Bill Hunt is reporting over at the Digital Bits that Paramount is finally releasing the Star Trek Into Darkness bluray that they should have released from the start. Hunt’s enthusiasm, however, and especially his gratitude, offer troubling signs of the sado-masochistic relationship many of us share with these companies. Warner Brothers has gotten into the habit of rerealeasing old BDs that were exemplary to begin with (their latest wave includes, alongside a repackaged reissue of Ben-Hur, The Green Mile, but this time with bonus extended documentary!), MGM won’t even bother to allow a restoration of The Alamo (which is liquefying in their vaults as you read this), and Paramount is gouging its customers with what was once supposed to be a premium format.
If there’s a lesser evil here I’m sure I don’t see it.
Although I’ve already bitched about this capitalist edifice before, Hunt’s innocuous remarks suggest there’s more to be said on the matter. It’s one thing for a studio to simply not produce any content for a film in the first place (indeed, Paramount were under no obligation to do so with Star Trek), but it’s insulting when it smashes the features into pieces and scatters them to the four big retailers of the world in a corporate fit of sadistic glee, and it’s offensive to our collective intelligence when people express gratitude to their kidnapper for offering them a choice that could be considered fair only after prolonged abuse. Hunt may be happy to report that Paramount is offering people the choice to fork over more money for a product that should’ve been released alongside the first edition, I’ll simply report that the option is available to you. Still, just to twist the knife, Paramount is said to be preparing a rebate for those who bought the first edition.
“It’s a pretty good story, a pretty perfect structure.”
–Steven Spielberg on Jaws, 2012
Steven Spielberg mugs for the camera “on the set” of “Jaws”
Although when asked these days Spielberg seems to attribute a fair deal of the success of Jaws more to luck than anything else, there are several other reasons why Jaws was able to become the first modern blockbuster, the film that ushered in summer movies, and, more importantly, continues to resonate with audiences to this day. Spielberg himself offers a productive means of exploring its success with his self-effacing remarks about the film’s story. I want to examine Spielberg’s claim about the perfection of this film’s structure and offer some evidence to validate his claim.
After some derisory remarks I made in my review of Godzilla regarding its script, I had a thoughtful and useful question put to me. I was initially going to reply in the comment section of that post, but as my response developed into a more elaborate exploration of acceptable protocols for determining who to credit with a film’s successes and who to blame for its failures, I decided to feature it as a post.
A rough precis of the question is as follows: does my review of Godzilla essentially establish a baseless dichotomy that credits director Gareth Edwards for all the good bits and blames the screenwriters for all the bad?
To begin with the very suggestion of the question before I get into its specifics: while it is true that I let Edwards off rather easy in my review and ensuing comments, I deny that I make this the case in my reviews rather than the exception. I do not subscribe to the fallacy of assuming the name on the credits tells the whole story of that person’s involvement in the finished film. To use one telling example: David Koepp might have written the inept and pedestrian script for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but it was Spielberg who takes a sort of masochistic pride in claiming the idea to “nuke the fridge” (one can only wonder what was in the script before that nail in the integrity of the series landed). However, in the absence of direct testimony, we’ve only the credits to go by. It becomes necessary then to approach each credited individual of a film as guilty of his or her contributions until proven innocent. Regardless of this, it remains difficult, if not impossible, to be certain where to give credit or to lay blame. Indeed, I can imagine in some circles one of Godzilla‘s many producers bragging that it was he who came up with the finale, just as easily as I can imagine an uncredited writer doing the same–there’s no accounting for taste. Continue reading →