Anytime I go to my local theater, it’s usually filled with movies that are produced by notable studios that are largely present in Hollywood. Nowadays, those studios are Disney or Warner Bros.
Pictures via comic book films. The standard action flick can be milked for years, but what is the audience left with afterward? Another addition in an oversaturated genre? A film that took all the “safe” options so they can make another in about two years?
It’s not a bad thing to go to the movies just to have a good time and turn your brain off for a bit. What do you do when you want something a bit riskier?
At that same theater that I frequent, films by well-known indie studios like A24 are labeled as “Artisan Films.” Some A24 films include “Uncut Gems” starring Adam Sandler, or my personal favorite A24 movie, “The Lighthouse,” starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.
These films are vastly different in tone and concept. After watching each of them, I had a lot I wanted to unpack from those movies. This granted them an instant rewatch from me.
These movies feel like they have more depth than the average Hollywood spectacle, and I believe it’s because the directors of A24 movies are given more creative freedom than directors of bigger studios.
It’s hard to compare a movie like “The Avengers” to “Uncut Gems.” What we can compare is how the narratives are set up.
“Uncut Gems” tells a story that’s self-contained. Its story ends with the credits. As for “The Avengers,” it’s a mere chapter in a larger story. Whatever risk is in the movie feels artificial because “they can’t kill off the main character”!
“Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame” are my favorite additions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to the massive risks they take, but it doesn’t excuse how the movies preceding them had to obviously feel that the ending was written first.
This doesn’t mean MCU movies are “bad” by any means. I don’t go into “Guardians of the Galaxy” expecting a deep, metaphorical masterpiece. That’s not what comic book movies are about. But what happens when a comic book movie fits that bill?
In 2019, “Joker” was released to quite the buzz online. Many themes were explored in the film’s airtight narrative, and to this day I’ve never felt more suspense in a theater.
Making the main protagonist Batman’s archnemesis was quite the risk on Warner Bros. part, and it worked out perfectly in my opinion. Reviewing “Joker” is something I’ll probably do when its anniversary rolls around.
Basically, “Joker” is a diamond in the rough for comic book movies, especially when you take DC’s track record for films in account.
“Joker” took me on a joyride that absolutely floored me in the end. Many of the creative decisions in this movie were very risky, but that risk worked out for the film in the long run.
Making the film so down-to-earth for a film about the Joker was a risk. Completely redefining the character, himself was a risk. Making our protagonist a clearly disturbed and lost individual was a risk.
But it worked, because it not only subverted our expectations, but it also stuck with us long after it ended. It had a deeper message than most comic book films, and that’s what makes “Joker” stand above the rest.
Taking risk in films doesn’t mean making your protagonist a bad guy or shocking your audience. In fact, sometimes it can heavily backfire.
My absolute most hated film is last year’s “Monster Hunter,” which is adapted from one of my favorite video games.
They took what could’ve been a visual spectacle and traded all of it for a singular, boring desert environment inspired by the Wildspire Waste from “Monster Hunter: World.”
They took lore from most of the games and threw them all together, creating an abomination of a story that was totally and utterly confusing and hard to watch.
I don’t know what the creative process was whilst they made this movie, but if they thought that mixing aspects from all the games, using the iconic weapons incorrectly, and not even telling the story from the Hunter’s perspective were good risks, they were sorely mistaken.
This is especially important when your audience is mainly the people who’ve played the games.
Risk is a two-way street, and filmmakers just need to follow the right path.