I like violent movies as much as the next girl (probably more, in fact). I feel that swearing can occasionally emphasize a character’s frustration, or just how much trouble they’re in, and I can accept a certain amount of skin showing.
But seriously, Hollywood, this is getting ridiculous.
Only two new movies for adults came out in theaters this weekend. One is “Sex Tape,” whose cinematic claim to glory seems to reside solely in the fact that Cameron Diaz will have a nude scene (as will Jason Segel, but that no longer surprises people). Instead of plot, the rest of the screen time will be filled with Diaz and Segel’s panicked expressions and the occasional pratfall.
The other is “The Purge: Anarchy,” which posits that the majority of Americans would go out and randomly murder strangers the moment the law said it was okay. This is violence at its most ruthless and gratuitous, with no other purpose than to kill as many nameless people as possible. Not even logic matters, since if the law was really lifted for 24 hours most of us would go shoplifting or finally punch our bosses rather than commit mass homicide.
I don’t mind sex, violence or swearing, but I need a movie to be more than an hour-and-a-half long embodiment of those things. I need it to have plot, not just a barely-there setup that exists solely to justify nudity and/or a sex scene. I need it to have character development beyond how skilled the protagonist is with a baseball bat/gun/chainsaw, or how loudly a character screams when they die. I need it to have dialogue that tells me something more about the story, or life itself, than how many times an actor can say the f-word in a conversation.
I want movies that exist as something more than vehicles for mindless titillation. I want movies to remember that I have a mind, and a heart, and want characters and a story I can engage with instead of a numbing cascade of nudity and explosions that don’t mean anything. Sex and violence are part of life, but they’re far from the entirety of it.
I’m not asking that all movies be serious dramas. I think the original “Die Hard” is one of the greatest movies ever made. And yes, it has violence and swearing, but it also has genuine tension caused by very human stakes. It has a protagonist that is mortal, desperate and terrified. He has to think through every act of violence and pay for its consequences. His feet bleed. His heart breaks.
The latest “Transformers” movie was nearly three hours of punching, crashing and exploding robots, running together so thoroughly that each battle was completely indistinguishable from the next. But what if it actually followed through on an almost-completely ignored plot point from the earlier movies and talked about the fact that the Transformers are an entire alien species without a home? What if it actually gave Optimus Prime the screentime to really wrestle with the burden of leading a displaced, angry, divided people?
Think of what an amazing movie that could be.
I’m not the ratings police, Hollywood, but you’ve gotten lazy. What was only supposed to be the spice has become the entire dish, and as our tastebuds numb you compensate by piling on more and more of what we’ve already had too much of.
We deserve better.
Give me a movie that uses careful plotting and an understanding of psychology to genuinely terrify me. Give me a movie that understands how vulnerable getting naked in front of a sexual partner really makes you feel. Give me a movie that uses the full range of human vocabulary to come up with the perfect insult for the person that cuts in front of you in line.
Tell me a story, Hollywood. I know you remember how.