Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A requiem for spectacle

Do you know what makes me sad? The thought that no movie is ever going to wow me the way Star Wars did. And by ‘wow’, I’m talking about that jaw-on-the-floor, I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing! kind of wow. The kind that can only come from spectacle. Of course a good film never relies on spectacle to carry it. It is certainly one of the least admirable tools in a movie makers tool box. (slightly more admirable than sex) But it has always been my favorite one. And now it seems to have been used so much that it’s completely useless. I think, as a medium, film has shown us every possible form of spectacle at it’s fullest, loudest, and most heavy-handed. You just can’t put any more spaceships, warriors, explosions, robots, horses, or Brad Pitt buttocks on the screen at one time. Battles can never be more epic than they are in Lord of the Rings. Armadas can never have more boats than there were in Troy. Sweeping idyllic vistas can’t have more waterfalls and beautiful buildings than Rivendell.

I saw Hero and Sky Captain this weekend. Both of them with beautiful cinematography, gorgeous landscapes, huge, amazing battles… the works. And I was duly impressed. But there was something lacking. I think I will always date films by B.LOTR, and A.LOTR. Because I was still blown away by movies before Lord of the Rings came out. Now? No. Not really. I’ve liked movies. I appreciate the amount of work and artistry put into them. But nothing even comes close to comparing. And the weird part is… When I was watching Lord of the Rings I had an unsettling feeling in the back of brain telling me I should be more impressed than I was. I mean, this movie was custom made for me. I love it at least 10 times more than any other movies. But still, one of it’s best features, spectacle, had already been pushed so far by other films. By the time LOTR came out, it had lost most of its teeth. So while I knew this was the most amazing thing I had ever seen, I also knew I would never see anything more amazing. (Until I die that is.) So a sadness tinged my view throughout the epic masterpiece. It’s especially sad to me as a prospective movie maker. My favorite tool is ruined before I even get a chance to use it! I guess, like the rest of the film industry will eventually figure out, I’ll have to start relying on those boring old tricks like ‘good acting’, ‘great story’, ‘interesting dialog’, nuanced characters’, etc.

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