Movies Need More Grownups
May 21, 2010 3 Comments
You know how from time to time someone in a movie/TV show will tell someone else (who, the audience needs to be made aware, is supposed to be really tired cuz they were up all night working on the murder case, or whatever) “you look terrible” or “exhausted”? They never really do. That bothers me. I know what “terrible” looks like and that ain’t it. You’d think that between all the makeup and the method acting and the CGI they could cobble together a more convincing portrayal of “terrible”. It’s as if filmmakers are afraid to let their actors ever look truly unpretty, and they know they’re doing it, so they emphasize via stilted dialogue how “terrible” someone supposedly looks when the script actually calls for it.
A larger but related point: I think one of the reasons movie sequels and series get worse as they drag on is that filmmakers are more puerile yet more out of touch, so they think they need to stuff their movies with pretty smooth-faced kids and teenagers in order for kids and teenagers to like them. Take the original Superman (to me the Christopher Reeve/Margot Kidder version will always be the “original”, sorry). Now granted, Superman is a totally juvenile story. Yet in that movie at least Superman/Clark Kent is recognizably a grownup and so is Lois Lane. Yet miraculously, kids loved it. I know, because I was one. And it’s still great! You see, contrary to what today’s filmmakers thought, kids didn’t literally need kids to be the actual main characters of the story in order to relate to it. Kids don’t look up to kids, they look up to grownups. That’s because they want to be grownups, not other kids.
But in the recent sequel, Superman is (as far as I can tell) a homosexual teenage Ambercrombie & Fitch (sp?) underwear model, and Lois Lane is that actress from Dawson’s Creek (or whatever, she’s probably not literally an actress from Dawson’s Creek, but aw c’mon, you know what I mean…all these actresses look basically the same now). The point is that both characters, supposedly after a 5 year journey, seemed to get observably younger. Neither appears to be a grownup, let alone 5 years older. And I didn’t care diddly squat about either one. (Especially the fake Lois. Come back to us, Margot Kidder!) And it’s all because the filmmaker is, basically, not a grownup, yet paradoxically, doesn’t understand how actual kids think. Or maybe he was just scared – like everyone nowadays – to make a movie in which not everyone was airbrush-pretty.
There’s an illuminating exception that proves the rule in the 1978 version which is the character of Jimmy Olsen. That character indeed was supposed to be a young guy. But notice, young as he was, he was still a grownup moving around in a world of grownups. Compare Jimmy Olsen in Superman to Peter Parker in Spider-Man: both are young guys, both characters are at basically the same stage of their lives, both are photographers for newspapers. Yet Jimmy Olsen seems years older and wiser than Peter, who no matter what happens seems basically 15 years old. This despite the fact that from what I can tell, Tobey Maguire was like 27 when playing Peter Parker, which is 7-8 years older than was the dude who played Jimmy Olsen in 1978. (Maybe actors, or just people in general, are getting more puerile…)
Movies – especially comic-book adaptations that are already fundamentally juvenile – just need to have more grownups. And it’s hard to think of a movie series that hasn’t been spoiled in this way. Indiana Jones 4, they plopped Shia Le’bouf (sp?) into the thing for no apparent reason. The Star Wars prequels, were full of kids/teenagers running around. The supposed love interest from Spider-Man was whatshername the 10-year-old actress from that vampire movie. The ’90s Batman movies threw Chris O’Donnell in the mix (I think they knew that was a mistake luckily), and even the highly praised Christian Bale Batmans have totally juvenile love interests no one can possibly care about. She is literally from Dawson’s Creek, in the first one, and then (as played by Donnie Darko’s sister) gets killed off in the even-more-critical-darling second one, and still no one cares.
Why do filmmakers keep doing this? Why are all characters who should be thirtysomething played by 22-year-olds. It can’t be a coincidence. And neither can the fact that basically all of these sequels/series just make me yawn (and long for Margot Kidder).
I just watched a great movie from 1978 called The Silent Partner, with Elliott Gould as a clever/scheming bank teller and Christopher Plummer his bad-guy robber nemesis. It’s so bizarre to think that Elliott Gould, of all people, was a big star, dare I say sex symbol?, in the 1970s. Was it the frizzy, curly hair? The big nose and long, lined horse-face? The thick bushy eyebrows? (Characters in the movie kept telling the Gould character how ‘photogenic’ he looked on TV, too! Hilarious!) And Gould’s sexy love interest, played by Susannah York (Superman’s mother!), was like 39 years old at the time, as far as I can tell – a nice-enough looking woman at that point, whom several characters in the movie kept lusting after/saying how good-looking she was – but really, just not a young girl. Lines on her face and everything!
Just think how inconceivable that would be today; if The Silent Partner were remade, it would have Zac Efron as the worldly-wise teller, Ashton Kutcher as the menacing bad-guy, and Amanda Bynes as the burned-out but full-of-life love-interest. Because it’s all about demographics, y’see?