys. I’m not against it, God knows The Dark Knight Trilogy proved that serious works, but filmmakers do seem to be losing touch a little with the fun aspect of cinema.
Twenty years ago Sunshine would have been a B movie. It would have literally been about a crew travelling to the sun because it is about to explode. Their ship would have been impervious to the close proximity lethal nature of the sun…. Because…. Stuff. But in the 21st century audiences need more. Films like this get made by highly respected directors like Danny Boyle, written by acclaimed authors/screenwriters like Alex Garland and instead of shlocky Casio synth scores we get a soundtrack that actually contain audio received from space by NASA. How do I know that last little factoid? Because I must. It used to be just nerds like me that felt a need to know all of this behind the scenes business but with the emergence of DVD extras, IMDB and more audiences have changed, and directors and writers know this. But again, does it matter?
I say it does, and the reason is because nothing in life can ever be solely taken in a serious fashion. Comic book movies, sci-fi, horror and more genres are being taken over recently by a wave of stern faced seriousness and more than ever the more flippant or light hearted approaches to the genre are finding themselves in the bargain bins and not much more. Take the wave of Dean Devlin/Roland Emmerich produced disaster flicks from the nineties through to the early noughties. They were dumb action flicks and knew that they were exactly that. Today these are the type of films churned out by SyFy and The Asylum and rarely see the light of day. It’s no bad thing for a little bit of smart to creep into cinema but for every upper brow higher intellect tent pole movie I will throw Crank 2 right back at you. Not that this Neveldine/Taylor masterpiece is the quintessential example of great cinema, but it knows exactly what it is and pulls off its required duties far more ably than many other supposedly more though out and thought provoking big budget flicks have in recent memory.
This argument is a tricky one because I’m not trying to say that modern cinema goers have lost their sense of fun entirely nor am I saying that Hollywood as a whole has got far too serious. No what I am saying is that with films like Sunshine, The Dark Knight Trilogy and even Interstellar most recently there seems to be less and less room for some proper escapism in cinema today. Yes there’s escapism to be found in near every film, the simple act of observing fictitious characters in a world that is not your own for two hours can be classed as it, but we live in age where the like of Jupiter Ascending and whatever Jason Statham’s latest action hero output may be are dead before they launch, such is the level of intellect people somehow expect from films today. Go into the back catalogue, watch Independence Day, Lethal Weapon and any given Arnold action flick and tell me you don’t enjoy yourself. Then think of exactly how much brain power was required of you to process any of these. Do you feel like a lesser person when you realise you could have been half asleep for most of the film? Of course not, you had fun. There’s a place for both fun and intellect in modern cinema and we need to find it.
Image courtesy of atramateria.com