Does Hollywood Really Know What’s Best For Us?

We’ve all heard the phrase before, the idea that Hollywood films do well because at the end of the day, they do their market research and they learn what audiences want. But do they really have it down? Can all audiences ever be truly happy with mainstream media?

There is a growing trend of Hollywood films no longer being based upon original screenplays or even original ideas. Let’s take a look at three current popular films; Rogue One, Assassin’s Creed and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Of these, the first is sequel (or a prequel… what do you call a film that is both a sequel and a prequel to existing films?!), the second is a film based on a video game, and the third is a spinoff of a multi-billion dollar franchise that encompasses pretty much every kind of media you can imagine. Why is that? Well, long story short, it’s because they’ve already proven to be successful and, most importantly, profitable.

The only popular film out at the minute that is an original idea is Passengers and it stars two of the biggest names in film right now; Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. No doubt, most of the buzz around this film is going to come from their combined built-in audience. So, what does Hollywood have against original films? Some bring in a lot of revenue, but Hollywood hardly ever takes chances. But what we really want to know is, does Hollywood do this because they truly know what we, the audience is going to want?

Let’s look at the example of the Star Wars films. An original concept, Star Wars is universally loved. Well, episodes 4-6 definitely are, less can be said for the prequels (let’s just put the Disney ones aside for a moment). There is quite a disconnect between the two trilogies, to put it mildly, and there is a reason for this. The first Star Wars films, although pioneered by George Lucas, had the most Hollywood influence. Before A New Hope, Lucas was unheard of, the studio wasn’t going to allow him his full creative license. But after the success of Star Wars, when the prequels were being planned, Lucas was allowed to exercise more of his right as a director. Of course, he’s nowhere near being a bad director, but let’s just say that Jar Jar Binks was cut from the first three episodes…

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Source: dorksideoftheforce.com

As we all know, Jar Jar is not the most acclaimed character. It was the studio’s decision to have him cut the first time around, so do they really know what we like to see on screen? The most recent Star Wars films, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, have done even better, Rogue One being one of the most commercially successful films of 2016, despite only being out for 16 days of the year.  Star Wars is now owned by Disney, a company that knows how to make money, they do what they do very well.

Another example of this is Inception. This film was very experimental, and would, arguably, have not been taken up by the studio if it wasn’t for the fact that Christopher Nolan had already established himself as an acclaimed Hollywood director. But many would argue that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it takes away any of the cultural value, pop culture is of course, still a culture. Sure, it’s unlikely that Hollywood can keep everyone happy, but the numbers speak for themselves.

The problem here, is more about consumerism itself and the grip it has over modern arts and entertainment. Maybe there is issue with Hollywood being the main source of film, overshadowing independent productions and buying out competitions, but the rise of the internet and consumer-made media is helping to combat this. It’s clear however, that whatever is happening, as long as there are people who enjoy it, there will always be a place for it.

RIP, Carrie Fisher, thank you for being such an inspiration to many people, you will be truly missed. May the force be with you.

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Batgirl is NOT Your Toy

Batman: The Killing Joke adds a prologue about Batgirl and Batman that isn’t seen in the comics, should we applaud the extra storyline or condemn its representation of Batgirl?

*SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers from the recent DC animated film, Batman: The Killing Joke and may also include comic book canon outside of the source material.*

It is arguable by some that many female comic book characters are sexist, but many others justify this by the times in which they were published  or individual character traits themselves. The big issue is representation and when characters are changed to portray sexist ideals. Female characters are built up with traits that are a common representation of women, thus perpetuating a certain idea of “femininity”. However, we would argue that the latter problem is more infuriating, when female characters are fundamentally changed to create an image of submission that is out of character, especially with the case of Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) in The Killing Joke film.

Now, let’s make a distinction between the comic book source material that we saw in the second half of the film (which was excellent and true to the story), and this prologue that was created seemingly out of nowhere for the first 30 minutes of the film. We know that atrocious things happen to Barbara in The Killing Joke, she is shot through the spine and The Joker assaults her by taking compromising photos of her while she is incapacitated and sending them to her father, Jim Gordon. As awful as that is, it is a justifiable storyline based upon the characters in question. The Killing Joke serves as away to see The Joker in two lights; in sympathy and in disgust. We see both his backstory and motivation, the reason he is the way he is, but we also see that he is evil and an all-around bad person. The point of the story is that he wants to “prove a point” to Batman and Jim Gordon, that all people snap and do awful things when the world is unfair to them. This is possibly the worst thing about him, as he justifies his cruelty and thinks of revenge as something wholly human.

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moviepilot.com

However, Barbara’s injuries lay the groundwork in her becoming Oracle, giving outside intel to Batman from her lair when she can no longer go out and be Batgirl due to her paralysis. This gives her power despite her disability and is truly empowering to see and in-keeping with what we know and love about Batgirl. She is a strong female character, a trait she is showcasing constantly, yet in the prologue of the film, she’s seen in a completely different light.

It is appreciated that the creators wanted to add extra content to the film, but it felt like the first half was unnecessary and it ruins Batgirl. This story shows a relationship between Batman and Batgirl, painting Batgirl as a subservient character to the will of The Almighty Batman™. Of course, romantic love is not the problem here at all, love is amazing, but the fact that love is always used to weaken women while it builds up men is frankly quite preposterous. This added with the notion that every woman needs a romantic relationship while men do not, makes for an unbalanced and unfair representation of women.

This is frustrating for many reasons and the list keeps getting longer as you carry on watching. As mentioned earlier, it shows a completely out of character Batgirl, but also, Batman and Batgirl are never together in the comic books; this relationship was pretty much entirely fabricated. At times Batgirl has been seen as the love interest of Nightwing, not Batman, so it’s not even like this can be justified by the fact that they are in a relationship, if you could even call it that. Barbara spends 30 minutes of the film pining after Batman, something she just would not do. Ms Gordon is the kind of woman who would assert her feelings. She does not pine.

Furthermore, this seemingly one-sided love affair escalates into Batman and Batgirl having sex, right after an argument about Batman being controlling (because obviously even though she is a strong independent woman, she secretly likes the fact that Batman is a domineering d***head). And if this wasn’t enough to make you cringe, after their encounter Barbara Gordon gives up her role as Batgirl just because she and Batman are on different pages. She literally gives up her power and individuality because of a man.

If you still think this is all absolutely fine and in character, note the period joke (yes, there is a “time of the month” joke and it is completely tasteless), the complete lack of any sort of character from Batgirl except the overwhelmingly strong “I love Batman sooooo much, I want him to be mine and I’ll give up everything just for him to notice me!” vibe, but most importantly, please note that this entire backstory has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE KILLING JOKE.

Yes, that’s right, this 30 minutes of pining after an out of date yoghurt (Batman is great but sometimes he’s basically a dairy product past its sell-by date) is irrelevant and adds nothing to the actual story. It’s awful to write such a one-sided article when the actual Killing Joke content was brilliant, but there was just nothing redeemable about that story, and that’s not even breaking into the extra sexualisation of Batgirl through another character’s obsession with her. If you can overlook these discrepancies and focus on the second half then Batman: The Killing Joke is a genius addition to the line of DC animated films. If you can’t get over this, then Batman: The Killing Joke is just one huge joke.

What do you think about Batman: The Killing Joke? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Are Trailers Ruining Films?

More and more it seems apparent that Hollywood are showing us the best parts of a film in a trailer to get us to that all important opening weekend. But is this perpetuating a disappointment in the actual substance of recent superhero films?

Lately, I have found that the spark the cinema-going experience has been somewhat dulled by something I couldn’t quite specifically fathom. At first I thought it was age. Some of you will be familiar with the four quadrant model that dictates the four main audience demographics; men over 25, men under 25, women under 25 and women over 25. The more squares a film hits, the higher the likelihood of its popularity.

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screencraft.org

However, the “easiest” two quadrants are males and females under 25, so most blockbusters aim to please this demographic. I may not be over 25 yet, but I did do Film Studies for two years and it left me quite cynical, so my first thought was that I had grown disinterested in Hollywood film and superheroes and action and fun and I was going to die alone and boring, because that’s what happens when you become a grown-up.  And then I suddenly felt like Tom Hanks in that Carly Rae Jepsen video. As I clung to the fragments of my youth, I watched every single superhero film that came out in my lifetime (yes, that includes the 2008 Incredible Hulk).

But then I made a very crucial revelation at this point, out of the recent superhero films (Batman Vs Superman, Deadpool etc) none of them I thought were bad, I actually really enjoyed them. So what made me initially disappointed? What had already happened to make me disinterested in the actual source material? THE TRAILERS!

By this, I mean that the experience of the trailers can sometimes eclipse the film itself. Yet, a good trailer usually reflects a good film, (of course there are always anomalies). What other factors are at play here? Now, the Deadpool trailers were absolutely brilliant, but upon reflecting on the actual film, I found that I couldn’t laugh out loud, as I felt I’d already experienced it. Several times. Whereas, with the Batman Vs Superman trailers, I felt they were on par with the film. But I didn’t dislike Deadpool, not even a little bit. It was absolute gold.

At this point maybe we can deduce that genre has an impact on this. With comedy, you’re likely only to get the desired reaction the first time you see the material. Even with great comedians like Peter Kay, who you can watch over and over and still laugh at, if you see it too many times consecutively, it can get old fast. Then you have to wait what seems like an age to be able to enjoy it again. With Deadpool being largely a comedy film, hearing the jokes several times before seeing the film took away some of the value and novelty of it. But with Batman Vs Superman, the attempt at comedy was minute and it focussed on action, offering a very different relationship between trailer and film.

In addition to this, many argued that putting Wonder Woman in the Batman Vs Superman Trailer took away what could have been an epic twist. However, other said that using her as a selling point was a smart move for DC, as they’ve been getting a lot of flack lately for not being as far on with their cinematic universe as Marvel is. Using Wonder Woman as a tool to increase revenue for the opening weekend undoubtedly helped them, but there wasn’t much else that could be described as novelty present in the canon of the film itself.

When this is compared to the Suicide Squad trailers for DC’s upcoming summer blockbuster, there is significant shift. Obviously excluding Will Smith (Deadshot), Jared Leto (Joker) is credited most often on posters and such, however, he is hardly present in the trailers. On the other hand, Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) is extremely prevalent throughout, while being second to last in the list of main cast members. This makes it feel like DC are using Jared Leto’s name and star power to sell the film but are restricting the imagery of the Joker as a kind of secrecy tactic to increase buzz, because that’s really who everyone wants to see. Whereas, the image of Harley Quinn/ Margot Robbie is more notable as Robbie has been in the public eye in the recent past with American Hustle and other successful films, and Harley Quinn is often forgotten from popular media.

Overall, yes a good film is often mirroring a good trailer, but the tactical use of star power and imagery can manipulate the audience response. Also, different genres of film seem to gauge different trailer/film paradigms which can shift with time. Ultimately, the trailers generate a lot of buzz (or lack thereof) and it’s up to you to decide how involved you are in the advertising of media.

Do you think trailers add or take away from the novelty of film-going?

Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

 

The Force Awakens

Star Wars fanatics unite for the first teaser trailer for the newest instalment in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Back in 2005 when Revenge of the Sith was released, everyone was certain that was the end of the Star Wars films. But then, Lucasfilm got bought out by Disney nearly seven years later, and we’re all aware of Disney’s fixation when it comes to franchising, so hope for the fandom was reborn. Although technically, does this make Princess Leia a Disney Princess?

First of all, the title has finally been confirmed. Fans have been speculating about the title of this film for years now, it has often been referred to as simply ‘Episode VII’ but now we have an actual title to go with. This could possibly signify something about the storyline or more simply, the reawakening of the franchise.

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The second thing that has been confirmed is the time frame of the film. It is going to be set about thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi. This means that it will keep in with the theme of having the episodes in chronological order. This also means that they have factored in the ages of the actors in George Lucas’ trilogy so there won’t be any anomalies in the film.

In the trailer, we see a new kind of lightsaber, with a kind of cross on it. This could signify some sort of evolution of technology which will be exciting to see. Even people who aren’t fans of Star Wars have to admit, that lightsaber looks awesome. Fans will also be pleased to note the return of the Millennium Falcon.

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Furthermore, it has been confirmed that J.J. Abrams will be directing The Force Awakens, although it isn’t known whether he’ll be doing this entire instalment of films. It has also been established that he has co-written the screenplay, which is surely going to have fans clamouring for more.

Some of the actors have already been confirmed, including British actress, Daisy Ridley. She was largely unknown before her casting and is rumoured to be playing Han Solo and Princess Leia’s grown-up daughter in the film.

Daisy Ridley

Until the release of the film in 2015, may the Force be with you!

Watch the trailer here:

Five Things to Think About Before Avengers: Age of Ultron

Five things that will break all Marvel fans regarding the Age of Ultron teaser trailer.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer got released a week earlier than expected, exciting all us Marvelites. My friends and I were in London at the time and we scrambled around for wifi in the hotel when we heard, squealing to the extent that our teacher came and told us off… By the end we were quite literally hiding behind the furniture. Here I will list five things in the trailer that are sure to give you so many feels you’ll be rocking back and forth.

1) The Hulkbuster/ Bruce Banner in a straitjacket

If you aren’t aware of what the Hulkbuster is, it’s basically an Iron Man style suit that Tony Stark built in order to restrain The Hulk should it run wild. It’s seen in Iron Man when Obidiah strikes Tony and harnesses the power of the arc reactor. Long story short, when the Hulkbuster is present, shit is going down – it’s a last resort protocol. Furthermore, Bruce was in a straightjacket. As a dedicated Avengers fan and a general Bruce devotee, this broke my heart because it can only mean he’s having trouble controlling The Hulk.

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2) Captain America’s shield split in two

Another thing that broke my heart because I absolutely love Cap, is the shot of his shield broken in half. The shield is made of Vibranium, an unbreakable material so naturally, my reaction was: HOW?! This image was probably used in the trailer to provoke this response and to make the villain seem even stronger and more intimidating. The sad truth is that Marvel is going to kill off Captain America in the near future (yeah I don’t want to think about it either), most likely in the third Captain America film, so this could possibly be his weak point leading to his demise.

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3) Natasha’s past

When we see ballet cuts, it can only mean one thing: Natasha Romanoff’s backstory. Fans have been craving this since the first Avengers film and now we’re finally getting somewhere. This is sure to provoke intense emotion and really rivet audiences.

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4) The Thor/Iron Man confrontation

At one point in the trailer, we see Tony Stark get attacked by Thor. This suggests a conflict in the group dynamic. As a fan there’s nothing more crushing than when the strongest members of the team are sparring, especially with the Avengers when they work so well as a unit and you just want to scream at them and make them work together…

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5) Ultron sounds like a distorted JARVIS

For those who don’t know, the baddie of Age of Ultron is going to be a being called Ultron, created by Tony Stark that manifests inside his own supercomputer, JARVIS. When you listen to Ultron’s voice, he sounds like a very distorted version of JARVIS, like he’s still in there somewhere. I for one found this very disturbing and feels-provoking.

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The Avengers: Age of Ultron will undeniably render all fangirls speechless; I just hope we get some more answers soon!

Watch The Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer here:

Kubrick Directs Everything!

Is there really a distinction between film buffs and people who like going to the cinema? A journey into modern films vs classic films.

So, I’m a person who likes things. One of these things is film. So when I had the opportunity to take Film Studies when I started college last September, I took it. Because why not study something you love? It seemed like the best way forward.

About two weeks in and I felt a bit out of my depth. The people in my class and my teacher watched real films. Gritty films from before any of us were actually born. At this point I had my favourite films down as things like The Avengers and Harry Potter (they’re still there, don’t worry) but it seemed like everyone else in there was that much more cultured that myself.

That got me questioning everything I thought I knew about film. There was this whole other world I hadn’t even thought of exploring before. I mean, old films are great, but I’d never met a sixteen year old who would go out and seek them.  It hadn’t really occurred to me to watch other things. But, y’know, you go to college to learn so hey, it won’t be so bad if I don’t know all these arthouse films or names of directors.

A few months in, we watched a film called The Killing (Kubrick, ’56). It’s black and white and I coined from the start I wouldn’t understand it right away. I had no idea who Stanley Kubrick was. I dismissed it as just an ‘old film’. Because obviously people who like Marvel films hate black and white crime film-noirs, right? (Wrong, but we’ll get to that later).

The Killing Film Poster

The first time I saw it, it didn’t really make any sense to me. I’m pretty bad with character names in any film but take away the colour and I’m truly terrible.  I had no clue what Kubrick was trying to say with this, I hadn’t even watched any classic noir films.  Yawn, booring. When do we get to the fun stuff?!

A few days later, I read an excerpt in Empire about the greatest films ever made. I recognised about half. 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining leapt out at me, because both of those films are awesome. And next to those titles was the director. And what do you know; both were directed by Stanley Kubrick. I had made absolutely no connection between any of those films before. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a science fiction drama and The Shining is a horror that 9/10 people rate. But they both share a common ground of being directed by Kubrick.

So I re-watched The Killing, I think I appreciated it more the second time around, and I realised that there isn’t really a line between old films and new ones. I learned to appreciate old films and while I still love my action-packed, modern Hollywood rip-offs, I can still enjoy classic films.

My point is that there shouldn’t be a divide between film fans. You’re not uncultured if you don’t watch a certain kind of film. Yes, I now love old films, but it’s in my nature to like things. Basically, you define how much of a fan you are, not anyone else. I’m just happy film exists and I know that modern Hollywood wouldn’t be what it is now without the likes of Kubrick, Tarantino and Hawks.

People often get pigeon-holed as uncultured for liking modern films, I know I do. But does it really matter? We share a common ground in some director, some archetype, some actor, and I for one, think that’s amazing.

The Facts In Our Stars

Box office hit “The Fault in Our Stars” based on the New York Times bestseller novel by John Green, fuelled by internet community: Nerdfighteria.

Many of you will have heard of, if not seen, the tragic love story of two teens suffering from cancer, Hazel and Gus. “The Fault in Our Stars” has gained $237 million in less than two months which would seem surprising as, at a glance, it seems to be more suited to a niche audience. However, this niche has been propelled to extraordinary heights by the vast internet community called Nerdfighteria.

This community was founded upon a YouTube channel run by John Green and his brother, Hank, the Vlogbrothers. This started out as the two brothers sending each other videos via YouTube in a fun attempt to keep visual contact instead of written. Little did they know that their mixture of humour and breaching topics that are normally never explained in day-to-day life would bring in such a huge and varied audience. Soon after realising this, the Green brothers began to tailor their topics to include subjects such as explaining politics and overseas situations in a simplified manner in order to educate as well as entertain. Now the channel has over two million subscribers and counting.

Some people may be turned off by the fact that Nerdfighteria sounds like a cult following, but John and Hank’s aims have been purely good. Nerdfighters work to decrease “worldsuck” or bad things that happen in the world and their slogan is “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome!” (DFTBA) which portrays just how tight and loving this community really is.

Nerdfighter Motto

This group of fans have helped to spread John’s literature and now the film; it can only be compared to a self-made viral campaign. Many fans of “The Fault in Our Stars” were apprehensive about the film, as with such a delicate storyline, readers were afraid it may become too commercialised and lose it’s essence as a book. On the contrary, the film has been dubbed “the most faithful book-to-film adaptation”, proving that director, Josh Boone, stayed true to John’s vision as a writer.

So while it seems that pop culture has a seemingly large negative influence on young people, it’s nice to know that communities like Nerdfighteria still exist and play a large part in our society and surely will for ages to come.

Watch an introductory Vlogbrothers video right here: