Ever since the X-Men saga reached the big screen in the year 2000, the cinema has never been the same. Today, we’re bamboozled with superhero comic book films every year. Some great, such as the Dark Knight Trilogy and others better left unsaid.
At year before, George Lucas directed The Phantom Menace. The first major studio blockbuster film to be filmed digitally and importantly injected with digital special effects on a whole new level, particularly in Attack of The Clones (2002).
So my question is… has the overload of digitally filmed comic book franchises with literally unbelievable visual special effects ruined the cinema experience?
It is important to note that the backdrop for films has been the war on terrorism. And, apart from the all too many tragic events that have occurred in that time, the minor consequence in terms of the filmmaking has been that the subject matter, tone, atmosphere and cinematography has become far darker. It is therefore strange to consider that comic book hero films, which are so fantastical and over the top in literary form, can become so dark when brought to the big screen. Furthermore, from a cinematography perspective, blockbuster films are desaturated of colour, muted and less vivid.
So, although I love Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (2005-2012), I do wish for the charm, wit, adventure and daring-do of films like Commando (1985), Conan The Barbarian (1982), Die Hard (1989), Ronin (1998), The Specialist (1994) and Demolition Man (1993). It is apt to remember the late great, Roger Moore, who epitomised the essence of the action genre. These characteristics made his Bond outings fun and joyful. And although his films weren’t the greatest, they were daring-do, not daring dark.
Another trademark of the change in nature of films of the 21st century is the change in movie trailers. They all appear too similar, with big epic music, pauses of silence and lines which appear to have no meaning when taken out of context. This started with Inception (2010). And although Inception is a good film, I despair that my generation will not receive movie trailers as bold and innovative as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) trailer or Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) trailer.
The mark of a great film is that it completely buys you over and fools you into believing in that world. However silly or dark, but you care for the people (not the characters). You want to know what happens next, you want them to make it, you want to know will they make it… your hooked!
In 1895, the Lumiere brothers made a short film showing a train arriving at a station. The audience was so taken in by the new technology that they ran out the cinema fearing for their lives because they thought the train would actually run them over. This might sound drastic, but it gives an eye opener into the fundamental magic of film. It fools us so much that we cry, we laugh, we smile, we fear, we are wowed. We watch in tension and suspense and if those factors are not hit, then more likely than not, the film won’t grab us. Thus I cross my fingers and live in hope that Edgar Wright’s new film Baby Driver does just that.
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