As the entertainment industry returns to a post-pandemic world, mega-deals and monster flops at the box office are raising questions about the future of Hollywood. Imagination Connoisseurs of the Post-Geek Singularity weigh in with questions of their own.

Why can’t theaters run old faves to keep the peeps coming in?

Hello Rob,

So, while in the chat during episode #690 , one of the imagination connoisseurs brought up seeing Empire Strikes Back on the big screen a few months ago and it made me wonder. All these studios have various films in their possession and I wonder why they re-release this gems back in to theaters more? Sure, we all want to see new movies and stuff but once in a while there is a thrill to seeing an old favorite put back out there on the big screen an maybe some people can introduce a fav to a child or partner or whomever has never seen said films.

Is it because it would cost too much money to put them out there again or do they need to make new deals with the cast and crew again to do it?

Then again, I think they should bring back the double features because for a generation of people that have never been to a double feature it would be interesting and maybe even fun for them.

Maybe it is because these heads of the studios think no one would want to go and see things like that. That is the magic word right there (think). These people think that they know what the public wants to see and then when the public tells them what they want to see they think oh they don’t know what they are talking about.

Sure, maybe they think they know because of “focus groups.”  I could be over exaggerating this and maybe becoming Conspiracy Tom but these are just thoughts that I had.

So my question to you is this, what do you think?

Thanks my friend.

Tom Jr Jackson

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The problem with action movies is the action.

Hi Rob, moderators, and Post Geek Singularity,

Your most recent show, where you talked about the problem with modern action, got me looking into what I think are problems with action now.

I came up with 3 things:

The first is the sense of it being real and hard hitting. What I mean is, action in most movies now have this weightless digital quality to them, even when I think the action is good. When I saw a number of Michael Bay’s movies like all the Transformers movies he made and 6 Underground, I noticed the weightless digital quality to them.

However, with older movies, like Speed, the original Robocop and Total Recall, all 4 Lethal Weapon movies, the first 3 Indiana Jones, True Lies, First Blood, Commando, Aliens, Rambo 2 and 3, Terminator 1 and 2, Die Hard 1 and 3, The Killer, and Hard Boiled, I found all the action scenes in them more real and hard hitting because they have a real sense of weight and gravity to them, since all the action was done with real stunts and pyrotechnics.

The second issue is how the action visually looks to those who are watching it. The problem with action in most movies now, is how we can never actually see the action properly, due to the overuse of shaky cam and frenetic editing. Every time that happens, I always want to yell, “CAN I PLEASE SEE WHAT THE HELL IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING ON SCREEN!?”.

Older movies don’t have this problem because the filmmakers shot all the action scenes in a clear manner, where you can actually see what is going on, like when Richard Donner made the Lethal Weapon movies, when Paul Verhoeven did Robocop and Total Recall, when John McTiernan made Die Hard 1 and 3, and when John Woo made The Killer and Hard Boiled.

The third issue is not an actual problem, I would say, but more of a personal taste for me. I find action scenes, now, to be unmemorable and lack rewatchability, even when the action is good. When I saw movies like Extraction and the John Wick series, even though I thought the action was all good, I just found something lacking in them. I don’t find them memorable, and I don’t see myself rewatching them.

However, I can rewatch action scenes from older movies and still find something special and memorable about them. I still find Terminator 2’s action scenes memorable and rewatchable, like the mall shootout which then leads to the truck and motorbike chase, the hospital escape, Cyberdyne’s destruction which leads to the helicopter chase, and then into the factory. The same thing with Temple Of Doom, with the mine cart chase which leads to the bridge and crocodiles. Hard Boiled was like that as well, like the opening restaurant shootout, the warehouse shootout, the boat shootout, and the showdown at the hospital.

Those were the 3 things I thought about when it came to the problems with modern action.

Thanks, live long and prosper.

Omar 94

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Do filmmakers still need the Hollywood “machine”?

Hi Rob and the PGS,

Rob you have mentioned many times that the big studios uses spreadsheet to work out what films to make, who to star and what it about etc.

Basically, they have lost the ability to take a leap of faith and make a gamble on a project and hope it will be a success.

On your first episode of Robservation Midnighter, you mentioned that there is a film you have wanted to make since 83 based on a novel. You also stated that you are working on a script along with the blessing of the novel author. I want to thank you for showing us a bit of concept art from that project, and it was damn cool. I hope you can get Kurt Russel for it.

I don’t want to put a downer on it, but given Hollywood reliance on these spreadsheets. How likely is it for a big studio to pick up the project and run with it?

As I am an outsider looking in to the Hollywood system, I can’t really comment. But lets say Hollywood does turn it down due to these spreadsheets. But you have found an investor that is not connected to Hollywood in any way but has seen what you want to do and loves it so much they have given you all the budget need to make it.

Rob you have now made the your film with everything you wanted from crew to cast. It is now in the Can. How hard would it be to get a Studio that originally turned it down, to distribute the finished product in theatre?

I ask as there is no cost to them except maybe marketing and any other costs with distribution. Even if they still don’t pick it up. How hard is it to get the film distributed on your own?

I ask these questions as I am curious to know if it possible to make a film without Hollywood and get it distributed, and could it be something we see people doing in the future?

Finally Rob, I hope you the best with this project and that you get it made with you in the director chair, with very little studio interference. But can I ask once it made, can you please release an Art Of book as I love that shit.

Also when it hits physical media, you know with your background we are going to want at least six hours special features. Maybe hire Charles de Lauzirika or any of your colleagues form your days in special feature to make them given you be busy with the actual film.

Peace and Long Life,

Dean Micetich

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How has the industry’s measurements of a film’s success changed because of the pandemic?

Greetings from Scotland! Where the banter is great but the weather is shite!

Rob I’d like to get your take on how Studios (in particular Warner Brothers) have been measuring success of their franchise releases during the pandemic. Many of my fellow Dune fans online have been nervous for the potential of a sequel, given the HBO Max release affair.

In my mind, WB have been measuring based on what a film COULD have earned outside of the pandemic, rather than what they actually did. In an example for either Mortal Kombat or Godzilla Vs Kong, in my mind’s eye I imagine a number cruncher behind a desk, combining theatre tickets, HBO Max views, social media mentions, merchandise sales, audience score, critic score and other factors like these – into a gigantic spreadsheet to estimate how much it could have made under normal circumstances, and planning the franchises further on that.

Thankfully in MK’s case it was a low budget affair to begin with, so I don’t expect the bar to be too high for that. Question is do they increase the budget for bigger and better spectacle on the big screen? Or keep the budget low and make it a HBO Max franchise?

Time will tell.

In Dune’s case, one of those factors and variables would be prestige accolades. I don’t think anyone is not assuming the film to not gain some form of recognition at movie awards in 2022, if not for Denis Villeneuve’s direction then certainly in other areas of design. I think that prestige accolades already plays a part in greenlighting in this case, why else would Denis Villeneuve been greenlit for an expensive project such as Dune, when Blade Runner didn’t exactly break the bank previously?

Rob, how far off the mark am I on this do you think? Are execs using some creative soothsaying to move forward? Or are they concentrating on purely their cash flow and CHOAM holdings as per usual?

Thanks!

Ryan from Scotland

P.S. the last time I wrote you expressing my excitement for Dune, you briefly said one of your acquaintances close to the production said it was a “Beautiful mess of a movie” – are you able to expand on this a little? Feel free to leave this PS section out if you read this letter on air, and can’t get into it to protect your source. I like to temper my expectations where I can that’s all. Maybe it plays into the above soothsaying? Cheers!

Ryan Mcleod

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Why has Hollywood made so many bad films lately?

Hi Robert,

I hope yourself and the wonderful members of the Post Geek Singularly having been sailing through the week with vivaciousness.

As I said in my previous letter, that is not to say there hasn’t been good films to come out of Hollywood – there have been plenty. Those that I had on my list of my favourite films for each year between 2010 and 2020 are examples – The Social Network (2010), The King’s Speech (2011), Green Zone (2011), Warrior (2011), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Argo (2012), Rush (2013), The Big Short (2015) and Joker (2019) spring to mind. Also, BlacKkKlansman (2018), Uncut Gems (2019), Hustlers (2019), Marriage Story (2019), and The Irishmen (2019) could be seen as other great examples. Films that could be called diamonds in the rough – pardon the pun.

I say this because, unfortunately, they have been cancelled or drowned out by the sheer plethora of mediocre to bad films to come out of the American film industry over the last decade. Especially with regards to blockbuster epics. The sheer volume of them have seen them develop a sameness. Emphasis of spectacle over substance due to over reliance of visual effects at the expense of good storytelling, worldbuilding and character development.

Narrative complexity and depth of characters are certainly not something you associate with many recent blockbusters. Audiences have developed an indifference to such supposed blockbusters – jaded by films such as Ghostbusters (2016), Independence Day: Resurgence (2016), Ben Hur (2016), Disney Star Wars sequels, Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018), The Cloverfield Paradox (2018), Dark Phoenix (2019), Hellboy (2019) and Men in Black: International (2019). However, they are certainly not alone in being underwhelming films. Here is a small list of examples of the types of forgettable films that unfortunately made it to cinemas worldwide:

Movie 43 (2013), After Earth (2013), A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), Grace of Monaco (2014), Magic in the Moonlight (2014), Tammy (2014), Vacation (2015), Fantastic Four (2015), War with Everyone (2016), Cell (2016), 31 (2016), Zoolander 2 (2016), Max Steel (2016), The Emoji Movie (2017), Fifty Shades Darker (2017), Winchester (2018), The 15:17 to Paris (2018), Robin Hood (2018), A Wrinkle in Time (2018), Fifty Shades Freed (2018), Life of the Party (2018), I feel Pretty (2018), The Predator (2018), The Hustle (2019), The Kitchen (2019), 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019), Charlie’s Angels (2019), Black Christmas (2019), The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019), Cats (2019), The Grudge (2020), Dolittle (2020), Artemis Fowl (2020), Fantasy Island (2020), War with Grandpa (2020).

Some of these films were not so much as feasts for the senses as they were brutal assaults on the senses. I have friends that have labelled many of these films “crimes against western culture.”

However, I would not go that far. I have heard the most recent instalment of the Terminator franchise be called Terminator: Dark Fart. That is even before one adds this year’ s unflattering, unfunny cinematic equivalent of a lump of coal entitled Thunder Force. The moviegoing public has been left saying, “We’ve seen it all before and we have seen it done better.” That does not mean there haven’t been any good blockbusters released over the last decade. Many MCU films, The Meg (2018), Venom (2018) and Aquaman (2019) are obvious examples.

One of the biggest factors behind the majority of bad or underperforming movies is they movies made by committee and churned out as if they have been mass produced on an assembly line. Pushed into existence by studio executives because they seem risk adverse and marketing analysis the films would guarantee “huge returns on investment.” However, they do not turn out that way.

It is unfortunate when see films tainted by studio interference because the creatives have worked so hard on the film with goal of producing the best film they can. Very few directors are afforded creative licence to produce the films they want to make – Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro are the best examples of directors given this freedom.

The problem of studio interference has come about through the fact those corporations that come to own film studios and those that become studio executives have come from other industries that are not on the same level in terms of creativity as film production. So, business practices are different and lend themselves to be governed by risk adverse tactics and analytics and so on.

Not having substantial representation from those who have knowledge of film production experience has proved problematic. They have put more faith in their marketing departments than their creatives, which is wrong. The reason why studios were so strong for many decades because those in upper management had lengthy experience in the industry and were dedicated to film.

For many decades, they were largely, family-owned companies or corporate entities that specialised in film and television production. They were not subsidiaries of large corporations who established their reputation in another industry or industries.

Why do conglomerates want a slice of the action in Hollywood? Why do they acquire film studios? Well, the obvious answer – money and lots of it. Because as a consumerable product, film’s reach is global. We all watch Hollywood made films from America to United Kingdom and everywhere else in between. Ask every man, woman and child for their favourite films and those produced in Hollywood would comprise the majority of their list. Then in throw in ancillary markets – especially for blockbusters and the scale goes off the chart. Merchandising, television and streaming rights can net studios billions of a solidary intellectual property.

The first six Star Wars films raked in over USD$6.8 billion globally for 20th Century Fox. Even in a stagnant year when no Star Wars films were released, such as 2012, the franchise still raked in USD$3 billion through merchandise and other ancillary markets. For Warner Bros, the Harry Potter franchise netted USD$8.64 billion globally. The Jurassic Park franchise has earned a little over USD$5 billion worldwide for Universal. The Star Trek film franchise has netted Paramount approximately USD$2.7 billion from 13 films. The Fast and the Furious franchise has earned over USD$5.9 billion globally. See the attraction for corporations to want to have a foot in Hollywood.

If you need further proof, there was a terrific documentary released on PBS in 2000 entitled The Monster that Hollywood. Noted producer Peter Guber (An American Werewolf in London, Batman) made this exact same point. He said:

“What is the attraction of multinational consumer electronics companies — two of them, Panasonic and Sony — to buying companies in Hollywood? What is the attraction of a Canadian spirits company, Seagrams, to buying a company in Hollywood? I think it’s like the moth drawn to the flame. It’s the attraction of the storyteller. There’s something that you can’t get quite anywhere else. So, to own a piece of that territory, to own a piece of that real estate, to somehow say “That’s mine,” and then you see it on every screen in [the] world … is a very compelling element. Now, when it’s also economically sound – and it can be -it’s a very powerful magnet for these companies. films that I made 25 years ago, in the 1970s, “Midnight Express,” I’m still getting checks from exposure from the 25-year re-release to a video to a new DVD. So, these are very valuable intellectual properties. Not easy to create, but still something that has a compelling nature, for both the entrepreneurial spirit and the creative spirit of companies and people.” (PBS, 2000)

In an interview with Film Courage, writer, comedian and founder of the magazine Film Threat, Chris Gore has the opinion that LucasFilm/Disney not having Luke, Han and Leia in a scene is studio malpractice. He called Rise of Skywalker (2019) “hot garbage” and believes studios have no excuses to fail with big-budget blockbusters. He believes the reason mainstream films so bad or mediocre is because they are not passion projects they are churned out for licensing deals (merchandise) and access to ancillary markets (commercial television, cable television and streaming).

Another factor has the been the failure to hire screenplay authors suitable for the project they were hired for. Films from LucasFilm and Bad Robot are the best examples of projects doomed to failure due to this fact. Such a bad practice has all but driven the following genre fare to the edge of oblivion: Star Wars, Star Trek and Terminator.

I am sure members of the PGS can add other franchises that have and will suffer the same fate. Again, I come back to Chris Gore who believes falling back on tropes and shoehorning characters instead of them having been organically in the story from the beginning are significant problems. As I have always believed everything that is contained in the story is Intrinsic to the world of the story to achieve verisimilitude. Otherwise, elements of the story will be jarring and you risk losing engagement with the audience. The mediocre and bad films I have mentioned are classic examples of this.

I remember reading an article in the late 1990s covering this public speaking tour in Australia by a famous, Academy Award winning American screenwriter. I believe it may have been William Goldman (All the President’s Men), but I’ll have to check on that. He predicted the quality of filmmaking in Hollywood will suffer through a dearth of great screenwriters in the 21st century.

The volume of emerging talent in the field would not be there as in previous decades. To be an effective screenplay author, I believe one not only has read and studied classic literature as well as screenwriting but has also served as an assistant on a writing team under a great screenwriter. To become a great screenwriter be a veracious reader and read everything you can get your hands – comics, graphic novels and novels. Read the scripts considered the best of each genre.

Now, I am not saying anyone who likes those films I have labelled mediocre or forgettable should stop liking them, or they are wrong for liking them. If you like them, I am happy you’ve found something to enjoy in those films. However, Hollywood studios are more than capable of producing better films that offer a little more in terms of sophisticated storytelling and verisimilitude as well as entertainment. I am optimistic and I believe everything operates in cycles and we will return to the scenario where there will be consistency in high quality filmmaking once again.

I highly recommend everyone viewing The Monster that Ate Hollywood if they haven’t seen it. Hopefully, they will be able find it somewhere online. It is a great documentary.

Well, that is all from me with this letter. I hope yourself and the PGS enjoy the remainder of the week.

Sincerely,
Jason Webster

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Is Warner Bros. the villain that finally defeated THE DCEU?

Hi Robert,

Today I send a letter because I think I lost my hope of seeing the work of Zack Snyder completed for the DCEU universe. And I have someone to blame, Warner. They did not only protected, but even attacked, this director that I admire so much.

But I take my hat off to Warner in the way they did that.

First they didn’t want to support the Snyder Cut, then they said it didn’t exist, then they did everything to attack Zack Snyder’s fans as if they were toxic, taking small examples and isolated facts to blame the whole community. Zack Snyder fans are non-toxic. It is all the internet that is and has always been toxic, and in all aspects and shapes.

But Warner’s mechanical plan did not stop there.

They created a trap from which Zack Snyder came out frowned upon at a charity event, which aimed to combat suicide. Zack Snyder was so clumsy in this situation, that an entire community turned against him. I also think that this same community should have the coolness to forgive and understand Zack Snyder and to accuse the real culprits who masterfully orchestrated the insident, manipulating like puppets, the director, the fans and the organizers of the event (Geeks and Gamers).

Warner’s plan did not end there. When they saw that the movie JUSTICE LEAGUE aired on HBO ended with a cliffhanger, they soon began to sabotage the possible sequel, first with the dismissal of Amber Heard, and then with opinion pieces that once again gave the wrong signals.

The final blow was the fact that they announced on Henry Cavill’s birthday that they wanted to replace him with a black Superman. I have to admit, this plan is perfect. In a blow they end Snyder Verse once and for all, and they are guaranteed that they will never be accused of bad management because if the next Superman film fails, it will not be due to their own incompetence, but because the fans are racists.

I have to acknowledge it is a perfect plan for those who do not have as the number one goal the success of an increasingly less competitive franchise, when compared to Marvel.

Marvel’s secret was to plan long term, to believe that its plan was going to be a success, and to support all the actors and directors who participated in this long saga. What Marvel set out to do was not better them DCEU, but it was a whole vision oriented in a single direction, making films and characters from these films create synergies of success. Look what happened to Captain Marvel, in my opinion the weakest of them all, but that made so much money because it was fit between Infinity War and End Game.

If Warner had followed her principles, and supported Zack Snyder’s vision, they would achieve the desired goals, success and profit, in a darker, more serious and less humorous environment, as DCEU aficionados would wont.

I saw the first Wonder Woman movie, then I saw Man of Steel, then Batman versus Superman (the long version) and finally, ZSJL. How spectacular it was to see these 4 films in a row.

I am sorry that Wonder Woman 1984 did not expand this universe, on the contrary, it was clear that this movie was not part of the same timeline.

Suicide Squad was another film that appears to have been destroyed by Warner. The best thing about this film was the flashbacks of Joker and Harley Quinn. It was so obvious that there should have been a film to tell, in detail, the destructive relationship that these two characters lived.

Finally, Warner had a success with the film JOKER, but they made another strategic mistake, by removing this film from the same universe and by not betting on Jared Leto. Joaquim Phoenix is amazing, but Jared Leto could do the job.

Marvel bet all the chips on its universe, history, characters and actors. Even Logan was part of the X-men universe. Robert Downey Junior was Tony Stark for 11 years. DC has already moved to the third Bruce Wayne in 17 years.

It’s true, I’m a fan, but better than that, I’m just a dissatisfied customer who leaves a promise here.

Since they don’t give me what I wish, I won’t support them with my money both on Robert Pattinson’s Batman film, and the next Superman film, whoever he is with. Ben Afleck is my Batman and Henry Cavill is my Superman.

And with this I finish this long letter.

Thank You Rob.

Kind regards,
Mario L.

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