Quentin Tarantino, talking to reporters during a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival, made an interesting remark regarding the possibility of a Django Unchained miniseries. Divulging that he has 90 minutes of unseen footage from the film, his explanation for using the miniseries format is related to the current binge watching culture of our society. “You show people a four-hour movie and they roll their eyes. Show people a four-part mini-series and they’ll sit and watch it all in one sitting” stated Tarantino. The funny thing about this statement is how true it is.
Regardless of the format, films always have been, and will always be, about the packaging. Studios have known this for years, but it seems that many of us cinephiles are still reluctant to admit it.
The packaging of films has been on my mind a lot recently now that the summer movie season is in full swing. Considered the season where all the exciting and/or funny big budget spectacle films hit the theatres, the summer box office is the financial blood that keeps the heart of the industry pumping. Unlike award season, which is all about prestige and self-importance, summer is all about families and friends uniting in the common quest for entertainment on the biggest screens possible.
It is also the time of year where the “there is no originality left in Hollywood” discussion kicks up. The defenders of artistic merit, or at least what they consider high art, take to social media and blogs to proclaim the death of cinema. They are the ones who are quick to lament the inevitable failure of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and proclaim Edgar Wright’s vacancy from the directorial chair of Ant-Man as indication that Hollywood is afraid of unique voices. They preach their speculations from the pulpit as if it is gospel.
I have found myself becoming weary of such proclamations and rants online in recent months. Mainly because I know that regardless of what cries of outrage get spewed into the vast sea of the internet, the ripples will be miniscule at best. If this summer, and the ones previous, has proven anything it is that new packaging works wonders on even the most cynical of filmgoers.
One only needs to look at Godzilla as proof of this. Numerous individuals, myself included, groaned at the thought of another Godzilla reboot after the disastrous 1998 version. However, the horrors of 1998 were quickly washed away from the minds of many, again myself included, when the first full trailer for the 2014 film surfaced. That audible sound you might have heard on that day was millions of wallets opening worldwide just waiting to hand over their money.
The financial success of the X-Men: Days of Future Past this weekend, the seventh X-Men related film, only backs up this point further. Even moderate successes like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 still benefit from our constant desire for more of the same…only shinier. It is basic marketing 101. When your product becomes stale, wrap it up in new packaging and sell it back to the people who like the product in the first place.
The fact that we continue to buy it places the blame on us more so than it does the studios. Like some of our local politicians, we want to verbally bite the hand that feeds us, while simultaneously getting our bibs ready for the next meal.
Look, I love a rich and meaningful film experience as much as the next person. Nothing warms my heart more than finding one magnificent film, be it blockbuster or smaller fare, after sitting through thirty mediocre to horrendous ones. However, I find the constant lamenting of a film’s worth prior to the film being released rather exhausting. Especially since the same individuals who scream the loudest are the first to lineup at a midnight screening. Similar to car crashes on the highway, I guess it is just too hard for them to avert their eyes from the shiny new packaging.