Why Even Bother?

People often ask why writing for popular films can be so bad.

I have a hypothesis. But first, let me say I love movies and find the writing in many films to be of very high quality. That said, there are many very popular films that induce audience groans at the silliness, dumbness, flatness and woodenness of their writing.

Let’s start by asking who goes to movies. According to MPAA data, males make up over half of the moviegoing audience. About 50% are under the age of 25. Therefore, the movie audience is more male and a lot younger than the general American population.

So let’s add some unscientific but recent personal experience with that demographic group.

In preparation for taking my son and his classmates to see The Avengers a few weeks ago, I asked my son about the characters I’d likely see in the picture and about the films they’d been in previously. I asked him specifically about Thor because I hadn’t seen that movie when it was released last year. My son’s synopsis (in its entirety) of the 115 minute Thor movie went something like this:

So, Thor’s a god, right? And he comes to earth because of something his brother did. And he meets that girl from Star Wars, who married Anakin, and she’s a doctor. And Thor’s all, like, “Hey, I can’t stay here on earth.” And she’s all, like, “Whatever.” But he tries to go back but can’t because of something his brother did. So he decides to stay. And also, he likes her. So, yeah, that’s it. It was good.

Consider what my teenaged son took from that script. Hardly a reason to put in extra effort, huh?

And as long as Hollywood answers to the purchasing power of an audience that skews young and male, we’re likely to continue getting movies that are looks first and writing second.

9 thoughts on “Why Even Bother?”

  1. Erm, I’ll admit, Thor’s no work of Shakespeare, but that’s a pretty wide-of-the-mark synopsis of the film. For a start, Thor was cast down to Midgard (Earth) by his father Odin after the former’s arrogance and thirst for battle had led to breakdown of a fragile truce between Asgard and Jotunheim, the world of the frost giants. Odin then applied an enchantment to Mjolnir so that only the worthy could lift it and sent that to Earth after Thor in the hopes that his time on Earth would teach him the error of his ways. Astrophysicist Jane Forster (in the comics, a nurse) does prove vital to that end, but it’s a little more complicated than what your son said.

    Loki didn’t really have a hand in Thor’s initial downfall to begin with, if at all (it’s only ever suspected that the minor frost giant incursion into Asgard was his doing out of giggles, being the ‘god’ of mischief and all – his own descent into madness doesn’t kick off until a while after Odin gives his son the order of the godly boot).

    I could continue on, but even for a year-old film, I’d be entering spoiler territory. Point is, that even for a pretty action movie (and by Odin is it a pretty movie), Thor’s actually one of the smarter Cinematic Universe movies, in my opinion. Not on the level of something like Watchmen, but by no means a movie that you need to scoop your brain out for.

  2. What did you think of The Avengers? I thought it wasn’t half bad. The main reason that I went to see it was Joss Whedon. He has a gift for creating good storylines and highly dramatic moments laced with witty one-liners to puncture the tension.

      1. It did help me, however, to have seen “Thor” and “Captain America” before I saw “The Avengers”. It added depth to the movie because I already knew some of the characters’ back stories. I haven’t seen Iron Man 1 or 2 in their entirety, yet, but I’ll get to them one of these days.

  3. At least u didn’t lose 2 hours of ur life watcing that horrible movie. It’s more the 2 lost hours that hurt than the euros spent. Well, ok.. the pop corn was good ;-p

    1. I know exactly what you mean. A few times, I’ve walked out of a theater and promised myself I’d never waste another two hours of my life on crap again. It’s a promise I rarely keep, however…

  4. Hollywood films have <25 yr old white male demographic because that's all they produce films for. If they expanded, they would discover a much wider audience. I'm just as tired of them crying about lost sales, restrictions as I am with watching their movies. I watch more independents, foreign films and I'm discovering a wealth of BBC and Australian Tv. I'm the type of viewer Hollywood would like to criminalize.

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