Monday, October 12, 2009

The Great Debate of 2012

If you've been following along here at FilmChaw, you'd know that Julius Goat wrote a post on the absurd filmmaking shown in the recently-released trailer for the John Cusack movie, 2012. Riggstad recently responded by making the point that the film is not meant to be intellectually stimulating, but rather as a money maker.

This all goes back to the question of whether films should have intrinsic artistic value or if it is acceptable to make a movie for the sole purpose of making money. That question can be posed to the actors, the screenwriters, the studios, the directors, etc.

Riggs is correct that not all movies have to be intellectually stimulating, but I do think that films should have some intrinsic artistic value, even if that value is in being a broad comedy or a mindless disaster flick.

All that said, there is a huge leap from "making a blockbuster studio movie" to making a movie solely because of money. And it isn't really about money, anyway. It's about integrity.

For instance, as a blogger or blog reader, we all know blogs that have content that actually adds something to the blogosphere, whether it be insightful or personal or trivial, it is at least entertaining. But there are other blogs that are really just advertisements or actually post advertisements as content. To suggest that it is wrong to parce out a worthwhile blog filled with content and a blog filled with just advertisements is absurd. The same is true for movie: there is value in movies that serve a purpose whether it is to advance a viewpoint, make someone laugh, or help the audience escape from their mundane existence; there is much less value (if any) in soulless films that are merely there to make a buck.

Now, of course, art is subjective. I am a comic book geek but couldn't stand Transformers and have as of today not seen Transformers 2. Transformers to me was complete claptrap. It was all CGI and explosions with poor writing and worse acting. Even the robots sucked. So to me, Transformers was a worthless film, clearly made merely for money. But someone else may've seen the film as a thrill ride, and in that context may have found the film worthwhile. But could either of us rightly argue that the only thing that mattered was how much money the film made? I suppose we could argue that if we were discussing the economics of the film industry and filmmaking, but what we are really hopefully discussing is the content.

I'm with the Goat. 2012 looks like a mess. It might be really entertaining or have some real insights, but I wouldn't bet on it. That trailer says a lot. It shows that its a movie about the destruction and not the characters. Now, CGI development can, in a way, be its own value. Think of Jurassic Park. That really advanced the CGI technology and got accolades, some of which were unwarranted, as a result. But the CGI in 2012 has been done before in films by 2012's director, Roland Emmerich. He's the same guy who produced the disaster flick (with a terrible story) The Day After Tomorrow, mega-box-office-bomb Godzilla, and even Independence Day (a film that fits into that CGI development group with Jurassic Park - great effects that make the movie, terrible story and acting).

I should also add that 2012 is in no way certain to be a box office smash. In fact, I expect it to fail pretty miserably based on the public's reaction to the film so far. Goat isn't the only guy slamming the absurd trailer. There is also a lot of backlash since the disaster porn seems to intentionally reference 9/11 in a way that makes people uncomfortable. John Cusack is hardly a big time draw at the box office, so I expect this film to probably lose money, given its probable bloated budget.

Jump in on the fun. It's not just about 2012, but whether films should have intrinsic artistic value. Think about the biggest blockbusters that were clearly made for money. Do some have intrinsic value and others are clearly just a moneymaking scheme? (I'm looking at you, most sequeals). In the end, both Goat and Rigg are correct, but they are arguing two very different things. A film can be a good financial move for a studio, but that does not mean that it should be held on a pedestal. Because in the end, isn't film really just art. It might be pop art or indie art, dark and forboding or light and carefree, but its meant to be shared and enjoyed with a group of people, and that, to me, means that it should have some value other than the ability to get people to pay $10 at the theatre.

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