Reports Of The Death Of Movies Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Mark Harris’s piece fretting that the art form that is moviemaking is in mortal danger seems a trifle overwrought to me. I think it’s easy to mythologize Hollywood of earlier eras and to forget how many incredibly terrible movies the studios have always cranked out. John Wayne may be a Hollywood legend, but he also has 171 actor credits, which include such gems as him playing a drag-racing schoolbus driver or punching Commies in the schnoz in Hawaii. Christopher Lee has an astonishing 273 movies to his credit. Humphrey Bogart started out his career playing an upper-class twit repeatedly, and then lower-class thugs repeatedly. Repetition and derivativeness are not precisely new to the business.

And more to the point, Harris bemoans the perception in Hollywood that Inception was a favor to Chris Nolan to bribe him into making another Batman movie, rather than a viable model. Sure, it would be great if studios took risks on more truly original ideas. But are we seriously decrying a situation in which an auteur who makes dark, developed, intensely political, and wildly commercially successful action movies* is able to force his studio to let him make hugely personal, beautiful blockbusters? There are worse things.


*I also categorically reject the idea that serial storytelling, whether it’s about superheroes or not, is inherently devoid of ambition or unable to be great. But that’s a conversation for another day.