I was browsing the Guardian, more important the movie section. Then a thought came forth. It made me grab back to a Ted presentation, one of the most moving ones from 2006. Sir Ken Robinson treated us to comedy whilst underlining one of the most important issues, or so it should have been, watch it at https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity, it will be the best 17 minutes of your week, so how did I get here?
So, I was browsing articles, some I have already read like (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/feb/05/the-cloverfield-paradox-review) ‘Netflix sequel is a monstrous mess‘. The few quotes that sprung out were: “disparate elements carelessly smashed together“, “most of them largely nonsensical“, and “the underseen ‘Life’ managed to combine thrills and ingenuity“. Yet this is not the only article. The second one is one that I had not looked at before (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/05/black-panther-fought-off-a-toxic-ghostbusters-online-campaign-rotten-tomatoes), you see, I have mixed feelings on this movie. The trailer was awesome and I would love to see it, yet unlike the other ‘super heroes’, this is one comic I never read. Not intentionally mind you, you see whilst growing up in The Netherlands, the 70’s gave me some comics, but not all, so some franchises never made it across the Atlantic river. I did see the Black Panther as there was a guest appearance in like ‘Fantastic Four’, but that was pretty much it (besides Captain America Civil War). The other heroes are not a mystery and I had seen at least a few comics from each of them. So my mixed feelings are about not being able to relate it to the comics, so some of the background will be unknown to me. That’s all on that. The article became a larger issue when I saw “this attack was aimed at the most high-profile movie ever to feature a predominantly black cast felt racist” as well as “In an era when culture wars are predominantly fought on social media, this sort of down-voting can seem like an effective guerrilla tactic. Clicking on an angry red face or selecting zero stars is even easier than adding your name to an online petition“. It does not make sense to me to have hatred of a product you are utterly unfamiliar with; it counters art and creativity in almost every way as I personally see it. It goes on with the third article (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/13/venom-trailer-tom-hardy-sony-spider-man), where you can read: “In recent years we’ve seen examples of movies that have triumphed at the box office almost entirely on the basis of snazzy advance publicity“, as well as: “fans were more interested in finding out what the new big screen version of Venom looks like than charting the next stage in Hardy’s career-long mission to channel the most eccentric human beings on the planet. And, on that count, they were left profoundly disappointed“. It was at that point that I remembered the Ted Talk with Sir Ken Robinson, the presentation that is still funny and legend after almost 12 years. What is more important that it is actually more to the point as an issue nowadays? When he states “Art, we get educated out of it!” he made a stronger point than even he might have envisioned. I think that this time was recently in the past and many of us have gone to a negative point past that. This could be considered on both side of the isle. The ‘haters‘ who seem to use whatever option they have to be toxic against whatever they want to be against using automated channels to ‘voice‘ it, or to merely spout their discriminatory bias. Yet on the other side, we see flaws too, with “Sony, of course, is facing a very different problem, in that its previous big screen incarnation of Venom was not beloved at all” we actually don’t get to see it, it is merely a reflection of a ‘failed’ movie, yet when you consider that they made $890,871,626 whilst the production costs were set at $258 million, I wonder what they are bitching about, because they took home a nice clean half a billion plus. So what gives? I think that Netflix, HBO and others are making the same mistake I accused Ubisoft of in the last few years. By relying on some business model with forecasting, a model set ‘to not get a failure‘ we are treated to the near impossibility of seeing an actual mind-blowing movie. If you are unwilling to move that could be a failure, you will in addition also miss out on making an exceptional win. It is like the line between genius and insanity, it is a very thin line and walking it is the only way to get something truly exceptional.
This is also seen in another way, most will not agree, or even be aware, but Ridley Scott is the person ending up making one of the most awesome and most amazing Crusader movies ever made. Kingdom of Heaven is seen as an utter failure to some, but the movie costing $130M still brought in a little over $211M worldwide. That’s still $80M in the pocket, I would instantly sign up for that. So as we see that ‘forecasting models‘ are becoming more and more the daily bacon of our lives, we are not moving towards better profits, we are moving away from exceptional achievements. There was a second reason to mention Kingdom of Heaven, you see, just like the Abyss, the trailers were actually bad, I consider them no reason to watch the movie, but the end result was in both cases spectacular. The dangers of marketing jives and kneejerk reactions to incomplete data, is that the studios seem to be overreacting. If it is not a positive Hype, it will not be a success. We see that danger to Venom, which would be somewhat of a risky choice no matter how you slice it, but in equal measure, the danger could to a much smaller extent also apply to Aquaman. It is a lot smaller, because Jason Momoa rocked it in Justice League, so he has created momentum. Another example will be seen when places like Netflix will grow the comic book Universe and add other characters, like for example Moon Knight, or more apt, as the New Mutants arrives in 2019, will the makers be willing to make Illyana Rasputin (aka Magik) dark enough? That is the question that the viewers/fans face. Even as the moviemakers are now direct enough (John Wick) and sexual tensioned enough (Spartacus, Game of Thrones) to take a leap to the edgy side, but when we see the absence of the edgy sides, was that truly the vision of the maker, or is that the forecasting model on how the prediction on what I regard to be unrealistic data to be setting the stage?
I cannot prove either part in this, but I am hopeful that outdated concepts are moving away further and further (John Wick is a nice example), but is it enough? You see, the more primal anything is, the more it links to our emotions and creativity (I personally believe that they tend to go hand in hand).
When it comes to the superheroes we tend to look at the legend Stan Lee and why not, he showed that creativity drives popularity and profit. The man has been around since 1922 and he was part of the creation of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, Ant-Man, Iron Man and Thor, representing well over $8 billion in movie revenue. So the larger bulk is all on him. Yet, I also want to see how this creativity is seen by the new makers like David Wohl, Marc Silvestri and Garth Ennis who created the Darkness. Can the dark view of Jackie Estacado, be created in the really dark way? As a videogame it was well received and ended up being an interesting setting, yet how would that work for the big screen? The problem is that the setting is now no more about the art (mainly), it is about the profit. Stan Lee had the benefit that the art stage was powerful enough and proven to be strong enough that most ‘forecasting models’ would remain obsolete, yet that path would be much less considered for anything new and unproven. We have seen How Azrael and Knightfall Batman were well received as comic books, but Azrael and the order of St Dumas, as a movie, or Netflix series, would it even survive if the character and acts were not dark enough? Will the ‘fan’ still embrace it when the forecasting models push the makers into making it into some Disney angora woolen soft product version, would it then instantly flop? I personally hope so!
The Main event
So as we saw some of the franchises evolve for the big screen, there seems to be a tactical and business side, but less of an artsy side to this. It is almost like we can no longer do that proving the point that Sir Ken Robinson made in 2006. As we look at how much coin we can get from a comic book transfer, we see a similar danger that it is merely the reutilisation of something already made, which in this light shows how rare the movie Life is (apart from the fact that Ryan Reynolds can make most movies watchable). Even as it seems to have been down written in reviews, I found it very enjoyable, in addition to that, the work of the other main cast members Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Hiroyuki Sanada was excellent. The issue is not just what is original, but what could make it. To see that distinction, you only need step out of your comfort zone and take a look at the Japanese movie ‘the Audition‘ (there is only the Japanese edition with subtitles), so you can’t be dyslexic for this one, or you need to be fluent in Japanese. That is the nice part of primal sides in any movie. It is the dark and unsettling side. It is easy to get to the primal sides of lust, because sex sells, it tends to do so with the greatest of ease. It is the other side where we are bound through discomfort, where we see exceptional works rise, but these instances are extremely rare which is a shame. In comic book world the fans are hopeful that they will see a good version of the Sandman, but that is still the stuff of ‘questionable future events’. So how can we rely on creativity to bring us an exceptional original movie, that whilst there is growing evidence that creativity is moving out, out of nearly all our lives, how can we move forward? I actually do not know. I have tried my hand at creativity in many ways, but I was never a movie maker, a storyteller (like all others ‘working’ on my first novel, which is currently approaching 60,000 words).
Getting back to where we had it
So how can creativity be reintroduced to the people? Well starting to create something, or better start to create anything is always a first step. We tend to replicate, then emulate and after that create. It is these actions that drive movies, TV series and video games forward. For something to be better than a mix of two (like a Pokémon RPG), we need to see it where we create within ourselves. This is how I found an optional new way to sink an Iranian frigate, how I came up with the concept of the Elder Scrolls: Restoration (ES6) and how I got the idea on two different kinds of RPG, as well as a new solution to resolve the NHS issues in more than one nation. Yet, even as the ideas were seemingly easy to grow and adapt; how to get them into reality? I am not a programmer and equally limited in my drawing skills, hence I rely on storytelling.
We see part of this (at https://www.polygon.com/2018/1/31/16952652/david-brevik-it-lurks-below-announcement), where the maker of Diablo is now building something new. Even as it looks familiar and it has elements of Minecraft (or Blockheads), we see the growth of a new approach, just like I saw with Subnautica which is an awesome result to an entirely new approach on survival RPG. Even as David Brevik revamped the 1985 game Gauntlet, and added more famous characters to create ‘Marvel Heroes’, the span between the arcade machine and Marvel Heroes gave it not just a more fresh approach, it gave it a new dimension as you could grow different super powers/skills making the game very replayable. So, even as I came up with this ‘new’ RPG, I did remember my many hours in the 7 cities of gold game on the Amiga and that shaped some of my ideas. Even as some of these games have been forgotten, the Amiga was a leap forward in those days. It had hundreds of games that were innovative (for a system with a mere 64Kb), so the fact that some of these ideas have not been restarted and evolved is simply beyond me. Now, is that new and creative? That is a point of view, by altering and evolving a game, it becomes a different game, by adding to it, the game does not merely becomes bigger, it becomes more. Now even as some games are remastered and as such remain the great games they were (System Shock for example), yet some games were nice on the original system (example Escape from Hell, Masters of Orion, Battle Chess, Covert Action), nowadays, these games would be too small, too limited and too restrictive, no bang for the buck. This is what has forever fuelled my passion for RPG (and sandbox games), the idea and the actions to do what I want, where I want, and at times when I want. Yet, I also believe that there should be inhibitors, just getting every mission, every option makes even an RPG game grinding. With limitations, we make choices, opening some doors, shutting others. It is that part that makes a game replayable and more important, it gives a much longer lifespan to any game you get.
Yet as I see it, the game makers are getting more and more restrictive, it is either making us do a thousand things on the side (AC: Origin), which is still a good game that I enjoyed, or we get into the grinding mode (Monster Hunter), a part in gaming I really do not like. Even as the graphics are amazing, it is the grinding that gets to me (I played the game on the 3DS). In that regard, the makers aren’t really making it easy for us, with Horizon Zero Dawn being a novel exception. In 2018 a new look on Spiderman is keeping us interested, but the actual ‘new’ additions seems to be limited to Sea of thieves, God of War and Vampyr, these seem to be the only games that are actually new and God of War only makes that cut because it is in an entirely new setting with only the playable character remaining the same, whilst the game play has actually change (a lot) from the previous 3, making it basically a new game. So including Monster Hunter there are 5 new games, the others are pretty much franchises (I left PC games out of the consideration).
In the end
Even as it is most visible with games, there is also an issue with movies nowadays. I love to see something really new, I equally enjoy the DC and Marvel movies, but if we take these and the sequels out of the equation, I am saddened to see it boils down to Red Sparrow, Annihilation, and Ready Player One. The rest seems to be either sequel, remakes or an altered version for something we have seen before. That does not make them bad movies, it is merely not really new, which is the issue here, they come through creativity. Isn’t it sad that the innovative list of truly new works is not growing to the degree it is? Now, we can look beyond borders, yet the reality is in my personal view that we have become less and less creative and we are losing out in several ways. Even if we are not game makers, TV producers or movie makers, as an audience we are equally missing out and we need to find a way to repair that flaw. One of the psychology views is: “Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, its complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated“. Even as the shrink focusses on complexity, I do not adhere there, I believe that the creative mind becomes ever better in analysing complexity and simplifying it, and reducing complex matters it into something ‘manageable’. It is an ability every person can have, but I believe that as our creativity levels went down, we lost some of that. The ‘business results driven‘ educational world has done this to us. We see the results more and more around us. We are blindly relying on automation and process instead of common sense. I am not stating that we should not adhere to these elements. I merely believe that once an automation or process failed that it will take a lot longer for people to react and that is not a good thing. Westpac saw such a failure only last week. With: “The meteoric rise of automated credit card applications has been called into question after Westpac was forced to refund a total of $11.3 million to credit card customers. The refunds, which worked out as several thousand dollars per customer, were necessary because the bank’s online assessment process had failed to gather enough information about the customers’ financial situation“, when we consider “Corporate watchdog ASIC said the crux of the problem was that Westpac had relied on automated application processes” and “Westpac admitted that customers’ employment status and income may not have been “directly reconfirmed in the credit card credit limit increase application process”” could be seen as optional evidence that a more creative mind would have seen the flawed complexity and beyond that optionally saved their boss 11 million. That is merely my point of view, but I stand firm on our loss of creativity, it is all around me every day. It gives rise that we have become a flawed generation; we lost more than we bargained for. I reckon that the academics will state that this element was a separate question and they were not instructed to focus on that as they designed the education system of the 70’s and 80’s, we can go on that this flawed system is still in place today giving us the danger of a descending line of our creativity and actual new experiences in the arts, a frightening concept to say the least.