Let me ask you something; how do you feel about movies? I expect you just said “Why, David, I love movies! I watch them regularly!” That’s great! Me too. And if you’re like me, I expect you’re generally in favor of good movies.
With that in mind, I suggest – nay, ask – nay, implore you to not go see Battleship. And no, I haven’t seen Battleship. This isn’t a Battleship review. Per se.
This is an address to the masses. This is a call for revolution. This is a public service announcement.
Don’t. Go. See. Bad. Movies.
I ask you, what is the purpose of a movie critic? “To tell us what movies are good, of course,” you overconfidently answer. WRONG. Movie critics exist to tell us what movies are BAD. “Well that’s basically the same thi-,” you start to retort, but I’ve just cut you off. Stay with me here.
To be more precise, a movie critic’s function is to give us guidance on what movies to invest in. Notice I say invest, because that’s essentially what a ticket or DVD price or whathaveyou is – an investment into the proliferation of that movie, the people involved in it, and the principles behind it.
I have a practically boundless supply of examples of awful movies that were box-office successes to draw on at this point. Let’s take a recent example, Adam Sandler’s latest gem Jack and Jill. Anyone with a functioning brain who saw a trailer, or even heard the premise, knew this movie was going to be terrible. Moreover, critics blasted it. It opened at #2 to a very healthy $25 million weekend (behind another awful and even more successful movie, Immortals). It ended up pulling $149 million worldwide, against its $79 million budget. This was a successful movie, and executives will have no reservations about making another similar Adam Sandler debacle. Stay tuned for That’s My Boy.
No, I don’t have some Adam Sandler vendetta. I have a vendetta against a system that encourages the proliferation of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. And that system’s lynchpin is the following fact: people will go see ANYTHING that is promoted enough.
You can’t blame the writers. They didn’t create this system, and in fact that are at the absolute mercy of it. Let me quote from Robert Garant and Thomas Lennon’s book Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too!
“To survive in the studio system you cannot fall in love with everything you write. Be prepared to throw LOTS of it away and start over from scratch.” It’s really that simple. Writers write what sells. If we want better writing, we have to show that better writing, better movies, will sell better.
So remember, your movie ticket isn’t just admittance to a movie. It is an explicit endorsement of that movie as far as the industry machine is concerned. That is why movie critics exist. They are our only defense against rewarding highly promoted, awful movies. That’s why when you read about how freaking bad Battleship is from a source you put any measure of trust in, you just have to take their word for it.
Otherwise, we’ll continue to live in a world where Michael Bay creates box-office smashing pieces of trash. A world where he is free to stomp on beloved childhood memories. A world where 3D movies are all the rage. And while I have no vendetta against Adam Sandler, you can bet your sweet patoot that I have one against Michael Bay and 3D movies.
P.S. “Hah, in that case I’ll just pirate everything!” That coin has two sides, and we’ve talked about this.