Some franchises can be described as being just big loud stupid summer blockbusters. You all know how these arguments go. One person starts blasting a film for its sheer stupidity, over abundance of explosions, lack of character development, plot holes, lack of any plot whatsoever, physically/scientifically impossible action sequences...etc. Then the next person gets on there and starts raving about how its all just turn your brain off and enjoy pure entertainment without thinking too much about how stupid it all is. While I tend to agree that there are some films that are just too stupid for me to enjoy no matter how awesome the FX or action sequences are, I also believe that these movies are still valid forms of entertainment for those who can enjoy them.
Take the always incendiary topic of the Transformers franchise for example. These movies hit all of the required action movie criteria, and are equally defended by their fans and condemned by their haters. Both groups offer convincing and passionate arguments for why Transformers movies are awesome/worthless. This sort of audience polarization has ruined friendships, ended marriages, brought family members to fisticuffs, and fueled endlessly enjoyable arguments everywhere since 07'. All the while the franchise continues to follow its path, never diverging from its original path, never listening to the critics, and as a result it has continued to succeed despite near universal critical disdain. How is this possible? How is it that a film franchise can actually continue on to ever increasing box-office grosses when virtually every professional critic of note in the industry agrees that these movies are lacking in any sort of merit beyond that shallow initial FX wow factor.
Don't get me wrong here people, I'm not here to poo-poo the transformers franchise, or even to single them out as the focus of my movie-nerd rage. There are many franchises that are guilty of being awful in so many ways, but which somehow remain successful and profitable. This list of franchises includes but is not limited to everything from Underworld, Resident Evil, and Friday the 13th to Ninja Turtles, the Transporter, and Fast and furious. While i loathe some of these movies, others are an admitted guilty pleasure.
Fast and furious for example is a franchise that I continue to watch (although I wont pay to see it at a theater) even though I fully agree that its all basically just nonsense. Now you may be wondering how I can watch something which (even I myself agree) extends its ambitions only as far as creating maximum automotive mayhem. Hell, half of the stuff they do in these films isnt even physically possible. To this I respond by saying that i'm just a sucker for awesome cars, street racing, and the combination of Vin Diesel and the Rock. That's literally it. The stupidity and lack of attention to specific details bothers me, but yet because I am a diehard fan of fast cars who enjoys the street racing and tuner car scene I can still watch and enjoy the films themselves just for the orgy of vehicular awesomeness. That being said, there are some car movies that even I cant sink to watching (cough need4speed cough).
More to the point and less about my own personal opinions we come to the question posed in the articles title. Do some franchises have a right to skew stupid? By this i mean- Is it ok for a franchise to operate with a complete disregard for critical storytelling elements in favor of simply embracing a sort of shock and awe tactic where the only real goal is to entertain on a purely superficial level? Shouldn't all films strive to be the absolute best version of itself that it can be? Or is it ok for a film to simply say, "Hey we know this isn't an immortal masterpiece of cinema like "Lawrence of Arabia", "The Godfather", or "the Empire Strikes Back" and we're ok with that because we just want to entertain fans of this particular genre."? -(I think this is the single most complicatedly punctuated sentence I have ever written...HELP MEEEE!! I can't stop:;-"'/?(}|\..,,,,,)- Sorry lost it there for a second, it's 6 AM and I'm on painkillers.
Movies like Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and GI Joe are just stupid to me I'll admit. Yet I also believe they have a place in the cinemas for kids, and faithful fans of the cartoons. If you can enjoy them I say by all means go ahead and enjoy them, because in the back of my head I can admit that I enjoyed some pretty crappy movies when i was a kid too. Yet though i have admitted that even now I enjoy the F&F films as a guilty pleasure, there is still that part of me that will always wonder why some of these films didnt try harder to be the best that they could be (F&F included). Ninja Turtles is one of the few that I believe has no need to strive to achieve some greater franchise potential, since the entire idea of ninja turtles is absurdly stupid to begin with. I've read somewhere that Hasbro which owns the Transformers and GI Joe brands doesnt allow their filmmakers the freedom to pursue the awesome potential of a fully artistically realized cinematic adventure, instead they impose a certain cartoonishly shallow production tone in order to maximize the appeal to young audiences and simultaneously maximizing toy sales. Well that all makes perfect business sense, but sacrificing potential artistic merit for maximum profit just seems wrong to me.
I believe it to be a disservice to both the characters and the fans when a franchise which has interesting characters and an interesting central concept is not explored to its full potential. Some films lack that potential, and these are the films which I agree should just embrace their own stupidity. Everyone has an opinion on this one so let your voices be heard in the comments, (I reply to most).