Why Don’t Hollywood Movies Feel The Same Anymore?
— 22 June 2023

Why Don’t Hollywood Movies Feel The Same Anymore?

— 22 June 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

Not too long ago, I found myself revisiting Ridley Scott‘s Kingdom of Heaven when it struck me: Hollywood movies have lost their “soul.”

There are, of course, key exceptions, but somewhere in the transition from the early 2000s to the 2010s, there was a shift. And now, the vast majority of what we’re left with is… content.

It isn’t just the aesthetic component of cinema, either; I don’t believe it’s as simple as ditching the grain and warmth of, say, the Super Panavision 70 spherical format used by David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) in favour of the all-too-clean cinematography you can instantly tell is destined for streaming.

And as for the story — while Hollywood is certainly suffering from an originality problem that has led to endless processions of prequels, sequels, reboots, remakes, revamps, etc — theoretically speaking, there’s no reason why the art of screenwriting should have degraded over time. If anything, the literary aspect should only grow stronger.

Although perhaps we can chalk that up to the insidious infiltration of writing rooms by marketing vultures and algorithms. After all: beloved IP + trending names with search volume = profit.

So what is it precisely about modern films on a cosmic-sensory level that makes them feel comparatively worse than the stories which have come before them?

The Experts Weigh In

hollywood movies

If you asked Matt Damon about cinema’s perceived “decline” over the past decade, he’d tell you that finances have informed the Hollywood system’s appetite for risk.

“The DVD was a huge part of our business, of our revenue stream, and technology has just made that obsolete,” the Hollywood veteran explained during his appearance on First We Feast’s Hot Ones.

“The movies that we used to make, you could afford to not make all your money when it played in the theatre because you knew you had the DVD coming behind the release, and six months later, you’d get a whole ‘nother chunk.”

“It would be like reopening the movie, almost. When that went away, that changed the type of movies that we could make.”

Damon continued: “I did this movie Behind The Candelabra when I talked to a studio executive who explained it was a $25 million movie, I would have to put that much into print and advertising to market it — we call it P&A.”

“So now I’m in $50 million. I have to split everything I get with the exhibitor, right? The people who own the movie theatres. So I would have to make $100 million before I got into profit.”

“The idea of making $100 million on a story about a love affair between these two people… yeah, I love everyone in the movie but that’s suddenly a massive gamble in a way that it wasn’t in the 1990s when they were making all those kinds of movies, the kind of movies that I loved, and the kind of movies that were my bread and butter.”

But if you asked Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski, he’d attribute this entire shift to modern filmmaker’s over-reliance on CGI over practical effects. To be expected from a bloke who famously rented real-life F-18 fighter jets for $16,000 per hour.

“Certainly seeing people react to an in-camera, authentically captured film like Top Gun: Maverick makes us all feel good that our approach works and is appreciated by audiences,” Joseph Kosinski told The Wrap.

“It’s almost funny to me to see people who are so enamoured with real photography. Younger people almost haven’t seen a lot of it. They’re so used to CGI being a tool of big movies that when you shoot something for real, it feels innovative.”

The Age of Branded Hollywood Movies

Why Don't Hollywood Movies Feel The Same Anymore? - The Rise of Brand Movies

From Star Wars to Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean to Jungle Cruise, branded ties have existed for decades; it’d be ignorant to pretend that conglomerates aren’t trying to sell toys, merchandise, and amusement park tickets.

Although it’s arguably never been more egregious.

In the wake of the success experienced by David Fincher’s The Social Network, John Lee Hancock’s The Founder, and James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari, the studios walked away having learned all the wrong lessons. Most prominently: focusing on the product instead of the people.

The biopic has officially been succeeded by brand movies. Over the past year alone, there have been entire films dedicated to Nike’s Air Jordans, BlackBerry (RIP), goddamn Tetris. Some of you may already be aware there’s even a KFC movie currently in development.

Gone are the days of tongue-in-cheek placements. Now we have feature-length billboards. And amusingly enough, they expect us to root for these “underdog” multi-billion-dollar companies.

Seek & Ye Shall Find

hollywood movies

At this stage, I feel the need to clarify. This isn’t the cantankerous diatribe of a digital curmudgeon. Just an observation.

By no means do I genuinely think the entire landscape is uniformly “doomed,” for that would discredit the masterful contributions that indie players and foreign cinema have blessed us with — both of which are (thankfully) getting the attention they deserve lately.

If you want to see “good” movies, they’re all around you and more accessible than ever despite what the disproportionately low marketing push will have you believe. But how long does Hollywood — the main source of entertainment’s production — seriously expect us to keep buying the same shit before something drastically changes?

The ordinary folks out there whose occupations don’t involve obsessing about pop culture, whose primary exposure to film will invariably be whatever a boardroom exec in Los Angeles decides has the best chance of improving their bottom line, deserve a better calibre of entertainment.

Plain and simple.

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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