Neil Calloway argues that studios shouldn’t risk so much on big films…
The news this week that the Aquaman solo movie has some issues should come as a surprise to no-one. Frankly it’s par for the course these days.
First, it’s a rumour which should be taken with a huge pinch of salt – with an ever increasing number of news outlets competing for your clicks, there is a desperation to beat others to the punch with exclusives that may or may not be true. If you state that a movie is having production trouble, and that film turns out to be a turkey, you can say you got there first.
However, if it is true, it’s easy to see why. In a world where films are either cheap indies that don’t need to make much money to be successful, or mega budget franchise movies that cost upwards of a hundred million and have to be a hit because otherwise it will derail a decade worth of upcoming films, you better believe that studios are going to want to to make sure the movies are perfect.
Of course, films don’t work like that. You can’t cut and cut and add and polish and expect a film to be great. A film is either going to work or it isn’t, and sometimes you need someone to say “hold on, that’s a bit rubbish, can’t you change it?” The Star Wars prequels are a prime example of this. Nobody was there telling George Lucas “Can we dial down the trade negotiations and the midichlorians? Can we punch up the dialogue a bit?” The end result was less than fantastic. During the making of Star Wars Harrison Ford famously told George Lucas “You can type this shit but you can’t say it.” I doubt anyone uttered anything like that on the set of the prequels.
The reason there are so many big franchise films based on previously published material is the same reason there is so much interference; studios want a cast iron, nailed on success, and they want to minimise the risk and increase the chances of that happening. The interference happens when they want to guarantee that success, which is all but impossible, and then things get knocked out of kilter and the movie ends up a disappointment. Film by focus group is never a good idea.
So it’s not as simple as “interference is bad, no interference is good”. Studios need to rethink how they produce movies. To mix a metaphor, instead of putting all their eggs in one basket and then counting their chickens before they’ve hatched, a more diverse range of movies will result in less last minute panics, less sackings of directors, and less leaks about tough test screenings. If studios spread the risk, they won’t be so invested in individual films being a success.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.