Anghus Houvouras on whether knowing too much about a film can ruin your enjoyment…
There are still people who decide what movie they’re going to see in the span of time it takes between arriving at the theater and purchasing a ticket. Carefree film fans who are somehow able to miss (or purposefully avoid) the commercials, trailers, and online ads that permeate the digital space. The criteria they use to select their weekly trip to the cinemas is in no way influenced in the multi-million dollar marketing machine constantly vying for our attention.
We have never known as much about movies and the industry that produces them as we do today. The digital age has given us a ridiculously voyeuristic look into the world of entertainment. From the moment a project is announced and stars are attached, the film is under a microscope being scrutinized for every choice made. We seem to have an insatiable appetite for entertainment news and the curiosity to click on any link for news about a movie we’re eagerly awaiting.
No. It absolutely doesn’t. In fact, I think any sane individual could make the argument that it kind of ruins the magic of the movie-going experience.
A story this week plastered on every entertainment site centered around Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and a budget that exceeded $200 million dollars making it the most expensive French movie ever made. Is this really a story? Was that a high bar to jump? Using the most pedestrian of research (HELLO GOOGLE), I found that the second most expensive French film ever was Asterix at the Olympic Games which cost a whopping 78 million Euros back in 2008. Do you want to guess what the third most expensive French film is? Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. In fact, if you comb through this list of the top 10 most expensive French films of all time, you end up with either an Asterix movie, an Arthur movie (the animated ones, not the Dudley Moore ones) or films produced by Luc Besson.
So while the story is factually accurate, it’s not exactly news. Nor is it anything that really matters. Luc Besson has been in this game a long time. Valerian is a passion project and he spent a huge chunk of money making it a reality. Additionally, who the hell cares? Obviously the investors, but I’m guessing none of them are reading this column.
Why are we so invested in the cost of a movie? A cost that has absolutely zero impact on the quality of the final film nor your enjoyment of it. There’s the fascination with the escalating cost of productions and how much these behemoths cost, but why anyone has an opinion on the matter feels baffling. When The Fifth Element was released back in 1997, the trades discussed the huge budget of the project. Even back then it was something for entertainment writers to squawk about. Whether it cost a hundred dollars or a hundred million, it was still a ridiculously entertaining movie. Did knowing the budget make you enjoy it any more or less?
Ar $200 million, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets costs pretty much the exact same as every other blockbuster you’ll see this year. I’m not sure what the intent of this story is.
THE MOST EXPENSIVE FRENCH MOVIE EVER MADE!
Is this Carl Denham shouting from the highest rooftop about the caged monster that demands to be seen? Is it some kind of snarky ‘I told you so’ precursor that entertainment writers will reference when the film doesn’t light the American box office on fire? Are they setting this up as the next John Carter because it will give them a film to burn in effigy as part of their inevitable mind-numbing ‘2017 WINNERS AND LOSERS’ column?
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets might be the most expensive French movie that you love. Or the most expensive French movie that you hate. But being expensive is irrelevant. It forces you to see the movie as a financial investment rather than a work of art. I understand that there is a world where people can enjoy the movie for what it is AND be interested in the ancillary information they read about the movie. However, many cannot. It’s just one large melange of information that ultimately detracts from the idea of judging the movie on the merits of what happens from the opening titles to the closing credits.
I would argue that the idea of pitching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as the most expensive French film ever made is the kind of toxic, uninteresting piece of information that does nothing to help convince people to go out and see Luc Besson’s new visually striking science fiction spectacle. It’s the most ludicrous example of an infinite news cycle that just hammers fans with information both marginally interesting and patently ludicrous.
Some of it can be interesting. For me, I certainly enjoy seeing production art or behind the scenes videos of how sequences are assembled. That appeases my interest to peer behind the camera. I love film, and so I love seeing about the creative process. It stokes that impulse that so many have of creating and being part of the movie making process. What does anyone get out of hearing what’s happening in the accountant’s office.
Is that where you find the magic that makes you love the movies more? In the cubicle filled windowless office where number crunchers are approving invoices and trying to figure out where they’re going to order in lunch from? Or the board rooms filled with coke fueled venture capitalists trying to figure out which film to gamble the pension fund of an entire company?
There is such a thing as knowing too much. The Valerian budget story is a perfect example.