The death of modern blockbusters

This article was originally intended to be a review for Godzilla vs. Kong, the new entry in Legendary’s Godzilla universe. I enjoyed the movie for what it is. I paid money to watch a giant ape and a giant lizard fight, and I got that in spades. I also got a fight scene with MechaGodzilla, which is just a giant robot lizard with laser breath. This sounds awesome, right?

It is awesome. But everything else about this movie was truly awful. Every performance was clearly phoned in. Every character was annoying or forced. The writing made zero sense and unnecessary exposition bogged it down. There was a subplot with a deaf child that was slightly interesting but the acting ruined it. That’s not a fault of the child per se, but I’m tired of big-budget movies forcing child characters into movies as a cheap ploy to get the audience to care about the cute innocent kid. Yet, I overlooked all of that because that’s not what the movie is for.

Studios definitely understand this, and it’s very evident from the obviously committee-written script that they are well aware of their audience’s expectations. But if we keep writing bad scripts that loosely tie together fight scenes and images that audiences will want to see, we are inevitably making filmmaking dumber. It takes a lot of effort to make movies, especially the big-budget films where thousands of people are involved in the process. Yet for all the money put into it, it doesn’t show for Godzilla vs. Kong. It says a lot when the Godzilla movie released in 2014 looks better than the one released in 2021. Granted, there’s a pandemic and there likely wasn’t enough time to polish the visual effects. But that poses another issue of studios rushing to get films made instead of taking the time and effort to make sure the film is finished.

I felt this exact feeling for Zack Snyder’s Justice League. On its own, the movie isn’t that good. It is far too long with its four-hour runtime. It’s very melodramatic in a bad way and extremely preachy. Zack Snyder clearly has some obsession with the messiah complex but can’t seem to write it properly. There is lots of clunky dialogue and exposition. The film doesn’t look very good both in terms of visual effects and cinematography. Yet despite all this, I enjoyed it because it is so, so much better than the 2017 Joss Whedon cut of Justice League. At the very least, I got some cool scenes with The Flash, a coherent story, and character arcs that were serviceable at best. The studio, Warner Brothers, understood this and it netted them more subscribers for HBO Max, so it worked.

It’s unfortunate that we are giving studios a pass for creating clearly bad movies but giving us the bare minimum of what we want. Part of me wants to accept it and just go along for the ride. But we have to vote with our wallets and force studios to make better movies. It’s clearly not a sustainable model for the film industry, and it’s not doing any favors for creativity. If anything, it’s killing creativity.

These big-budget movies like Godzilla vs. Kong may make a lot of money, but people will get tired of seeing garbage. If that is the only material that continues to get mainstream recognition, it will not end well for the film industry. For now, though, Godzilla vs. Kong gave me good fight scenes, so I’m giving it a 4/10 instead of a 2 like it should deserve. But I’m going to stop paying money for these movies, and you should too.