Archive for June, 2013


Defending Destruction in Movies


Okay lately with all the big tent-pole movies coming out I’m seeing a lot of blogs complaining about how much 9/11 style imagery is in movies today, and how the scale of destruction seems to be out of control and all that.  People who know my blogpost on Sucker Punch will probably see which side of this argument I fall on.  But for people who don’t know me . . .

I find the whole argument to be silly. Star Wars blew up a planet. Then the heroes got revenge by blowing up a planet-sized space station. The ’09 Star Trek also blew up a planet. But only when part of the city of London is destroyed in the sequel do people complain. Last I checked, cities are smaller than planets.  Return of the King won like 12 Oscars, but I don’t remember anyone complaining about the body count in it.

Are large scenes of destruction in genre movies a response to 9/11? Possibly, but that’s not unheard of. Remember Gojira/Godzilla? Instead of the Bomb destroying cities in Japan its a giant atomic fire breathing bipedal lizard. then as that franchise went on they had to up the destruction level by adding more monsters (many like Mothra and Rodan had their own spinoffs also with lots of destruction), until they eventually had to scrape the bottom of the idea barrel by giving Godzilla a little lizard son to play with on Monster Island.
Destruction scenes mean the same thing today that they meant in the 1920s when that dinosaur trashed the London Bridges or in 1933 when King Kong destroyed trains and cars and planes in New York.

Yes you can respond to tragedy with something like Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel, or you can make a movie about titans fighting off a great evil to protect their home at any cost. Which experience would a normal audience want more?

Audiences go into these things to escape their problems and relax with their friends. The more ridiculous the stakes get, the further away their mind gets from their crappy job and their manipulative spouse.

If you’re watching Melies “A Trip to the Moon” is it more interesting for the rocket ship to land softly on the moon’s head, or should it fly straight into the moon’s eye? The more extreme one is also clearly more iconic.

Normal people don’t want to see movies or read books about normal people. They want something absurdly different. Hence, Ewoks and Godzilla and Superman and Hercules and Beowulf and Frodo and Buzz Lightyear and Scott Pilgrim. 

Just watch this Godzillathon playlist on YouTube and you’ll feel better about destruction in movies.