Today’s cinema goer is treated to a riches of technology. However, time after time, these riches result in a poor story. Why is one punishing the other?
I don’t and can’t believe that anything will replace story as the most important aspect of any film. One only has to look at Hollywood’s “Golden Age” and the Far East masters of story and screen, championed by the likes of Wong Kar-Wai, to see the significance of story. If you were to select your favourite ever scene from any motion picture, it would be vital to the story. I would also say that the vast majority of them are not reliant on tech, but a still camera which is capturing great imagery, character and dialogue.
Technology has become a danger to the magic of story. There is no reason why these two cannot compliment each other perfectly. Look to Jurassic Park to see the answer. This was a watershed moment for film technology, the use of CG and highly developed puppets was far ahead of its time. Equally significant, who would not love the premise? “Dinosaurs are brought back to life, and they go absolutely mental!”. A triumph for tech and story.
The problem lies with more recent films since the return of 3D.
James Cameron provides the perfect example. As well as actually trying to mine asteroids in space, he attempts to push cinematic boundaries too. Hats off to Titanic, it may have been too long and had many dull moments, however, at its heart was a timeless love story which captured everyones imagination. It was truly an epic. Nevertheless, I struggle to lavish the same praise onto Avatar.
Admittedly, I did come out of the cinema thinking and saying “Wow!” (with a slight 3D headache). I now feel slightly tricked having done so. The CG was incredible, the story was not. It will never be placed alongside classics of cinema, it will only be a triumph of scale, profit and CG. Not only was it the most unimaginative metaphor for the mining of fossil fuels in areas such as South America (unobtanium?), but it had cliche characters with little originality.
Many will feel this criticism to be harsh, however, I believe it to be the start of something bad. One only has to look at the explosion of free-hand camera shooting, which has become unnecessarily common and ineffective, to hope that a new trend is not being set. The quest for technical advance has now led us to 48fps cameras. Peter Jackson is to debut this method with The Hobbit and it has already been criticised. Reportedly, the clarity caused by such high quality filming makes the picture too real. Why would one waste such a classic story and the magic imagery of cinema as it is now for the sake of it? This is the same technique that Cameron wants to use for Avatar 2, you can probably sense that I cannot wait!
In terms of Western cinema, The Artist, among many, has shown us that story is well and truly alive. Nevertheless, there is a gap opening between story and tech that makes this discussion possible. Ridley Scott appeared to be the saviour of this debate. The build up to Prometheus’ release excited me greatly. However, after seeing what should have been a landmark return for the great director, I could not help but be a little disappointed with the convoluted narrative. A good, exciting film, but it was not quite the Alien or Blade Runner equal it was intended to be.