I’ve been talking for a long, long time about how the bottom has fallen out of badness in movies. Basic levels of scriptwriting have been dropping, certainly when it comes to CG-driven tentpolers, for a good 10 or 15 years. Six or seven years ago I wrote that relatively few big-studio whammers are as well-ordered and “professionally” assembled as Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy, as silly and inconsequential as that 1955 film was. Two days ago the great Devin Faraci chimed in along similar lines, and with excellent drillbit phrasing.
“I think every movie should be ‘good.’ Especially really big, expensive ones that were worked on by thousands of people. And I don’t mean great, or perfect or transcendent or Oscar-worthy. When I say ‘good’ what I really mean is ‘competent.’
“Yet this bar, low as it is, is seen as excessive by some. Demanding basic competence — that a movie be adequately made on a fundamental level — is a sign of elitism. This bums me out [because] this tyranny of low expectations is why big movies can be, and often have been, so terrible. Why get the story right when the audience simply does not give a shit about it?
“What do I mean when I say ‘good’ or ‘competent?’ I’m talking about the basics of storytelling, more or less. For some reason this is where certain audiences draw the line — asking for good storytelling is just the sort of snobbishness that ruins their fun at the movies!
“But they don’t draw that line at cinematography. If a film were out of focus, or if it were continuously framed in such as a way as to obscure what was happening onscreen no one would say ‘What did you expect, Citizen Kane?’ No one would say that because we expect basic competence when it comes to cinematography or lead acting. It’s just a given — a movie where the camera isn’t focused properly is a movie that wouldn’t get released. But a movie where the plot makes no sense, where the themes are muddled and where the characters have neither arcs or motivation? That shit busts records.
“You’re not being a killjoy if you prefer your blockbuster movies to have plots that make basic sense. You’re not asking too much to request that a plot-driven movie have a plot where cause and effect drive things, as opposed to the inescapable gravity of pre-planned action set pieces. This means you want a movie where things happen for a reason, not because they must happen to get us to the special FX.”