When it comes to movies, I do I enjoy watching big-budget visual effects spectacle. If all I wanted was a compelling story and interesting characters, then I could get that from many forms of media. But there’s no place besides a movie theater where I can watch a massive ship break apart and slowly drag its passengers down into the freezing deep.
However, there’s a devil’s bargain at work here. Because visual spectacle costs a lot of money, then the only movies which contain visual spectacle are going to be those are going to be big-budget studio films. And nobody makes a film like that unless they feel pretty confident that they’re going to recoup their investment. And the way that they make themselves feel confident is by futzing around with it until every possible objection to the movie is removed.
But that’s not enough. I don’t care how much money it costs to render a massive airship, all I care about is whether it looks cool. And the special effects in so many big-budget action movies simply don’t look cool. The biggest culprit here is, I think, all these Marvel superhero movies. I just came back from seeing Captain America: Winter’s Soldier, and I found it to be a very bland experience. The movie had no soul. Everything looked exactly like what I’d expect it to: sleek curves, shiny surfaces, silver / grey / brown color palette, lots of whirring motors. The fights were the same uninspired punch, punch, kick, jump over something, slide under something else, shoot somebody (repeated ad nauseum). It was incredibly expensive to create, but it was all just rather boring.
In order for an artistic work to be good, there’s got to be some kind of inspiration at work somewhere. At some point, someone needs to take a chance and do something new. It doesn’t have to be too big of a chance. I don’t expect a lot from these movies. I mean, the characters were pretty thin, and some of the coincidences were absurd (the Captain’s jogging buddy turns out to be a guy who can operate a super-suit), but that was okay. Where you lose me is when you make a movie that doesn’t do the one thing it’s supposed to do, which is look good.
Take, for instance, the main villain in the movie: The Winter Soldier.
This guy was so boring-looking. He was basically dressed like Snake from the Metal Gear Solid games, which is to say that he looked like every sneaky covert ops ninja you’ve ever seen in a tv show or game or movie or book. His big piece of flare was that his arm was metal.
No, the movie literally left me yawning. By the time it was half over, I was trying to see if I could fall asleep (I’ve had some very restful sleep in movie theaters. I still remember the great nap that I took during Ocean’s Twelve.)