Samuel Brace on dealing with oversaturation…
Less is always more. But quality will keep the naysayers quiet.
The answer to the over saturation of any genre, be it superhero, zombies or the western, has two obvious answers, neither of which are nebulous. The first is to stop making so many damn movies or shows in that genre, therefore keeping your audience hungry. The second is to be bullish with your direction, and keep detractors silent by making better movies. You see, the answer to most of entertainments problem is quality. The answer is to just be better. Not many complain about better.
People loved the western, for years, for decades, the western had it all: the biggest stars, riveting stories, iconic characters and premier presentation. The western died when they stopped being good. When the quality dipped the audience left. The same will happen with today’s sensations of genre. Superheroes and zombies have become insanely popular. They hit a nerve with the culture at just the right time and captured imaginations. The problem with Hollywood and the larger entertainment industry — as we all know — is that when something popular is found they will beat you to death with it. And the problem with beating someone with the same thing over and over is that it will eventually become blunt. Complaints would be few if quality remained. Unfortunately, quality is hard to maintain, and after a while all you have left is the idea, the idea that people once liked but which doesn’t taste quite as sweet as it once did.
The zombie and superhero gene are — to be fair — at different stages of their saturation. Both produce far too much, but the zombies have definitely beaten their hero counterparts to the point of “oh god, stop, please just stop”. The superhero or comic book genre will get there soon — perhaps already has for some — but as far as most are concerned, they haven’t arrived quite yet. Obviously, zombies are a different matter. They’ve had their fun, it was fun, now it just needs to retreat quietly into the hedge like Homer Simpson. Or does it? There is a film this year, a Korean film by the name of Train to Busan that made me say: “Well, I can’t complain about this. This is good!”And in there lies the answer to the question, the solution to the riddle. It turns out complaints mostly fall on death ears if the subject for abuse can’t really be abused all that much, because you know, it’s good…
Train to Busan isn’t a five star move, it isn’t a classic, it won’t resurrect what is already gone, but it is very good, and it does prove something. Less is always more, but detractors will be willing to forgive if the asinine amounts of movies in said genre are great films. The Walking Dead, the zombie genre’s premier product, was peak zombie goodness, for a while. But that show doesn’t understand that less is more, it most certainly doesn’t understand the quality it once possessed or what made it so good, and now the show has reach its nadir. These zombies are tired, but many wouldn’t contemplate leaving the show if the quality of the content superseded the tiredness of the genre. Good is good. Quality is unmistakable.
This is where other genres can learn something from Train to Busan. This is where the superhero film and TV show can learn this most amazing and surprising of lessons. If something is good, the quality doesn’t matter. Don’t everyone faint at once. People obviously like comic book films, they like this genre but by throwing so many of them at us for years on end with no end in sight, there will be a point of diminishing returns. You will be playing with fire. Tired eyes make for tired minds, and they make for closed wallets too. And considering people are growing less keen on the cinema going experience, this genre is one of the only things that are keeping people coming back, so for heaven’s sake don’t let us complain. Don’t add fuel to the fire by making a litany of mediocre movies. You want the cries of saturation to go away but don’t want to stop the train? Make better movies. You won’t find many complaining about too many wonderful films. The genre will be irrelevant.
It’s a simple solution and an obvious statement, you think more would adopt the practice of it. I am not seeking out zombie content anymore. I do seek out quality entertainment. Train to Busan doesn’t make you want to watch more zombie movies in 2016. It does make you want to watch more good movies. Age of Ultron and Batman v Superman don’t make you want to watch more superhero movies. They do make you want to close your eyes and go to sleep. No one will complain about superhero films if the films themselves are modern greats. We will be forced to pipe down because we will be enjoying a quality product. If every one of these films was as good as The Dark Knight — not like it in terms of tone or story — but as good as in terms of quality, complaints will fall on the deafest of ears. It turns out people appreciate excellence regardless of where it is, the genre doesn’t matter all that much. It does matters when you make it matter. It matters if you think more is always good, and that quality is an afterthought.