We’ve all noticed it — movies these days just suck. Wokeness often gets the lion’s share of the blame, but that’s only a symptom of a larger problem.
Everywhere you look, you see terrible movies. On the one hand, you have the Marvel madness — an eternal recurrence of sequels, spin-offs, and remakes. What may be great in the original source material gets watered down with each derivative to the point of being nothing more than explosions and catch phrases. On the other hand, we have thinly veiled left-wing propaganda films all delivering the same message on the evils of patriarchy, Christianity, America, capitalism, or any combination thereof.
Increasingly, the low-brow blockbusters and the pseudo-high-brow Oscar-bait have merged thematically, delivering a film experience that is uniquely unbearable. Yet they’re both a symptom of the same disease — it seems like everyone involved in making films these days is only in it for the money.
Writer-director Taika Waititi gave away the game in an interview with Variety Magazine published at the end of November. While his arthouse hit “Jojo Rabbit” took home an Oscar, Waititi is perhaps best known as the director of two films in the “Thor” franchise.
But, as he explained to Variety, his desire to work on the film didn’t come from his love of the comic books.
Taika Waititi joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the money.
“I had no interest in doing one of those films. But I was poor and I’d just had a second child, and I thought, ‘You know what, this would be a great opportunity to feed these children.’ And ‘Thor,’ let’s face it —… pic.twitter.com/x1rHBht70z
— Variety (@Variety) November 27, 2023
“You know what? I had no interest in doing one of those films,” Waititi said. “It wasn’t on my plan for my career as an auteur. But I was poor and I’d just had a second child, and I thought, ‘You know what, this would be a great opportunity to feed these children.’”
“And ‘Thor,’ let’s face it — it was probably the least popular franchise,” he continued. “I never read ‘Thor’ comics as a kid. That was the comic I’d pick up and be like ‘Ugh.’ And then I did some research on it, and I read one ‘Thor’ comic or 18 pages, or however long they are. I was still baffled by this character.”
When asked why Marvel executives brought him on given his unfamiliarity, Waititi answered: “I think there was no place left for them to go with that. I thought, ‘Well, they’ve called me in, this is really the bottom of the barrel.’” (RELATED: Hollywood Keeps Trying To Push The Same Tired Boundary … And Audiences Are Sick Of It)
The utter indifference toward the source material — from both the director and executives — would be shocking if it wasn’t so commonplace. But an at-best-B-lister like Waititi likely only felt comfortable speaking in such blunt terms because all of Hollywood royalty seems to feel the same way.
Indie star Oscar Isaac swore to Vanity Fair that the Star Wars franchise could only get him back if “I need another house or something.”
Hollywood icon Glenn Close admitted to joining the Marvel Universe “because it will then afford me to go do the other kind of movies that I really love.”
When asked why he stuck with the “Olympus Has Fallen” franchise, Morgan Freeman responded, “It’s the third in a franchise, it pays better than the first one.”
That time Michael Caine was asked about Jaws: The Revenge.
“I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” pic.twitter.com/H7rNo8dJoF
— Philly M. Nerd (@PhillyMovieNerd) March 26, 2021
On the one hand, it’s true that Hollywood is, at its a core, a business that must be profitable. Even back in Hollywood’s Golden Age, icons like Laurence Olivier still had to pay the bills — and no one could accuse him of being indifferent. Close makes the best justification: vapid box office hits might not be enjoyable for the discerning viewer, but they supplement the smaller films that actually do have something to say. But the unique problem today lies in the convergence of both sides of the spectrum.
The latest intersectional feminist Marvel abomination (in theatres now) is virtually identical to the critically acclaimed films that dominate awards season. They both preach shallow progressive values with perceived transgression as the only guiding light, and in the end, sacrifice all substance on the altar of politics.
No one cares about making great art. They care about saying the right things, praising the right people, and denouncing the right enemies. In doing so, they do more than anyone to create and reinforce the echo chamber they operate within. (RELATED: Hollywood Has Forgotten Its Own Lessons On Masculinity — And One Timeless Classic Proves It)
It’s easy to write this off as a bunch of malicious ideologues injecting their views into mass culture. But that gives them far too much credit. The wokeness in film is just a symptom of the indifference that’s already existed for a much longer time. Studios must care about profits, and their woke turn is effectively an attempt to purchase insurance against left-wing cancellation. Now, they likely overestimate the risk, but nonetheless, the turn is about protecting their earning potential. Actors, writers, directors — all go along with it if they know it will keep the cash flowing. A risk averse concern for the bottom line, just like every other industry in corporate America, makes Hollywood extremely susceptible to political capture.
Except with Hollywood, we hope for better.
These are the artists and creators who inspire our common mythology of our heritage. The most romantic ideal of art is that it will transcend all our rational concerns. Great films make us imagine and feel things in ways we can’t necessarily articulate.
But take a drive through the Hollywood Hills, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a single true artist.
These days, they’re all just dancing monkeys.