Popcorn Films: Second-rate Cinema

glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | sept. 2016

Certain major studios have a lot to answer for at the moment. After a string of high-profile problems with some recent releases several studios have been left with a lacklustre reception and a pile of criticism for those films. It has also become apparent that there has been some rather dubious “damage control" going on which has aimed to discredit those who are criticising said movies.

The Ghostbusters remake is the obvious example and I'll take this moment to acknowledge that yes, some of the criticism is unfair or biased, but there has been a wealth of legitimate criticism from amateur and professional critics throughout which has been dismissed with some very dirty tactics. The primary tactic of dismissing critical comments by accusations of sexism or fanboy bias is a particularly obnoxious one. It occurs where those who choose to defend some deeply flawed film instead of rebutting a criticism and is sometimes deliberately stoked and manipulated by the studios themselves. They decide instead to dismiss a complaint in the laziest, least on-point way they possibly can by saying “Your point is irrelevant because you are (insert label here)." It's a “shut your mouth" approach to shutting down dissent and unfortunately, people are buying it all too often.

Ghostbusters was an unremarkable film at best, I watched it, it was deeply unimpressive but you are of course free to disagree. DC, similarly, had real problems with critical reception of their films of late. From “Man of Steel" to “Batman V Superman" and now “Suicide Squad," they have delivered a series of films that have had as much, if not more, negative comments than they had positive ones. Why is this? Well, DC have committed to a course with their films and are seemingly both unwilling and unable to course correct so instead, they seem to be doubling down.

I'm fortunate to have a following for my critical work and my own opinions have been received in the most polarized way that I have seen in all my works and given I have covered some of the most legitimately controversial films in film history it's astounding that these summer blockbusters have provoked such a big reaction. I demand a lot from films, I have for a very long time. I demand more of big studio productions because they are in a position of having the kinds of resources and the budgets to really make fantastic movies but it seems that the audiences for these films aren't as demanding. This is both disturbing and saddening.

It seems the current defense for the shortfalls of “Batman V Superman" and “Suicide Squad" is based on the following argument ... “It's just a popcorn film, it doesn't have to be good, it just has to be fun for a couple of hours." I respectively disagree. There are too many people settling for mediocre films or who are willing to justify the short falls of certain films simply because they have an attachment to the general product. Whether it be DC, Marvel, Sony, Paramount or whoever, the audience should be demanding the best films from these companies and be willing to point out where they screw up. Criticism isn't disloyalty to your favorite company, it doesn't mean you hate Superman because you don't like the current incarnation, pointing out that Batman seems to not be much of a hero in BVS doesn't mean that you don't want to see more Batman or that you are some kind of shill for Marvel and of course in the case of “Suicide Squad" it is not unfair to ask just how it became such a mess even if you enjoyed it in some way.

Whatever you feel about some of these films I mention, indeed if you're a massive fan of them, it's a good thing to want them to be the best they can possibly be. For someone who has recently been accused of being a “Marvel fanboy," I have to repeatedly point out that I love Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, that I grew up with Superman on the big screen and watched those films many times, I like these characters, I love these stories. When a film, in particular the kinds of films like “Ghostbusters," like BVS, like “Suicide Squad," receive criticism it's often because we want them to be good, no, check that, we want them to be great films — we want them to be more than cheap titillation or fast food entertainment that satisfies for the short term. We want stories that stand the test of time and that will not need rebooting five years down the line (is it even possible to reboot these extended universes?). Some major studios have been making a lot of weak to bloody awful films of late and there are far too many people willing to let them slide with excuses while the studios are relying on their marketing departments for damage control and social media manipulation to try and weasel out of facing up to their shortcomings. Unfortunately for them, the public is beginning to abandon their films and the smoke and mirrors approach to denial that Sony and Warner Brothers, in particular, have been indulging in is going to kill them off. I don't want that, no-one wants that, so come on Hollywood, start owning your mistakes and stop relying on the good will of those filmgoers who love the stories you own. To those fans out there, for the love of whatever you find sacred, stop allowing them to serve you crap. Don't be satisfied with “okay," demand more, demand quality, especially of those geek franchises that we love. You deserve it, your stories deserve it. Stop being an apologist for bad filmmaking.


He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.

For more of Glenn's work, visit cynicalcelluloid.com.


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