When I was at college, I read some research about movie violence.
By studying viewers’ eyes when watching violence on screen, they found that people do not watch the action, they watch the re-action.
So, when one man punches another in the stomach, the viewer does not look at the fist hitting the stomach, he (or she) looks at the face of the man being hit.
When one man shoots another and a special effects blood capsule is exploded to spectacularly simulate the bullet hitting the body, they do not look at the spurting blood, they look at the face of the person being shot.
Human beings do not watch the action, they watch the re-action.
People are interested in people, not things.
This was brought to mind again when I saw the movie Godzilla vs Kong last night.
I can see why it made a fortune in China – the casting and plot are aimed to attract a Chinese audience. But… But…
Well, OK, it is a wonderful piece of film-making. The Special Effects should possibly be nominated for an Oscar and the Editing certainly should. Technically it is wonderful; but I was totally uninvolved. It was like watching a complex machine that had a lot of moving parts doing lots of complicated things. It was endless action (1 hour 53 mins) with almost no emotional involvement. It was about things happening, not about people experiencing things. It’s a nice distinction but I think it’s an important distinction. Movies at their best are about emotional voyeurism.
Oddly, Godzilla vs Kong seemed, to me, a bit similar to another film I saw last week – Peter Rabbit 2. Which was not helped by the fact they seemed to attempt to graft a Guy Ritchie plot into a cute children’s situation.
Lots of things happening but emotionally uninvolving.
I have advised I think four people about writing their autobiographies and, each time, I have told them not to make the mistake of listing everything that has happened in their lives.
There is a limit to the amount of space they have. If they just list what happened in their lives, no matter how action-packed, it gets to be uninteresting.
People – ordinary readers/viewers – are interested in people not facts. They read autobiographies – and see movies – to get vicariously and voyeuristically involved in events which they have either experienced themselves or in events they could never themselves experience. In both cases, they want to identify with what the central character or central characters experienced.
With autobiographies, no ordinary reader is interested in ploughing through a long superficial list of brief ‘things that happened’. It is much better to find one event that epitomises what the central character was going through at a particular time… then expand on that event – make it more not less detailed; more vivid, more relatable.
With movies, 1 hour and 53 minutes of constant fast-cut action palls after a while. Godzilla vs Kong has no real central character (not even Kong). It is about things happening, not people.
And it also seems to be at least two – possibly three – different film plots sticky-taped together to appeal to too many disparate groups. The script was reportedly cobbled together by a writers’ room of at least eight people, with three credited for the story and two for the screenplay.
More is not necessarily always better.
Variety‘s review coined a good phrase for what I experienced last night – “actively bored”.
But what do I know? At the time of writing this blog, the movie has made around $436 million at the theatrical box office on a relatively low production budget of $160 million plus a low $70 million promotional budget (Forbes‘ estimates) and the YouTube trailer has gathered over 93 million hits.
Variety reported that break-even would be $330 million, so expect a sequel…