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More on Hollywood malaise

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Our dismay at PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST drew a mixed response in the comments section, but we’re not the only ones feeling the dismay. Anne Thompson, one of our most favoritest writers about the movie business, had a similar reaction to the budgetary excesses of this summer’s film crop over at her Risky Biz Blog over at THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. What is widely being perceived as SUPERMAN RETURN’s under-performance is also a matter of some concern.

I’m glum about how Superman Returns is faring at the summer boxoffice. I know that part of the problem is that studios are indulgent parents. They have gobs and gobs of cash to spend, and especially when they’re investing in a huge potential franchise, there’s no incentive NOT to let their smart, talented, imaginative directors throw more money—and length— into their movies. So Bryan Singer gets to spend $2.3 million on that bullet in the eye sequence. (Which I’m glad is in the movie.) Or he decides that he just doesn’t like the way that mini-continent looks when Superman hoists it into outer space. (Here’s my report on Singer and VFX supervisor Mark Stetson’s fab FX.) Superman Returns reminds me of King Kong. Because Peter Jackson was coming off the amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy, Universal let him do whatever he wanted—and got a three hour movie that barely scraped into profitability, and should have been trimmed.


Cinematical also weighs in. As if proof that not all is well in Tinseltown, some of costly production pacts may even be in jeopardy.

BTW, for those who chastised us for idolizing 20-year-old movies, we checked out the IMDb’s chart of the top-rated films of the Aughts to see what we were forgetting. IMDB is hardly infallible, but it’s a handy yardstick. While the LOTR films dominate a lot of their charts, there aren’t that many action/SF on the list, and the ones that are — KILL BILL and GLADIATOR — tend to back up our idea that a great script makes a great movie. SIN CITY is also on the list at #13, while BATMAN BEGINS is in at #15. Honest injun, this film made NO impression on us when we saw it, but we have a DVD of it kicking around here somewhere, so maybe we’ll give it a second chance one of these years.

  1. Peter Jackson is a mess. His over -bearing directing style and pure greed has led summer blockbusters down a very dark path. Ideas have gone. What’s left is action sequence after action sequence that do nothing but remind you of just how great Spielberg is.

  2. I didn’t like Superman Returns. I liked the wow factor that seemed to be more of the plot than what was presented. The special effects were great, but that’s all I liked. I didn’t like the casting. I would have much prefered a Superman “reborn” type of thing. Leave behind the old movies and start new. No not showing him crash as a baby again and give a full story there. Pick up as a story where we already know who Superman is and take it from there. But what was there I could give the same review as Prates of the Caribbean got (I haven’t seen that movie yet).

    I didn’t like Gladiator either though. It was pretty much like Superman to me. It was more about the “wow factor” than anything else. Once you got over the visuals, I didn’t see anything in the story I liked.

    A lot of movies have been coming off as if someone starts writing a movie and is told there is something that already exists like that. So instead of coming up with a new idea, they go and buy the rights to whatever title and rework THEIR script to fit the property. Or someone pitches an idea and it’s so much like a movie that’s already came out, so it gets reworked to be part 2 of the series. I mean it’s just a lot of junk that’s come out. Some of it is adequate junk with the rare really good movie, but mostly junk. Since junk sells, it keeps being more of the same.

  3. I liked Pirates 2 quite a lot. As a standalone movie, it was nowhere near as strong or cohesive as the first. But as a chapter in a continuing story, I thought it advanced the plot and characters quite well. It built nicely off elements hinted at in the first film, remained true to the spirit of each of its characters, large and small, and took a real, unbridled joy in some of its action sequences that’s all too rare at the movies.

    I thought Superman Returns had a lot of good elements — Routh made a great Superman, Spacey was clearly having a ball, Jimmy Olsen was terrific, and the plane rescue and “Chopsticks” sequence were superb. But since I’ve never had much loyalty to the earlier films, I felt that Singer’s slavish devotion to them kind of bogged down the film. It was so busy trying to live up to the Donner films that it never felt like a fresh interpretation.

    As for Batman Begins, I liked it well enough in theaters, but discovered that I loved it on DVD. The performances, Katie Holmes excluded, are note-perfect; the script is really quite good; and there’s a wonderful sense of realism permeating the whole thing, especially in that extraordinary no-CGI Batmobile chase. I wouldn’t put it above “The Incredibles,” but it’s definitely a darn good movie.

  4. Wait a moment. Superman Returns had a plot? I mean, a story? Really? Where? I was bored out of my mind, and I have been a Superman fan since I was a little tyke. Hmm. Alan Moore’s Supreme was Superman. Grant Morrison’s ASS is Superman. That movie was a mess.

    As for Batman Begins. Again, it was messy and despite many of the iconic images, some of them taken straight out of Dark Knight, the story was boring me, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox was a silly version of Q, Katie Holmes…we shall never talk about Joey Potter ever again. Let her rise to sainthood in Hubbie’s religion as it will prevent her from ever trying to act again in the future. And it appears that every hero and villain in pop culture HAS to be trained by Qui-Gon…

    The thought of films like Transformers, FF2, Wolverine and others already send a shudder down my spine, and not in a good way…

    But Heidi, like it or not…we live now in a Dragonball Z world, where characterization and plot has been replaced by “more explosions”, “more FX”, “more fights”… I don’t say that every film has to be Blade Runner or Raiders, but for god’s sake, give me a reason to actually GO to the movies more often.

    As for how Hollywood screws up. Compare Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven Director’s Cut with the version that wound up on the silver screen. Sure, the plot is the same. They just cut out about every character scene that gave the story a sense of reality. I can imagine how the studio heads went “where are the fights? It takes us nearly two hours for the siege of Jerusalem to begin? We can’t have that!”

    (BTW, it is yet another movie where the hero is trained by Qui-Gon…Liam’s agent should really screen his roles…)

  5. I have mixed feelings about Pirates 2 because it’s the first half of the story. Would one review the first half of a book and wait a year to review the second half? Pirates 3 will determine whether Pirates 2 is ultimately coherent. Was surprised it had no scenes for Pirates 3, which gives credence to the stories that Pirates 3 is way behind schedule (in Los Angeles they’re currently having open casting for pirates to appear in that film).

    Superman Returns is all over the place. I liked it more than not, but feel that the old version of Lex Luthor doesn’t work any more. Volume 3 of the Superman animated series just came out and the episode “Knight Time” by itself is a better story than all of Superman Returns is, and there’s many others in that volume as well which are better than the film.

    I guess what suprises me most about Superman Returns is that it pretends that The Incredibles was never made. The Incredibles is still the best superhero movie made yet because it has story and characterization, plus plenty of WOW factor. It has more in 2 hours than Superman Returns has in 2 1/2 hours. I saw Superman Returns with my brother (who rarely goes out to movies) and while he liked it, he felt that it was just a long build-up to a sequel.

  6. But Heidi, doesn’t the piece you reference in this post contradict your thesis? It isn’t the hollywood machine that’s ruining movies, it’s the indulgent film auteurs a la Jackson and Singer who are allowed to run rampant. If anything, this article seems to suggest we need hollywood executives to butt in MORE, not less.

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