Fridge filmmaking: Why a movie is more than a poster and a release date

It drives me nuts that tens of millions of dollars are set in inexorable motion for the juggernaut of a Hollywood blockbuster, with nothing more solid in place than a release date and a poster

I love films. I love thought-provoking character studies and I love giant spaceships and things blowing up. I'll watch anything*. So one thing that drives me nuts is that talented filmmakers have to beg, borrow or steal to get great little films made, while tens of millions are set in inexorable motion for the juggernaut of a Hollywood blockbuster, with nothing more solid in place than a release date and a poster, let alone a decent script.

This struck me while watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Despite 35 years of material to draw on, the film is as memorable and distinctive as a urinal cake. It's an example of fridge screenwriting: generic characters, set pieces and motivations jumbled together with millions of dollars chucked at it and you see what sticks.

The runaway success of films as precision-engineered as Batman Begins should put an end to this kind of laziness. Yet the only thing that sticks in the mind about the insipid Fast and Furious is the incessant product placement by Corona.

And it's not just brainless action movies. Tropic Thunder and Observe and Report are symptomatic of a new breed of improvised comedy that amounts to people who are usually funny just standing around shouting "f*** you" at each other.

Anyone who suggests that I'm expecting too much from big-budget blockbusters is an idiot. The first summer blockbuster was Jaws and that has a script tighter than the Apple Store's app approval process . Take Shifty and Star Trek, films at the opposite ends of the filmic and budgetary scales, but both based on quality scripts. It's incredible that the amount of effort and creativity put into bigger flicks has so little to do with the sums of cash involved. Hollywood should do better.

*...that doesn't involve Abba songs or travelling pants.

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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