Saturday, February 18, 2017

Power Rangers and Why the Movie Industry is Stagnating

Wow, one year of the blog. I never ever thought I would want to be writing long-form analytical blogs for fun, but I think that's why I'm so drawn to it. Writing was always a chore for me, so to have something excite and invigorate me to the point where I want to write an essay about it that people may or may not read speaks volumes to me. Hopefully, in the upcoming year I ramp up my output, quality, style, and consistency. One of the things that has been consistent on my blogs, however, is my complaints and criticisms towards the movie industry of today. It's no secret that I think they're boofing up in a big way. Now I understand that this industry has and always will be about one thing: money. And you go where the money goes, yeah yeah you get it. But I think this is a mistake. At a certain point, people will start to catch on that there's a huge problem going on today with the movie industry. And I would like to bring that to a head by talking about the new Power Rangers movie, and why I think it'll be very not good. Now let me put in this little disclaimer by saying that it's never a good thing to write off a movie based on anything other than the actual film itself. It's not fair to the actual film because the marketing team and the writers/directors can and often do have very different visions of the film. However, in this case, I'm so confident with this one that I'm willing to break my own rule and become a hypocrite. I just see so much here that's going wrong that I really just cannot imagine that this one will be received very well. And they're all just super telltale signs of a flubbing industry. So let me egregiously contradict myself, as we dive into the issues plaguing the industry today and how that relates to this sure-fire hit!

Alright so what started all of this? Well, we did really. Or I guess our wallets? Or maybe it is our desire to live in our cherished memories? I'm not sure. The point is, our desire to see old franchises we grew up on in the context of today (aka Nostalgia) morphed the film industry into the muk that it is right now. Why do we put such a high value on nostalgia you may ask? My theory is that we have certain memories and pleasant emotions tethered to seeing special movie experiences for the first time. It's why we rewatch movies over and over that we love. We can feel that same feeling we felt when we saw the film or understood it fully for the first time. I also think that with the developments of the internet and social media, people are able to bond, connect, and appreciate all these franchises on a very large concentrated and observable scale. And we just crave those special experiences at a much higher rate. Now sequels are not a new thing by any means, but the way they're being made today is unprecedented. I remember when Marvel and Disney had movie sequels lined up through 2020 back in like 2013. How on Earth is that just cool to do? That's like completely neglecting the fact that perhaps our culture and interests can change in that time. And you may be saying, "oh chill out Nick, that's only like seven years" but let me tell you something; The internet has drastically sped up our interests and tastes to a level we've never seen or experienced before. The cultural groupthink shift that has occurred in society took maybe only two years to fully become socially normal. That's crazy. To say that "yeah you're gonna like the same shit we put out year after year after year" is a little insulting and small minded in my head. Superhero movies are already oversaturated and people are taking notice. Star Wars for damn sure is becoming oversaturated. And we're all sitting here like"yeah there's no way I can get tired of this Star Wars thing, I'm very okay with a movie every year spun off of this 3 (okay 6) movie universe until Disney says enough" (and by Disney says enough I mean when we stop paying money). See what I mean? We're letting something so iconic and beloved become pimped out unabashedly in front of our own eyes and we're so nostalgia blinded and happy that new Star Wars content is being created today that we don't care. Here's an idea: how about making the next Star Wars? How about making something that's original, genuine, and unique, so that we're celebrating it for many generations to come until the next next Star Wars comes? You know, like a natural growth progression or something? Sorry sorry I'm sort of veering off topic here. This is all relevant, but let me try and tie it back into a more concentrated argument. Basically because of nostalgia we have significantly less original ideas and franchises being spawned these days. When we look back on the content produced from this past decade and a half, all people will see are reboots and sequels. Why do you think movies like John Wick and shows like Rick and Morty are so stupid popular even though you wouldn't expect them to be at a first glance? They're both good original ideas for franchises. And we are inadvertently starving for material like this.

That brings me to our good friend Power Rangers. Now PR will serve as a guinea pig to test my hypothesis because I want to point out the flaws I notice from all the way out here and see if the same is said about the film upon release. What I'm trying to prove is that if it's this easy for me to say and predict this stuff now with what little context is out about the film, that maybe there's actually a huge glaring hole that needs to be fixed. All of this analysis is based off of the two trailers, promotional photos, and IMDB. I've read nothing on the opinions of regular to avid movie goers, nor have I looked into see if there were any issues with development (because if there were that would make this too easy to call). Let's br-br-break it down...

Problem 1: Issa Reboot - This is pretty self-evident but pretty important actually. Step one, find a franchise that's beloved by the masses and churn it into a Hollywood blockbuster: check. The money should come right? This actually plays into problems number 2 and 3

Problem 2: The Dialogue is poo poo -  Again, not super fair of me to make that statement from the trailers alone, but the trailers are what you want to put your best foot forward. I'll give them a break because you're trying to provide context for a two-hour film in two and a half minutes. But like come on, just give the trailer a listen "Somebody should have pointed that out. Oh wait I did" "That's not a piece of Cake". So why is this relevant? Well, when Hollywood decided to become the sequel farm, a lot of their most talented writers took a bit of offense to that. Their talents didn't want to be wasted on superhero movies and obvious cash grab reboots. So with the emergence of shows like Breaking Bad and sites like Netflix, Hollywoods most talented writers shifted from movies to TV. SO NOT ONLY are studios forcing these tired films down our throats, they don't even have the writing talent to even potentially salvage and make something out of nothing. And after what happened with poor Edgar Wright and the Antman film, I don't blame any of them.

Alpha 5 voiced by Bill Hader

Problem 3: WHAT THE FUCK ARE THOSEEEEEEEE character designs? - No really, these designs for all the characters and zords(?) are gross and so uninspired. Actually, I take that back, they're very much inspired by Michael Bay's Transformers, another shameless 80s franchise turned film and money black hole, and something I hold in line with the first Spider-Man for creating this mess. "Make them look like the Transformers movie cuz that sells!" The result is so clumsy, messy, and just like I don't even know. I can't imagine a single person is super on board with them. I have an alternate theory for the designs, bear with me on this. SO, China is beginning to overtake the global movie industry. They're projected to surpass the United States with how much money Chinese filmgoers spend on movies every year. What sells over there (as of Febuary 2017)? Monster and Alien type stuff. And shitty films are being bailed out from domestic box office bombs here because they sell really really well in China (Warcraft, Terminator Genesis, Need For Speed). The aesthetic that these characters have really match up with the aesthetic that sells in China. Not to mention that Power Rangers is already an Asian IP, so I'm sure it's being marketed heavily over there right now. So what does this mean? Film studios, I BELIVE, are beginning to tailor their films for a different audience than us for the financial safety net. Let's wait and see how well it sells over there. But going back to problem number 1, March is not a typically ideal time to release a movie with a 120 Million budget without any sort of prior demand for this, a real gamble with the money. But the Chinese market has the ability to bail them out from all of this.

Problem 4: For real another origins story??? - This one may seem like I'm stretching it but hear me out. I know that for some areas and some movie worlds, origin stories are important because they set the bulk of the foundation for our main character(s), and serve as a template to refer to when these characters make decisions/questionable actions down the line. But fuck me everyone is doing one of them these days. It's not a requirement for every new franchise to have one of these. You can give meaningful exposition or perhaps a shortened origin intro within the movie but no.(Special shout out to Spiderman Homecoming, after its THIRD reboot they finally realized that maybe they don't need the origin story movie, congrats you win the "changing conventions underwhelmingly" award) Why am I complaining about this? Well for one thing, it really messes with the pacing of the story. Chances are if it's an origins, you're going to be spending the bulk of the film with our main character slowly learning/adapting to his/her new found abilities. That's cool and all, but people are really paying money to see action at its highest and purest form. I bet you we will only get one really good and meaningful action sequence in the third act to make up this whole film. The rest of the movie will be training montages, and character building. For the Power Rangers. You know, the franchise with such a rich and storied history of compelling characters with deep and tragic backstories who I think maybe fight on occasion? I'm not sure. Get what I mean? I'm not saying it's impossible for this to work. It can be done if put in the right hands! But....

Problem 5: The Crew. Like all of it - This is where I may be getting a little too harsh and judgmental. But I'm in too deep now, there's no going back. Consider most of this my personal opinion and not something that should be scripture. That being said I feel like I have a case. Whoo boy where to start? Okay easiest one, the cast. If you were to read the top of the movie poster, you would see Bryan Cranston and Elizbeth Banks, two very capable actors, and that would put your mind at ease. Whether or not their performances are up to standards, they're straight up the only two recognizable actors in this film (Bill Hader is the voice of that gross UFO thing, that's a 50/50 success rate at best). So were going to have to rely on the casting directors to have done a good job picking everyone else. This is probably my weakest argument in this entire rant, but lack of acting experience is never a comforting sign. I can't tell you how many movies I've seen that not many people are aware of with five star A-list actors that are just awful. It's kind of the game of the industry, some movies are just for the checks. Then there's director Dan Israelite. This is his second feature-length film, coming off of his 2015 debut Project Almanac. The budget on that film was around 12 million dollars. The budget for Power Rangers is 120 million dollars. We're talking about a factor of 10 difference in scales of the film (which by the way, good luck making back your full 120 domestically Lionsgate, a lukewarm March release with lukewarm marketing is surely going to spike traffic for the general public to watch Power Rangers fanfic; hope you actually did your homework with the Chinese market). That's not an easy task for anyone to take on but hey, the director for Jurassic World did it right (haha?!?!)? SO I don't see a whole lot that could go wrong here, maybe I'm just nitpicking. And speaking of nitpicking, let's take a look at the gentlemen who wrote the screenplay and composed the music, the icing on the cake as I always like to say (I never say that). The man who wrote this glorious narritive is actor John Gatins, writer of such classics as Real Steel, and Hardball, and... and well that's it. This one time for an internship, I had to read a scrapped screenplay for a live action Pac-Man movie written by the dude who made Monster House. It was one of those so bad it's good sort of screenplays, although I don't want to give it that much credit as a lot of the fun came from me trying to visualize how a zombie apocalypse movie with Pac-Man (no really I'm not kidding) would play out in a movie in 2007. Needless to say, it may seem like you can turn anything into a movie, and actually you can. It just won't be that good a lot of the times. And from this trailer, I can see a lot of the same beats hit from a bad screenplay that you just know after reading so many trash scripts. It's something you can't put to words (or maybe you can and I just don't have enough experience to do so yet) but it's definitely there. And LASTLY can't forget my boy behind the music, Brian Tyler. Super prolific, very successful film composer. Just go to his IMDB page and give it a look for yourself, nothing but hits. But if you examine closely, they're all movies where music takes a back seat. And I mean waaaaaaaaay in the back. Marvel movies, Fast and Furious franchise (and keep in mind, he only does the SCORE, not even the hit songs),  Now You See Me 2 (an opus). He's responsible for the most successful music filler in movies I think I've ever seen. So this should be good. As you can see, there's a lot of lack of experience, as well as a sense of lack of inspiration for anything creative. We shall see if I'm wrong about this.

What are these problems indicative of?: Well now here is where analysis comes in. It may look like I'm mainly complaining that this movie won't be quality. Quality is not necessarily necessary in order to have a hit. I'm assuming that at the end of the day, Lionsgate wants a film franchise out of this. Okay so how does it get there? Well, it needs to make enough money and show that there's enough demand to make a sequel with a presumed higher budget and what not. How does it make it's money? It can make it in three possible avenues. One: It's actually 84% certified fresh quality. I think that's the minimum score it would need to generate enough buzz to get those reserved about seeing it to go see it (by the way, I understand this is a kids film and is targeted to like the 10-15 age demographic, so those are the ones who need to be pleased but come on, it'll need more than that to recoup). Two: It's well made for its demographic. This demographic being preteens and teens as well as action junkies? Transformers does this well, as well as the Divergent series (Until the end there yikes). Both not considered particular well made films, but within the fan groups and demographics they were hits. Three:  It kills it in China. And that's all relation in proportion to it's domestic reception. The bigger a bomb this movie is, the more ground it has to make up in the Chinese market. Looking back at the problems I really only think it can maybe be salvaged by avenue three. It isn't shaping to be a quality film, and it's not looking to be very inspired either to draw in fans of the series or new comers looking to have a new favorite thing.

Okay, wow that was pretty pent up. A lot of that was mostly stream of consciousness and just a lot of thoughts I've had built up for months and even years now. There is a very clear and very exploitable problem in Hollywood right now. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a movie freak like me to even see it, yet it still here it is trying to pass off like nothing's happening. Just take a look at the slated roster for 2017 blockbusters. See anything that you've been really dying to see? And I mean dying like a true fan not, "oh I saw this a year or two ago, I eagerly await the next chapter!" No nothing (except Star Wars but refer to my earlier paragraph). Nothing inspiring or original, or just fun in movies right now. Everything is very much fan service because, unfortunately, fan service is what is selling right now. I however truly believe by 2020 the general population will have come to it's senses. Once the Avengers is done I think that spells the end. Like you can't go anywhere else after this next film. It's two parts but whatever. I know it's all over after that for the most part. At least for now. As for Star Wars, and other beloved franchises that are getting the Transformers treatment. Well unfortunately, I don't think Disney is looking to slow down, it's really not in their best interests and honestly, I don't blame them. But we're the ones who tells them what we want to see and what we don't. Speak with your wallets. Support movies you love and watch them in theaters, or buy them online or Blu Ray. This is a vent more than a call to action, but hopefully I was able to get a thorough message across. It will all really come together when this Power Rangers movie comes out for good in March. A lot of it is dependent on that. For now though, here's hoping 2017 isn't half as bad as the previous year that shall remain nameless. As well as having a couple more Moonlight level movies. Cuz yeah we could REALLY use some more of that. Anyways thanks for 1 year of blogs, may the joy of film flow through you and thank you for sitting through my very cranky rant :).