"Mr. Da Vinci, I love your work."
September 26, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT

7. OPENING THE LOOP

THE MOVIE IS A COOL, FRENETIC, 60-MILLION DOLLAR SCI-FI FILM THAT CONCERNS BOTH TIME TRAVEL AND SPECIALIZED MOB HITMEN CALLED “LOOPERS.”

… THAT’S ALL YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PLOT TO BE HONEST, AS HULK URGES YOU TO GO IN AS BLIND AS POSSIBLE. IT’S NOT BECAUSE THERE ARE CRAZY TWISTS AND TURNS FOR WHICH YOU HAVE TO BE SPOILER-FREE, BUT BECAUSE IT’S THE KIND OF THE DELIGHTFUL EXPERIENCE WHERE SEEING THE WAY THE STORY, WORLD, AND CHARACTERS UNFOLD IS A BIG PART OF THE JOY OF BEHOLDING IT.

SO PERHAPS A MORE INTERESTING CONVERSATION TO HAVE ABOUT LOOPER IS THE FACT THAT WE ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH A 60 MILLION DOLLAR BUDGETED MOVIE IN AN AGE WHERE THOSE BARELY EXIST ANYMORE. HULK KNOWS THAT STATEMENT MAY ELICIT A BIT OF A SHRUG FOR YOU, BUT HULK WANTS YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT NOT HAVING THESE KINDS OF MID-BUDGETED, RATED-R MOVIES MEANS WE TRULY STARTING TO LIVE IN A WORLD WITHOUT SMART, NON-OVERBLOWN, ADULT-GEARED CINEMA. WHY NOT?

THE REASON FOR THIS MAY BE A LITTLE TOO INSIDE BASEBALL, BUT LET’S GIVE IT A GO.

STUDIO-APPROVED BUDGETS AND SALE PRICES NOW COME WITH CERTAIN CEILING LEVELS THAT THEY LIKE TO AVOID GOING OVER AT ALL COSTS: 1 MILLION DOLLARS FOR BUYING INDEPENDENT MOVIES. 8 MILLION DOLLARS FOR “INDIE” MOVIES OR LOW-NEEDS GENRE STUFF. 30 MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE BOTTOM TIER OF BIG RELEASES (ALSO USUALLY GENRE). THEN THE LEVEL JUMPS TO 120 MILLION DOLLARS FOR STANDARD BLOCKBUSTERS (ALWAYS PG13). AND THEN 200+ MILLION DOLLAR+ FOR BIG PRE-ESTABLISHED OR PLANNED FRANCHISES (ALSO ALWAYS PG13). THE REASONING FOR THESE CEILING LEVELS HAS TO DO WITH BASIC COST MANAGEMENT AND WHAT IS ASSUMED TO BE THE NATURE OF PREDICTABILITY. MEANING STUDIO FINANCIAL GURUS BELIEVE THEY CAN ESSENTIALLY MITIGATE THE LOSSES OF “A BAD FILM” THAT DOES POORLY AT THE BOX OFFICE BY CAPPING CERTAIN MOVIE BUDGETS AND RATINGS AT THOSE RESPECTIVE LEVELS. THE THEORY BEING THAT THOSE WILL PROBABLY RECOUP THAT INCOME THROUGH ANCILLARY REVENUE STREAMS (FORESIGHT, TV BUYS, RENTAL DISTRIBUTION, ETC.) NO MATTER WHAT.

WHAT MAY SEEM REASONABLE AND FINANCIALLY-CONSCIOUS TO THE OUTSIDER HAS ACTUALLY HAD A PRETTY CRAPPY WAY OF DICTATING THE STAID KINDS OF MOVIES YOU’VE SEEN IN THEATERS THE LAST DECADE. SAY WHAT YOU WILL ABOUT HOLLYWOOD, BUT IN THE DAYS PRIOR TO THE 80’S YOU COULD REALLY ARGUE THAT THE STUDIO’S MANTRA WAS SIMPLY TRYING TO MAKE THE BEST FILMS POSSIBLE AND THEN THEY JUST TRIED TO BOOK THEATERS. DID THESE MOVIES USUALLY HAVE TO BE ACCESSIBLE? SURE. ESPECIALLY IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF CINEMA. BUT THERE WAS STILL A SENSE OF CRAFT TO THEM. A SENSE OF PURPOSE. AND THE MAIN REASON FOR THAT WAS ACTUALLY ECONOMIC. FOR DECADES AND DECADES, MOVIES DEPENDED ON “THE LONG-PLAY.” MOVIES COULD BE IN THE THEATER FOR A WHOLE YEAR. POSSIBLY LONGER. SO THEY HAD TO BE GOOD TO KEEP AUDIENCES IN THEIR SEATS, KEEP TELLING THEIR FRIENDS, AND KEEP COMING BACK. THE SIMPLICITY OF THIS ECONOMIC MODEL MEANT MOVIES HAD TO BE GREAT.

BUT WITH THE RISE OF THE BLOCKBUSTER IN THE LATE 70’S, ALL OT THAT CHANGED. THE GENUINE POSSIBILITY OF BIG MONEY MEANT BIGGER FINANCIAL INTEREST, THUS GIANT MEDIA COMPANIES SWARMED HOLLYWOOD AND SLOWLY FORMED THE MEGA-CONGLOMERATES WE HAVE TODAY. AND AS SHORT-TERM PROFIT FOCUS BECAME MORE AND MORE IMPORTANT TO THOSE IN CHARGE, THE LONG-PLAY MODEL DOESN’T FLOAT ANYMORE SO SLOWLY ADOPTED TO THE TO OPENING-WEEKEND FOCUS. THERE’S A LITTLE BIT OF CHICKEN/EGG SCENARIO HERE WHERE PEOPLE ARGUE ABOUT WHETHER THE MARKET DICTATED THE CHANGE, OR THE CHANGE DICTATED THE MARKET, BUT THE RESULTS ARE STILL THE SAME (AND PERSONALLY, HULK THINKS IT’S PRETTY CLEAR THAT THEY WERE THE ONES WHO SOUGHT OUT THE FRONT-END MODEL AS THEY SAW IT AS BEING “EASIER TO CONTROL”). AND NOW THE STUDIO STRUCTURE IS A FULL-BLOODED CORPORATE STRUCTURE.

AND IN A CORPORATE STRUCTURE, ACCOUNTABILITY IS KING.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE OLD STUDIO MOGULS USED TO BE FREE WHEELIN’ AND DEALIN’ KINDS OF FOLKS WHO MAY HAVE HAD THEIR OWN PARTICULAR FAULTS AND DISPOSITIONS, BUT THEY WERE STILL THESE KINDS OF CLASSIC MAVERICKS AND RISK-TAKERS. NOW THE PEOPLE RUNNING STUDIOS ARE WHOLE TEAMS OF BUSINESS FOLK AND THEY’VE TAKEN THE WHOLE “NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING” QUOTE ABOUT HOLLYWOOD TO THEIR FINANCIALLY-CONSCIOUS HEARTS. THUS, THEY ASSUME IT’S A CRAZY BUSINESS WHERE NOBODY TRULY KNOWS HOW TO TELL A STORY. THAT VACUUM LEAVES THEM THE FREEDOM TO CREATE A LINE OF THINKING WHERE THE MOVIE PROPER NOUNS INVOLVED WITH A PRODUCTION, THE FOLKS WE IDENTIFY AS “TALENT” CAN INSTEAD BE OUTRIGHT THOUGHT OF AS “VALUES.” AND THEY ESSENTIALLY PLUG THOSE VALUES INTO A SERIES OF EQUATIONS WHICH TELL THEM WHETHER A MOVIE IS “SAFE” OR “NOT SAFE.” THERE ARE TWO GIANT PROBLEMS WITH THIS:

1) THE KINDS OF EQUATIONS THEY ARE DOING ARE NOT EXACTLY SABREMETRIC-LIKE INSIGHT DEALING WITH A WEALTH OF INFORMATION. IT IS CRUDE DEDUCTIONS MADE FROM AN IMPOSSIBLY SMALL AMOUNT OF DATA. WHICH ESSENTIALLY MAKES IT BAD STATISTICS.

2) SINCE THE MARKETING MECHANISM IS ALREADY IN PLACE FOR ANY HIGH-VOLUME MOVIE, IT ALL BECOMES ABOUT THE PHILOSOPHY OF NOT LOSING.

YOU CAN IMAGINE THE SHAKY ECONOMIC THINKING THAT RESULTS FROM THIS.

BUT EVEN THEN, IT’S NOT LIKE HULK ENTIRELY BLAMES THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES FOR ALL THIS. THERE’S A HUMAN ELEMENT TO THE DECISIONS MADE AT STUDIOS AND FOR MOST OF THESE FOLKS IT IS ALL ABOUT JUSTIFYING ONES JOB. LIKE ANYONE ELSE, THESE ARE PEOPLE WITH CAREERS AND FAMILIES AND THE WAY THEY SUCCEED AT THEIR JOBS IS BY MAKING RATIONAL/JUSTIFIED CHOICES THAT FIT WITHIN THE CONFINES AND SAFETY OF THE COMPANY’S STANDARDS. AND ADHERING TO THAT ALLOWS THEM TO KEEP THEIR JOBS. DID THE MOVIE BOMB? IF THEY UPHELD ALL THE (FALSELY DEDUCTED) VALUES THE STUDIO ASSIGNS TO THEIR CHOICES THEN THEY DID NOTHING WRONG AND THE MARKET ITSELF IS TO BLAME. AND IN THIS SORT OF INDUSTRY, THEY ARE FORCED TO PLACATE A VALUE-BASED SYSTEM OF STAR-WORSHIP AND PLAY THE GAME OF “WHAT’S HOT RIGHT NOW?” TO THE POINT THAT IT’S SORT OF LIKE WATCHING MAGNET-BALL SOCCER PLAYED BY 5 YEAR OLDS. WHICH JUST MEANS THAT COPYING ROTE FORMULA IS THE PARADIGM NOT OUT OF LAZINESS, BUT BY FEAR. AND BOY IS FEAR A POWERFUL MOTIVATOR. IT MEANS THAT INNOVATION USUALLY ONLY HAPPENS BY ACCIDENT. AND SOMETIMES WE ARE ALL PRIVY TO THE STUNNINGLY RARE DISPLAY OF SHEER FORCE OF WILL ONLY SHOWS UP WHEN SOMEONE IS WILLING TO TAKE A RISK.

WHICH STINKS BECAUSE ANY SORT OF DETAILED ANALYSIS OF BUDGETS AND FILM SUCCESS PROVE THAT THE THEORY OF HAVING ANY “SAFEGUARDS” IS PRETTY MUCH A BIG CROCK OF POOP. IT’S WHY A LOT STUDIO HEADS ARE OUSTED ON THE SAME TIME FRAMES NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY PLAY THE GAME. WHAT WE HAVE IS A MOST BASIC FAILURE IN THE UNDERSTANDING OF HOW MOVIES WORK. IT’S A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE BEST OR MORE POPULAR ACTOR MAY NOT ALWAYS BE THE RIGHT ACTOR FOR THE ROLE. IT’S A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE ZEITGEIST CAN TIRE OF ANY “FULL-PROOF” ACTOR, CONCEPT, OR GENRE. IT’S A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THAT ALLURE AND MARKETABILITY IS SOMETIMES AN ENEMY OF SOUND STORY LOGIC. AND SO TO TRY TO CHASE THE CONCEPT OF MAKING A “SAFE” MOVIE IS LIKE TRYING TO CAPTURE LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE. AND RATHER THAN RELYING ON THE TRIED AND TRUE CREATIVE CONCEPTS THAT HAVE BEEN A PART OF DRAMA FOR GENERATIONS, THEY ARE RELYING ON THE THINGS THAT THEY CAN HAVE MAKE SENSE TO ECONOMICS AND MARKETING MAJORS.

WHICH, IN PURE ECONOMIC TERMS, MEANS THEY ARE KILLING THE CONCEPT OF INNOVATION.

LOOK AT MOST OF THE SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES OF FORTUNE 500 AND YOU WILL REALIZE THAT INNOVATION IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF ANY SUCCESSFUL COMPANY. THE PROBLEM FOR CINEMA IS THAT IT’S ALREADY A CREATIVE INDUSTRY AND WHAT INNOVATION ACTUALLY MEANS CAN HAVE A HOST OF DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS. ON ONE HAND THERE IS THE GOOD KIND OF INNOVATION. THE HIGH-CONCEPT VEHICLES THAT FEEL FRESH AND TRULY ORIGINAL. LOOPER IS HIGH-CONCEPT FILM IN THE BEST KIND OF TRADITION. THEN THERE ARE FILMS THAT ARE INNOVATIVE BECAUSE THEY DISTINCTLY LOOK FOR WHAT IS NOT POPULAR AT THE MOMENT AND TRY TO RETURN TO THAT SOMETHING “MISSING” FROM THE STATE OF CINEMA. THE WAY EASY RIDER BURST ONTO THE SCENE AND BURIED OLD HOLLYWOOD. THE WAY SPIELBERG DECIDED TO DO A THROWBACK MONSTER MOVIE WITH JAWS. THE WAY LUCAS THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUN TO RETURN TO THE SATURDAY MORNING SCI-FI SERIALS OF HIS YOUTH WITH STAR WARS. AS SILLY AS IT MIGHT SOUND, THESE SORTS OF FILMS WERE BUILT ON A KIND OF INSTINCT OF ANTICIPATING THE MARKETING CURVE. THEY COULD HAVE FAILED, BUT THE REASON THEY SUCCEED BEYOND ANYONE’S WILDEST DREAMS IS BECAUSE THEY WERE UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE BEING OFFERED. AND SINCE THEN THEY HAVE BUILT UP INTO ARTISTIC AND COMMERCIAL EMPIRES.

BUT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EQUATION THERE ARE HIGH-CONCEPT FILMS THAT EXIST AS A PALE SHADOWS OF THE REAL INNOVATION. STUDIO PEOPLE ARE SO DESPERATE TO JUSTIFY THE PROJECTS THEY CHOOSE THAT THEY ARE WILLING TO SINK TO THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR OF BRAND-RECOGNITION. THEY THEN “INNOVATE” BY BACKWARDLY-PRODUCING A “NEW, CLEVER IDEA” FROM THOSE EXISTING CONSTRUCTS. SNOW WHITE AS A BIG ACTION FILM STARRING KNOWN-VALUE KRISTEN STEWART? SURE THING! HULK WOULD ARGUE THIS IS FALSE INNOVATION. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN DIDN’T SUCCEED BECAUSE IT WAS BASED ON A THEME PARK RIDE. IT WAS BECAUSE THERE HADN’T BEEN A GOOD PIRATE MOVIE IN DECADES AND THEY WERE ABLE TO MILK ONE OF THE MORE REMARKABLY OUT-OF-LEFT FIELD PERFORMANCES FROM JOHNNY DEPP IN RECENT MEMORY (A CHARACTER THE STUDIO HATED AND THOUGHT WAS “TOO GAY” BY THE WAY). STILL IT GOES ON. WE INNOVATE FROM THIS BACKWARDS PLACE OF MOTIVE, WANTING TO JUSTIFY SOMETHING THAT IS UNJUSTIFIABLE. WE ASSEMBLE STORIES TO CATER TO THE BRAND RECOGNITION AND KNOWN VALUES INSTEAD OF GOING IN THE OTHER DIRECTION OF RECOGNIZING THEM AS EXTENSIONS OF THE CORE STORY BEING TOLD. IT DESTROYS DRAMA. IT IS INNOVATION IN EVERY WRONG SENSE. IT IS THE BUYING OF PROVERBIAL MAGIC BEANS.

SO BETWEEN THE ECONOMIC CONSTRAINTS, CASTING HANDCUFFS, THE WRONG-HEADED UNDERSTANDING ON INNOVATION, AND THE CORPORATE-CENTRIC PUNISHMENT OF DELINEATING FROM THE SYSTEM IN PLACE, WE REVEAL THAT THE PROBLEM ISN’T NECESSARILY ANY OF THE PEOPLE INVOLVED, BUT THE SYSTEM ITSELF.

THE PARADIGM IS A LIE.

WE ARE EMBRACING INTENTIONAL MEDIOCRITY IN THE NAME OF ECONOMIC SAFETY, BUT REALLY WE’RE NOT BEING SAFE WHATSOEVER. WE’RE JUST BEING LOGICAL IN A CLEAR BLACK/WHITE WAY THAT CAN BE UNDERSTOOD. THE ECONOMIC TRUTH IS THAT TRUE INNOVATION CAN LEAD TO BETTER ECONOMIC RESULTS, THE CHOICES ARE JUST MUCH HARDER TO JUSTIFY TO OTHER HUMANS, ESPECIALLY WHEN THINGS DON’T ALWAYS COME TO FRUITION. WE WORK IN AN INDUSTRY WHERE MOMENTARY FAILURE HAS TO BE “ACCOUNTED FOR” BECAUSE THIS IS AN INDUSTRY WHERE IT IS ASSUMED “NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.”

WHICH SUCKS BECAUSE THE REAL TRUTH IS THAT MOST OF THE PEOPLE IN THIS INDUSTRY KNOW A LOT OF THINGS ABOUT MOVIES. STEVEN SPIELBERG KNOWS ABOUT MOVIES. CHARLIE KAUFMAN KNOWS ABOUT MOVIES. THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF MASTER CRAFTSMAN AND ARTISANS WHO KNOW HOW TO MAKE MOVIES. IT CAN BE SIMPLE LIKE KNOWING HOW TO PERFECTLY LIGHT A SCARY SCENE, OR HOW TO WRITE A SCENE TO HELP MAKE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH A HERO. THESE THINGS USED TO BE A SIMPLE MATTER OF TRADE AND THEY KNEW THE ONLY REAL OBSTACLE IN MAKING THEM COME TO LIFE WAS A MATTER OF AGREEMENT. THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS ALWAYS GETTING ALL THE HEADS INVOLVED TO COME TOGETHER WITH ALL THESE THINGS THAT THEY TRULY “KNOW” AND HAVE THEM FIND A WAY TO AGREE ABOUT WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THAT KNOWLEDGE. AND IT’S DREADFULLY HARD TO BE ON THE SAME PAGE WHEN A TEAM OF COUNTLESS PRODUCERS FIGHT WITH EACH OTHER, THE DIRECTOR FIGHTS WITH THE STUDIO, AND THE STUDIO HIRES 9 DIFFERENT WRITERS TO TRY AND WRITE OVER ONE ANOTHER. ANY “KNOWN QUALITY” OR SINGULAR INSTINCT WOULD GET LOST IN ALL THAT. IT’S TEXTBOOK SUBTRACTION BY ADDITION. AND SINGULAR FAULTS RARELY KILL A MOVIE. CONTRADICTORY FAULTS WILL DO SO FAR MORE EASILY. AGAIN, THE PROBLEM IS SYSTEMIC.

AND THE ONE LINGERING FACT THAT WE KNOW, THE ONE THAT HULK HAS NEVER, EVER BEEN ABLE TO GET A GOOD ANSWER FOR AS TO WHY PEOPLE DON’T LET THIS FACT DICTATE MORE OF WHAT WE DO, IS THE FOLLOWING:

GOOD MOVIES ENDURE THE TEST OF TIME.

HULK’S INTEREST IS NOT JUST CULTURAL, BUT ECONOMIC. JAWS WAS RELEASED ON BLU-RAY RECENTLY AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, BUT IT STILL BRINGS IN BUCKETS OF MONEY FOR ITS STUDIO. WE CAN’T JUST CHALK IT UP TO DUMB LUCK AND THINK OF THESE LEGACY FILMS AS “FREE MONEY.” IT SOUNDS OBVIOUS, BUT TRUE QUALITY LASTS SO MUCH LONGER THAN THE QUARTERLY REPORT. THIS ISN’T ASSUMPTION EITHER. WITHOUT MAKING THIS SEEM SORDID (BECAUSE IT’S NOT AT ALL), BUT HULK HAS SPENT SOME TIME WORKING BEHIND THE CURTAIN AND GOTTEN TO TAKE A PEAK AT THE STUDIO BOOKS AS A RESULT AND IN A GENERAL SENSE SHOULD SIMPLY KNOW THIS: THE CLASSICS PAY. THE REASON DREAMWORKS’S ORIGINAL “WE’RE A STUDIO TOO!” ECONOMIC MODEL FAILED IS BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T HAVE A LIBRARY OF FILMS TO DRAW ON TO STAY AFLOAT. THEIR SUCCESS WAS DICTATED BY MOMENTARY PERFORMANCE. THE ENTIRE ECONOMIC FLOATATION OF A STUDIO IS BUILT ON HAVING LAND AND STUDIO SPACE TO RENT OUT FOR FILMING, AND BY HAVING A LIBRARY. BUT BECAUSE THE INDUSTRY STILL FOCUSES ON THE SHORT-SIGHTED THINGS THAT JUSTIFY OUR JOBS WE MISS OUT ON THE LARGER OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD THE KIND OF MOVIES BEST SUITED FOR LEGACY PROFITS. INSTEAD, WE CHALK LEGACY UP TO BEING A MATTER OF DUMB LUCK. AND THUS WE COULD ACTUALLY APPLY THIS WHOLE LESSON ABOUT ART TO THE OLD ADAGE OF ECONOMICS AND THE BATTLE OF SHORT-TERM PLANNING VS. LONG-TERM PLANNING. LOOK AROUND AT WALL STREET AND YOU’LL SEE THE RESULTS OF THOSE WHO TOOK THE SHORT-TERM OPTION. AND RIGHT NOW HOLLYWOOD DOES NOT HAVE A LONG-TERM PLAN.

HULK REALIZES THAT ALL OF THIS MAY SOUND LIKE SOME OVER-SIMPLIFICATION OF “LET THE ARTISTS DO WHAT THEY WANT!” AND HULK ISN’T SAYING THAT REALLY. AFTER THE ARTISTIC BOOM OF CINEMA IN THE 70’S RESULTED WITH MANY OF THE WUNDERKINDS BEING PUT IN CHARGE AND BY AND LARGE THAT MODEL FAILED. IT WASN’T REALLY ABOUT PICKING THE WRONG PROJECTS JUST THAT THEY WERE TERRIBLE MANAGING THE BUSINESS ASPECTS. THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE NEEDED SEPARATION. BUT THIS DOES NOT INHERENTLY PROVE THE “ECONOMICS FIRST!” ANGLE OF THE CURRENT ERA IS CORRECT EITHER. LIKE MOST THINGS THINGS IT IS ABOUT STASIS AND UNDERSTANDING OF ROLES.

SO REALLY IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE SIMPLEST QUESTION EVER: IF EVERY OTHER BUSINESS ON THE PLANET KNOWS THAT THEIR LIFEBLOOD IS INNOVATION, WHY DOES AN INDUSTRY SUPPOSEDLY BASED ON CREATIVITY CONSTANTLY SEEM TO FALL VICTIM TO A LACK OF CREATIVE INNOVATION?

IT’S ONE OF THE MOST OBVIOUS CASES OF AN ENTIRE INDUSTRY HAVING AN IDENTITY CRISIS THAT HULK CAN THINK OF. IT’S LIKE IF ELECTRONIC COMPANIES WEREN’T TRYING TO INVENT NEW PRODUCTS AND JUST COASTING ON MODIFIED, REPACKAGED VERSIONS OF THE SAME PRODUCTS THAT EXISTED AT THE TURN OF THE LAST CENTURY. YES, ALL THE STRIDES IN TECH WHEN IT COMES FILMMAKING: THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION, IMAX, 3D, AND 48 FPS, ARE LESS ABOUT QUALITY / INNOVATION AND MORE ABOUT SHOWMAN TRICKS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO EXORCIZE MORE MONEY OUT OF NOTHING. REAL INNOVATION IS ABOUT UNDERSTANDING HOW TO STAY AHEAD OF THE “TASTE CURVE” AND COME UP WITH INTERESTING MOVIE EXPERIENCES THAT SATISFY ALL THE REASONS WE DEMAND STORIES, ART, AND CULTURE IN THE FIRST PLACE. OUR FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE THIS BASIC COMPLEX IS THE CORE PROBLEM AT THE HEART OF ALL OF THIS. LIKE ONCE EINSTEIN SAID:

“We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

YOU WILL PROBABLY NOTICE THAT IN AN ESSAY ABOUT A MOVIE APPEARING IN COMIC-CON HULK JUST PLOPPED A 20 PARAGRAPH ESSAY ABOUT THE STATE OF THE BUSINESS IN YOUR LAPS. THIS WILD TANGENT OF BUSINESS ANALYSIS WASN’T JUST FOR AMUSEMENT, BUT IT WAS SO CRAZY IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT AND ESTABLISH BECAUSE IT’S THE ONLY THING THAT HULK CAN DO TO STEM THE TIDE OF THOUGHT THAT BECOMES EVIDENT THE MOMENT INDUSTRY PEOPLE START CLASSIFYING LOOPER AS AN “OUTSIDE-THE-BOX, RISKY MOVIE!” WHEN REALLY THAT STATEMENT IS SO ANTITHETICAL TO THE DAMN TRUTH. IF ANYTHING, GREEN-LIGHTING A MOVIE LIKE LOOPER IS BEHOLDEN TO BOTH THE ECONOMIC AND ARTISTIC PURPOSE OF CINEMA. FOR NO BETTER EVIDENCE, LOOK AROUND THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM AT THE LIST OF STUDIO FIGURES AND PRODUCERS WHO ARE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL AND YOU WILL NOTICE THAT THEY ARE OFTEN SMART, MOVIE-CENTRIC THINKERS WHO VALUE BEING ON THE SAME PAGE WITH THE ARTISTS THEY EMPLOY AND ARE ALWAYS LOOKING NOT TO COPY, BUT TO INNOVATE. THEY SEE THE WRITING ON THE WALL: KNOWING ABOUT MOVIES IS THE TRUE LONG-TERM PLAN.

AND LUCKILY FOR US, RIAN JOHNSON SEEMS TO KNOW A THING OR TWO ABOUT MOVIES AS WELL.

FOR STARTERS, HE MADE 60 MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE THAT ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE A 120 MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE. IT’S GORGEOUS. DETAILED. VIVID. THRILLING. IT ALSO HAPPENS TO BE A 60 MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE STARRING THE LIKES OF BRUCE WILLIS, EMILY BLUNT, AND JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT (WHO IF MOVIE STARS WERE STOCKS, WE’D ALL BE BUYING THIS ONE). SO EVEN BY THE MOST LOGICAL ACCOUNTS, THE FILM EVEN MANAGES TO HIT ALL THOSE CHECK MARKS THE BEAN COUNTERS HAVE AND ACCOUNT FOR ALL THOSE PESKY ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS. IT JUST HAPPENS TO BE AN ORIGINAL FILM. NO THEME PARK RIDE. NO COMIC TIE-IN. JUST IT’S OWN IDENTITY. AND ON TOP OF THAT IT JUST HAPPENS TO HAVE A BUDGET FIGURE OUTSIDE OF SOME ARBITRARILY CHOSEN CEILING LEVEL THAT IS INCORRECT TO ITS PURPOSE ANYWAY. STILL, THESE TWO SINGULAR DIFFERENCES ARE ALL THAT IS NEEDED TO CHALK UP THE FILM’S INNOVATION AS BEING “RISKY” AND THUS ERUPTS A WAR OVER THE HOW TO APPROACH THE FILMS “MARKETABILITY”… SIGH… ONE CAN SEE HOW EASY IT IS TO GET CAUGHT UP IN THE BLACK AND WHITE POLITICS OF THE INDUSTRY GAME.

BUT IN THE END, FOR A FILMMAKER THESE CONCERNS CAN’T TRULY MATTER. THERE ARE TOO MANY THINGS BEYOND YOUR CONTROL AND THE ONLY THING TO DO WITH IT IS TO TRY TO DELIVER A GREAT A FILM AGAINST ALL ODDS.

AND IT IS THIS HULK’S OPINION THAT LOOPER IS TRULY A GREAT FILM.

YES, HULK HAS BEEN SORT OF ALLUDING TO THIS FOR THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, BUT AS OF COMIC-CON HULK HAS SEEN THE FILM. AND WHILE CANNOT COMMENT ON IT IN ANY GRAND WAY, HULK SIMPLY URGES YOU TO TAKE SOLACE IN THE FACT THAT THE FILM DELIVERS. IT’S A HIGH-CONCEPT MOVIE, ONLY IT IS EXECUTED FLAWLESSLY FROM START TO FINISH, CHIEFLY BECAUSE IT DOES NOT FALL INTO COMMON NARRATIVE TRAPS THAT HINDER OTHER SO-CALLED “CLEVER’ FILMS. IT KNOWS WHERE ITS SOUL LIES AND, LIKE ALL OF RIAN’S OTHER WORK, IT REALLY GETS TO THE HEART OF ITS OWN CENTRAL CONCEIT. IT IS A GREAT FILM. AND TO BE HONEST, EVERYONE HULK KNOWS WHO HAS BEEN LUCKY ENOUGH TO SEE IT THINKS IT’S A GREAT FILM. SO DO WITH THAT SENTIMENT WHAT YOU WILL.

BECAUSE WHATEVER HULK THINKS IN THE HERE OR NOW, LOOPER WILL GO ON TO HAVE SOME PUBLIC REACTION BEYOND RIAN’S, HULK’S, AND EVEN YOUR CONTROL. THE FILM’S PUBLIC HISTORY HAS YET TO BE WRITTEN. AND IN AN ATTEMPT TO STEER THAT DESTINY, WE ALL MUST BUY INTO THE TROUBLESOME ENTERPRISES OF MARKETING AND HYPE; THINGS THAT AT SOME TIMES FEELS SO AGAINST THE NOTION AND INTENT OF STORYTELLING ITSELF, BUT SOMETHING WHOSE REALITY IS HOPELESSLY ATTACHED TO OUR CURRENT MOVIE-GOING ERA. MORE PROBLEMATIC IS THE WAY IT AFFECTS ARTISTS: THEY MUST ALL SELL THEMSELVES WITHOUT SEEMING LIKE THEY ARE SELLING THEMSELVES, BUT STILL MUST PUT IN THE UTMOST EFFORT TO SELL THEMSELVES. IT’S STARTLINGLY TRICKY. AND THE KEY TO EMBRACING THIS IS REALLY TO UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE HAVE NOT ONLY A RIGHT TO GET EXCITED, BUT THOSE PEOPLE’S EXCITEMENT ARE THE VERY LIFEBLOOD OF YOUR WORK. MOVIES ARE MEANT TO BE SEEN. TO BE CHERISHED. TO BE TREASURED MEMORIES. TO HAVE THE KIND OF LEGACY WHERE THEY WILL HOPEFULLY BE TREASURED ENOUGH BY THOSE SAME FANS THAT, LIKE JAWS, 27 YEARS FROM NOW THAT THEY WILL HAPPILY PURCHASE THE BLU-RA… ERRRR… WHATEVER DEVICE BEAMS MOVIES INTO YOUR HEAD AT THAT TIME? THE POINT IS THE KEY IS TO TRULY REALIZE THAT AN AUDIENCE IS NOT MEANT TO BE PLACATED. AN AUDIENCE IS TO BE CELEBRATED.

AND THAT, ABOVE ALL ELSE, IS WHY THE LOOPER GANG WENT TO COMIC-CON.

SO LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THEY DID…

/ ( 6 of 14 )

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