‘We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Movie’
This story originally appeared in an issue of the stndrd Magazine.
Our culture seems to have a love/hate relationship with the modern day Hollywood blockbuster. Movies like 2015’s Jurassic World are making billions at the worldwide box office but there is a group of detractors who aren’t thrilled with the movies that are dominating theater screens. The idea of the “blockbuster” is still a relatively new one—the model was formed 40 years ago with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.
When you look at the list of highest grossing movies of all-time—Spielberg’s name is all over it. Jaws, the Indiana Jones series and the Jurassic Park franchise have proven that no filmmaker in history has a better understanding of what moviegoers want from big budgeted cinema. It would be easy to assume that Spielberg’s projects make a lot of money because he knows how to deliver visceral thrills. Nobody can stage action and suspense for the screen like Spielberg but heart and story is an important component of his films.
Heart and story are abundant in Spielberg pictures like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That heart comes from the fact that Spielberg had the chance to create original films. Despite his films being large in scale—there is a personal element to Spielberg’s filmography. Family, often viewed through the eyes of children, is a signature of the director’s work.
It’s not hard to understand why many view Hollywood as nothing more than a soulless factory of late. It feels like every week we have a film released that’s a remake, sequel or comic book adaptation. When you are constantly recycling ideas it’s hard to inject them with heart or a real signature. Jurassic World has made a fortune at the box office but its cultural impact is limited by the fact that it is a sequel to Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.
Has Hollywood simply lost the ability to create original stories? They probably haven’t lost the ability—but they certainly have lost the desire. Because of movies like Jaws and E.T. audiences expect a lot from event moviemaking. To match those expectations studios have to spend ridiculously large amounts of money. Those large investments are safer to use on sequels and remakes rather than something unknown to the public. That means that instead of seeing something original like the Indiana Jones movies—we see Hollywood trying to find a way to remake the Jones series or continue it.
Spielberg made his career by crafting big idea films that relied on personal storytelling as much as they did on large-scale action. His singular contributions to cinema are solely missed in this era of rehash storytelling. One can definitely argue that Spielberg’s groundbreaking success might be partly to blame for why studios are obsessed with blockbusters. Regardless of who is to blame, we will probably never have another filmmaker like Steven Spielberg, especially considering the current state of Hollywood.