I appreciate that cinema is an evolving creature. Most of the time I am behind that change, pushing for more forward-thinking roles for female characters or more intricate Sci-Fi universes. However, every now and again, I get a moment of nostalgia, when thinking of some forms of movies that got left behind as the movies evolved. Go back to the 70s, 80s and 90s and you will realise that there are several kind of movies that would crash and burn if someone tried to release them now.
3 – SIMPLE ACTION FILMS
There was a time, when to release an action film all you need was a consistent story and some explosions. Let’s model this example around the first Die Hard, which is one of the best movies ever made. Why? It was simple, laid out what it wanted from its audience and achieved that. There was little need for a massive plot twist, just a hero, his family at stake (in this case, his wife), and a brilliant villain. Then all that was needed was the typical story arc of beginning, middle and end and a suitable amount of character development for John McClane.
I can see why this movie isn’t around anymore. It’s the same thing with any form of entertainment, but our brain gets accustomed to what we find exciting and seeks out the next step. It’s what drives adrenaline junkies to jump from space and break the sound barrier. If you went back to the very first roller coaster, you’ve ever ridden, I bet that you will be left feeling under-whelmed. It is the same with action movies: as cinema progressed, the simpler films like John McClane shooting up terrorists with a minimalist plot wasn’t enough. That’s why films like the Matrix were made. Although, that film too involves a lot of fighting and action, it has an intricate story to impress the audience at a deeper level.
Therefore, when film writers decide to satisfy our need for an action movie, they need to come up with a clever way of doing it. In truth, they do make simple action movies every year, but we don’t see them: they are usually straight-to-DVD and can be found in a bargain bin at a supermarket, starring an ageing action star. The only other way to make a simple action movie is to make a joke out of it, like the Expendables or Machete. However, it is not the same feeling, as both films are so over the top, it is almost as though they are constantly apologising for ever being made.
It’s a shame, because those action movies from a few decades ago were brilliant. That is why all eyes are on the fifth Die Hard movie. The only safe way to make a simple action movie that isn’t a spoof or a B-Movie is to remake one of the previous hits. And even then the writers need to come up with new, inventive ways of keeping the action fresh.
2 – EPIC SCI-FI
Star Wars has always amazed me, because when the original trilogy is broken down, they aren’t that great. The plot is basically Good vs. Evil, the dialogue is awful and the film skims over several major characters without embellishing much. Sure, in hindsight, we can look back at the menacing lizard in the Bounty Hunter line in ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and think: that is Bossk, he has an amazing back story in the Extended Universe. But these days, if a movie showed me a clip of an awesome lizard pirate and never mentioned it again, I would be livid.
I think that is one reason the prequels are so hated: the writers couldn’t pull off the same trick twice. Or if they did, the effect wasn’t as good. These days we don’t want epic Sci-Fi universes, or, more likely, when we get them, we just compare them to the great Sci-Fi of old, like Flash Gordon and Star Wars. In 2012, John Carter tried and that film was ripped to pieces.
Think of all of our modern Sci-Fis. Looper and District 9 has great universes, yet we see them through a small group of characters, creating an internal and personal look at the world around them. We are never really given the sense that there is a bigger picture out there, like we did with the Star Wars movies. In truth, part of me prefers this. With Looper, we got great character pieces and a decent Sci-Fi, whereas with Star Wars, I struggle to support Luke Skywalker, a hero with all the charisma of a toothbrush.
1 – GREAT GANGSTER MOVIES
You know what we haven’t seen in a while: a great Gangster movie. The cinema used to be full of them: the Godfather trilogy, Scarface, Goodfellas. Those movies are all epics, because they focused on an anti-hero and depicted his slow descent, often ending in madness or death.
I can hazard a good guess at why we haven’t seen a good gangster flick in a while. Highlight the word ‘slow’ in the above paragraph. The 70s and 80s had a certain style of cinema that lent itself very well to Mafia movies. They were slow and took their time, registering each emotion. I love the Godfather movies, but, in the back of my mind, I am wishing that they would hurry up. Modern cinema is just too fast-paced to really make a gangster movie like these old greats. Gangster Squad looks like it is a more action-packed film than a slow character piece and the slower, modern gangster films, like ‘American Gangster’ and ‘Public Enemies’ flopped (or even if you like them, you must admit they don’t hold a torch on ‘The Godfather’.
It is kind of a shame, but as I said, modern cinema just embarrasses itself, when it tries to replicate this type of film. In some ways, I want the genre to left alone, so the Gangster Greats can be left, untarnished by horrible re-makes and become a strong pillar of great cinema.