Last October, Lionsgate released an absolute bummer teaser for the new Power Rangers reboot. It featured zero humor, color, or any mention of the original show canon. Instead we got a gritty world of school bullying and depressing Johnny Cash covers. Out of the gate, the movie appeared to be the next Fantastic Four flop. Just a big depressing turd.
Then the full trailer came out ... and you know what? It suddenly looked goddamn awesome. The sad sacks in the teaser were now sarcastic teens with stupid parents. Depressing Johnny Cash got replaced with easy-to-fuck-to pop music. We got our first ever look at the Zords, Putty Patrollers, and Mrs. Repulsa herself. Fucking Alpha showed up, you guys. Alpha. Suddenly this party was one Bulk and Skull away from being officially off the hook.
There was just one thing still bothering me.
Where was the goddamn color?
This new trailer, now filled with jokes and fun, still had the shading of a serial killer's dreams. And before you tell me that I'm half-dog or some shit -- yes, I'm aware that there's still technically color in the trailers. But not without the reoccurring blue/gray filter that seems to haunt every blockbuster film. To prove I'm not some raving mog -- I've taken a few shots and ran them through Photoshop's color correction ...
What you're seeing is the original shot from the trailer. And now here it is with actual colors.
It's subtle -- but do you see the difference? In my version the Pink Ranger is actually pink. Here's a better example in broad daylight:
The bottom one has been re-saturated. And while I'm not exactly an expert colorist, no doubt you're starting to see what I'm getting at here. As we've mentioned before on this very site ... despite having like 10 million discernible shades to work with, studios have stopped making their films bright and colorful. Even when one of the defining plot points is the goddamn shade of the characters' outfits.
So why is this happening? For starters, while the film's director has promised to make it "playful" and "funny" ... he's also called it "completely grounded in a real world" and with "a real edge to it." And while we can debate all day about whether or not we need a "grounded" take on a big bald alien man creating dino-riding child soldiers ... the greater problem is that we've somehow decided that "being realistic" is the same as "having the color palette of a Tool video."
That's a shot from Batman v Superman and it might as well be in black and white. And before you say "there's nothing colorful in that shot to begin with" -- here's another shot taking place in the film's inexplicably gloomy congress (which I took a shot at correcting):
A lot of times it's nearly impossible to bring out the color because the set design and lighting was simply designed to be dark. And that's not just ugly -- it's logistically absurd in normally bright locations that are somehow unlit. For example, Reed Richards' laboratory at the end of the Fantastic Four reboot:
20th Century Fox
Look at that no-contrast wrist-slitting hogjizz. Why would anyone want to make science in a stark-gray tomb of darkness? I attempted to fix this as well, because I'm a goddamn Photoshop machine.
20th Century Fox
So what the hell happened? Why did Hollywood suddenly decide to erase all the life from their pictures?
Well, turns out you can totally blame Steven Spielberg -- and his innocent directing choice that snowballed the industry not unlike Jaws and Indiana Jones birthed the modern blockbuster. Take a look:
When he made Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg made the deliberate choice to drain the color from the film. Not because he thought it looked "real" -- but because it didn't look real. According to his own beard hole, the desaturation was meant to imitate the look of an old 16mm WWII reel by George Stevens.
20th Century Fox
And this was pretty much the last time a war movie looked colorful. Since then we've gotten such sepia epics as The Hurt Locker, Letters From Iwo Jima, Black Hawk Down, and American Sniper. And while none of those films are bad (the most recent being the very un-bad Hacksaw Ridge), this dreamy monochrome look actually removes the audience from the horrific moments on the screen. Just look at all this colorless Vince Vaughn:
Is that the kind of Vince Vaughn you want? Of course not. You want bright, vibrant Vince Vaughn as he struggles with the savagery of war. Like this:
Again -- the difference is often subtle, but it's still there. Here's a more striking example that isn't just of Vince Vaughn (however there IS a Vaughn hiding in the image):
You can tell me that some of these shots are drab because of clouds or war dust -- but I'm not arguing the motivation for the grayness so much as the constant inclusion of it. The added bonus became clear with CGI -- which was way easier to blend when everything is the same uniform color. Look how much easier it is to Photoshop a face on Iggy Pop's nipple when you don't have to worry about matching color:
And the disease kept spreading. The act of draining color from motion pictures spread to other genres like action, superhero films, and even period pieces. How is it that one hundred years after Birth Of A Nation, its namesake actually has less color in it?
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Even Disney is doing this. Look at the new Beauty And The Beast reboot compared to the original cartoon:
At its darkest parts, the cartoon was still vivid. But even at its brightest parts, the new movie is muted and sad-looking. Because according to Disney if you suck out the color, the cursed man-beast is suddenly grounded and authentic. Just like how the Little Mermaid reboot will no doubt rely on intertitles to capture the somber vacuum of a soundless ocean floor.
And sure enough -- this has spread to video games as well. Because lord help you if you cross mediums to escape this colorless void of grittiness.
Why are these games 90 percent monotone? Since when did we go back to first-generation Game Boy palettes? This quest for realism is like a prank the entertainment industry is playing on itself -- only we're the ones with shaving cream on our balls. I mean ... what the fuck can I do to make you use color again, Hollywood? Do you want me to bleed? Do you want my red fucking blood? Surely I'm not some old-headed traditionalist for saying that I want my entertainment to be in color, right?
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How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.