Looking At Films In A Different Way

I know in the past I have been given labels such as ‘the grumpy old man’, which I can usually dispute, but please reserve judgement until you’ve finished reading this post.

Upon reflection I’ve come to realise that as I’ve gotten older (granted seventeen isn’t that old) I have changed the way I view films. What I mean by this is that I’ve started to pick up on the faults behind films because I’m looking at them for different things, such as directing, screenplay writing and character. When I was younger I still had the same flare for films. There was nothing better to me than spending an afternoon watching a film I’d already seen god knows how many times before, saying the best quotations a couple of seconds before they left the actor’s mouth, and reciting a section of dialogue before it could begin. I still have that attitude, films are still a journey outside of my regular life that I can become immersed in for an extended period of time, it’s just I’m exploring that world in a different way than before.

A perfect example I can think of for this is the ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ series. I used to like those films a lot more when I was a child. They were action packed, they were funny, they were exciting, but all of those elements seemed to fade away once I sat back and actually thought about them. Now, I’m not being a total cynic, I still think the first film of the series is good, but I can appreciate that the sequels are more without merit and furthermore lack purpose and substance. Fore me personally the main fault lies in the director of these films; Gore Verbinski. The sequences where there were a lot of people involved were badly timed and in terms of symmetry I’m not sure he knew what he was doing so some of the shots were ruined for me. But worst of all it’s the fact that he couldn’t even direct the actors properly so their performances were allowed to be terrible by the man in the director’s chair. Johnny Depp was allowed to act like a drunk Keith Richards because Verbinski didn’t have the stomach to tell him otherwise in the fear that he would quit the film. Also Keira Knightley was allowed to keep the same accent she had at the beginning, despite the fact she supposedly becomes more ‘pirate’, to the extent of becoming the Pirate lord or king or whatever status she was handed in the third film, so the scenes were she has a giant chunk of dialogue to blurt out I just find myself getting annoyed by the sound of her voice. The writing for the films does bug me as well, with the story really losing it’s way after the first film, and the screenplay being quite basic to the extent of just saying things for the sake of the action. I didn’t notice these things when I was younger, but now that I’m more aware of them, they annoy me.

Another example of a film that I can see in it’s true colours, surprisingly despite the use of the silly filter, is the 2006 Zack Snyder film ‘300’. When I first saw it, aside from feeling as though it was a bit silly, I thought it was an alright film. Yet again it was an action film so it kept me occupied for a while, but now that I have a bigger interest in films I have to admit I can’t stand that film. Yet again the director managed to wreck the film for me, Snyder spent way too much time making sure the visuals met his approval, that the acting just managed to slip out of his hands. You’ll notice that every soldier in the film has their muscles as their most prominent features thanks to Snyder’s time and efforts being wasted on the visual side, and yet Gerard Butler gives the same performance as he does in every film he’s in; shouty Scotsman. You can’t blame it all on Butler’s performance though, he didn’t exactly have a lot to work with based on the screenplay he was given which was quite poor and cliche ridden for an action film set in the past. I won’t really complain about the visuals because they were just there to aid the set pieces and action sequences, but they should not have been the main thing on Snyder’s mind, he should have been kicking Butler up the back side and telling him to actually act.

I know some people who are already excited about the sequel to ‘300’ that is set to grace our screens in the coming months. Personally I’m looking forward to it as much as a prostate exam.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, the changing way in which I look at films has also allowed me to see what is truly magnificent with films as well what is bad. First example that springs to mind is the 2010 comedy from Richard Ayoade ‘Submarine’. To some less interested in films it could be considered as a bit of an odd one that wasn’t too funny, but personally I absolutely love it. It’s very well written so that the script is witty and charming but with a touch of black comedy in there as well so that the humour used is very clever and does require some thought. The characters written were also very good, with the main character, Oliver Tate, resembling a teenager who has the thought patterns and attitudes towards life of a middle aged man so he both complex and humorous. In terms of directing I think Ayoade did a stunning job, the use of camera angles and imagery made the film quite artistic but then down to earth at the same time so it was both visually pleasing and engaging. Ayoade clearly knows a lot about cinema and I have respect for him because of the tremendous work he did. The acting is superb from young talents Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige who had perfect chemistry and times and then at other times had the uneasy staleness of conflict. The use of soundtrack was very important for me too, having all six songs written by Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys who did a terrific job of making delicate songs that suited the subject matter and themes of the film. If I was still my younger self I don’t think I would have gotten that much out of the film so I am grateful for the progression I have made to who I am now.

Another more obscure example I can think of is ‘Prometheus’, because it was a more mainstream film so it was pushed into the public eye from day one. It was seen as a bit of a silly attempt by Ridley Scott to re-explore the Sci Fi territory he had mastered before and most people felt that it didn’t do the Alien films justice in the way that they had hoped. For some it was a bad film because it was one the audience has to think about and has some set pieces that are quite disturbing. However for me there was some merit to the film and I have to admit I did think it was a good film. Ridley Scott proved that he is still capable of making intelligent Sci Fi, which doesn’t mean to say it’s his best piece of work, I just think it was better than people thought. I will address the story firstly because some people feel it didn’t explain much in terms of ‘Alien’ but it wasn’t meant to, Scott has already said there is room for two or three more films so it will all be explained in time.

For me the best elements of the film were the characters and themes. Admittedly there were some characters who were written quite badly which resulted in me not caring about them, but for me the best character was that of David, the robot played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender. The reason I liked the character so much was because not only was he played very well by Fassbender who mastered the posture, speech and blinking activity you would expect of such a futuristic character, but because of the main theme he linked to of wanting to meet your maker. It was truly thought provoking to see the other characters wanting to meet their maker and find out why humans were made in the first place, and then you have this quite non human like character who doesn’t understand this fascination because he is well aware of who is maker was a why they made him. I think it was interesting to see a character question philosophy and beliefs as openly as David did, and it added a lot to the film for me and showed how to make a good Sci Fi film that has depth.

It is a bit of shame in some cases that my views towards film have changed because it tampers with the films I used to like, but overall I’m not unhappy with how I view films now, I think it allows me to see what truly makes a good film and makes the ones that are brilliant stand out for me as special. If I still viewed a lot of films as ‘good’ I think that word would somewhat lose its meaning. How I view films now allows me to broaden how I think about them and how I think about certain aspects of life.

I have no doubt that the way I view films and what I look for in them will change even more in the future, but I don’t really think it’s a problem. I feel as though I have broadened by knowledge about films because I know a lot more about the different aspects to film such as directing. I enjoy being able to talk about films in depth because they are an important part of our culture, and have a huge influence in my life.

As always please feel free to leave any comments on the topic or the films mentioned, I’m always interested to hear what other people think.

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