Everything was better back in the day. Food was more delicious before we learned to fear and despise trans fats, the most delicious of all fats. Cars were better before we bogged them down with frivolous features like safety belts and emissions standards. And movies -- oh man, they were so good back in the day, before we learned that computers could perfectly render the Hulk's butt down to the smallest green pimple. But were they? Were they truly? We're not sure, seeing as how a lot of our complaints about modern cinema go back far longer than you'd think ...
5Product Placement Is As Old As Cinema
Right as you're trying to lose yourself in the new Spider-Man movie, Peter Parker breaks your suspension of disbelief by doing a search on goddamn Bing, which nobody has ever used.
At least, not for searches they could show in Spider-Man movie.
But rampant product placement predates the talkies. The 1920 Buster Keaton silent film The Garage was one of the first perpetrators of egregious product placement, displaying the logos for Zerolene Oil and Red Crown Gasoline so prominently that even newspapers -- champions of capitalism that they were -- publicly condemned him for it.
Because nothing makes oil, gas, and tires look awesome like the car using them falling apart in five seconds.
And in Wings, the first movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture, there's an awkwardly long scene in which two guys stare at a Hershey bar for like 20 seconds.
Even the great Stanley Kubrick wasn't immune to the thralls of ad revenue. In The Shining, those scenes in the pantry feature dozens of packages of Libby's, Heinz, Kellogg's, and Maxwell House -- the logos all neatly turned toward the camera.
Warner Brothers Pictures
All work and no flakes makes Tony a dull tiger.
Even classics like It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, and The Day The Earth Stood Still were loaded with the strategic placement of brands like Coke, the Yankees, and National Geographic. Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show On Earth, released in 1952, was found to have 19 instances of product placement -- that's only two fewer than Independence Day, and seven more than The Dark Knight. So one famous moment should've gone:
"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille"
*Camera zooms in on can of Frankie Beenz Franks 'N Beans, lingers there for an uncomfortable length of time.*
4Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man Was The Batman V. Superman Of 1943
Freddy Vs. Jason. Alien Vs. Predator. Batman V. Superman. Next out of the gate, G.I. Joe will be going head-to-head with the Micronauts. And for a while, it was looking like the guys from 21 Jump Street would be joining the Men In Black. No, really.
Whenever a big-budget crossover comes out, audiences flock to the theaters, initially excited to witness the last dying gasps of two belabored franchises, until they touch butt to seat and the death rattle starts playing. But disappointing franchise crossover experiments date back to 1943. Universal Pictures had already made dozens of movies starring classic horror monsters when some bright studio guy thought, "Hey, why don't we make them fight?" The result was Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.
While both ignore the Apathetic Lady sitting there wondering what Dracula's up to.
And much like with Batman V. Superman, fans were pumped right up until the moment they saw the tepid final result. According to a New York Times review by Bosley Crowther (the most 1940s newspaperman name possible), the studio used a weak narrative excuse to bring the monsters together, spent the entire movie building up to it, and when they finally fought, it wound up being nothing but a "little tussle." That sounds awfully familiar.
Wait until they figure out their moms have the same name.
Crowther goes on to sarcastically suggest that Universal's next movie should team the monsters up with the East Side Kids (that classic franchise!). His prediction didn't end up being far from the truth, because Universal eventually made Abbott and Costello part of the expanded Monsters universe.
There wouldn't be a bigger Expanded Universe joke until Marvel gave us Hawkeye.
Oh, and by the way, thanks to the current explosion in popularity of these team-ups, Universal is currently trying to do the exact same thing again. Probably without Abbott And Costello this time. Although ... the Minions are also a Universal property. We're just throwing that out there.