Popular Movies Aren't Good

Most people have never seen a good movie

Martin Scorsese said "Marvel movies aren't cinema" and I completely agree with him, in fact most recent movies aren't and I'm beginning to believe that most people have never seen an actually good movie. What are the movies that most people talk about these days? Superhero movies, Star Wars, Harry Potter, stuff made by Disney, stuff like that. Ask yourself, are any of these movies actually good? Sure there are a few gems among these, but are any of them worth watching more than a couple times? No, not really. I once had a roommate who would always watch all of the Harry Potter movies between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was living with him during this time one year and he did put them all into his DVD player, but he didn't really watch any of them, in fact he fast-forwarded through most of them since he he wanted to skip to the good parts, and I don't blame him at all barely anything exiting happens a lot of the time and the entire score of the first two movies consists of variations on one five minute song, nobody with any maturity and taste would actually want to sit down and give their full attention to one of these movies more than once or twice, most people who claim to watch these movies multiple times don't even watch them, they put them on as background noise and don't pay attention. My friend was watching these movies out of tradition rather than out of desire.

Fortunately this friend actually did have taste, he understood that it was not a sin to skip the boring parts or Harry Potter, and more importantly he would spend time watching movies that were actually good. The same cannot be said about a lot of people. I have a roommate now who has the rather unhealthy habit of turning on the TV, and opening Disney+ to turn on some mediocre movie he has already seen only so that he can sit on the couch looking at his phone and not pay attention, most of the time he doesn't even finish watching the movie before he gets bored and goes to bed. A few weeks ago I had him watch the movie Big Trouble in Little China and he now tells people that that is his favorite movie. This puzzled me a bit at first since Big Trouble in Little China isn't the world's best movie, but I've come to the conclusion that it may be one of the only movies he's ever seen that doesn't have a predictable plot, a generic protagonist, and a bunch of fanservice. Big Trouble in Little China was one of the first movies he's seen that is actually good.

Cinema vs Audiovisual Entertainment

Of course the question stands, what makes a movie actually good, I'd like to compare two movies to help you understand, Captain America: Civil War and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. These two movies came out around the same time and have similar themes, although most people seem to agree that Civil War was good and Batman vs Superman was bad, except most people are wrong.

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War uses what many say to be one of the best comic book story arcs as main inspiration, I haven't read this or any other comic book but from what I understand it concerns what happens when the entire superhero community become split over their opinion of a proposed law meant to regulate them, two factions of heroes form led by Iron Man and Captain America who both feel very strongly about their opinions to the point where they become sworn enemies and we get to see many well developed characters pitted against each other. The movie still has the proposed government regulation as a part of the plot, but the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America in this one mostly stems from the discovery that Captain America's brainwashed best friend is the one who assassinated Tony Stark's parents. The film does nothing to try to get the audience to question the morality behind the concept of superheros and it spends more time focusing on Tony Stark's irrational hatred of Captain America's healed friend. They of course end up fighting each other but you never get the feeling that either one really wants to hurt the other, they fight reluctantly so the fights have no stakes since you know neither are willing to go far enough. The film also ends with a big fight between a bunch of undeveloped characters who are in the movie as fanservice rather than there to advance the plot.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is based on the question nerds have been arguing over since the dawn of time, who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman? Of course the filmmakers recognized that you can't have a movie just based off of a fight like that, they had to have a buildup for the fight and they had to give the audience a good reason for the fight. The movie takes place after Superman had whatever fight he had in the previous movie that I didn't watch, in that fight several city buildings and thousands of people were caught in the crossfire, many died and were severely injured, including people close to Bruce Wayne. Batman was out for revenge and was willing to kill Superman (unlike Iron Man in that other movie), also many people were against the idea of Superman since he exists as a walking superweapon, and they were pushing the government to do what they could from stopping him from doing anything. Many characters make compelling arguments as to why Superman should be stopped, this all leaves the viewer conflicted on the whole issue as they are constantly shown Superman flying to the other side of the world without complaint simply to save children from a burning building. Superman wants to do nothing but help the human race while humans only see him as a monster. The tragic irony of this movie is truly thought provoking.

Why is one more popular?

Batman vs Superman is a movie that tackles complex themes, it is a movie that challenges the belief that most viewers of a superhero movie have that superheros are inherently a good thing, it is a movie about gun control, it's a movie about the pain of forgiveness, it is a movie about how to find the humanity in someone you hate, it is a movie that forces you to think. Civil War, on the other hand, is a movie about nothing, the potential for it to be a thought provoking film is there, but the writers chose not to challenge themselves and their audience with such a thing. To use the words of Martin Scorsese watching Civil War feels more like going to a theme park where you can simply turn your brain off than it does consuming a piece of art meant to stimulate thought. There always has to be something going on in a Marvel movie, the audience can never be bored because, again borrowing Scorsese's words, these movies are not cinema they are audiovisual entertainment, it is fast paced and will do anything to keep the crowd entertained. In contrast Batman vs Superman is paced like a classic western, it is slow and much of the action takes place off screen, a child would get bored watching this movie while an adult who was actually paying attention would be interested. People don't like Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice not because it is a bad movie, they don't like it because it is cinema when they expected it to be simple audiovisual entertainment.

Of course Batman vs Superman is not a perfect movie, it still suffers from many of the flaws of superhero movies and it wastes way to much time on scenes meant to build up/foreshadow a cinematic universe and provide fanservice rather than advance the plot, but it is still better than any Marvel movie, Spiderman and Black Panther were not in Captain America: Civil War to advance the plot, they were there because they could be and because they'd look cool in the trailer. Movies like Big Trouble in Little China, Forest Gump, or Crimson Tide, movies that actually do something different are much more worth your time than any predictable superhero movie, or just about any movie that people talk about. Heck an average, low budget, episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation is more interesting than a lot of these movies that companies spend millions of dollars to make.

Stop wasting time with audiovisual entertainment, no man, woman, or child should have to have the TV as their babysitter. Heck, the practice of watching the same kind of shows and movies over and over again has been linked to depression. If we are going to turn the TV on we should be doing it with the purpose to watch good cinema, cinema that makes us think, cinema that requires us to digest what we just saw once it is over rather than simple audiovisual entertainment that leaves us hungry for more dopamine. Stop wasting time watching bad movies.