1. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The Trend? “Shaky-cam”
Paul Greengrass first unleashed the shaky-cam technique in The Bourne Supremacy, but he showed it was here to stay with Ultimatum, polishing the technique tenfold. And the style worked for this series, as it did what it was supposed to do: amplify tension and excitement.
Unfortunately, everyone else realised how easy the technique is, but failed to take heed of the proper requirements before using it…
The Damage? Awful.
It destroyed James Bond again with Quantum of Solace, and now every action movie lazily follows the shaky-cam style without taking note of WHY Greengrass invented the technique in the first place. It just became the hip thing to do.
Now summer blockbusters are a mess of abominable shaky-cam. What happened to being able to see what’s happening…?
2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Trend? “Found footage”
A lot of people will say that Cannibal Holocaust started this craze, but it was Blair Witch that popularised it for the 2000s.
Blair Witch ain’t great, but its found footage approach was pure genius. So was the marketing campaign. As a result, the filmmakers turned barely any money into a huge stockpile of cash. The guys who made the film can use hundred dollar bills as toilet paper for the rest of their lives.
So everyone else clambered for a piece of the pie. But nothing has come close to the Blair Witch phenomenon exactly because of this…
The Damage? Significant.
Now we have a whole “found footage” subgenre, in which lazy filmmakers just need to use a well-worn premise and give it a “found footage” spin, completely forgetting about the ingenuity which made Blair Witch such a phenomenon.
Now claims that a found footage movie is real feels half-hearted and perfunctory. And it falls on deaf ears because everyone knows better by now. You can’t fool us again. There’s no point bothering with found footage movies anymore, because everyone has lost interest in the subgenre as they despise its limitations and know it’s not real. It’s a shame, because there are good found footage movies out there, and they have been tarnished by poor imitators.
3. Avatar (2009)
The Trend? 3-D
James Cameron is the 3-D format’s biggest advocate. When Avatar was due for release, he started begging theatres to upgrade to 3-D screens and stated that the format was here to stay this time.
When studios and filmmakers realised the push in profits that 3-D has the potential to generate, they boarded the 3-D bandwagon without a second thought. And we all suffered.
The Damage? Abominable.
3-D was the “in” thing for about 6 months. But after the badly-converted Clash of the Titans and other subpar 3-D titles cheapened the format, people started rebelling against the surcharge and just stopped caring about the gimmick.
Now look where we are. 3-D is no longer a selling point, and audiences demand a 2-D option or else they’ll refuse to see movies altogether. It’s a shame, too — good 3-D titles will not receive the push in profits they could’ve received if other filmmakers/studios were smarter.
4. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Trend? Colour correction
The Coen Brothers were among the first to scan footage from a high-profile release into a digital format during a post-production, and thus embrace the possibilities of colour correction. It worked extremely well for this quirky masterpiece, but it soon became the biggest post-production trick for every movie yearning for a “unique” digital look.
The Damage? Pretty bad.
Movies in the ’80s and ’90s have a gorgeous filmic texture generated by choice of film stock and the lighting designer. Red looks like red. Green looks like green. Flesh-tones look like skin. Things just look better.
Now we have the ubiquitous “orange and teal” phenomenon. It’s the easiest and laziest colour timing scheme out there, yet it looks disgusting. Read this…
5. The Dark Knight (2008)
The Trend? “Gritty realism”
The term “Nolanizing” has become pretty common over the years. It stems from films like The Dark Knight, which jettisoned a more fantastical approach in favour of a “gritty and grim” tone. The Dark Knight is not a masterpiece nor does the approach entirely suit the movie, but the trend deserves a mention on this list because of how fucking awful its damage has been on movies.
The Damage? Insurmountable.
Now every summer blockbuster and action movie has to be “dark”, consisting of humourless characters standing around delivering serious dialogue with serious faces. Every trailer for a summer blockbuster has to have loud booming music to make us think it’ll be dark, gritty and tense.
Give me Burton’s vision of Batman any day. Nolan is sapping the fun out of modern cinema.
6. Jurassic Park (1993)
The Trend? Digitally-created creatures
When Jurassic Park entered cinemas in 1993, its mix of skilful puppetry, animatronics and phenomenal visual effects truly stunned movie-goers. At last, animals like dinosaurs could be convincingly created for the big screen thanks to ILM’s boundary-pushing innovation. Sure, we’d seen CGI before, but this was CGI’s debutante ball, showing that it really did have the potential to be the way of the future.
And now here we are in 2012, and barely any annual releases can come close to Jurassic Park’s photorealism.
The Damage? Absolutely horrible.
Once CGI was tested by Jurassic Park, it started being used more often. But those filmmakers forgot that JP was so stunning due to the way it merged puppetry, animatronics and CGI. Strip these other elements out of the equation, and CGI simply does not look as good – it looks too artificial by itself.
So while films like The Lost World and Deep Blue Sea clung to live-action elements as much as possible, films like Godzilla gave the middle finger to them. And now we’re left with the blockbusters of today, wherein performers play against green screens before being placed on entirely digital sets alongside digital combatants.
7. The Evil Dead (1981)
The Trend? Comedy with horror.
Horror films preceding The Evil Dead were entirely concerned with scaring you or making you cling to cinema arm-rests for dear life. But then along came Sam Raimi’s little masterpiece, which dished up requisite chills and scares but also wanted you to laugh along the way.
After that, horror filmmakers started dropping the need for mood and tension, realising they could follow Raimi’s example. And the consequences have irreversibly damaged modern cinema.
The Damage? Oh dear God…
Perhaps the worst thing that has come as a result of comedy-horror is that straight horror films can no longer be taken as straight. Now every time you go to a (supposedly) scary movie, you’ll have snobby audience members who just laugh rather than being scared. In other words, even the best contemporary horror movies can no longer scare anyone because of how jaded they have become.
8. Airplane! (1980)
The Trend? Spoof movies.
Yes, there have been LOTS of spoof movies over the years, but Airplane! is the holy grail of spoofs. It also mainstreamed the concept of stealing plots/scenes wholesale from serious movies and destroying them with comedic circumstances. Sure, Mel Brooks did something similar, but Airplane! did it in a unique way.
Because the men behind Airplane! were actually, ya know, funny, their jokes always landed. They had a LARGE array of jokes in their arsenal; a fact that’s lost on everyone else who set out to make spoof movies.
The Damage? Biblical.
As excellent as Airplane! is, it’s still to blame for Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie, Vampires Suck, etc, etc. Now we get a lot of spoof movies precisely because they’re perceived as easy to achieve whereas, in reality, all the best spoof movies are anything but easy.
The art of spoofing is lost on this generation of filmmakers.
9. The Matrix (1999)
The Trend? Slo-mo “bullet time”.
This technique was invented for a reason. In the scene in question, Neo dodges bullets with superhuman speed, and the slow motion was to convey this speed. Without the slow motion, the shot of Neo dodging bullets would’ve been fast and uninteresting, and it would barely register that Neo is actually dodging the bullets.
But the technique became rather popular due to its use in The Matrix. Filmmakers forgot the purpose of the technique, and just figured it’d be “cool” and “hip” to see bullets in slow motion. Now the technique is one of the most dreaded things in blockbusters.
The Damage? Woeful.
Michael Bay’s slow motion fetish was likely jump-started by bullet time, and now every summer blockbuster needs to have a slow motion shot of a bullet travelling through the air. Now a reviewer just needs to mention the bullet time technique and it’s a criticism.
10. Jaws (1975)
The Trend? Summer blockbusters.
Jaws is widely regarded as the first summer blockbuster; the film which gave birth to what we now know as the summer movie season. When Jaws was released, it scored so much money at the box office. People kept flocking to it in droves. The word-of-mouth was unbelievable. Wasn’t long before studio execs and filmmakers realised that action sells, and summer is a good place to put all of the action tentpoles.
But here’s the thing: Jaws packed more than effects and shark action. Here is a film with good acting, strong characters, lots of tension and superlative storytelling. Its “less is more” approach is what allowed it to emerge as something truly special. Now look where we are…
The Damage? Almost unforgivable.
Jaws indirectly begat films like Transformers 2…