Hollywood has sold out. Not that I have a problem with that, but this is an argument that has no rebuttal. Thought-provoking cinema has been replaced with one-size-fits-all fairy tales. You’ve got the hero, the distressed damsel (no matter how tough she initially seems), and the happy ending. Nothing less, but rarely anything more.
Most of the time, especially for the big-budget behemoths, we know what we’re getting into. Frowns are the last thing you expect when you walk into Man of Steel or Star Trek into Darkness. You’re certain that you’ll be leaving that theater with a cheek-to-cheek grin and some serious hope for humanity. It’s part of the draw, really. Who doesn’t want that feeling?
I’m even going to throw out the name World War Z. You might be slightly reluctant to accept the idea, but honestly, were zombies really going to take over the world, leaving humanity (and you in the process) in utter disarray? Don’t be ridiculous. Further proving my claims was the studio’s decision to rewrite most of the film’s third act. Instead of meeting up with his family for a quasi-happily ever after (considering they’re still in the midst of a zombie apocalypse), Brad Pitt’s character was originally supposed to join an anti-Z military squad in Moscow while his wife (Mireille Enos) literally became a soldier’s whore in order to secure her family’s protection.
Gee, I wonder why that was changed…
This is why today’s movies are so easily predictable. We have expectations, and Hollywood seeks to meet them. Usually, the last thing they want to do is disappoint the masses. And if you just read that last line in a fiery rage, you’re not the masses. Nobody cares about you.
In any case, it’s this expectation on the part of the audience that degrades would-be tear-jerking moments, such as Captain Kirk’s (Chris Pine) heroic death, into nothing more than filler. We know what’s going to happen. We know that you’re not going to let us leave that theater without those highly coveted Hollywood butterflies. So why bother adding this scene?
I used to rationalize that it was good for character development, but with Robert Downey Jr.’s subpar representation of post-traumatic stress in Iron Man 3, I’ve changed my mind. I mean, really? It almost seemed like he was mocking anxiety attacks. He shook like he was hyped up on some kind of hallucinogen and always managed to recover within the minute.
One of the biggest, most drawn-out unnecessary scenes took place in Marvel’s the Avengers. I was less than impressed by, and hardly invested in, Tony Stark’s (Downey Jr.) supposed one-way trip to deadsville. “But he faced his imminent death by selflessly transporting the nuclear warhead into the Chitauri’s home world.”
He had already signed on for Iron Man 3. Also, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and even Mark Ruffalo were confirmed for sequels or in talks to make them. Thus, we knew that absolutely nothing interesting was going to happen in this movie from the get-go. No (important/likable) characters would die; the good guys would win; high fives all around. Even Phil Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) death, the only shred of reality in this fantasy film, was fake. I remember seeing the first trailer for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and just shrugging. Bringing him back was pathetic. I would usually insert a derogatory term chastising the company for their uninspired move, but your mind is likely more creative than mine. Regardless, Marvel really is a huge (insert highly appropriate obscenity here) for rewriting this crap.
In the end, Iron Man and Agent Coulson’s would-be deaths were filler, just like Kirk’s. They were cheap ploys to petition your investment. First of all, we all knew RDJ’s character would survive, so lobbying for tears was asinine. Coulson’s passing was heartfelt enough. It propelled the film forward. But his cop-out resurrection was as disappointing as the Mandarin’s (Ben Kingsley) joke of a reveal. This sort of betrayal is the same issue (if you want to call it that) that plagues comic books:
“Superman’s dead!” Nope. “Batman’s gone!” Uh-uh. “Captain America is totally dead.” I’d like to quote Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley) from Scrubs on this one, simply because I rarely have the opportunity to do so: “Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. You’re wrong!”
I love comic books. I always make sure to pick up a few titles every month just to keep up with the characters. But those issues, the ones in which characters die, they’re filler. We know these characters will pull an Arnold Schwarzenneger and be back soon enough. And in an age when IMDb is king, movie writers should learn from the mistakes of their 2D counterparts. Be honest about the inevitable victory and don’t take away our icons, regardless of the time period. Stop throwing in these lies. They’re not misleading, and they don’t instill doubt; we as the audience just know. Respect us.