Art Vs. Commerce or Why Resident Evil Afterlife made me hurt inside.
For months now, Denise (My Fiance), has been prodding me to see the latest Resident Evil movie. You see, we're both fans of the video game series (Resident Evil 4 remains one of the best video games I have ever played) and we have seen all of the films together. At best, I was skeptical. I had enjoyed the first film immensely but had watched the slow but definite decline in the series with each progressive release.
The series, as far as I have been able to tell, has suffered from Planet of the Apes Syndrome since the first sequel. For those of you unfamiliar with my theory, let me fill you in.
Planet of the Apes was released and instantly became a jewel in the crown of sci-fi. With Charlton Heston's strong and powerful Col. Taylor providing our "in" to the story, we were immersed in a distant future/alternate universe where apes ruled the planet. No one had seen anything like this before and because this first picture was so well done, it was granted a sequel. Each progressive sequel's budget was cut and as long as the movies kept making money they continued to come up with (flimsy) reasons to revisit the concept.
This is not new in Hollywood. Why would you spend 100 million, when you could spend 20 million and get the same financial return? The problem is, this art vs. commerce philosophy not only shows up on the screen by way of shoddy special effects (This can be dealt with, just ask Robert Rodriguez) the lack of funds can often be seen in the writing. Usually, by the time a franchise (God, I hate that word) comes to the end of its run, the people involved cease to give a shit about the story. At this point, the project has gone through several different studio changes, different writers and directors and the sole purpose of unleashing this piece of shit on the unsuspecting public is to make money. With the advent of Netflix, OnDemand and the DVD market as a whole...they often do.
Which brings me back to the topic at hand...
You're probably asking: "Why do you care so much about Resident Evil, it's not as though it's high art?" You're absolutely right. Resident Evil isn't high art, it's intent is to take the audience for a fun, thrilling ride. At the very least, to be entertaining. I don't expect Citizen Kane every time I sit down to watch a film, but I do want to have a good time or draw something from it. I don't consider Escape from New York to be high art, but it has a cohesive story and esthetic that makes the film work for me.
Needless to say we watched the movie and we were treated to a mess of a story spackled with green screen in an effort to distract us from the fact that this film had no substance. As a twenty minute anime, this film may have worked, but we'll never know. (Actually the CGI Direct to DVD Film was decent) Even Denise was quietly dumbfounded at the sub par meal we had just digested. We silently prepared for bed with the knowledge that we had just wasted an hour and half (give or take) of our Sunday.
All this to ask, is storytelling and imagination declining in favor of the bottom line? I don't mind a bit of ballyhoo, but I hate the feeling that the Hollywood machine looks upon me as dribbling moron that will consume whatever they lay in front of me. Given this climate in entertainment, I wonder how any of the good projects/filmmakers get through. Where are the artists? Where are the people who made money by creating fun fantastic, projects rooted in storytelling and imagination? Could "heyday" Lucas and Spielberg operate in today's Hollwood?
...and somewhere in a galaxy far, far away a single tear falls for imagination and storytelling.