Tuesday, January 07, 2014
What's the Matter with Hollywood in 2013, Part 3: Filmmakers Despise Their Idealistic Source Material
All of these were based on idealistic source material, and in press interviews each of the filmmakers were quite vocal about their contempt for the tone of the original. Needless to say, that contempt permeated every frame.
One of the screenwriters of Star Trek Into Darkness actually took the time to log onto a fan site after the movie came out just to tell devotees to “FUCK OFF!”, but nobody needed to wait that long to get the message--It was already loud and clear in the theater.
Let’s pick up where we left off on Monday with that movie’s plot: After getting blown up by all those bombs, our villain somehow manages to pull a 9-11 (another thing that has to happen in every recent Hollywood movie) and crash his ship into a civilian-filled city. Our heroes don’t stop him, of course, because that’s not what heroes do. Heroes don’t stop crimes anymore, they merely hunt down the people who blow up our buildings and beat the crap out of them.
And of course, it’s not Kirk that gives the beatdown, it’s Spock. That’s the whole point. The filmmakers are clearly fed up with Spock: “Gee, at what point will Spock realize that thinking is for dopes, and finally use all that alien strength to start running, jumping and punching?? Let’s finally create an atrocity big enough to break down his foolish civility and get him to man up!”
This is really easy to do. Any writer can concoct a situation in which their heroes’ morality looks foolish. But is that our job?
To a certain extent, the decline of American humanism can be dated back to that moment in 1988 when Bernard Shaw asked Michael Dukakis in a presidential debate “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?”
Given how inappropriate the question was (No man wants a national TV audience to suddenly picture his wife getting raped), it’s hard to blame Dukakis for his inarticulate answer (basically, “Um, I’m opposed to the death penalty, so I guess not”), but his failure to offer a rousing denunciation of lynch-law had disastrous consequences. Support for the death penalty soared...and stayed high even after DNA tests proved that a huge number of those awaiting execution were innocent.
The rise of American bloodthirstiness is all-too-evident in modern Hollywood filmmaking, where they’ve developed quite a hero crisis. The idea of creating new heroes is too embarrassing to modern screenwriters, so they feel that they have to keep recycling the old heroes, but those old heroes are even more embarrassing, because they date from a time when most writers were old-school liberals, and thus they seem “hokey” today.
All Hollywood screenwriters have now become Bernard Shaw, saying, “Surely there must be some situation that I can create for these sanctimonious goody-two-shoes saps that will finally force them to man up. Hey, I know, what if Zod was just about to destroy some oddly passive bystanders with his eye-lasers, and Superman had absolutely no other way to stop him? Then will he finally be allowed to kill, puh-leaze??”
But Man of Steel just blew past that problem because outsmarting your villains is for pansies. Our heroes today have ball sacks, dammit! They live in Bernard-Shaw-ville! The villains can never be thwarted, never be outsmarted, never be sent to prison…they can only be executed or let go, even if the writers have to twist the plot into conniptions in order to place the hero in that position.
The whole plot of these movies has been engineered to pin these heroes down and forcibly strip them of their heroism, leaving them degraded and humiliated. “Those old-school heroes thought they were so proud, so smug, so cool...they thought that they were better than us! Well, we’ll show them!”
Tomorrow we’ll look at the consequences of this worldview in other recent movies, then on Friday we’ll look closer at how this phenomenon plays out in The Hobbit 2...