Okay, so what is it with all the hate for this movie? It has a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and, of course, it died at the box office, mostly due to a paucity of good reviews. I watched it today just to kill some time but found myself engrossed and highly entertained. This is an economical and funny supernatural comedy very much in the ilk of Men In Black that is fast paced and unpretentious. The writing is good and natural and the funny bits land well. The acting, especially on Jeff Bridges’ part, is extremely good. And the story is engaging if not highly original. This is basically Men In Black IV, but it’s a nice take on the MIB concept.
By comparison, The Room, a movie so inept it seems made for MST3K, has a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Do the critics honestly believe that The Room is three times better than RIPD? Watching The Room can only be turned into a pleasurable experience by openly mocking it. RIPD on the other hand, would have been a lot of fun to see at the Alamo. A beer and a pizza would have gone perfectly with Bridges’ curmudgeonly wild west Sheriff lines. As a matter of fact, I’m a little bit pissed that I didn’t go see it when it first came out. That’s what I get for letting other people make my movie viewing decisions for me.
I think the critics were just suffering from action movie fatigue and overhype strain. I know I was. Man of Steel and Into Darkness were both disappointing. Oblivion and Last Stand were equally disappointing and The Hobbit was an unexpected flat-line from my perspective. I’ve written here before about the sameness that is creeping into the action movie genre. Never much for originality to begin with, I get the feeling I can tell you what’s going to happen next given only a few minutes taken from any place in the movie. I didn’t even bother to watch the end of Iron Man 3, I was so certain what was coming.
In the 1970s, action movies were gritty, intense and most likely to star Roy Scheider or Gene Hackman. Die Hard and Lethal Weapon changed all that in the 1980s when action movies became louder and flashier but with less substance. I’m not saying that was a bad thing. Gritty is awesome for a while but then you want to have some fun. And the 80s, if they were about anything, were about having some fun.
In the 1990s, advanced computer graphics changed the game again, stepping up the flash and the bang and once again reducing the content to little more than a series of snarky quips. You can chart the drop in quality with the rise of Michael Bay until it reaches its natural nadir by turning one of the most horrific attacks on the United States, Pearl Harbor, into a movie that is little more than a video game.
Then came the superheroes. And, once again, I am not saying that’s a bad thing. I love me some comic books. I love that we finally have the ability to make a comic book movie that is awe inspiring instead of just awful. It’s just that there are so many of them and they all essentially tell the same story.
This is my issue, this is a problem I have: when the sameness starts to get to me, I look for something different. RIPD and The Lone Ranger both looked like they were maybe a step away from the tried & true path. But they both failed miserably. And this is where it becomes my problem: whenever I sit down to fashion a story, I look for a way to make it different. I want an angle that isn’t plumb in the mainstream. And that’s not always a good idea. As much as they complain about redundancy, people turn away from the different and lean in for the familiar.
New stuff is out there for a while, flying under the radar of the general public, gathering critical mass until it breaks through one day and becomes the norm. All that vampire porn was out there in the Romance sewers for years before True Blood opened the floodgates. Likewise, Philip Pullman wrote Northern Lights (known as The Golden Compass in the U.S.) in 1995 and the first Harry Potter book was published in 1997. The Young Adult market exploded in the early 2000s and all those authors who had been toiling away in something like the basement of the publishing industry started getting big checks and lots of attention.
Now everyone wants to write vampire porn and young adult supernatural but the markets are flooded with titles. Good luck getting noticed there. No, I think the only thing you can do is write what you like, create the books you want to see on the shelves to paraphrase Gandhi, and hope that your stuff gets swept up in a similar groundswell. And if not? Well, at least you have the joy of writing the book. They can’t take that away from you.