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.
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?”