Today I found myself thinking about big budget studio movies (intended blockbusters). Typically if I am anywhere on the ‘it’s ok’ to ‘I hated it’ track I will hear “why can’t you just turn your brain off and like the movie?”. The answer is that I can turn my brain off- kind of.
I can be entertained by a stupid movie. For example, Furious 7 I gave a B and that is a definite turn your brain off movie. Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift on the other hand would get a D and I was not able to turn my brain off for that one. What’s the difference?
I don’t know…
Why did Amazing Spiderman 2 drive me nuts but Guardians of the Galaxy dazzled me? On an individual level I can explain it. AS2 was cluttered, poorly written and felt like it wasn’t trying to make a good movie just preparing for the sequel. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were pretty good but I found Jaimie Fox to be unconvincing as a villain and nothing else engaged me in the story.
Guardians in contrast is about a group of vigilantes who each have a backstory that is interesting, with good writing, small nods and puzzle pieces to the MCU, great music, and likable characters. It has a lot of smaller roles that are done very well with great actors like John C. Reilly, Glen Close and Benicio Del Torro. I also loved Gamora and Nebulla and felt their stories had real heart (as well as Starlord and his mother). It was something new and different and very funny too. For me it had enough layers to not be a ‘turn off your brain’ movie but again a space opera adventure mystery.
I don’t want to get too bogged down on individual movies but that’s just an example of why one version I could enjoy and another didn’t work.
I know a lot of the turn off your brain movies I don’t like don’t deliver what they are promising. Lone Ranger for instance was sold as a fun Western movie . We knew the show and wanted something like Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas. Instead we got a tedious story of unlikable characters arguing. It’s also insanely long and the attempts at humor fall flat. It was a brutal time at the movies.
Furious 7 on the other hand worked because it has likable characters, it never stops with the silly action and the humor works. It never takes itself too seriously. In contrast, the Transformers movies have action that is supposed to be epic but feels plodding, terrible dialogue, unlikable characters, pointless explosions and it feels so long. It wears out my patience.
I think the key is the pacing, likable actors, new special effects, and not too much that is cringe-worthy. I can ignore some bad dialogue or plot holes but give me bad dialogue, plot holes and be 3 hours long you are pushing it. I could ignore a lame romance or cliched character but give me lame romance, cliched characters and boring special effects or bad dialogue forget it.
A movie like Jurassic World has just enough of the likable aspects for me to give it a pass but not enough for me to LOVE it like some people.
It’s like I have some kind of scale in my brain where I tick off good things and bad things and overall I walk away either liking it, thinking its ok, or loving it. Here’s what I came up with:
That’s the best I can think of to explain why some movies work for me and others don’t. It can have the silliness. It can have items on both sides of this chart but when it tips the balance on the left side and not enough of the right it’s a problem.
So I’m not really turning off my brain but ignoring my brain. I’m certainly aware of all the bad things in a movie. My brain knows the flaws of a film (no perfect movie) but there’s enough good things to still be entertained, even enamored with a movie.
What do you guys think? Can you turn off your brain for a movie? What’s the factor in allowing that to happen and not? What would you have on your chart? What’s a turn off your brain movie you like and one you hated?