The current state of cinema needs fixing

The current state of cinema needs fixing

Noah Cannon, Guest Column

We need to fix the current state of cinema. 

Movies are special. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. But what makes them so special? Why do we go to the movies? Legendary film critic Roger Ebert summed it up pretty well: “Every once in a while, I have what I think of as an out-of-the-body experience at a movie. When the ESP people use a phrase like that, they’re referring to the sensation of the mind actually leaving the body and spiriting itself off to China or Peoria or a galaxy far, far away. When I use the phrase, I simply mean that my imagination has forgotten it is actually present in a movie theater and thinks it’s up there on the screen. In a curious sense, the events in the movie seem real, and I seem to be a part of them.” 

I couldn’t agree more. Ever since I was little, it was a joy to be treated to the movies where the smell of popcorn and candy fills your nostrils like the greatest air-freshener and you could feel your heart pounding and being pumped full of eager anticipation as the lights dimmed and the picture started. It was almost like a dream, wondering what kind of adventure the film would take us on. 

I’ve seen the original “Star Wars” trilogy, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” and the first 11 PIXAR films several times, and every time I see them, I feel magic — a sense of wonder as though I’ve left this world and am experiencing a whole new life that inspires me to do better and to create stories of my own.

Now, I must explain my disappointment with what the future of cinema looks like. I’m literally sighing right now as I write this. I am not an optimistic man. Famous filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola don’t believe that Marvel movies are cinema, comparing them to theme park rides. Coppola even went as far to describe them as “despicable.” As harsh as that might sound, I agree with them to an extent.

As much as I love certain MCU films, here’s why I side with them. Almost every MCU movie feels like it’s been churned out in a cold boardroom by gentlemen in suits. Nothing is really new or revolutionary or taken seriously. They try to, but the films are so drowned with bathos that when it tries to tell something dramatic it just comes across as a joke — like a mouse trying to be an elephant.

The films are purposely made to fit a young demographic and please Politically Correct crowds. Scenes are edited for laughter and applause. Yes, the movies are more like theme park rides than real cinema, as previously stated by Scorsese. But what sticks out to me the most is how hardly any of these films feel personal or grounded.

Unlike Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, Joss Whedon’s Avengers, or James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films, the majority of the other MCU films don’t feel like they’ve been created from the ground up; the sole brainchild of an individual being an artist. About 90% of these movies feel like they can all be directed by the same person because they lack a unique visual style and sense of tone that separates them from the rest. Sure, that works for a consistent cinematic universe, but it lacks variety and doesn’t feel personal. 

This is why I’m scared for the movies of the future. The Marvel films are the most popular and commercially successful movies made today, and people can’t get enough of them. They’ve influenced the tone and style of other films, too. Modern day films are filled with excessive, overly colorful CGI, forced pop culture trends, nonstop action, and goofiness that breaks the tone of a film. Blockbusters are what make the most money.

Nowadays, people don’t give hoots about dramatic, personal art films like “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather,” or any of Scorsese’s films. They’d much rather “eat fast food” than go to “a gourmet restaurant” so to speak. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but my problem is that in the future, every film is going to be studio controlled, modern for no reason, and edited and toned down for the sake of being fun and entertaining.

Studios are afraid to take risks and make something new and unique. People are scared that they’ll be rejected. If this is what the future of the cinema is going to be, then I’m not looking forward to it. On the contrary, I’m depressed, because I love movies, stories, and filmmaking. There’s nothing wrong with seeing weightless, fun films for the sake of having a good time, but if that’s all we get in the future, if there’s no variety, then all that stuff that made blockbusters and superhero films so great and unique in the first place… is gone.

I hope that my theory of what the future of movies looks like doesn’t come true. I pray for a cinematic future filled with young talented new artists rising up to tell new stories in visually unique and creative ways. I dream of films that are again the sole product of an individual being an artist without thinking about merchandising and pleasing an audience.

If we get more films like the early Lucas/Spielberg movies, or Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking soon-to-be-classics, or even the early Pixar films, then yeah! I’m very excited! That would be awesome. We’ve recently got great films like “Dune” (2022), “JoJo Rabbit” (2019), and “The Batman” (2022), films that stand out visually and thematically with great stories that come straight from the mind of one director working with thousands of artists to create something personal and special. If we get more directors like Matt Reeves, Christopher Nolan, Peter Jackson, and Martin Scorsese, then I believe we are in good hands.

I end this article with a personal message to Hollywood: Please don’t let the magic of cinema die out. It’s one of the few and most special things that holds our society together. Film is not just a consumer product, or a bunch of pictures strung together. No. Film is an international art.