May 19, 2014

The Hollywood Problem

Recently I watched the new Godzilla movie, not so much because I was excited about it, but rather as part of a social outing.

As I pretty much expected the movie turned out to be another Pacific Rim, a simple premise that should have been enjoyable but turned out to be rather cringe worthy and in a lot of ways a waste of time.

The problem with both of these movies was not that they involved giant monsters, lots of explosions and a hefty dose of CGI. The trailer made it pretty clear that this is what I was going to get and I am okay with a movie like that. When done well they can be fun.

You see, I loved the old Godzilla movies, I even tolerate the horrible 1998 version. But what both of these movies made clear to me, finally I might add, is why I no longer find a lot of joy in the modern version of these monster movies.

The problem is two fold. On the one hand we have a story that requires the suspension of disbelief, to "give up reality" and take what is on the screen as truth. This requires us to forget how the world we live in works. But where these modern movies, and a lot of modern TV shows, end up failing us is by often showing us a world that is completely real in the context of our world in order to draw us closer into their reality. But because we are no longer asked to actually leave our reality it often falls apart for me.

The old Gozilla movies had a guy in a rubber suit stomping a paper model of a city. It was campy, it was clearly "low tech" and didn't look real, but neither was the story of the movie. You knew from the start that you are in a movie and not in a simulation of reality.

But now, with the new movies, with CGI and all that it brings, we never have this disconnect. That border that separates our reality and the movie reality no longer exists. Instead we are now asked to accept the movie reality as ours.

I admit, I am an edge case in these things. I do realize why "We need to use the only Jaeger that is analog and won't be affected by EMP" is complete bullshit, most people probably don't because Science is magic for them. But I am sure there are many other little moments in these type of movies where even Joe Sixpack goes "huh?" for a moment. So that's the first aspect and I get why most people don't care / aren't bothered by it.

The bigger problem for me with these movies though is that most of the characters these days are pretty predicatble. There are archetypes that are being pulled out for every single one of these movies. They behave all in an identical way, it's just new window dressing as to what exactly it is they fight against / try to survive. The real shame in this for me is that the entire story could have still been told with a bit more imagination on the writers side of things, not to mention with some real physics applied. At least as far as the human technology that we were shown is concerned. Instead we're getting the Star Trek treatment:

Joe comes face to face with the giant Monster and raises his[INSERT COOL TECHNOLOGY], aims, pulls the trigger and blows it's head off.

In the end, what it is that has destroyed monster movies etc. for me when they are made in Hollywood is the laziness of the screen writer. Instead of modelling their stories on existing science, they take the lazy way out and then just declare science to be whatever it needs to be. I guess it also galls me because these same movies almost always have science and technology as the saviour in the end.

Shame on you Hollywood.