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Author Topic: Why Marvel is Destroying America: Taught by Professor Tutweiller  (Read 1940 times)

Diego Tutweiller

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Since I've started posting these on Letterboxd, I've increased my follower count by about 60%. There might be something here. Anyway, I just wrote this up now, and I tried to tone down the inside references and off-color jokes now that I'm publishing it elsewhere. Have a look if you're interested:



==Lesson #9: The Changing Face of the Blockbuster==

One of the most common pieces of feedback I get about these essays is that Marvel’s films, while stupid, aren’t any different from the blockbusters of the 1970s and 80s. This false equivalency is taken straight from the playbook of modern armchair critics, who have no knowledge of film history and compensate for it by referencing older films without giving context, or simply telling white lies about how similar superhero movies are to older blockbuster films. The truth is that Marvel’s movies have almost nothing in common with films like Jaws or Jurassic Park, and anyone who perpetuates that false narrative is committing a gross oversimplification. “Hey, they both use special effects and action to entertain their audiences-- they must be the same! Also, I think Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is just like 1950s sci-fi serials, despite the fact that I’ve never seen one!”

Before I get into this, let’s talk about something I’ve touched on before in these essays: Art from adversity. Many of the world’s greatest films-- and greatest works of art in general-- were born in the face of almost insurmountable challenges. Examples of this include the Sistine Chapel, the works of Vincent van Gogh, and Star Trek: The Original Series. When an artist or a storyteller has obstacles to overcome, it adds another layer of depth to their creative process. They can incorporate the obstacle into the story, come up with an ingenious method of working around it, or just channel that frustration into their work. Even better, they can recognize it as a flaw, understand that it can’t be fixed, and work to perfect other parts of the film (such as story, dialogue, and characters) in order to compensate for it.

In this lesson, I’m going to compare Marvel’s films to a movie that is the epitome of “art from adversity”-- the first Star Wars film.



I’m sure everyone is at least moderately familiar with the story of how Star Wars was made. Construction crews worked for months in the Tunisian desert to build the sets. Props broke, robots had to be built, and models were constructed that required intricate, precise timing. It’s a story of perseverance unlike any other that has become ingrained in filmmaking lore. And in the forty years since then, neither the Star Wars prequels nor the Disney Wars films have been able to fully replicate the unique visual appeal of the Original Trilogy-- gritty yet clean, beautiful yet harsh, realistic yet still fantastical. This style of filmmaking gave room for mistakes and improvisations, and most importantly, it encouraged creativity.

Please take a moment to compare the above image to this one:

justviral.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/green-screen-avengers.jpg

Now, I have nothing against CGI. I know that the images in Marvel’s films are lovingly rendered and hand-crafted by thousands of artisans working tirelessly in front of computer screens to churn out one miserable load of crap after another. But CGI should be used sparingly, because when you create a film in a controlled environment, the result is almost invariably sterile. Try as they might, Marvel Studios has not yet figured out how to inject the real world into their empty green-screens. Their films are monochromatic-- even their “psychedelic” films such as Doctor Strange or Guardians of the Galaxy look as if they’re made of concrete. There is no unique visual style to any of the MCU films. They look like they came off of an assembly line... because essentially, they did.

From a storytelling standpoint, blockbusters like the MCU films are even lazier than they are visually. Marvel has their stories more or less planned out for them, because when they’ve run out of ideas, all they need to do is flip through a few of their old comics to get the conveyor belts rolling again. Their comic books can basically function as storyboards for their films, and there seems to be no limit to the obscure stories they can dredge up to make a quick buck. Compare this, if you will, to George Lucas, who agonized over the decisions he made in the original Star Wars and constructed a wholly original sci-fi franchise based only loosely on various, disparate sources. Compare it to any blockbuster from the 70s or 80s, and ask yourself if this methodical, corporate style of filmmaking is in any way similar to the way directors worked in the early days of blockbusters.

You know, there was a time when making a blockbuster was a huge risk. Going as far back as the big Hollywood epics like Ben-Hur, these projects were expensive, labor-intensive, and exceptionally risky for studios. George Lucas convinced himself that Star Wars would bomb (an early sign that he had no clue what audiences wanted) and fled to Hawaii during the first premieres. And although George Lucas would later turn into a fat, bitter old man forever associated with The Phantom Menace, for a time, he did challenge himself and take risks. Unlike the films he made sitting in a chair watching people hit one another with sticks in front of a greenscreen, the original Star Wars had a heart. Marvel's films, although technically part of the "blockbuster" category, take no risks whatsoever. In fact, the studio does everything it can to actively avoid risk. And this is why their films feel repetitious. Not because of any particular recycled plot points or nitpicks, but because they simply have no reason to bring in other artistic visions, different directorial styles, or visuals that diverge from their established formula.

But most importantly, Star Wars was not just Lucas’ brainchild. It was a convergence of many different creative visions. Lucas didn’t have complete creative control over any of the films in the Original Trilogy (thank God for that), and so he had to accept input from other people. I don’t see that happening with Marvel’s films at all-- even the directors themselves seem to play second fiddle to the whims and wishes of their studio overlords. This is why Joss Whedon, who has proven himself capable of creating quality entertainment, decided to stop directing Marvel films, saying he “Couldn’t imagine doing this again” after making the enormous turd that is Age of Ultron. This is also why Edgar Wright, a director who (love him or hate him) has a unique style of humor all to his own, quit Ant-Man over creative differences. Marvel is not interested in hiring people with their own artistic visions. They want someone to sit in a director’s chair and do exactly what they tell them to do.

In short, they want someone lazy.

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You know what would be interesting?  Getting someone like, say, Denis Villeneuve or Damien Chazelle to direct a Marvel movie where they get full creative control.  I wonder how different the end result would be from their other movies.
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Getting someone like, say, Denis Villeneuve or Damien Chazelle to direct a Marvel movie where they get full creative control
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Getting someone like, say, Denis Villeneuve or Damien Chazelle to direct a Marvel movie where they get full creative control


Am I saying it's plausible?  Of course not.  However, if it were to happen, I can only imagine the dramatic tonal shift between something like, say, Avengers 2 and whatever they decide to direct.
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Diego Tutweiller

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Getting someone like, say, Denis Villeneuve or Damien Chazelle to direct a Marvel movie where they get full creative control


Am I saying it's plausible?  Of course not.  However, if it were to happen, I can only imagine the dramatic tonal shift between something like, say, Avengers 2 and whatever they decide to direct.

I don't know about full creative control, but the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is a good example of what happens when a director beings his own perspective to a Marvel movie. Unsurprisingly, those are Marvel's best films.
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I don't know about full creative control, but the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is a good example of what happens when a director beings his own perspective to a Marvel movie.
Actually, Sam Raimi had to deal with a lot of studio interference on Spider-Man 3. Some of his original ideas included Harry Osborn conflicted between killing Peter and avenging his father, Vulture being a villain opposite Sandman and being played by Ben Kingsley, and the butler being a figment of Harry's imagination. But no, the studio and the producers shat all over his vision. They forced him to scrap Vulture and replace him with Venom (a character Raimi hates, by the way) for fan service, make Harry a straight-up bad guy, toss Gwen Stacy and her father into the film also for fan service, and get rid of the figment of imagination thing.

One of the only contributions by Sam Raimi that was left untouched in the finished product was Uncle Ben being really killed by Sandman. Unfortunately, it was a terrible contribution.
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Diego Tutweiller

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I don't know about full creative control, but the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is a good example of what happens when a director beings his own perspective to a Marvel movie.
Actually, Sam Raimi had to deal with a lot of studio interference on Spider-Man 3. Some of his original ideas included Harry Osborn conflicted between killing Peter and avenging his father, Vulture being a villain opposite Sandman and being played by Ben Kingsley, and the butler being a figment of Harry's imagination. But no, the studio and the producers shat all over his vision. They forced him to scrap Vulture and replace him with Venom (a character Raimi hates, by the way) for fan service, make Harry a straight-up bad guy, toss Gwen Stacy and her father into the film also for fan service, and get rid of the figment of imagination thing.

One of the only contributions by Sam Raimi that was left untouched in the finished product was Uncle Ben being really killed by Sandman. Unfortunately, it was a terrible contribution.

I was more talking about the unique visual appeal of the films. Still though, did Raimi have to put up with more or less interference than, say, Peyton Reed with Ant-Man? The fact that I didn't even know the guy's name before googling it says a lot about how much of the movie was really "his."

Diego Tutweiller

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I don't know about full creative control, but the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is a good example of what happens when a director beings his own perspective to a Marvel movie.
Actually, Sam Raimi had to deal with a lot of studio interference on Spider-Man 3. Some of his original ideas included Harry Osborn conflicted between killing Peter and avenging his father, Vulture being a villain opposite Sandman and being played by Ben Kingsley, and the butler being a figment of Harry's imagination. But no, the studio and the producers shat all over his vision. They forced him to scrap Vulture and replace him with Venom (a character Raimi hates, by the way) for fan service, make Harry a straight-up bad guy, toss Gwen Stacy and her father into the film also for fan service, and get rid of the figment of imagination thing.

One of the only contributions by Sam Raimi that was left untouched in the finished product was Uncle Ben being really killed by Sandman. Unfortunately, it was a terrible contribution.

I was more talking about the unique visual appeal of the films. Still though, did Raimi have to put up with more or less interference than, say, Peyton Reed with Ant-Man? The fact that I didn't even know the guy's name before googling it says a lot about how much of the movie was really "his."

Y'know, the more I think about this, the more I realize that I could've added a whole other paragraph to this latest essay. I mean, people call the Raimi Spider-Man films "The Raimi Spider-Man films" for a reason-- they feel like his specific artistic vision, due partly to his visual style. Does anyone ever say "Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man 2?" No. All these other Marvel films are Sony's, or Disney's, or Disney's Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron. I think that says a lot.

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I don't know about full creative control, but the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is a good example of what happens when a director beings his own perspective to a Marvel movie.
Actually, Sam Raimi had to deal with a lot of studio interference on Spider-Man 3. Some of his original ideas included Harry Osborn conflicted between killing Peter and avenging his father, Vulture being a villain opposite Sandman and being played by Ben Kingsley, and the butler being a figment of Harry's imagination. But no, the studio and the producers shat all over his vision. They forced him to scrap Vulture and replace him with Venom (a character Raimi hates, by the way) for fan service, make Harry a straight-up bad guy, toss Gwen Stacy and her father into the film also for fan service, and get rid of the figment of imagination thing.

One of the only contributions by Sam Raimi that was left untouched in the finished product was Uncle Ben being really killed by Sandman. Unfortunately, it was a terrible contribution.

I was more talking about the unique visual appeal of the films. Still though, did Raimi have to put up with more or less interference than, say, Peyton Reed with Ant-Man? The fact that I didn't even know the guy's name before googling it says a lot about how much of the movie was really "his."

Y'know, the more I think about this, the more I realize that I could've added a whole other paragraph to this latest essay. I mean, people call the Raimi Spider-Man films "The Raimi Spider-Man films" for a reason-- they feel like his specific artistic vision, due partly to his visual style. Does anyone ever say "Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man 2?" No. All these other Marvel films are Sony's, or Disney's, or Disney's Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron. I think that says a lot.

I think the only ones that I could say felt like they came from the director were Iron Man, Iron Man 3 (mainly due to its humor), The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
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Diego Tutweiller

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I don't know about full creative control, but the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is a good example of what happens when a director beings his own perspective to a Marvel movie.
Actually, Sam Raimi had to deal with a lot of studio interference on Spider-Man 3. Some of his original ideas included Harry Osborn conflicted between killing Peter and avenging his father, Vulture being a villain opposite Sandman and being played by Ben Kingsley, and the butler being a figment of Harry's imagination. But no, the studio and the producers shat all over his vision. They forced him to scrap Vulture and replace him with Venom (a character Raimi hates, by the way) for fan service, make Harry a straight-up bad guy, toss Gwen Stacy and her father into the film also for fan service, and get rid of the figment of imagination thing.

One of the only contributions by Sam Raimi that was left untouched in the finished product was Uncle Ben being really killed by Sandman. Unfortunately, it was a terrible contribution.

I was more talking about the unique visual appeal of the films. Still though, did Raimi have to put up with more or less interference than, say, Peyton Reed with Ant-Man? The fact that I didn't even know the guy's name before googling it says a lot about how much of the movie was really "his."

Y'know, the more I think about this, the more I realize that I could've added a whole other paragraph to this latest essay. I mean, people call the Raimi Spider-Man films "The Raimi Spider-Man films" for a reason-- they feel like his specific artistic vision, due partly to his visual style. Does anyone ever say "Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man 2?" No. All these other Marvel films are Sony's, or Disney's, or Disney's Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron. I think that says a lot.

I think the only ones that I could say felt like they came from the director were Iron Man, Iron Man 3 (mainly due to its humor), The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Iron Man I'll agree on. It was made before Marvel was bought by Disney, so it narrowly escaped becoming a corporate assembly-line product. However, Iron Man 3 didn't seem all that different from typical Marvel movies to me, and I would never have guessed it had been directed by Shane Black. Though the jokes are there, it's still Marvel humor, not his particular style. The Winter Soldier... I don't even know who directed that. And I'm not all that familiar with James Gunn's other films (I only saw Slither), so I won't comment on him. Though I disagree that Guardians feels any different from any other random Marvel movie.

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Logan also has James Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma western style.

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Also, trash on him all y'all want, but at least Michael Bay has a distinctive filmmaking style. 

Diego Tutweiller

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Logan also has James Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma western style.

Haven't seen it yet so I can't comment. Though I suppose the X-Men films by Moody's husband would fall into this category.

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The Legion TV show is so incredible thus far, and that's due to Hawley's involvement as the showrunner (the guy is in charge of the Fargo TV show).

It's the complete antithesis to what Marvel has accomplished so far in cinematic entertainment. No way would this have ever come to light if it was in any other channel other than FX (seriously, FX is just an awesome channel).

John Tyler

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I don't know about full creative control, but the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is a good example of what happens when a director beings his own perspective to a Marvel movie.
Actually, Sam Raimi had to deal with a lot of studio interference on Spider-Man 3. Some of his original ideas included Harry Osborn conflicted between killing Peter and avenging his father, Vulture being a villain opposite Sandman and being played by Ben Kingsley, and the butler being a figment of Harry's imagination. But no, the studio and the producers shat all over his vision. They forced him to scrap Vulture and replace him with Venom (a character Raimi hates, by the way) for fan service, make Harry a straight-up bad guy, toss Gwen Stacy and her father into the film also for fan service, and get rid of the figment of imagination thing.

One of the only contributions by Sam Raimi that was left untouched in the finished product was Uncle Ben being really killed by Sandman. Unfortunately, it was a terrible contribution.
Shockwave, how is this post "Dumb"?

Diego Tutweiller

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The Legion TV show is so incredible thus far, and that's due to Hawley's involvement as the showrunner (the guy is in charge of the Fargo TV show).

It's the complete antithesis to what Marvel has accomplished so far in cinematic entertainment. No way would this have ever come to light if it was in any other channel other than FX (seriously, FX is just an awesome channel).

I hadn't even heard this existed until you brought it up. Is this related to that movie called Legion from like 2005 or something?

John Tyler

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The Legion TV show is so incredible thus far, and that's due to Hawley's involvement as the showrunner (the guy is in charge of the Fargo TV show).

It's the complete antithesis to what Marvel has accomplished so far in cinematic entertainment. No way would this have ever come to light if it was in any other channel other than FX (seriously, FX is just an awesome channel).

I hadn't even heard this existed until you brought it up. Is this related to that movie called Legion from like 2005 or something?
No, it's based on an X-Men character but isn't related to any of the movies.
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Diego Tutweiller

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Since Kong: Skull Island seems to be a topic of discussion around here right now, I worked it into this latest essay. Some of the material here is a reiteration of things we've discussed before, but I'll post it on Letterboxd at some point in order to spread our analyses to the masses.



Lesson #10: The Rise of the Armchair Critics

Up until now, I’ve mainly been focusing on Marvel’s stylistic choices-- humor, theme, characterization, visual style, etc. Now, however, I’m going to devote a couple installments to the critical and commercial response to these films, why they’re so successful, and why that success is detrimental for both the art of filmmaking and society as a whole.

We begin this two-part journey with the rise of the internet. It’s no coincidence that the increase in internet usage across America and around the globe is correlated with the slow demise of quality blockbuster filmmaking. I’m not mistaking correlation with causation here-- the internet didn’t kill big-budget films (not singlehandedly, anyway)-- but the two are indeed related. Because for every intelligent person in the early 21st century who found his or her way to the internet to discuss film, theater, art, or politics, there were ninety-nine others who came online without a shred of critical thinking or rational debate skills.

An exaggeration? Perhaps. Feel free to visit the YouTube comments section sometime if you’re ever in doubt.

But let’s not get too expansive here. We’re focusing solely on the impact of the internet on film culture. What we see around the time of blockbusters becoming unoriginal and lazy (2000-2016) is the gradual appearance of internet movie critics, mostly on YouTube, who know nothing about film history or filmmaking as an art form. They have no understanding of screenwriting or character development, yet they have gained massive followings due to the millions of fanboys who want their opinions validated by faux-professionals. And even worse, these “critics” often accept bribes from studios, typically in the form of early screening tickets or cheap gift bags, in exchange for dishonest, overwhelmingly positive reviews. They get free stuff and the ability to release an early review, while the studios get good press. It’s a sick and twisted symbiotic relationship.

(I would like to take this opportunity to note that yes, I do understand the irony of an internet critic like myself saying that internet critics are a bunch of hacks. Perhaps when I have 910,000 followers on social media, you can accuse me of perpetuating this system of inexcusably bad film criticism. However, I would also add that I will never reach that kind of cult following, mainly because I trash the movies that these people adore.)

The vast majority of these channels are run either by Disney shills or dullards who praise every film they see as “cool,” “loyal to the source material,” or “awesometacular.” The most egregious example is ColliderVideos, a panel discussion channel that responds to every movie and upcoming project with a lemming-like consensus of enthusiasm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqLc3Hit_Fo

See what I mean? The first five minutes of this video encompasses everything there is to hate about these fake critics. Where to begin? Firstly, ‘trailer breakdowns’ in and of themselves are idiotic, because there is nothing enlightening or informative to say about the trailer other than “I thought it made the movie look cool” or “I didn’t like it.” Then there’s the cringeworthy fanboy yes-man who says “It showed a lot of cool fight scenes and it was awesome(tacular)!” And of course, there’s the misleading and inaccurate comparison to an older movie (in this case, Apocalypse Now) in order to justify their mindless positive responses AND simultaneously make it seem like they actually know something about film history. What a clever bunch of narcissistic hacks.

These internet personalities are everywhere, and as someone who loves talking about movies online, I constantly find myself exposed to their material. People whose opinions I actually respect will ask me “Who do you like more, Chris Stuckmann or Jeremy Jahns?” Whenever I go on YouTube, I’ll invariably see a WatchMojo.com video recommended to me on the sidebar. And every time a new superhero movie comes out, YouTube’s main page is inundated with reviews by Grace Randolph, the Schmoes, and those atrocious Screen Junkies creatures. Then there’s the Nostalgia Critic, who might actually be the most obnoxious person on the internet-- a significant achievement. They are all worthy of derision and contempt.

If the impact of these witless, circlejerking morons was confined only to the internet, maybe we would come out of this sorry chapter in film history relatively unscathed. But with the slow demise of print media, more and more people are turning to unprofessional, unintelligent “critics” for all their movie-reviewing needs. As a reward, they get their opinions validated, bringing them into an echo chamber of Marvel fans, Star Wars geeks, and consumerist dullards. They begin to think that everyone likes these films-- even real critics-- and that people who disagree are stuck-up snobs. They send them death threats, label them enemies of “fun,” and petition to have their websites shut down. Make no mistake, the culture of movie criticism can be every bit as divisive as American politics. The rise of the armchair critics has absolutely ruined any chance of widespread intelligent film discussion the internet may have once had.

“But Diego,” you say. “Despite all your complaints, these movies still receive critical acclaim. Why do actual film critics still hand out positive reviews to Marvel’s films if they’re objectively lazy?” Well, it’s a fair question, and there’s no single answer. Some people seem to think that Disney bribes critics-- a big accusation, and a mostly baseless one. Although studios have been caught paying for reviews before (not naming any names), this kind of illicit activity would have to be very expansive to account for the kind of acclaim Marvel receives on sites like Rotten Tomatoes. Though this may explain some of the critical response to certain films (again, not naming names), I think something far worse is happening.

It’s simple capitalism. There’s a market for movie criticism out there, because there is still a demand-- people like to discuss movies and hear other people’s thoughts on them. Professional critics know this, but they also know that they’re losing their readership to people like Jeremy Jahns and Chris Stuckmann, who provide all the wonders of movie criticism without such pesky things as “different opinions” and “actual film analysis.” And so, in an attempt to avoid alienating their readers, they have chosen to heap praise upon some of the worst films ever made-- Age of Ultron, Thor, Deadpool, and all the rest of Marvel’s ghoulish output. Even films like The-Film-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, which are so terrible they almost cease to fit the definition of “movie,” manage to get middling-to-positive reviews from critics.

Critics-- people who studied film, write about movies professionally, and know something about cinema as an art form-- actually praised The-Film-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. Let that sink in. Once you realize that, you have to come to terms with the knowledge that some of these reviewers (maybe even most of them) are not being completely honest in their opinions. There is no other conclusion to draw.

... Unless we’ve reached the point where even the critics have become too brainwashed to tell a Rogue One apart from an Edge of Tomorrow. In which case... God help us all.

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Since Kong: Skull Island seems to be a topic of discussion around here right now, I worked it into this latest essay. Some of the material here is a reiteration of things we've discussed before, but I'll post it on Letterboxd at some point in order to spread our analyses to the masses.



Lesson #10: The Rise of the Armchair Critics

Up until now, I’ve mainly been focusing on Marvel’s stylistic choices-- humor, theme, characterization, visual style, etc. Now, however, I’m going to devote a couple installments to the critical and commercial response to these films, why they’re so successful, and why that success is detrimental for both the art of filmmaking and society as a whole.

We begin this two-part journey with the rise of the internet. It’s no coincidence that the increase in internet usage across America and around the globe is correlated with the slow demise of quality blockbuster filmmaking. I’m not mistaking correlation with causation here-- the internet didn’t kill big-budget films (not singlehandedly, anyway)-- but the two are indeed related. Because for every intelligent person in the early 21st century who found his or her way to the internet to discuss film, theater, art, or politics, there were ninety-nine others who came online without a shred of critical thinking or rational debate skills.

An exaggeration? Perhaps. Feel free to visit the YouTube comments section sometime if you’re ever in doubt.

But let’s not get too expansive here. We’re focusing solely on the impact of the internet on film culture. What we see around the time of blockbusters becoming unoriginal and lazy (2000-2016) is the gradual appearance of internet movie critics, mostly on YouTube, who know nothing about film history or filmmaking as an art form. They have no understanding of screenwriting or character development, yet they have gained massive followings due to the millions of fanboys who want their opinions validated by faux-professionals. And even worse, these “critics” often accept bribes from studios, typically in the form of early screening tickets or cheap gift bags, in exchange for dishonest, overwhelmingly positive reviews. They get free stuff and the ability to release an early review, while the studios get good press. It’s a sick and twisted symbiotic relationship.

(I would like to take this opportunity to note that yes, I do understand the irony of an internet critic like myself saying that internet critics are a bunch of hacks. Perhaps when I have 910,000 followers on social media, you can accuse me of perpetuating this system of inexcusably bad film criticism. However, I would also add that I will never reach that kind of cult following, mainly because I trash the movies that these people adore.)

The vast majority of these channels are run either by Disney shills or dullards who praise every film they see as “cool,” “loyal to the source material,” or “awesometacular.” The most egregious example is ColliderVideos, a panel discussion channel that responds to every movie and upcoming project with a lemming-like consensus of enthusiasm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqLc3Hit_Fo

See what I mean? The first five minutes of this video encompasses everything there is to hate about these fake critics. Where to begin? Firstly, ‘trailer breakdowns’ in and of themselves are idiotic, because there is nothing enlightening or informative to say about the trailer other than “I thought it made the movie look cool” or “I didn’t like it.” Then there’s the cringeworthy fanboy yes-man who says “It showed a lot of cool fight scenes and it was awesome(tacular)!” And of course, there’s the misleading and inaccurate comparison to an older movie (in this case, Apocalypse Now) in order to justify their mindless positive responses AND simultaneously make it seem like they actually know something about film history. What a clever bunch of narcissistic hacks.

These internet personalities are everywhere, and as someone who loves talking about movies online, I constantly find myself exposed to their material. People whose opinions I actually respect will ask me “Who do you like more, Chris Stuckmann or Jeremy Jahns?” Whenever I go on YouTube, I’ll invariably see a WatchMojo.com video recommended to me on the sidebar. And every time a new superhero movie comes out, YouTube’s main page is inundated with reviews by Grace Randolph, the Schmoes, and those atrocious Screen Junkies creatures. Then there’s the Nostalgia Critic, who might actually be the most obnoxious person on the internet-- a significant achievement. They are all worthy of derision and contempt.

If the impact of these witless, circlejerking morons was confined only to the internet, maybe we would come out of this sorry chapter in film history relatively unscathed. But with the slow demise of print media, more and more people are turning to unprofessional, unintelligent “critics” for all their movie-reviewing needs. As a reward, they get their opinions validated, bringing them into an echo chamber of Marvel fans, Star Wars geeks, and consumerist dullards. They begin to think that everyone likes these films-- even real critics-- and that people who disagree are stuck-up snobs. They send them death threats, label them enemies of “fun,” and petition to have their websites shut down. Make no mistake, the culture of movie criticism can be every bit as divisive as American politics. The rise of the armchair critics has absolutely ruined any chance of widespread intelligent film discussion the internet may have once had.

“But Diego,” you say. “Despite all your complaints, these movies still receive critical acclaim. Why do actual film critics still hand out positive reviews to Marvel’s films if they’re objectively lazy?” Well, it’s a fair question, and there’s no single answer. Some people seem to think that Disney bribes critics-- a big accusation, and a mostly baseless one. Although studios have been caught paying for reviews before (not naming any names), this kind of illicit activity would have to be very expansive to account for the kind of acclaim Marvel receives on sites like Rotten Tomatoes. Though this may explain some of the critical response to certain films (again, not naming names), I think something far worse is happening.

It’s simple capitalism. There’s a market for movie criticism out there, because there is still a demand-- people like to discuss movies and hear other people’s thoughts on them. Professional critics know this, but they also know that they’re losing their readership to people like Jeremy Jahns and Chris Stuckmann, who provide all the wonders of movie criticism without such pesky things as “different opinions” and “actual film analysis.” And so, in an attempt to avoid alienating their readers, they have chosen to heap praise upon some of the worst films ever made-- Age of Ultron, Thor, Deadpool, and all the rest of Marvel’s ghoulish output. Even films like The-Film-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, which are so terrible they almost cease to fit the definition of “movie,” manage to get middling-to-positive reviews from critics.

Critics-- people who studied film, write about movies professionally, and know something about cinema as an art form-- actually praised The-Film-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. Let that sink in. Once you realize that, you have to come to terms with the knowledge that some of these reviewers (maybe even most of them) are not being completely honest in their opinions. There is no other conclusion to draw.

... Unless we’ve reached the point where even the critics have become too brainwashed to tell a Rogue One apart from an Edge of Tomorrow. In which case... God help us all.

But who is better?  Jahns or Stuckmann?

 

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