Monday, August 10, 2015

17837--You Paid How Much?

I try to avoid going to movies at the theater.

It's not that I don't enjoy watching movies or spending time with friends.  My issue is that I don't like to encourage a system that seems designed to take increasing amounts of money out of my pocket for products of increasingly uncertain quality.  When I do go, I count myself fortunate that I'm stubborn enough about eating healthy that I don't pay for the overpriced snacks they consider edible.

As far as the movie goes, though, my rising ticket price is going to pay back the money that a studio has invested in the production of whatever latest cinematic escapism they've chosen to throw a bigger budget at than any of the 99% will see in a lifetime.  Sadly, when you put a bunch of studio decision makers in a room with supposedly creative people, what comes out is seldom new or innovative.  What they tend to gravitate toward in the great piecemeal of ideas will be things that look familiar.  Those ideas will look like the sort that have made money before, to which will be attached a twist or two that seems clever at the moment and the names of some acting-types that seem like they can help sell the product.  (This happens in TV, too, but it usually isn't something the masses have to pay to see.)

When this process works, you end up with another successful rom-com or espionage thriller or whatever puts asses into padded theater seats for a few months.  When it doesn't, another Fantastic Four or The Lone Ranger gets dumped into our laps like the hot mess the dog left steaming on the kitchen floor before skulking off in shame.  Those particular missed shots still baffle me.  Did Hollywood not invent westerns?  The studios have years of experience making them yet they can't seem to pull off a proper "Who was that masked man?" no matter how much cash they sacrifice at the altar.  Hell, the character was even based on a real-life western hero.  If Clayton Moore didn't seem like such a darn nice guy, I might think he had commissioned a curse against Klinton Spillsbury and any other Lone Ranger films.

The Fantastic Four films are another mystery.  They're a modern, scientific superhero family with fifty years of comic history under their stretchable onesies.  Still, while the other super-misfits are lining up to swim with Scrooge McDuck, the ol' FF continue to have as much fun at the theater as Abe Lincoln.  They don't seem to be tapping the right vein to strike the gold that other world-savers are hitting.  It'd be easy enough to snipe from the sidelines and say it's because they aren't interpreting the source material properly or reading it at all (more than a few film productions of comic adaptations have had key personnel crow about how they would proudly ignore the comic books that inspired the movie deal they were supposed to be fulfilling), but there's no simple formula for putting a winner onto the big screen.  Just ask the Wachowskis.  Of course, there are also a lot of simple things that shouldn't be done if experienced filmmakers don't want to shoot holes in their own boat.  Just ask the Wachowskis.

It'd be nice if they could get a system perfected before asking us to pay for their fiascos.  That's incredibly unlikely, though, which is why a movie pitch won't get any nibbles in the Shark Tank.  All too often, a good movie idea and a bad movie idea can look an awful lot alike until after the money's been spent.

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