6 Reasons Movies Suck (That Hollywood Hasn't Figured Out)

Unlike 2014's abysmal box office low, 2015 saw one of the most successful summers in Hollywood history. Nice work, everyone! All that's left to do is churn out a quirky arthouse film about a sad Steve Carell and call it a year, right? Only here's the thing ...

The Wrap

All that sweet blockbuster bank was primarily made by two studios, while everyone else took a beating like Vincent D'Onofrio during the blanket party scene in Full Metal Jacket. In fact, 2015's success falls squarely on the four top-earning films. Everything else either did the same as 2014 or bombed spectacularly. So what in the world happened? Have Disney and Universal finally hoarded all the marketable franchises to form an unbeatable uber-duo like a corporate Tango and Cash? Or is there some detectable reason so many studios failed this year? If you ask me, it's not rocket science. And as we've pointed out in the past, there are six simple lessons that the non-theme-park-owning studios can learn for 2016 ...

#6. We Don't Need Elaborate Origin Stories Anymore

20th Century Fox

Despite being the first Mad Max adventure in 30 years, Mad Max: Fury Road treated character backstory like post-apocalyptic gasoline -- rationing off very little while assuming that audiences were familiar with the basic concepts of "loss" and "nuclear annihilation." After all, thanks to every new Terminator film, we've been repeatedly walked through the nuclear holocaust like it's a goddamn team-building mantra.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures
Somehow, I'm bored by the fiery deaths of millions.

Just how many times do they think we need a movie about stopping Judgment Day before the series can die? Every new Terminator film neurotically fears that the audience has never seen the previous one, spending at least 10 percent of its runtime re-explaining the entire franchise. It's almost as frustrating as Peter Parker's doomed life as an eternal teenager, watching his Uncle Ben get murdered and reborn over and over like a wailing Prometheus.

Screen Rant
Rumors of a freak encounter with a radioactive spider still swirl!

Superhero films are the worst when it comes to obsessively retelling origin stories. Every new reboot apparently thinks that the audience has somehow forgotten everything about the previous film and will welcome a Nolan-like reimagining. Speaking of Nolan, Batman Begins didn't succeed because it focused on Bruce Wayne's parents dying for the third time on film, but because it showed the previously-unseen years between their deaths and his decision to become a tactical crime-fighting giant mouse. But thanks to that film, we now have a Fantastic Four movie that spends two-thirds of its time lumbering through expository sequences wherein its four main characters stand around frowning at each other.

20th Century Fox
And the actors do the same while off-camera.

Generally speaking, an origin story serves two main purposes: 1) It eases the audience into accepting and understanding the universe of the film, and/or 2) It show us the origin of an iconic character for the purpose of entertainment. The key is knowing what needs an explanation and what doesn't. For example, Star Wars had faith that audiences would accept "a galaxy far, far away" as enough justification for spaceships, aliens, and some intergalactic war, but it also knew that unique concepts like lightsabers and the Force needed to be slowly introduced along the way. Unlike the prequels' obsession with the thrilling nuance of trade route taxation disputes, the original films understood that audiences were sophisticated enough to accept a basic "good vs evil" plot. I bring up Star Wars because it was the clear glimmer in the eye of the sibling duo behind this hot sack of crap:

Warner Bros. Pictures
Dog Soldiers II: Byzantine Space Politics

Jupiter Ascending follows the winning Star Wars plot about a complacent rando becoming a space warrior, but noisily shits the bed in assuming it needs to spend its first 40 minutes furiously over-explaining the origins of everything from a complicated dispute between alien dynasties to the bureaucratic process of being registered as space royalty. (Seriously, there's an extended sequence in the middle of the film in which the main character has to slog through what is essentially a Space DMV.) There's even a scene of the protagonist being born, as if the filmmakers were afraid that we wouldn't understand how she came to exist otherwise.

We don't need any of that stuff. Spend as little time as possible explaining the parts that are absolutely necessary, and let the story tell the rest. This is one of many reasons this new Wachowski film bombed unceremoniously -- another being that it was made by the Wachowskis. Which segues perfectly into the next point ...

#5. Studios Keep Betting On Actors And Directors Who Never Make Money

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

After Jupiter Ascending pulled the box office equivalent of drowning in urine, Deadline issued this incredulous crow of a headline:


Yes. How could it be that the makers of Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, and The Matrix Revolutions created a subpar sci-fi / fantasy film? Oh wait:

Box Office Mojo
Jupiter Ascending was advertised as being from the creators of The Matrix -- a 16-year-old movie.

It turns out that the Wachowski siblings have literally never made a beloved or marketable film since The Matrix. And yet, for some unfathomable reason, their last three flops had respective budgets of $176 million, $102 million, and $120 million. It's almost as if the people giving them money are in some spiraling state of denial about the fact that this duo only had one good story to tell. And they aren't alone in the shitter, either.

George Clooney is a great and universally fuckable actor, but barely any of his headlining films have broken the $100 million mark:

Box Office Mojo
And the only one to break $200 million killed him off after half an hour.

Yet for some reason, Tomorrowland had a budget over $100 million. Why? Did they think he was finally due? I get that Brad Bird is a director with a bunch of huge hits under his belt, but why wouldn't they have used a portion of that gigantic budget to hire a lead with mainstream appeal? The same goes for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hasn't cracked $100 million solely on his presence in over a decade. This makes the $155 million spent on Terminator Genisys an act of a money-hating terrorism.

I know it sounds callously un-progressive to imply that studios shouldn't let actors lob a good buzzer beater every now and then, but there's a difference between cautiously investing in a spunky underdog and going all-in on a rotting dachshund. I'm not saying that the Wachowskis should be purged from Hollywood, but rather that studios should stop dogmatically throwing so much money at every story they conjure about rocket-skating dog people fighting dinosaurs in leather jackets. It's depressing that I have to even propose that, and that the previous sentence is in no way a joke.

#4. No One Wants To Watch A Movie With Millions Of Villains Packed In It

Warner Bros. Pictures

Quick: Name a good movie with more than two iconic villains in it. And by "iconic villain," I mean a fully-fleshed-out, single character who made an impact on the audience, and not a cluster of villains like the Baseball Furies from The Warriors or Jurassic Park's raptors. Also, the villains have to be in only one film, meaning that stuff like Return Of The Jedi, Return Of The King, or any of the Harry Potters don't count, because their characters had multiple films in which to be fleshed out.

I know that sounds like I'm arbitrarily making up rules, but what I'm getting at is that in order for a villain like Boba Fett or Bellatrix Lestrange to be memorable, they need a lot of elbow room to become formidable and sexy and scary. And so with a standalone, 90-to-120-minute film, the greater number of bad guys you stick in, the less time you have to make each character memorable in any way. I feel like now is as good of a time as any to point out that Terminator Genisys has four villains in it.

Paramount Pictures
From top to bottom: T-800, T-1000, T-3000, and T-5000. Because if we can't improve the story, we'll improve the model numbers.

Four. Two of whom are killed in the first half of the film, while the other two only show up near the end. At no point is a considerable amount of time spent on even one of these killer robots, making none of them remarkable in any way. You could argue that Robot John Connor was supposed to be the main villain, but given that you don't see him until the halfway point, it's monumentally challenging to give a shit.

Any first-year film student will tell you that most movies tend to introduce the main antagonist and/or obstacles in the first act of a film. In the first 30 minutes of Age Of Ultron, Furious 7, and Jurassic World, we know exactly who or what the villain is and what problem they're causing. By its 12-minute mark, Mad Max: Fury Road has given us its main villain, heroes, and the inciting action that sets the rest of the film into motion. This is how action and adventure movies are supposed to work, and why I get full-body mystery pain when I look at the Batman V. Superman cast and see half of DC's lineup:

The post-credits teaser will feature Jonah Hex, Swamp Thing, Black Canary, and Alley-Kat-Abra.

Maybe I'm a pessimist, but there's no worldly way to make all those characters compelling with the little amount of introductory screen time they're getting. That's why Marvel didn't start with The Avengers and make individual films later, and why DC isn't being innovative by doing the opposite. Meanwhile, Pixels had three mini-bosses that came and went, and Jupiter Ascending juggled more half-formed and badly-motivated shifties than a Robin Thicke concert. It sounds so basic, but most of the worst-rated blockbusters films this year seemed to forget that you need to spend time establishing a single villain. And the failure doesn't even have to be oversaturation; while Fantastic Four only had Dr. Doom to work with, they inexplicably introduced him in the final leg of the film, in what was arguably its only compelling moment.

20th Century Fox
Relatively speaking.

If you're wondering why the film didn't simply start with Dr. Doom rampaging around and blowing up heads, it's because everyone assumed there would be plenty of time for that in the sequel. Which reminds me ...

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