Hollywood sucked into the Dark Side

By Chris Morrison

Generally, I’m not much of a summer hater. I love the heat and sun. The hotter the better. This past weekend saw the mercury hit the mid-thirties, which makes many Calgarians pine for cooler temperatures. While many of us will enjoy the fine weather and find things to do outside, be it biking, walking or sitting on the patio of a pub enjoying a good book, others will head for the air conditioned multiplexes where they will be exposed to the best of what Hollywood has to offer. Unfortunately, the best is often bad, and in the case of any Freddy Prinze or Bruce Willis movie, it is beyond bad, approaching an evil only those residing in Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell seem capable of committing.

For as long as I have been going to the cinema, roughly since 1980, summer films have tended to be lighter fare, catering to the youth audience just out of school. That summer of 1980 I saw The Empire Strikes Back. My older brother says this is the best Star Wars movie of all time. I’m torn between it and the original, but the scene where Darth Vader enters the rebel base on Hoth and his music starts in (come on you know the scene), I still get shivers. I mean Han Solo is still in the base with Chewie and Leia and the droids. I’ve seen that film dozens of times, I know they get out, but I still get the shivers.

Every summer there was a must-see movie, maybe two, but that was it. They were obvious. Often George Lucas or Steven Speilberg were involved, or both. There were special effects galore, lots of merchandise, a great actor, be it Alec Guinness or Peter Cushing in Star Wars or Jack Nicholson in Batman. Often fast food promotional tie-ins were involved, but that never took away from the enjoyment of the film. Many of these films, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T. (the original, not the neutered re-release), and Batman were just so good and so much fun. Sadly, the fun had to end.

Now, every week or two there is an event film opening. Each of these films has tremendous special effects, plenty of merchandise, and of course, fast food promotions.

The summer started while we in Calgary were still shovelling out from a late snowfall. Spiderman was a prototypical summer blockbuster, with plenty of special effects, a great actor, Willem Dafoe, in a supporting role and merchandise on the toy store shelves months before the film ever opened. It actually received decent reviews. I admit I haven’t seen Spiderman, being a D.C. Comics guy and not much into the whole teen angst associated with Marvel Comics, but I don’t really want to see it. Following Spiderman came the next Star Wars episode, which, while good, didn’t live up to the legend created by the first three–well, mainly the first two. Too many special effects and not enough swashbuckling. We all wanted to be Han Solo, the laser-toting smuggler, not Obi-Wan, some Jedi monk.

Within weeks of these two came a slew of typical summer movies. We finally hit the nadir in June with the release of Scooby-Doo. The spawn of Satan that is Freddy Prinze had been unleashed on us yet again. The appeal of the original Scooby-Doo is that within the confines of a children’s Saturday morning show, one had the stock characters from a ’70s porno film. Freddy’s the swinger; Daphne the slutty hot chick; Velma the uptight chick who’s a real ride when she gets into it; and Shaggy’s the stoner. But what does Hollywood give us? Special effect-laden garbage, with Freddy Prinze to boot. I was supposed to review the film for this fine paper, but I could n’t bring myself to see a Freddy Prinze movie.

The new emphasis on summer films is bigger than it was in 1980, but bigger does not necessarily mean better. The emphasis in the media is on how much a film makes on its opening weekend, not on how good it was. One never hears about great summer films of yore like the star of 1996, John Sayles’ Lone Star, because it opened the same weekend as Independence Day, a film made a decade too late as the aliens represent the communists’ attempt, and failure, to take over the world. So if you decide to attend the cinema this summer, please think before you go. If fewer people see Freddy Prinze movies, eventually he’ll be making made-for-tv movies and after school specials on UPN, which is where he belongs.