Have the world-destroying stakes in movies become too high?

Feature Ryan Lambie 12 Sep 2013 - 07:17

Are we growing weary of exploding cities, Ryan wonders, and does the world really need to be under threat in our summer films?

"Some men just want to watch the world burn," Alfred Pennyworth sagely noted in 2008's The Dark Knight, which is something plenty of us have spent this summer doing in our local multiplex.

In Man Of Steel, we watched something resembling a giant lemon squeezer - one of Zod's "world machines" - pulverise a fair portion of downtown Metropolis over and over again. Star Trek Into Darkness contained loving moments of citywide destruction, while World War Z was a global disaster movie presided over by a hippy-haired Brad Pitt.

These scenes of catastrophe are nothing new, of course, and neither are we saying that we haven't enjoyed them. But city-levelling disasters have really shot to prevalence again in the last couple of years, with The Avengers concluding with a devastating attack on New York, and fair chunks of this October's Thor: The Dark World devoted to the wholesale destruction of London landmarks.

This so-called "destruction porn" was mentioned in a recent and much-shared interview by Damon Lindelof, who argued that these scenes of city flattening had become a necessary but unfortunate by-product of blockbuster filmmaking.

“We live in a commercial world, where you’ve gotta come up with ‘trailer moments’ and make the thing feel big and impressive and satisfying, especially in that summer-movie-theater construct,” Lindelof said in an interview with Vulture.“But ultimately I do feel—even as a purveyor of it—slightly turned off by this destruction porn that has emerged and become very bold-faced this past summer. And again, guilty as charged. It’s hard not to do it, especially because a movie, if properly executed, feels like it’s escalating.”

With film studios making fewer yet ever more expensive movies, there appears to be a concerted effort to top each summer hit with yet more grand spectacle, and yet more chaotic action. Hollywood's current appetite for destruction even led to an interesting Twitter conversation a few days ago, which posed the following question: would a relatively breezy, small-scale movie like Back To The Future (originally released in July 1985 in the US) be released in the summer of 2013? Would such a film even be given a greenlight in modern Hollywood?

It's a thought-provoking question, and ties in quite neatly with a recent interview with Riddick director David Twohy. After the disappointing box office of 2004's The Chronicles Of Riddick made Universal reluctant to greenlight a sequel, writer and director Twohy, along with star Vin Diesel, made a concerted effort to get a cheaper, independently-produced follow-up in the works under their own steam.

Through a series of cunning deals and sheer guile, Twohy and Diesel managed to make Riddick, and unusually, made it without studio interference. But even here, Twohy mentioned while talking to the Huffington Post that he was put under a certain amount of pressure to up the stakes for the story's characters.

"I've been in those meetings, too," Twohy said. "Where it's, 'We have to up the stakes. We have to give it a ticking clock' ... So, I hope that Riddick, if nothing else, feels a little more handmade than factory-made. That's what I set out to do and Vin was certainly along for that ride, too."

Film producers, it seems, are becoming increasingly nervous when films focus on personal rather than global stakes - in other words, a dramatic situation about a high school kid trying to get his parents back together in 50s small town America is deemed far less saleable than a UN operative trying to find a cure for a global zombie epidemic. To put it in Damon Lindelof's terms, "Once you spend more than $100 million on a movie, you have to save the world." 

What seems to be forgotten by nervous studio executives, however, is that it's the personal stakes in a movie that really hold an audience's interest; without an attachment to the drama of distinct individuals, the wholesale destruction just becomes so much moving wallpaper.

It's worth noting, for example, that Lindelof's reworked ending for World War Z takes the (rather disjointed) narrative away from the widescreen devastation of the rest of the film, and focuses instead on a low-key drama in a medical facility. Now, part of this decision may have been simple budget watching, but Lindelof may have also rightly calculated that the ending had to focus more closely on Brad Pitt's character if it was to have any real dramatic impact. Even Star Trek Into Darkness, full of action though it was, also focused on a personal vendetta.

If you want to look at the difference between an exciting movie that works because of the recognisable drama the characters face, and one where the characters are lost among the action, simply compare the original Die Hard with this year's hideous A Good Day To Die Hard. The once relatable John McClane has been reduced to little more than a terse macho placeholder, while the plot - which has something to do with Uranium - flatly refuses to get going.

Had Back To The Future been proposed as a movie for the summer of 2013, it's not improbable that nervous studio executives would have lobbied for a more dramatic scenario than a teenager repairing the damage to his own personal history. Would they have pushed for a more intense race-against-time ending, where Marty has to save the world from nuclear war, terrorists or even alien invaders? We can only shudder at the thought.

No, it's the relative intimacy, and the warmth of its characters and drama, that makes Back To The Future the cherished film it is. The better question, perhaps, is whether summer films will go back to that style of storytelling in the near future, and how much bigger the action scenes in our summer films will get before audience fatigue sets in. There's certainly an argument that said fatigue has already begun to arrive; earlier this year, the father of the summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg, even warned of a coming "implosion" among a certain brand of mainstream film.

"There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground," Spielberg said, "and that's going to change the paradigm."

This may come to pass, or it could be that the trend for high-stakes films passes, and a smaller-scale kind of film takes their place. It's likely that, eventually, we'll all become tired of watching the world burn for the umpteenth time, and demand to see something different from our summer movies.

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I think the main thing lacking in blockbusters nowadays is a sense of fun, and this article is just one example of why. They all rely on big overlong visual effects or action pieces, but as an audience member you don't get anything out of them, because you've seen the same thing time and time again.
Films like The Avengers and The Dark Knight are great and all, but compare them to Back to the Future or Jurassic Park and you just don't have a fun, positive feeling coming out of them. Much as I like both films a lot, The Avengers is a big CGI spectacular and the other is a very dark and serious film, so if I was feeling depressed I wouldn't watch either of those to make me feel better, I'd watch Back to the Future.
This is really why I find myself being put off by so many films nowadays, many look great, but I've seen it all before. Maybe it's me getting older, but even so I find myself enjoying older blockbusters much more, even ones I hadn't seen until recently.

It depends how you define fun. The Avengers had plenty of little moments of wit, compared to the almost humourless TDK.

The best bits of Man of Steel were the character driven moments, especially with Clarke in his exile years and all the interaction with Costner and Crowe. The rest was just like watching someone playing a video game.

2012 (the film, not the year) proved that falling down buildings and big splosions do not a good film make (although that film is a bit of a guilty pleasure which is a lot more fun than the po-faced destruction on display in MoS).

I'd argue that The Avengers was a film that truly earned the big city-destroying finale, because of the scale of power involved, you need to unleash it. It also helped massively that the city battle scene in that film had some roof-raising moments of humour - the audience in my screening laughed so loud at the Loki rag doll, no one even heard the "Puny God!" line.

Other films, not so much - especially where things like Man of Steel are concerned. The final battle in MoS was just a load of noise and clutter which did nothing but deaden the senses - you have no real sense of contrast or scale, or the stakes (and no, cutting to some imperiled bit-part characters who have only previously appeared on screen for twenty seconds does not count as 'stakes'!).

Thing is, people have become so inured to all this bombast and explosion-centric set-pieces that when a film like Dredd comes along that does things on a far smaller scale with more personal stakes it is widely criticised for that.

I sort of agree, but I'd argue that of all the blockbusters I saw this summer, it was only Pacific Rim that got anywhere near that kind of old-fashioned charm - that sense of awe and wonder you get from films like Jurassic Park (which, don't forget, is a film built around cgi and set pieces too).

By far the best bit in the entire film was the cute exchange between Lois and Clark at the end when she says "Welcome to the 'Planet'". Could have done with 8000% more of that kind of thing and 8000% less exploding buildings and angst.

Super 8 had the sense of fun - but then again that was directly paying homage to those films of the 80s and early 90s!

I don't understand what people have against the destruction in Man of Steel. If 2 super-beings with that much power are fighting, chances are they are going to destroy the things around them. It was a logical choice in that particular film, as it was with the Avengers. With many films it seems a bit forced but MoS was definitely not one of them.

Also, Back to the Future would not get made today because it is fun. Fun films have disappeared from our screens, everything is moody and brooding these days. Remember when kids films were fun, like Goonies. Compare that to the moaning teens we have in films now.

I just have to say that I love your last paragraph. I'm always making that point. I'm so done with the "dark" trend. I don't know when "tormented", "sad", "traumatized" and "moody" became the definition of "mature" and "complex". I don't know why happyness and a good laugh can't be mature or interesting. I think that's why, even though it's not the best superheroe movie from the last years at all, Captain America is still my favourite. I liked how it was a bit more realistic and a bit darker than old movies, while still keeping that idealized, romantic air about it.

Oh, for me it was definitely The Lone Ranger. I didn't even think it was that good, but I had a great time!

I think they're overdoing the destruction and overlooking the scripts. Which is a mistake. I love a good explosion, but if I don't care about the city, the people or the characters, I don't care about hte movie. I don't get excited. I don't enjoy the trip.
And the fights are getting more and more confusing. I miss those nice old fights that looked like dancing, you could see the punches exactly from where they started. It was beautiful.

My problem was that all story and characterisation was dropped in favour of spectacle. In the last 40 minutes of the film there was only about 10 minutes of dialogue. And it became boring very quickly watching one person punch another person until a building fell down over and over and over again. Transformers 3 had a VERY similar final act and that was the worst part of the film too.

The MoS HISHE video hits the button right on the nose when Batman asks Superman, fresh out of defeating the Kryptonians in space, "Can you imagine if you'd had to fight those guys on land?" and Superman says "Oh my gosh! Thousands of people would have died!" which Batman follows up with "Not to mention billions of dollars worth of property damage..."

The best part about Superman past was always when brute strength failed to solve the problem so he had to use his brains to fix it - but this was just punch, punch, punch until someone's neck broke.

Avengers punctuated the destruction with witty dialogue, slapstick comedy and genuinely exciting moments of peril for the characters and I would much rather watch that again rather than endure MoS once more.

Can you imagine Die Hard where John and Karl just trade punches for the last 40 minutes on various levels of Nakatomi Plaza? Or Lethal Weapon with Riggs vs Joshua chasing each other all over the neighbourhood while Roger just tries to stay out of the way for half an hour? No - because that would be terrible - and MoS was just the superhero equivalent.

I have to strongly disagree, particularly when referencing The Avengers. I found it incredibly fun, spectacular, witty, absorbing, and it left me with the sense of joy and excitement I hadn't really experienced since I first saw Jurassic Park as a child.

to be fair, back to the future was originally going to end with marty driving the delorean into a nuclear explosion in the desert to be able to travel back to 1985, but the special effects budget couldn't stretch at the time. could probably do it on my laptop today....

It's nothing new. Didn't they blow up a planet in Star Wars?

Why oh why did you have to come up with a plot for a theoretically updated Back To The Future? Knowing Hollywood, some producer will have read that and whaddya know... Back To The Future gets rebooted and the fate of the world will be at stake for Marty McFly, now being played by Taylor Lautner or Zac Efron or some disposably untalented actor who has the looks to attract the females into the audience. :-)

I agree. These 'upped stakes' get a bit boring after the millionth film does it. Judging by the title, I fear the new Jurassic Park film is gonna go that way too.

I agree; there's a very good reason why, in Troy, the Achilles/Hector fight is the brilliant standout scene in a film packed with dull CG heavy battles.

In a tiny scene.

The sooner, the better.

Movies aren't the only culprit by any means. Doctor Who is by far the worst for this; it is almost impossible to feel any tension when "All of time and Space" is at stake. First, the worst is clearly not going to happen otherwise the characters and TV show would cease to exist; secondly, the viewers don't have the remotest idea how exactly "All of time and space" will end; finally, it happens almost every single season.

I agree totally. Once we got rid of the narrative in that film I totally lost patience with it. For the first half I was totally invested in it, but the destruction took me away from what the film was ultimately about, a man finding his place in a world where he doesn't fit.

Common misconception about TDK. Not humourless. Actually real gems of dialogue from the Joker and the banter between Alfred and Bruce. Actually the film gets several laughs, impressive writing in a film called The DARK Knight.

The fatigue has already set in for me. Watching Man Of Steel left me feeling distinctly jaded. As has been mentioned, upping the stakes, as it's put in the article, only works to a point - if they're all going to do it then they might as well none of them do it.

I think Spielberg's right - a few major flops of that kind of movie and things will start to change. I hope. And maybe then we'll start to see a re-emergence of more personal movies that we can really root for, like Back To The Future.

Yes, but that was almost incidental to the plot of Luke's path to leading the rebellion and his troubled relationship with his father.

The fact that it makes sense logically (putting aside the illogical aspects of any superhero movie) doesn't make it enjoyable to watch. It wasn't the LEVEL of destruction that bothered me, it was the DURATION of it on-screen.

With any fight scene between a hero and his arch-enemy on-screen you know it's going to be an evenly matched battle until the very last, when the hero will think of something that bit special or different that wins the day. So now I just watch with detached apathy on most occasions, waiting to see how long it will take before the director decides to get us to that moment. In MoS it felt like an eternity.

By contrast, in the Richard Donner Superman films (I'm including Superman 2 for the sake of simplicity) not only was there the city-wide destruction, albeit curtailed in its depiction due to the limited special effects of the time, but there was also Superman's personal affection for humanity in general, each one individually, coming through it, making him have to try even harder because he wasn't just trying to save himself. When Zod starts destroying Metropolis in the second movie Superman is desperately trying to prevent any civilians from getting killed - what a contrast to MoS!

Not only that, but when Christopher Reeves' Superman fights Terrence Stamper's Zod it's as much a battle of wit as physical prowess. It's not just "Who can punch the hardest?", there's also an escalation in the ideas each one has for how he might be able to defeat the other. They try different things. It isn't just a slug fest ending in a moment of ingenuity.

8000 is a very specific number...

Well, the scale of the Star Wars films was the galaxy. So blowing up one planet, in a film with a galactic scale, is proportionate to blowing up one city in a movie only set on Earth. Besides, we never see Alderaan except as a rock floating in space. There's nothing for the audience to get attached to. And it's one incident in the plot, not the main threat.

The real tension was whether Yavin IV would get blown up.

My issue with it is that the films tend to ignore tension. The Dark Knight worked so well because the tension ramped up throughout the film and grew into an extraordinary spectacle. Blowing something up solely because you need something to put in the trailer is not good enough.
I want to see a character-centric story that the audience can become invested in. Maybe increase the jeopardy over a series of films. Joss Whedon's comments of self-contained movies is, in my opinion, wrong. The final two Harry Potter films (in the same way as the book that they were based on) benefitted from the gradual increase in tension and jeopardy that had been built up in the preceding instalments. Part 2 certainly wouldn't have worked as a standalone movie.
I like it when a series kills off a beloved character, not because of any sadistic tendency but because I feel respected by the filmmakers - Introducing a new character so that you can kill them off later in the film is lazy storytelling.
I felt this with War of the Worlds. When Tom Cruise's character's son runs off, I didn't feel anything. I wasn't invested in the character because the film was in too much of a rush to get to the action. Having not read the novel I don't know if this is inherent in the story, but I'm guessing it is more to do with the current state of Hollywood films.

Couldn't agree more. I made the same point on this site against Man of Steel. Less is more.

Agree totally. I believe this is because they (Doctor Who and some movies) aren't able these days to tell a story effectively: so they up the stakes to try and increase the drama, forgetting that drama isn't necessarily related to the scale of the threat, rather the credibility of the threat. Eg the original terminator and terminator 2 and the Borg- the drama was they were unstoppable. You don't need them tearing up everything to demonstrate the threat.

He's an actuary.

i am currently dreading what 300 rise of an empire will be like. I saw the trailer and all i felt was an 'immortal'-like forboding. Loads of CGI and loads of destruction and not even a needle hole of substance. Of course i am destruction weary this summer so will watch it on dvd instead of the cinema. sigh.

Lindelof is more of an idiot than I thought he was.

Agree. By the end of MoS I anticipated the inevitable Superman/Zod showdown with a deflated shrug. Snyder totally misjudged and overcooked it in an attempt to one-up The Avengers. Tbh I was bored of seeing superhumans punching each other and buildings exploding even BEFORE the finale started.

Agree with both of you, but "you. think. you. can. threaten. my. mother?" has been scientifically proven to be the best bit in the film.

Slight detour here: Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels originally used to feature the end of the universe as the primary threat, so much so that I started to get a little tired of it. But as the series grew and Pratchett became an even better writer, the stakes became more and more focussed, so we got much more personal stories, murder mysteries etc.

Back To The Future was only narrowly produced in the first place anyway, so this is a difficult analogy to make. 2 of those 3 main films cited (MoS and ST:ID) were lacklustre stories even if they did well financially, so that alone might instruct the studio model. The more things change, the more they stay the same, but things do change.

Blockbusters will implode again and again - this is where Spielberg was right. But apparently, the studios don´t conclude that they should make movies more than just a collection of destruction porn. They just order more of the same.

Unless audiences stay away completely or studio heads who only are in for the money and don´t care for movies get exchanged, everything will stay the same.

So...

Don't you mean 70s and early 80s? Specifically, the films of Spielberg?

Yes, Spielberg hit the big time in the 70s, but the 80s and early 90s were the time of the family blockbuster - Superman and Star Wars aside there are not many other family friendly blockbusters between Jaws and Raiders.

To see what the "save the world" version of Back To The Future would look like, watch the youtube video "Terminator - How It Should Have Ended"

I agree with this argument in that the screenwriter is no longer respected nearly as much as they used to be. This has led mostly to lackluster scripts which don't build tension--the major problem with MOS and to a certain degree Star Trek. I think one of the big problems is that studios are making tentpoles with this sort of wait and see/we don't have everybody under contract so anyone's interchangeable kind of approach. Even though we all know they tend to want to make sequels, they move as if they don't so filmmakers have to fit every bit of story into this one film leaving fun and tension as casualties to action, spectacle, and what little character development they can do. Like my problem with MOS was not that they did all that destruction or that he killed Zod but that they did it in the FIRST movie. To me, that left them with nowhere to really go in order to "top" themselves so what did they do... introduce Batman which SNyder said wasn't his original plan but hey, the execs tell you to do something and you do it (or they'll replace you with the Oscar winning producer they just hired for you to direct). To me, it would be better if tentpoles were all written out originally as a trilogy or rather as one big long film and then broken into three or two pieces or filmed together because there's a certain kind of magic that happens when that occurs. A lot of people forget that Donner's superman movies 1 and 2 were filmed pretty much as one film, and so was the Harry Potter finale, LOTR, and a few others I can't think of right now. The point is that good story needs to marinate or simmer rather than bringing it to a rapid boil. Oddly enough, I think that the Captain Planet adaptation they're trying to make could somewhat buck the trend if only for the fact that they can't make a destruction porn movie based on the principle of the character. It has to be somewhat contained.

Man of Steel is the film that definitely exhausted my tolerance for cinematic destruction and this and other blockbusters may suffer from audience fatigue- when you've seen one city crumble you've seen them all.
But it's not all bad news. I was very heartened by Joss Whedon when he spoke of the Avengers sequel. He seemed to recognize that you just can't always go bigger and rely on that. He said he wanted to go deeper as oppose to bigger. Sure, have the spectacle but explore the characters. So a smart director can overcome this.

Yes. I don't feel any real threat in Who because I've seen 'all of time and space' threatened so much that I don't feel invested in it. When you've stopped caring about the destruction of EVERYTHING past, present and future you definitely need to re-evaluate your storytelling.

Thanks for the Thor Dark World spoiler alert.Not.

Not seen the trailer then?

Meh. Didn't do anything for me. Didn't seem like something any version of Superman I know would do either.

Films are a product of their time.

80's films are so completely different to films these days. As they were in the 70's and 60's etc.

There is no point moaning about it.

There are 'fun' films out there but we are now too old to enjoy these films as we did 'fun' films of our childhood.

Films like Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lone Ranger are all part of that family market but they do not appeal to me because I am a grown man.

I am sure if I was this age and The Goonies came out, I wouldn't go to see it as it's a film about kids. I mean when Super 8 came out, I couldn't care less.

Maybe if I had a kid to go see it with I would feel different.

Do not confuse 'getting older' with films not being as fun!

The thing is, I have a case of arrested development. I still (am 34) love watching kids films. I loved the 1st Pirates of the Caribbean and the Lone Ranger. Super 8 was great as was Holes and Diary of Whimpy Kid. I can easily switch my brain into child mode. Probably explains my love of MoS.

But the few I have mentioned above stand alone in a cinemascape filled with whinging Harry Potters and moaning Bella's. I want adventure and fun damn it, I miss the says of never ending stories.

No.

(Also: Riddick sucks, it is a bore, except for Katee Sackhoff, who nevertheless needs a good director to stop her from being too arch.)

>Have the world-destroying stakes in movies become too high?

Yes. Excellent idea.

See "The Avengers."

>we'll all become tired of watching the world burn for the umpteenth time, and demand to see something different from our summer movies.

A bit late to the party... thought I'd chip in. Unfortunately Hollywood has reached the point where "bigger is better" and they continuously need to top the last thing they made. I felt slightly uncomfortable in the viewings for Man of Steel and Into Darkness. I felt the destruction was unnecessary. Then I remembered I was completely fine with it in The Avengers. This is because of the characters. Slightly unfair because the characters in The Avengers had at least a movie each to get going but we all cared about them. They each had their flaws and weaknesses that could be exploited. Then you have Man of Steel... it doesn't abandon the idea of character development. It just doesn't reach it's full potential.

Not Star Trek into Darkness is a different matter. Because, despite having pretty good character development in the first film, it kinda fell flat in the second. I think Mr Abrams just got a bit too excited with the destruction. For example, we witness the destruction of an entire planet in the 2009 film. Many of us trekkies felt completely shocked. How dare they destroy Vulcan! Oh Spock! And yet we witness the near-destruction of a City in into Darkness and feel nothing.

I'm hoping that we get a craze in a couple of years (hopefully sooner) where less is better. Cloverfield is a perfect example of that. Lets go back to the old days where wonder and imagination come back. As boring as Star Trek: The Motion Picture is, it is still a beautifully made movie with intense levels of destruction. But the wonder of V'Ger, this confused lifeform who is really just a scared child never fails to grab me. We need to go back to that kind of film.

Doctor Who destroyed the whole flipping universe and got away with it! Okay I'm getting carried away now. I'm also getting sick of these long-winded fights between foes that last forever at the end of a film. I'm hoping that JJ deals with Star Wars in a different way. He made Star Trek into a generic blockbuster and I don't like that. Star Trek is about exploration and conflict. I do hope he doesn't up the ante for Star Wars.

I'm reminded of this quote: "A Single Death is a Tragedy; a Million Deaths is a Statistic". It often has the most powerful emotional impact if a crisis is more contained and every potential victim is known to the audience, so having the entire Earth at danger can be less involving than just a single town or a small boat being affected.

Oddly enough, the destruction in Into Darkness didn't bother me because it didn't linger on it (also I think I was just excited because Abrams Trek films, although they do need to stop being a tribute act to the original, actually look and feel like summer blockbusters and not extended tv episodes for a change). In that destruction was a good chase and fight scene and unlike the ending of Man of Steel, some editing. I do get a little peeved when some people say that the destruction at the end of Man of Steel is more realistic to justify it, but it was Snyder not having self control. It would have been better to trim the fight and concentrate more on the devastation and people's reaction to it. Have Superman trying to clear up and rescue people after the event and him not being always greeted with gratitude. That would have set things up for the sequel.
You're right with the Avengers. I was invested in the characters. Sure you've got the fireworks but if I didn't like the characters and it was all explosions and buildings falling over, it would be like someone shouting in your face for 2.5 hours. Like I said below, Joss Whedon's got it right for The Avengers' sequel- don't go bigger, go deeper.

A great point and made more concisely that I've done.

That's exactly the point, where the TV comes in. The character building and story arcs they do on, say, Breaking Bad blows every blockbuster out of the water. And it is possible. Just look no further than the first blockbuster ever: Jaws. Characters, story, personal journey and one helluva Showdown with 3 people in a boat and a plastic fish...
On the other hand look at the Pirates sequels. Hollow but ever so long, they drag on forever. It is the makers/producers whoever. The characters you get on TV and in the Oscar bait season, the blockbusters are for the fun ride only. Poor, but true. And Spielberg will be right in the end, although he himself has lost it somehow (Indy 4), so he stays for the Oscar baits and TV this days and lets JJ and co. handle the summer fare..

Good example. Felt the same way, too. The two-men-fights were the best in this movie, regardless the big CG battles.

Not to mention one of the defining character-moments for Superman in the Richard Donner film (the 2nd film, I mean) - that he eventually realises that a world conquered by Zod would actually be better off than a world destroyed by a war between Zod and Superman. Sure, he ends up tricking Zod, but it's pretty clear that when he surrenders, he's decided that letting Zod win is the least worst option,

Of course, Zod isn't a motivationless psychopath in that film - he wants to rule the world, but during the sizeable chunk of Superman II where he IS ruling the world, it's clear that whilst it isn't exactly a great scenario, he's not planning on wiping out humanity or anything (or else he'd have nothing to rule). It was far more in keeping with the comics, where for quite a while the comics had Zod ruling his own country in eastern Europe as part of a truce with Superman - doing so as an absolute dictator, but not a maniac, still supplying his 'subjects' with a reasonable standard of living using kryptonian technology, so long as they were willing to keep worshiping him.

The basic problem with Man of Steel is Superman took 30 years to develop super powers and Zod took 5 minutes....

Big movies used to not be so common place. Think of the expense that went into creating "Independence Day" the first movie that comes to mind when you think "90's" and "World at Stake". Now special effects allow for those big blow the doors of plots that were not feasible in the past and they expect to be the next "Star Wars". Forgetting that "Star Wars" made most of its money from action figures.

Marvel is successful because they go out of their way to make their movies about action figures. "Iron Man 3" had 40 Iron Man armors in it. "Thor" had all of Asgard. Captain America had a variety of Hydra goons and Allied soldiers. Superman was by himself. Want to know why Jor-El has a power-armor variant costume even though he is a scientist? The biggest mistake that movie made was not having any color variation for the bad guys: Black, Silver and Bronze are not the making of strong contrast and dynamic action figure displays. Can anyone tell me what Zod's mad scientist minion looked like? No, I thought not. Even though he did reveal plot sensitive information to the lead villain and shared more lines with Superman than the entire Daily Planet crew outside of Lois Lane.

The Zod / Superman fight at the end of MOS reminded me of a Peter Griffin / Giant chicken fight. It has (almost) no point and goes on *way* too long. I half expect a parody of MOS on Family Guy next year since they're so similar.

Case in point, 2012. Billions of people dying aren't enough, sympathetic characters have to die, and in blatantly contrived ways, at that..

Why does Krypton need armed forces at all?
What is Zod rebelling against?

How does Superman defeat another superman specifically bred to be a soldier?
How come Zod and Superman get punched through half a dozen buildings and don't drop even a millimeter due to gravity, but travel in perfectly straight lines? Even rifle bullets don't do that.

Dark Knight sucked. It dragged interminably and the attempt to create some kind of moral equivalency between the Joker and Batman was just plain repugnant. And if I see one more film where someone is holding a hostage who's yelling "Take the shot" and the cops don't ....

I refuse to watch Game of Thrones for the same reason I refused to watch 24. Killing off a beloved character is hack writing. Oh, and I refuse to pay for TV AND still have to watch commercials, too.

WOTW had what I call Superfluous Kids. In this case a sullen teenage brat and a shrieking, panicky pre-teen. There is no plot device imaginable that could make me invest in them.

I agree completely, I do find it interesting this article mentions:

"There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground," Spielberg said, "and that's going to change the paradigm."

So lets look at 2015
Bats Vs Supes
Avengers
Star Wars
Jurassic world
Warcraft

the last two might be small scale (I have a lot of faith in Douglas Jones, and JW could be (relatively) intimate or massive) but with that much money being chucked at those Epics, one or more will flop, and I recon we'll get a sleeper hit pop up that year, which will change the ways studios invest their money

This is one of the reasons why 'Dredd' was so refreshing. The entire world wasn't at stake, it was just one veteran cop and his rookie having a really bad day. I loved the line where the Chief Judge asked Dredd what had happened in the megablock, and he sums up the entire movie in two words. Then elaborates with three more. XD

In Dark Knight the only person who wanted to make moral equivalency between the Joker and Batman was the Joker. Citizens of Gotham wanted Batman to surrender because they where apathetic cowards and just wanted the Joker to stop killings. People that mattered (Dent, Gordon, Rachel) didn't saw them as equals at all. Lucius Fox was angry about the mass surveillance but there was no Batman/Joker equivalency.

What I liked about Dark Knight was that it mocked the idea that the Jokers actions where in any way justified. The Joker gives two contradictory statements about his origins ('do you know where I got those scars?' speeches) to MOCK the idea that his actions where the result of bad childhood or other bad circumstances. I agree about pacing issues, however.

I agree about Game of Thrones. I disagree that killing off bellowed characters is always hack writing. It could serve the point (like killing off Hamlet), but killing them off for the purpose of screwing with the audience is cheap.

Saving the world is an adolescent preoccupation - as I get older I find those stories more an more boring. Smaller, more intricate stories become more interesting.

Since the big studios still think the teenage market is their main (only?) cash cow, it is little wonder they push for adolescent plots.

Well it does adhere to comic book logic I suppose, but I was willing to accept that but the ending just let almost everything down in that film. Snyder just got caught up in the shock and awe.

"The Joker gives two contradictory statements about his origins" - this is one thing that really does set the Joker apart from other film villains. Why must we always be asked to feel sorry for film villains?
I know that GoT is based on the books, but I wonder how much the character was designed to draw in viewers. They could quite easily have cast an unknown, which would have made it more of a twist than what the first series ended on. Putting Sean Bean in your series is pretty much telegraphing the character's demise - therefore put a bankable star in the first series, then viewers will return for the second.

I feel the same about Man of Steel. So much was destroyed so quickly that none of it had any meaning.

I agree with the point about Into Darkness (but don't get me wrong, I love the film) there a section of an entire city wiped out, thousands if not more must have died, and yet during the "chase" sequence, they're running past people going about their daily business as if nothing has happened mere streets away!!!

Same for the almost comical way all of London is blown up in the second GI:Joe.

Agree completely. RTD was the worst for this: "End of season finale? Well, it'd better be the end of the universe, then! Oh, and any popular character who ever died or got stranded in an alternate reality can somehow come back to life, too."

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