Why Must Blockbusters Be Dumb?
A few years ago around this time, Mark Harris wrote the following article for GQ:
In which he shifted the blame away from those erroneous suspects on to a later film: Top Gun.
In the article Harris wrote the following:
Then came Top Gun. The man calling the shots may have been Tony Scott, but the film’s real auteurs were producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, two men who pioneered the “high-concept” blockbuster—films for which the trailer or even the tagline told the story instantly. At their most basic, their movies weren’t movies; they were pure product—stitched-together amalgams of amphetamine action beats, star casting, music videos, and a diamond-hard laminate of technological adrenaline all designed to distract you from their lack of internal coherence, narrative credibility, or recognizable human qualities. They were rails of celluloid cocaine with only one goal: the transient heightening of sensation.
Top Gun landed directly in the cortexes of a generation of young moviegoers whose attention spans and narrative tastes were already being recalibrated by MTV and video games. That generation of 16-to-24-year-olds—the guys who felt the rush of Top Gun because it was custom-built to excite them—is now in its forties, exactly the age of many mid- and upper-midrange studio executives. And increasingly, it is their taste, their appetite, and the aesthetic of their late-’80s postadolescence that is shaping moviemaking. Which may be a brutally unfair generalization, but also leads to a legitimate question: Who would you rather have in charge—someone whose definition of a classic is Jaws or someone whose definition of a classic is Top Gun?
Food for thought there. I’m more sympathetic to this argument than I am to the worn out Jaws and Star Wars one. If nothing else, the basic fact is that Jaws and Star Wars both still hold up as legitimately good movies while Top Gun does not. It’s a piece of pop culture ephemera that comes off nowadays as rather silly and jingoistic.
But I don’t know if I can necessarily say that Top Gun alone led to blockbusters becoming pointless noise machines. Harris, to his credit, more or less admits that it is an arbitrary selection. So let’s say that Top Gun did play a role. But two later movies did just as much if not more. Those two movies: Twister and Independence Day.