Removing the Charm

Several movies I have seen recently (Karate Kid, The Last Airbender) made me think of movies that were based on previous works.  This isn’t universal, but a common theme I see is that the newer version removes all of the charm from the older version.  Modernization, somehow has become synonymous with bland and charmless.  Here are some reasons why, all of which make me feel old.

Quick Cuts
Everything nowadays has these insane quick cuts where the camera is literally not showing the same scene for more than 2 seconds.  It’s cut-cut-cut-cut all the time.  It’s mind numbing and distracting.  I can’t soak in the scene at all.  There is no sense of quiet drama built up with a single camera angle.  On television, this drives me crazy.  One show, America’s Best Dance Crew, literally makes it impossible to see the group dance from start to finish.  A simpler approach with fewer cuts would add to the presentation, not take away.  The quick cuts eliminate the possibility of charm.

CGI or Computer-generated imagery has become immensely popular in entertainment. It makes sense sometimes.  However, you don’t need CGI to do great cinema.  Start Wars (the originals) did fine with muppets and costumes.  It sucked you into their world completely.  You didn’t need the CGI.  However, Avatar or Titanic would have looked ridiculous without the computer assistance.  The plots of these movies is usually lacking and they make up for it with explosions and special effects.  Would you watch Avatar if it had the same plot, but not special effects? We don’t need stupid special effects.  We need better writing and acting!  Charm is the first casualty of computer effects.

This is one that really irks me.  People respond to authenticity.  In the original Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio was skinny and dorky.  Elizabeth Shue weighed more than Ralph and would never be cast in today’s skinny/beauty obsessed movies.  Yet, I absolutely fell in love with her.  She was one of my first crushes.  She was authentic; they both were!  They acted the part.  Now movies feel plastic and fake and the characters don’t seem authentic.  How can you fall in love with someone who doesn’t seem real?

Not exactly CGI, but the obsession with explosions in movies is killing me.  Again, this comes down to writing and acting.  Push was a good movie because it had good acting and writing.  If there was a Push 2, I feel confident they would mess it up with an explosion somewhere.

People jump the shark all the time because they can’t think of normal good plot and writing.  They go to the easy outs, explosions, CGI and filler.  This removes all the charm of the originals.  UX is about delighting people, not just titillating them.  Charm is something that comes with craftsmanship, time and patience.  I hope that entertainment can work its way back from the brink and make a movie that I would call “charming”.

2 replies on “Removing the Charm”

You sound like an old man. “Back in my day, movies had real actors and there we no fancy explosions. Bad guys had goatees and that was our special effects.” You could act like a man!

It may appear that movies were better back in the day, but I think that is because we forget all of the horrible movies from years past. Lets take the year of the original Karate Kid. There were some great movie like Amadeus, Top Secret, and Spinal Tap, but huge action special effects movies rules the world (Terminator, India Jones, Dune, etc.). But there were bad sequels (Conan the Destroyer, Supergirl), movies that ruined books (1984), and big name, big budget movies that were just awful (Rhinestone, All of Me, The Flamingo Kid, Best Defense). I guess that point is that most movies suck, there aren’t that many very good actors, and that had been true for decades.

Whatya think?