Is ‘Armageddon’ Really the End?
I love movies. My whole life has been one long romance with the movies. Most of my most cherished memories were spent in a darkened theater.
I remember watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Grauman’s Chinese, “Apocalypse Now” at the Cinerama Dome and hundreds of others at my local multiplex. I was raised on the movies and, for as long as I can remember, that is what I’ve wanted to do. I thought that being involved with the creation of a film must be the most magical profession in the world. It was all I ever wanted, all I ever dreamed about.
But now I am afraid that the dream is over.
My tastes run the whole gamut of movies, from art-house releases to the works of George Romero, but trying to survive a summer that has offered “Godzilla,” “Dr. Dolittle” and “Six Days, Seven Nights” has not been easy.
There have been pleasant surprises like “The Horse Whisperer” and “Mulan,” but these have been few and far between. Like millions of people (sheep) over the long holiday weekend, I decided to watch “Armageddon.” I was prepared by the less-than-stellar reviews, but being a fan of Michael Bay’s “The Rock,” I was expecting a $145-million popcorn movie that would let me escape and have fun for 2 1/2 hours.
Did I like the movie? Let’s just say I’ve had more fun at the proctologist.
For years I have believed that the introduction of MTV marked the beginning of the end for movies, and now I am convinced that the end is finally here. Gone are human characters and coherent storytelling, replaced by obnoxious morons spouting stupid one-liners and a visual style that caters to adolescents with the attention span of about three seconds.
I know that many film historians will say that “Jaws” and “Star Wars” brought a blockbuster mentality to Hollywood and that it is directors like Lucas and Spielberg who are responsible for the mess today, but I disagree.
Of course, these two landmark films did begin the blockbuster era, but they were wonderful bits of cinema that excited and thrilled us and made us fall in love with characters and sights and sounds that explored the possibility of what movies could do. Sheriff Brody and Han Solo have given way to Harry Stamper and his entourage of imbeciles.
Why must our heroes be such stupid jerks? And if they’re not stupid, they most certainly are obnoxious (which helps explain the sudden rise of Will Smith). I know these “heroes” are supposed to represent the average Joe, but if the average Joe is someone who would go to a strip club and get into a fight with a tattooed biker on the eve of his blastoff into space to save the world, one wonders what is worth saving. What we want are real and sympathetic characters who are placed in danger and peril but manage to escape with strength, wit and brains. I’ll never forget the entire audience roaring with laughter as Indiana Jones calmly guns down the huge Arab swordsman in “Raiders.” Classic cinema moments like that are replaced with a cab being driven out of Godzilla’s mouth or a space buggy implausibly being jumped Evel Kneivel-style over a huge asteroid canyon. Are these fun? No, they’re stupid. They’re examples of dumb, lazy writing that caters to an audience of morons who will repeatedly shell out eight bucks until any shred of intelligence has been removed from the movie equation.
But whom do we blame? Ourselves, of course. If we didn’t support these awful films, Hollywood wouldn’t be in such a hurry to shove them down our throats. The problem is that for every person who hated “Godzilla,” there is someone who liked it (OK, so maybe “Godzilla” is a bad example).
At the screening of “Armageddon,” plenty of viewers were eating it up. They laughed at all the stupid behavior and cheered when the world was saved. So maybe Hollywood isn’t dumbing down the films after all. . . . Maybe Hollywood is just sinking to the level of the average inhabitant of the planet. If this is the case, I hope that when the real asteroid is heading our way, we just clear a path and let the chips fall.
Is there a solution? We all know that the bottom line is the almighty dollar and we can’t argue that Hollywood shouldn’t try to make as much money as it can. But Monday morning conversations now revolve around which film made the most money over the weekend instead of the films themselves.
High-concept is not necessarily a bad concept, but it is time for Hollywood to realize that good high-concept movies will always make more than bad ones (“Independence Day” being an exception).
It is time to start making intelligent movies with smart characters and believable situations. If a completely moronic movie like “Twister” can make $200 million, just think of how much money it could have made if it was any good. Stop aiming your sights so low. As “Titanic” proved, with a good film, the sky’s the limit.
Am I being unrealistic or even selfish? Maybe I am, but that is not my intention. And I know that I am not alone. There are millions of people on this planet who eat and dream movies just like me, but for every effort like “Armageddon,” there is dream like mine that is being snuffed out.