BatmanAdvertisers are past masters at maximising every available space to get their message across, and moving vehicles have long been fair game for them, particularly buses. I remember Dinky toys of London Routemasters as a child that always, for some reason, seemed to be promoting Vernon’s Pools. It’d be quite refreshing to see something so quaint on the side of a bus these days. Whenever I’m stuck behind one in a traffic jam, I’m confronted by those hilarious ‘before and after’ dieting pictures that apparently demonstrate how losing weight not only means a slimmer figure, but a new hairstyle, contact lenses over specs, and a vastly improved wardrobe. I wonder at what point of a diet these magical ingredients appear?

I’d much rather have a laugh at that kind of advertising than the sort that dominates the gap on the side of a bus between the lower deck and the top deck. That space is now permanently owned by Hollywood as a kind of mobile billboard for the overblown, unmitigated pap it churns out on a weekly basis. Has anyone ever caught sight of one of these ads on the side of a bus and suddenly been struck by an insatiable desire to see the movie in question? Most make me never want to set foot in a cinema ever again.

Jennifer Aniston’s post-‘Friends’, straight-to-DVD career seems to have been lived out on the sides of buses. How many sappy, soppy, schmaltzy rom-coms can one actress put her name to before she spontaneously dissolves into a sugar-coated, saccharine slick of snot and tears? At one time, Doris Day used to be saddled with a similar ‘America’s sweetheart-next door’ reputation, but at least she possessed an exuberant charm and could sing as well – and her better cinematic outings still stand up as enjoyable period pieces. Every time I see Aniston’s name on the side of a bus my heart sinks at the sheer waste of money involved in a movie that will never recoup the extortionate cost of making it, money that could have been used to hire a decent scriptwriter, producer, director and cast for possibly three or four other movies that would vindicate the continuation of the art form.

One bus ad I spotted a couple of weeks back was for ‘Independence Day 2’. Firstly, the tag ‘2’ is basically Hollywood code for a remake; with the odd exception – ‘The Godfather’, perhaps – few sequels are anything other than the first film revisited. Secondly, ‘Independence Day’ remains the worst movie I have ever seen and the notion that it required a sequel is truly mindboggling. For me, it was the real beginning of the specially-tailored multiplex movie and represented everything vapid and vacuous that those malls masquerading as cinemas were designed for. The screenplay was derivative of every sci-fi invasion film produced since the 1950s, the dialogue was pure B-movie cliché from the same era, the acting was barely on a comparable level with ‘Neighbours’ or ‘Home and Away’, and the myriad cracks in the whole witless package were papered over by the element that most of the finances were evidently poured into – the CGI special effects.

I began to find it hard to distinguish between computer game and motion picture when I saw trailers for the first Spiderman and Incredible Hulk movies in the early 2000s, realising then that CGI had reached the point whereby it felt more like I was watching a cartoon version of the lead actor indulging in death-defying leaps than a stuntman clad in his costume – and I essentially was. I yearned for Lou Ferrigno in his false nose and green wig or Adam West and Burt Ward supposedly climbing up a building when the extent of the special effect was simply placing the camera on its side. They at least were fun, the one aspect sorely lacking from the pompous and pretentious, CGI-laden superhero movies that have come to dominate Hollywood as westerns and sword-and-sandal epics did in the past.

What looks fantastic on the comic-book page basically looks laughable in real life – square-jawed musclemen in tights and shorts are wholly comical when they step out of the graphic novel and onto the big screen. What was so wonderful about the Batman TV series of the 1960s was the knowing sense of the ridiculous both in the scripts and in the acting. Adam West, permanently breathing-in to keep his Shatner-esque pot belly in check, played it totally straight and that’s what made his performance so funny and memorable – and why the series remains recalled with affection. In comparison, the utter absence of humour in the recent Batman ‘reboot’, populated by Method Actors toned within an inch of their gym-friendly physiques and, in tandem with the deluded director, delivering each addition to the franchise with a serious gravitas Shakespeare would have baulked at, is symptomatic of the way in which the comic-book creations of inventive and innovative writers and artists are served so badly by Hollywood when box-office receipts are the sole motivation for making a movie. No wonder Alan Moore refuses to have his name on any cinematic adaptation of his works.

The bigger the explosions, the dumber the film – that seems to be Hollywood logic in the twenty-first century; bar the odd surviving auteur to have emerged from the last great breakthrough of Art-house cinema into the mainstream that took place in the mid-to-late 90s, Tinsel Town is singularly failing to maintain the equilibrium between artistic excellence and entertainment that it managed to achieve for the first hundred years of its existence. In a world of reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels aimed at an adolescent audience whose cinematic etiquette encompasses talking, texting and transferring the big screen to their Smartphone, the defection of the most creative people to television is benefitting one medium and threatening the future of another.

TV almost killed Hollywood in the 50s, but the older outlet was eventually reborn thanks to an influx of new talent at the end of the 60s. At the moment, however, it’s hard to envisage anyone with half-an-ounce of creativity wanting to be absorbed into an industry that has been reduced to polishing turds of such magnitude that the stench is unbearable.

© The Editor

One thought on “CELLULOID ZEROES

  1. As US department-store magnate John Wanamaker once observed, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.
    Hence all the futile advertising of desperation still littering our urban landscape – they’ve still not worked it out.

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