Are Blockbuster Movies the Future of Cinema?


(Jason Boit/The Observer)
(Jason Boit/The Observer)

Blockbuster movies are a cheap way for movie studios to cater to their markets, without really subscribing to the public’s true demands. These movies are mass-produced manifestations of trendy pop culture themes, and over time, simply dissolve into short-lived toys and Halloween costumes. Blockbuster movies as a genre do not attempt to solve any large intellectual questions: Successful pieces of cinematic art that remain relevant through generations of viewers and discussions survive because they relate in some way to the personal lives and visions of both the people who produce and enjoy them.

When BBC News interviewed Disney’s chief executive Robert Iger for an article on blockbuster movies and the film industry on Nov. 6, he stated that “the five Marvel movies that Disney has released since 2009 […] have averaged [one billion dollars] in worldwide box office sales.” I understand that a large company such as Disney would want to boost their revenue quickly and efficiently, but at what cost?

Disney gained its early popularity through works of art. The animated classics such as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella” and “Alice in Wonderland” were brilliantly crafted pieces that gave new life to old fairy tales. By translating these stories into simply engaging visual media, the animators and producers attracted both imaginative children and cultured adults. People marveled at the animators’ talents, just as they admired a beautiful Renaissance painting. However, this popularity has transformed the art of animation across all studios (not just Disney) into a simple vehicle for crude humor and clichéd lines. More colloquial scripts lead to less poignant films. Nowadays, with new animation (not including overhyped sequels), I find myself wondering what poor domestic species of garden rodent is going to be sent on a wild goose chase next. But as long as the film studios can produce movies that make quick money, what should they care if the film has no intellectual impact on audiences? As long as parents download the iTunes file, what do they care if the movie is only played once, and then forgotten?

Lots of moviegoers are very open to emotionally challenging content. I would much rather watch nuanced plot developments, rather than soap-opera scenarios and tired dialogues that not even the actors find funny. And I know that others agree with me. This can be seen in the television industry, a first cousin—as an art form—to the film industry. Television shows with complex story lines such as “House of Cards” (U.S.), “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” are popular because audiences desire to be pulled out of their daily monotony and extend their imaginations through the characters. Discussion boards and fan fiction blogs evidence how people analyze these shows like classic literature.

If television shows can have popular and challenging plots, why can’t films? Movies have an easier time with touching their audiences because they are compact. The screenplay contains the whole story and is quickly enjoyed by audiences who are too busy for weekly television dramas. Furthermore, the desire for the films to live up to the imaginative expectations of audiences is relevant to today’s viewers. My friends’ Tumblr blogs romanticize Avengers characters, giving Tony Stark a tortured soul and Loki a loving heart. Fans create relationships between mass market characters that never even shared a second glance on screen. The public’s  creation of these nuances and additional storylines show their dissatisfaction with what is presented to them on the screen, and that audiences are capable of more than just mindless digestion of simple plots and deserve better content from these easily accessed blockbuster productions. If audiences can produce these situations, is it so impossible for studios to do the same?

Because of their studio backing, blockbuster movies are always going to attract more viewers than their independent counterparts. But it is chiefly because of their wide reach that the men and women behind the scenes of these films have an obligation to create something long-lasting: American culture requires movies that are commercially grounded, but they must still value the minds of the audience.