CYBERSURFING: Did JAWS Ruin The Modern Blockbuster?
In a recent New York Times blog by Ross Douthat, the author provides his reaction to the assertion made by New York Magazine columnist David Edelstein that JAWS & STAR WARS ruined Hollywood. Mr. Douthat strongly defends the original summer blockbusters, stating that they are in no way to blame for the most recent lukewarm summer offerings. A 35-year old movie could not in any way be responsible for JONAH HEX, right?
Yes and no. JAWS and STAR WARS were milestones in modern cinema, movies that drew in crowds and more than recouped their production costs. As studios are very interested in making lightning strike twice – or three or four times – Summer eventually became known as “Blockbuster” season, a time when Hollywood pulls out all the stops and tries to top themselves with even more outrageous fare. As time went on, the films that made it to the screen veered away from the basic foundations of good storytelling and focused more on the sensory aspect of the film. This provided a lowering of quality and a rise in quantity. And still, the audience came. The lack of accountability to provide a well-rounded experience spurred on the “More Is More” mentality, eventually leading to where we are today, with both studios and audience asking the same question but for different reasons – “What happened?”
Yet, despite the point that JAWS and STAR WARS may have kicked off this trend, it is in no way their fault. Both are solid films that focus on the sum rather than the parts, leaving them as pioneers that have a place firmly etched in the hearts of moviegoers everywhere. Rather than innovation, for years the audience has been subjected to imitation. We indulge this because we want to repeat that sense of awe and wonder and we are more often than not left feeling cheated out of our money instead. Yet Hollywood misinterprets this spending as a request for more of the same. So in turn, that is what they give us. It is the bottom line, not the film, which has spurred this on and to blame a successful movie for a bad one seems a tad shortsighted.
Besides, as Mr. Douthat points out, despite the flops that have been put in front of us, the last 35 years has seen a whole slew of now-classic films. These are the films that keep audiences coming back for more and for a while, the good outnumbered the bad. Unfortunately, the rule has now become the exception. Have hope though: this trend seems to be reaching a breaking point as studios flounder and audiences make their voices heard. We may very well be on the brink of a new age for movies. Let’s all hope it’s the start of a new “good old days”.