A View From Behind the Meter
The major holidays of the year are over and we all must get back to work. This year should show some remarkable changes in both politics and the increase in economic growth in our industry. I’ve heard from every quarter that this last years box office topped any previous year so I would hope that this is an indicator to investors that one should put their money where it will do the most good. With this in mind, I would also hope that stories, good immersive stories, will emerge and the reliance on computer graphics would naturally take a back seat. I do believe that the computer graphic skills are incredibly effective but without good stories they draw attention to themselves and the audience, though awed by the graphics, are less than satisfied. Once I hear the response from a moviegoer praising the explosions and the awesome visual effects I know the story was weak. I think most of us go to the theater to see a story that takes us out of our present day life and puts us into someone else’s shoes. The experience is exceptionally cathartic when we have a good story and just a cartoon of life when all we remember is the graphics.
One such film was Gravity. I was particularly thrilled to see the depiction of space portrayed so beautifully by the filmnakers but highly disappointed by the story. It reminded me of the film Marooned produced in 1969 which received an Academy Award for special effects. It had a cast of actors that at the time was quite exciting: Gregory Peck, Richard Crenna, David Jansen, James Franciscus, and Gene Hackman. With all these fine actors it should have been at least interesting but it was just awful. It was the only Academy Award Film lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The story has many parallels to Gravity in that an astronaut, Richard Crenna, sacrifices himself in the same manner that George Clooney does but in the lampoon they suggest that he does so to avoid critical review. I believe both films suffer from the same malady, a poorly designed story. It is sort of like watching someone struggle in quicksand. There is certainly a conflict of survival and as an audience we can see the perils confronting the protagonist but after an hour of struggle we know the outcome but need to watch another hour of the same one note symphony. I wished for some sub-plots or twists that were unexpected but was thoroughly disappointed. In Marooned I felt the true survivor did not make it and in Gravity, as much as I adore Sandra Bullock, she did not deserve to swim to the shore and survive, no matter how cute her legs looked in short shorts.
Last week I took a look at Intelligence and couldn’t get away from comparing it with Six-Million Dollar Man. It stars Josh Holloway and Meghan Ory and was created by Michael Seitzman. It also has one of my favorites in a small role; Marg Helgenberger plays the head executive in charge of the experiment. One immediately has to suspend one’s sense of reality because it’s really based on the same kind of fantastic that the Six Million Dollar Man had. There’s nothing real about this story at all. It’s all fantastical and future sci-fi special effects but unlike Six Million it has sub-plots, and I do hope that these sub-plots will propel the show out of the ho-hum to a thrilling search for truth. The main character, Josh Holloway, is married to a woman purported to be a known terrorist. It debuted as one of the most watched but dropped audience share rather quickly and now moves to its regular spot on Monday evening a very tough night for any show. It was very compelling but I can see a tendency to be a one trick pony and that will kill it for sure. Without good immersive stories that capture our imagination graphics and special effects only go so far. The television audience is a very fickle group and that’s why such show’s as Mash and CSI: Las Vegas were so impressive. They were able to hold an audience and entertain them for an incredibly long run. Good luck Intelligence you are certainly going to need it.
-Michael Rogers, Lighting Consultant & Educational Outreach, BIRNS AND SAWYER