Like most everything else in our culture, films are judged by their gate receipts. Which is something like judging the quality of beef by the number of cows slaughtered per hour. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the way it is. Thereby explaining today’s big national-security, feel-safe flicks. At one time it was much easier to send the audience home feeling safe, because once the bad guy or gang was stopped in the last reel, and the pre-requisite boy-girl clinch melted into “The End,” Hollywood had done its job.
The old MGM, Warner, Columbia and Universal studios had that gig pretty much nailed down. Today, however, the world’s gotten more dangerous, plots more complicated, and stories far more international. To crush today’s more exotic threats to life, limb and national security, Hollywood has called up whole new legions of super heroes. Even Clint Eastwood and Al Pacino are now too one dimensional to confront some planet-plotting Lex Luther, Goldfinger or one eyed cleric fanatics.
But not to worry. Tinseltown has what it takes to meet these larger security dangers. Superman… Spiderman… Daniel Craig…Harrison Ford…Tom Cruise…. Morgan Freeman…Dennis Quaid…Brad Pitt…Angelina Jolie…plus nameless praetorian guards of dark-glassed Feds. Each of these newer heroes carries the ideal cinematic portfolio. Nerves of steel, cool under fire, always in control of the situation both technologically and romantically; with just the right pinch of sardonic one-liners as the action requires.
This isn’t exactly a new cinematic formula. Essentially it’s the original 1930s one juiced up with today’s more whiz-bang hi-tech. GPS, helicopters, computer banks, and a t least two nighttime interiors of the West Wing. You see, if anything Hollywood understands it’s how to cover up any lack of plot, dialog, or even common sense in the script by giving the hero precisely the right fountain or briefcase that will instantly extricate him from the hands of the international matrix. Depending on what year the story takes place, the villains could be either Russian, Iranian or Chinese; conveniently played interchangeably by the same contract studio ‘heavies.’
So there is it. Something to watch for as the audiences leave your theatre. If the director has done his job, folks should be walking out confident that the U S of A has enough good guys working for us to to gaurantee everyone is safe, the heavies always lose in the end, and yes: “A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is still a sigh, as time goes bye.”
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