Our friends at Continuity Errors Inc., also known as Moviemistakes.com, have named “Furious 7” as the most mistake prone (aka sloppiest) film of 2015.
As if that was its only sin.
“Jurassic World” also earned their ire.
Both terrible movies, in their own way, with or without lapses in logic and booboos by people writing, dressing the set, editing, acting and directing them.
And both critically-lauded, by and large, “great” movies to judge by the Rottentomatoes tomatometer and to a lesser degree, the more sober (and accurate) metacritic scale. Monster hits at the box office, too.
Think back to watching the films, or better yet, poll your friends. Anybody want to admit loving them now?
News flash, they were crap. The “Hunger Games” finale, equally lauded, bit hit for a month. Seriously, who thinks that’s anything more than a tepid curtain call for a generally mediocre franchise?
“Creed” is likewise just another formula “Rocky” movie with a new (30 year old) “kid” tutored by Rock Balboa, played by Sly Stallone with the distant memory of how he used to play this character (same hat, same wardrobe, 40 years later). Also praised to the hills by critics, a decent sized hit. People are talking up Stallone for an Oscar nomination. Mush-headed comfort food for filmgoers who don’t want to be challenged.
And then there’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” essentially a much less thrilling remake of “A New Hope.” It’s supposed to be a sequel, but follows almost exactly the same storybeats, narrative and location management as “A New Hope.” Starts and ends EXACTLY the same. Acting? Uninspiring.
Praised to the roof. Through the roof.
What the hell?
I was out of step with the critical mass on all of these films, so believe me, I get the “The gall of him” nature of pointing out how I think I was right and “they” were wrong, of how wrongheaded the great majority of reviews seem to be for these popular and critical hits (at least the day they opened). But seriously. What. The. Hell?
Is it just sentiment? I mean, do reviewers get lumps in their throat of recognizing “Spectre” as a limp farewell to Bond for Daniel Craig, or “Furious 7” as a “tribute” to died-too-young Paul Walker? Are fond memories from our youth coloring the “Jurassic World” plagiarism, the “Creed” resuscitation or the “Force Awakens” photocopy?
Reviewing gigs are scarce, and there’s risk (with your employer) to being out of touch with what’s popular. I know. A generation of curmudgeonly, “The hell with the consequences” critics raised in journalism have died out or been forced out. Fear makes you go with the flow, confuse “popular” for “enduring.
Then there’s the way lowered expectations work. Many friends have said “Not half bad,” and some reviews have read that way. People were a little scared of what Abrams would do to “Star Wars.”
The answer? Nothing that would surprise you.
The proliferation of fanboy (and fangirl) sites are tilting the reviewing aggregate into something more disposable. “A critic reviews for the artist, and the ages,” an old saying goes, “a reviewer reviews for the audience.”
And reviewers, most with little experience and zero staying power, are foaming at the mouth over movie garbage. There was a time when the mere label of “sequel” denoted “lazy” and “cynical.” A sequel is still both of those things. But the number of professional people who can tell the difference between a product and an out-of-body-experience marvel, or a moving work of movie art, has shrunk.
So every minor variation of that Young Adult “chosen one” called to save us from a sci-fi dystopia earns attention from the masses, and an unsettling under-reaction from critics. “Divergent” and “Maze Runner” “The Giver” and what not are merely the worst of the lot. Until they get hugely popular, critics may have the guts to say so.
But let “Divergent” get bigger and bigger, and the reviews soften, even as the films themselves devour and recycle their own backstories.
I can “just go with it” with the best of them. I cut Lucas a lot of slack with the “Star Wars” prequels because he was at least expanding the universe and its species, and trying to advance the plot by backfilling into the original films. That isn’t happening with the myopic clone “Force Awakens.”
We are endorsing nostalgia as a dominant expectation of movie art. We have become movie going versions of Britain, forever remembering “Their finest hour,” stuck in the warm and fuzzy past, lining up for inferior copies by inferior directors of films that were regarded as disposable popcorn pictures in their day. Beloved, but not ambitious.
The Russian Formalist Vladimir Propp said their are basically 27 plots, something echoed by Joseph Campbell in his “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” required reading for the likes of George Lucas. So there are only so many basic plot structures, and the reason these simple pictures entertain is that they work by those Formalist rules.
But I got the distinct impression, interviewing the pretty pixie who cut and pasted together the “Divergent” abortion, that she wasn’t even reach George Lucas’s interpretation of Campbell. Why bother?
All the wondrous reviews and the staggering box office of these five retreads of 2015 ensures is that we’ll get more unchallenging, unoriginal comfort food — “branded” entertainment of the “Walking Dead”/”Avengers” variety, in the future. And thus do generations that once outgrew genres and got bored with “the same old story” sit, ensconced on the comfy chair of their self-shrunk horizons.