Big Budget Does Not Always = Bad Film
I was going to write a post about the prejudice against big budget films, at least among movie buffs like myself and my friends. Much of this stems from reading, in rapid succession, Danielle's dissing of King Kong and Chronicles of Narnia ("I am tired of movies with lots of shiny special effects. I want movies where the actors act") and some moron telling Ebert that Batman Begins was one of the worst movies of the year.
Then I went to see Underworld: Evolution with some vampire-loving friends. I was reminded WHY movie buffs like me usually dislike big budget films. Empty, mindless special effects. Either no plot or TOO MUCH pretentious plot. No acting. And I don't give a damn about the characters. (To Kate Beckinsale: Let's see your resume. Pearl Harbor. Underworld. Van Helsing. Underworld: Evolution. Whatever happened to the days when you appeared in films like Much Ado About Nothing?)
So instead of going on a self-righteous rant against perceived elitism, I pulled back and remembered that, yes, most big budget films do suck. But not all.
There's nothing wrong with being a crowd-pleaser, as long as you actually please the crowd. Let's take a comic book example. X-Men, good. Fantastic Four, bad. Spider-Man, good. Daredevil, bad.
The point is, I don't mind seeing shiny special effects and action as long as (1) the action is interesting, (2) the effects and action are put at the service of a good plot. After all, that's what a movie ultimately is: a story. If you can weave a good yarn with special effects, I'm there. If you can tell a good tale with a small cast of character actors, count me in.
The latter can be screwed up, too. Good small, character-based film: Shopgirl. Bad small, character-based film: Closer.
Oh, and to close...as the ultimate example of a film that weaves together good story, good acting, AND good special effects - The Lord of the Rings series. Cinematic achievement of our lifetimes.
Update: Apologies to Kate Beckinsale. She HAS been in good movies as of late. She played the (sadly under-written) role of Ava Gardner in The Aviator.