With blockbusters Batman Vs. Superman & Suicide Squad performing below expectations critically, it calls into question why many have failed to blow us away and ultimately, left a salty taste in our mouths.
The season of the blockbuster (March-August) is a time where cinema-goers are greeted by a multitude of big-budget films: sequels, reboots and occasionally, a bold new idea that will change the face of action films forever (or so the hype tells us). However, this last tent-pole season has been heavily criticised for the amount of critical bombs and disappointments that not only failed to meet expectations, but even be entertaining, decent films.
Many have blamed this to be the result of Hollywood’s growing dependency on sequels and remakes. While it is frustrating to see the big studios failing to support original ideas more, there is an even deeper underlying problem that many blockbusters share and it all goes back to the basic function of cinema: storytelling.
Film is a visual medium and with that, it usually has to follow certain guidelines (though challenging it in a creative way is welcome) for a narrative to be successfully told to an audience. Unfortunately, it has become clear to me that many of the tent-pole films being released have a fundamental issue with coherence. Narratives have been rushed, character motivations have been unclear and the editing has been appalling. Movies where millions were invested into bringing it to the screen but ultimately crashed and burned at their most basic cinematic level of making sense.
While it may not have suffered to the extremity as some other unfortunate films this year, Duncan Jones’ fantasy epic Warcraft had the intention of leading a successful fantasy movie franchise, but came out a confused mess. A film with so many locations, terminology and different races, yet no means of making it interesting or clear to audiences. Sure, fans continue to defend it for being faithful to the lore of the multi-media franchise, but there needs to be an opening for those not familiar with the fantasy world of Azeroth, which would be the majority. If work had been done to flesh out the characters, their motivations, the rules and backstories of this world and even just make the narrative appealing to sit through, we wouldn’t have the film that ultimately came out a dull attempt at resurrecting the appeal of fantasy epics.
While Warcraft had the excuse of introducing a new world to audiences, what is the excuse for films with an established series of films like X-Men Apocalypse and Batman Vs. Superman? Two films full of spectacle, but have little resorting a strong narrative.
X Men: Apocalypse presented audiences with the threat of human extinction, but it would be hard to find a moment in that film where general tension was felt. This is a film where the antagonist’s (named Apocalypse just so you know what’s in stake) motivation for wiping out humanity is through absorbing information about human history from a television. Ignoring the numerous plot holes the film amasses over its 2.5 hour run-time, the film never engages and presents these big-budget set-pieces in a tired narrative that simply does not care about its characters motivations or any sense of danger. It also contains what has to be one of the worst written exposition scenes of the year. Just in case you didn’t know what the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are.
Not to forget it also contains one of the most forced sequel-bait sequences I have seen in a while where the danger of Apocalypse is dropped for a good 20 minutes to see how Wolverine and the whole Weapon X project is coming along. It is a perfect example of the ongoing trend of inserting sequences in films which have no connection to the narrative for the purpose of setting up future box-office hits. What happened to self-contained stories? Does Hollywood not think audiences can sit down, appreciate a story with a beginning, middle and end? Do they really perceive us as being brain dead enough to not notice incoherence?
One of this year’s most anticipated films Batman Vs. Superman was a film so gloriously confusing and poorly paced, it is the embodiment of all the problems blockbusters are facing these days. You have a villain with a confusing motivation (why do you hate humans so much, Lex?). You have multiple story lines going on at once, with little fleshing out of any . You have plot holes aplenty. You have questionable character development (So why did Batman decide to unite with Superman again?). And then you have this scene.
A sequence that might make sense if one: it didn’t just come out of the blue and two: it had any connection to the plot. It seems Hollywood has forgotten the basic necessities of a successful narrative in place of just shoving pretty images on the screen. As long as Batman and Superman are onscreen, audiences should be in multiplexes right?
It is a growing concern that films have become so lazy in their writing. It would seem basic to review a narrative to check if it makes sense, but Hollywood keeps showing how incapable they are in this field. All that I ask is that filmmakers work with their writers and editors closely to create coherent film experiences. Cinema is a respected art form capable of transporting audiences to wonderful worlds, telling great stories and introducing intriguing, meaningful characters with understandable motivations. Bring back the smart movies.
What do you think? Are you irritated by the number of incoherent films being released? What was your worst experiences this year? Join in the discussion down below.