Lights, camera, inaction: Obama's bankrupt culture

Movies can often be seen to reflect the politics of the time in which they were made. With a series of stinkers lined up for 2012, what does that say about Obama?

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Has it really come to this?
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Dr. James Boys
On 4 July 2012 09:27

Once upon a time the sun used to shine all summer long and the season could be relied upon to produce a stream of blockbuster movies designed to fill cinemas across the land with action-packed, star-filled romps that may (perhaps) have more style than substance, but which nevertheless had some degree of originality.

How things have changed.

Not only does the sun appear determined not to shine at any stage of the British Summertime (despite, irony of ironies, a hose-pipe ban being in effect) but the aforementioned glut of movies has dried up, only to be replaced by a trickle of poorly thought out, unimaginative drivel.

I recently sat through Prometheus. I’m just old enough to remember news reports of shock induced heart attacks during the first movie in the series (although, of course, some are suggesting that Prometheus is not related to Alien). Funnily enough, this film is so bad that it may induce a similar reaction, albeit for very different reasons.

The original was, as my wife constantly reminds me, a gothic horror. It was a simple story of everyday folk on a haunted spaceship with a deadly creature out to eat them. One by one they were picked off until finally the least likely to survive emerged victorious, only to have to fight all over again, and again, in a series of increasingly uninspired sequels.

The movies became more expensive as the plot holes grew larger and the audience got smaller. Alas, the final scene in Prometheus painfully sets up the potential for another drawn out, unnecessarily protracted sequel that will doubtless do much to continue to undermine the charm of the original.

Prometheus is, however, only the latest in a series of franchise ‘re-launches’ that have become increasingly necessary as Hollywood lacks the imagination to devise anything new. Instead, it dusts off existing product and repackages it to young, impressionable audiences with younger and cheaper actors playing the roles previously established by stars who are now too expensive, or too dead, to be used.

This is happening with increasing regularity. Consider the James Bond re-launch with Daniel Craig, who may have earned his licence to kill in a brutish manner, but who is yet to earn his ability to raise a single eyebrow in a Roger Moore fashion, or to utter a Sean Connery style retort in the face of almost certain death.

Instead he has become a British Jason Bourne: a blunt, should I say dull, instrument of death. Which brings me to 2012’s The Bourne Legacy, a film NOT staring Matt Damon or even the character of Jason Bourne, in a lame effort to keep a franchise going without its star or director.

Movies are being re-booted, re-imagined, re-launched and re-vamped on an all too regular occurrence. Gone is any originality. Sequels were bad enough, but at least they were traditionally limited to trilogies. It is hardly surprising that films have begun to deteriorate as sequels have become prequels and film series have begun to edge towards five and six. Just ask yourself when the last time the fifth episode in a film series was the best of the lot? Answers on a postcard please to The Commentator….

Perhaps George Lucas is responsible. Certainly there are people who seem willing to blame him for just about everything since he began tinkering with his own films. I have lost count of how many times he has digitally altered the original Star Wars, but vitally it began almost immediately, with alterations made to its 1978 re-release to enable a sequel in 1980.

Having made the lamentable Return of the Jedi in 1983 he then had the best part of two decades to think of what to do next before inflicting The Phantom Menace on an unsuspecting world – a fascinating tale of trade disputes and tax issues on irrelevant worlds, presided over by boring Jedi knights, who were more monk than hero, and certainly less animated than most of the obviously CGI characters.

The worst culprit of all, however, has to be, wait for it…Total Recall. The Arnie blockbuster from 1990 has been remade, in some places shot for shot and word for word, with the very much NOT Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque Colin Farell playing the lead and the even less Sharon Stone-esque Kate Beckinsale playing his supposedly hot (but not very much in this version) wife. Surely the bankruptcy of Hollywood is complete?

Movies can often be seen to reflect the politics of the time in which they were made. In the 1970s there were dark and brooding movies that reflected the confused state of America, where heroes were anti-heroes and lines were blurred. (The Paralax View, The Godfather, The French Connection, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now).

The 1980s were a much brighter time, superficially so perhaps, in which heroes and politicians were more clear cut and above board. Films reflected the new sense of national pride in Reagan’s America (Top Gun, Rambo, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller).

In the 1990s everything became a little more sensitive, kinder, gentler, as men had to get in touch with their sensitive side and women were allowed to roam. (Working Girl, Pretty Women, Thelma and Louise, A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle).

In the late 90s there was a glut of movies addressing the presidency as the American people fixated on the private affair of Bill Clinton (Murder at 1600, Absolute Power, The American President, Wag the Dog). Then after 9/11 there was the obvious spate of movies examining U.S. policy and issues of war (The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Jar Heads).

But now, in Obama’s America, we have Footloose (2012), Karate Kid (2010), Fright Night (2012) The Thing (2011). This is what it has come to. Poor originals remade to be even worse. Like a photocopy of a photocopy. We have seen it all before, of course, but each time it gets a little worse.

Decide for yourself what this says about the state of Obama’s America. Certainly Hollywood appears to be bankrupt, boring and uninspiring; its products a mere reboot of a re-launch of a prequel.

Fade in, fade out.

Cut.

Dr. James D. Boys is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. He is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King's College London, Associate Professor of International Political Studies at Richmond University in London and a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @jamesdboys

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