“Creed,” “Force Awakens”, “Hunger Games”–The Most Overrated Movies of 2015

for1Our 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.

creed1Think 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.

 

 

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8 Responses to “Creed,” “Force Awakens”, “Hunger Games”–The Most Overrated Movies of 2015

  1. AndrewZ says:

    The more cynical part of me thinks this is because of the connection between the movie producers and most publications but the easy access to some form of web publishing, fan sites and lower editorial standards at web news sites is definitely a contributor. I myself feel like I’ve stepped into an alternate reality at some point in the last few years. I’ve always known those people who love (or hate) a movie before they’ve even watched it solely because of the media build up but it seems they’ve cracked it up a notch and not only have more people been swept into this category but the build up seems more important than than the actual content of the movie. Seriously everything seems to be a sequel and the amount of movies that get made with the expectation that there will be three parts (or four if they’re feeling particularly greedy). Strangely the Academy seems to be going in the opposite direction with more obscure (not always better) films being rewarded. This has led to Oscar bait titles which are all released at the same time and which in my opinion try a little too hard. There seems to be no middle ground these days. This is certainly the most thought provoking article I’ve read the whole year, glad someone finally said something.

  2. Rollie says:

    Well said, Roger. Had been looking for such an article on this new reality of film criticism for quite some time. Thanks for writing it.

  3. abukar says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. There are plenty of fanboys and fangirls working in the media.

    • Two days of enraged comments, many of them so profane or childishly personal they didn’t make it to publication. Then the movie opens, people see it. The tide turns. And since what most of us look for in a review is one that we agree with, that underscores our opinion of the band/album, book or film, fans come here to vent about it. It made a jillion bucks, the sequel has less pressure on it (Disney mortgaged the company’s future for these rights), so now it’s safe to admit that this one isn’t very good. Maybe the next one will advance the story. If it too is a rehash, the complaints will start sooner.

      • JoeHTH says:

        Give it a rest Roger. The simple fact is your opinion is in the tiny minority. Your opinion is your own and you don’t speak for anyone but yourself. So stop trying to put your opinion off on other people to make up for the fact that few agree with you.

        I suspect you’re a low rent, B-list critic who gave Star Wars a bad review for no other reason than to generate clicks. It’s called click baiting. If it were the prequels, your review would be spot on, but it’s obvious this is a good film and far better than a lot of the trash you give positive reviews too. I also suspect you take yourself as a critic far too seriously.

      • You suspect wrong. And if you read more, watched more and had a decent memory, you’d have to acknowledge that the lack of surprise and the efforts to deprive the film of such surprises is its stand-out trait. It’s warmed-over mush, and a lot of people — certainly not the Plebian majority — see it for exactly what it is. Popular doesn’t equal “great” or even “good.”

  4. Clint says:

    Wow… What a great article! Hollywood cinema is truly dead and the magic has been sucked out by greedy business corporations who’s only concern is their investment return. The only way to guarantee a profit is to dumb down a script so much that it’s only appeal is to the general mass… no thinking or imagination required. Then market the shit out of an upcoming film to sucker you into the theater… fast food for the mind.

  5. TonyUK says:

    Hi Roger, thanks for an excellent Force Awakens review and for this wider blast at the industry for the tripe that passes for blockbuster movies these days. Comments from the likes of JoeHTH show, for me, the hateful nature of people that the Internet allows to proliferate. To (mis)quote Eminem “why are they so mad?” You have reviewed a severely flawed movie, allowed for the fact that newcomers and ultra fanboys will love it anyway, and called the industry to task for their lazy formulaic approach to movie making. Nothing wrong here!

    I do have a question for you, showing my own biases (we are all flawed!). What have you got against the British? Two major pokes at how the Star Wars movie demonstrates all that is bad about the UK? Seriously?

    Anyway, that aside, I am impressed at your review, at your directness and honesty in your replies to comments, and for your indignant attack on your fellow critics. Do you have a view on why they are so suckered in to giving this movie such glowing and positive reviews? Is it really that critics get paid by the studios to write good reviews, as has been suggested on many review sites I have looked at in the last few hours? Or is it once removed, with pressure applied by the studio to the publications which in turn is applied to the critics?

    Or are critics just better able to suspend their cynicism than we mere mortals, and take the film for what it is rather than what they expected or hoped it would be?

    My own view very closely follows your own – if Disney had said, hey, this is going to be a remake/reboot to make sure the newer audience is on board and everyone can see this is real hard core Star Wars, then at least the audience would have known what they are getting into. But what I saw of the hype was that this was an extension of the story, a bold new plot and characters with homage links to the past to remind us where we are. What we got was, as you said it, an almost unbelievable remake, with all the new bits adding nothing to the story.

    One thing that sums up the hype machine for me is the Gwendoline Christie/Captain Phasma story. Gwendoline has been hitting all the Chat shows in the UK alluding that she is a major character, “can’t comment as I’d have to kill you” type dialogue, but she turns out to be on screen for about 60 seconds in total, in a truly one dimensional portrayal of a supposedly key character, whose only contribution is to berate a Stormtrooper, admit to him escaping, being captured with no fight and immediately disarming the shields for the key weapon of her presumably beloved army. Surely she would have fought to the death to protect the shields? Perhaps I am being harsh and in the next episode she will prove to be either a great warrior or in fact a resistance sympathiser?

    Keep up the good critique!

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