Hollywood As We Know it: Origins

by Russell Lawrence

How did we get to the over-saturated film market of today? It seems like every day you see a trailer for a new movie. More often than not, those trailers are all rotten too. F8 comes to mind (how the hell are there 8 Fast and Furious movies?) immediately, especially since I saw a Buzzfeed article the other day written by one of their writers who happily said she gave the series a chance and that it changed her life.



The official Fast & Furious 8 poster.

I understand that everyone has their own taste in film and that everyone is entitled to their opinions of what makes good film.

Here are my opinions: Everyone can and should have guilty pleasures, but to call any Fast movie a good film is absurd. B Movies and Hollywood productions are pretty much all the same. In fact, the Fast films are a perfect example of what makes a bad film. They’re made fast, and follow a formula that has worked since the late 70s.

If you pay attention and stop consuming blindly, you’ll undoubtedly notice that films like Fast, Suicide Squad, and even Star Wars (gasp) are the same. They each have slight genre differences, but there’s undeniably a formula to these movies. Your characters are all established, we figure out their goals, there’s the attractive woman who can handle herself, and they all hit a wall that they can’t seem to get over until the very last minute.

Why is this the case? The simple answer is that people consume films with familiar messages. Most people don’t like to think when they go to a movie, they like to escape from their reality and eat a bucket of popcorn. So, film companies give strict guidelines to their writers and directors to make their next big hit. But, B movies didn’t used to be so popular.

In fact, before the 70s, B movies were notorious. They were low budget, and every studio hoped that they would make a small profit off of them before people realized how bad they were. So what changed?


a still from Jaws.

Steven Spielberg changed the film industry forever when he released his instant classic, Jaws. Now, if I haven’t lost you already, I may upset some of you with this next sentence. Jaws is a B movie, through and through. While Martin Scorcese was working on Taxi Driver, Spielberg was working on his picture about a giant shark that ate people.

Now perhaps this isn’t so fair, in fact I really enjoy this movie. But, it’s true that this marked the end of an era. The 70s placed an emphasis on the director dictating what movies were going to be made, mostly because the studios’ big budget pictures were failing left and right. In fact, that’s the only reason why Spielberg was able to make his shark movie at all. Studios were desperate to give anyone a shot at making a successful movie. Spielberg really understood how to thrill audiences and use montage effectively, while also employing interesting camera techniques to provide something people hadn’t seen before.

Plus he’s not totally at fault for the rise of Hollywood films as we know it.

star wars

a still from Star Wars.

Jaws broke the record for highest grossing film in history, and right after it came out, George Lucas’s Star Wars did the same. Lucas changed the way people perceived Sci-Fi. Before Star Wars, Sci-Fi pictures were a joke. Lucas used techniques that were totally new. He created models and filmed them against backdrops with cameras on small scale but used shot composition to make this spaceship look huge. He was able to be so meticulous because of the success of his teen movie, American Graffiti. In a sense, Star Wars was also a teen movie. It certainly was a coming of age story, and of course a fantasy for everyone who saw it. In many ways, it’s no different from Hunger Games or even The Maze Runner (cue the recorder flutes).

Like those films, Star Wars has many sequels, and will continue to have sequels and prequels for the forseeable future now that it has been acquired by Disney. They will continue to carry on the tradition of the big blockbuster B movie. Spielberg and George Lucas were pioneers. They understood that teen and young adult audiences wanted to be thrilled, and that you just had to use the right formula and techniques.

After they figured it out, studios soon understood what the market wanted them to sell. From then on out, directors would no longer control what movies studios would make. Instead, studios would control what their directors and writers would create for them. Notable films that followed the successes of Star Wars are Superman and King Kong.

Today what you see is a market trend that hasn’t diminished. People continue to consume the same messages that have dominated the film market for nearly three decades. As long as people are willing to throw their money at Fast & Furious 19 and the sequels that are sure to follow, the studios will keep pouring them out.

For more, read “Did Jaws and Star Wars ruin Hollywood?”


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Hollywood As We Know it: Origins

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I really enjoyed this commentary. I agree that the market is saturated with more popular “bad” movies than “good” ones. I haven’t seen Jaws or Star Wars, or the Fast franchise, but I can tell you I am not interested; I recognize the B movie quality easily in those. However, I say that, but I know I buy into the B movie trend as much as anyone else. I think it takes a true film buff to seek truly good movies; the rest of us are satisfied consuming the same message on repeat. Sad, but true.

    -Meg Schmit

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I definitely see your point and agree. Hollywood is formulaic. No matter the budget of the film, this market tends to stray away from individuality if they do not see a price tag on it. It’s quite sad, especially since this formula scarcely changes. Is this the fate of filmmaking? Maybe. There are still those gems lying around, but, like I said before, scarcely.

    -Shelby Halliman

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I totally agree and understand what you are saying, but i still think that even though it is so repetitive like many others out i still think that it is a great film because the way that these films have progressed over the years.

  4. mediaphiles says:

    Spielberg and Lucas did, in fact, create the conception of the modern blockbuster we know of today. Their films in the 70s started the franchising of films that we are so used to today, with the soft reboots and remakes that we all know and love now. People love the simple storylines and relatable characters in their blockbusters. I’m a victim of this too. But if a blockbuster is well-made and full of interesting ideas and characters, I’ll still be watching them. Not the Fast & Furious franchise, though.


  5. mediaphiles says:

    Thank you for this amazing write up. Without being too judgmental, I’d have to say that I don’t like the fast series. I watched 5, 6, and 7, but none of them are to my taste. 5 and 7 are critically acclaimed, but still not my cup of tea. So I guess I’ll skip 8. I agree with Cal’s insight as well, because Spielberg and Lucas sort of created these formulas, but when things get repeated too much, I’d want something new. You said it a lot better than me.
    -Kevin Yu

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s