When evaluating art, a simple distinction I make is between the novel and the profound. While there is a common conception that the past had all the best artists and that the current era is not producing Michelangelos and Mozarts, if one looks at all the art from those periods, one finds that the vast majority was discarded while a small percentage of the art continued to resonate with future generations. While the art that endured offered some kind of profound insight, the discarded art only could resonate with a generation or two, often through novelty: it used technology in new ways, it utilized new concepts, and expressed things in a different (but not necessarily insightful) way. Jurassic World epitomizes the novel.
Bigger dinosaurs. More destruction. No content.
This sums up Jurassic World.
The characters were stock. The man in charge. The damsel in distress (guised as a successful manager). The narcissistic teen. The innocent (and ignorant) child. The mad scientist. The military man bent on creating a powerful weapon. The misguided zillionaire. And pride coming before the fall (cue dinosaurs).
It seems like the director, writers, and executives got together and compiled a list of Hollywood tropes and created a framework to stuff them all in. For some reason this makes me think of a turkey being stuffed with fruit loops: attempting to stuff everything in at the expense of the meal.
Jurassic World will be forgotten. Quite quickly probably. But that did not stop it from being one of the highest grossing films of all time. And for this reason, it epitomizes the novel. It appeals to our generation because it was bigger, a quality that history illustrates is incredibly temporary.
As soon as I stopped thinking of the film as serious and saw the film as a parody, it was great; I laughed the entire time. I am not sure that is what the creators had in mind when they made it.
What I found so interesting about Interstellar, enough to write about, was the audience response. Before this film, Christopher Nolan had a truly impressive track record. Inception and the Dark Knight were masterpieces. Months before its release, Interstellar was being trumpeted as the next film in the Nolan 's mantle, alongside his previous brainchildren.
When Interstellar turned out to be a pretty bad film, the dissonance created by the disparity in expectations and reality was extremely interesting, and borderline hilarious.
People doubted the reality but went along with their expectations. I watched many of my peers declare it was a masterful piece but faltered when I asked why. They started by regurgitating what the media had said, discussing the marvelous science behind the film. When I mentioned the absurd scientific loopholes in the storyline and the physics of the film it was like a bluff had been called. The Big Lie had been exposed. Either my peer would switch sides and admit that it was pretty awful or they would leave an awkward silence, deflated and a tiny bit downcast. Usually I find such direct confrontations potentially rude and risky (I stick with the Socratic method, which is really the offense guised as the defense. It lowers risk, you can back out of confrontations, and you can persuade more effectively. You persuade by tricking someone to persuade themselves), but in this case I found the risk worth observing what it was like to expose a Big Lie.
With a few lines of reasoning the Big Lie was easily exposed, but it was amazing how everyone doubted their own senses and trusted others ' opinions. It illustrated the degree of self-doubt there is in society. I was talking to well-educated, seemingly confident individuals, and they refused to call the Big Lie.
At this point it is only fair if I justify my opinion of the film.
One test I use to evaluate art is imagining a cropped version of it. If the cropped version has the same impact as before, the missing piece was purposeless and valueless. Art is purposeful, and wasted space is a very bad sign. With Interstellar I could crop almost any scene and feel the same. The only scenes that were compelling were those of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). Cooper's hope resonated. Despite terrifying odds, despite fear, his capacity to hope was the only thing allowing him to keep control. Cooper made us feel. What he demonstrated is that courage is not the absence of fear, but controlling fear through self-trust and hope. Art is vicarious perspective. We are there to feel, and McConaughey did just that. McConaughey was by far the best part of the film.
Many awful films try to show characters feeling to evoke feelings, they show anger and sad protagonists in the attempt to make the audience feel. They show a world of anger and afraid people and expect the audience to feel the same.
This strategy is a cheap trick, and Interstellar relied on it most of the time, with the exception of Cooper. Rather than creating characters that were truly relatable or compelling, all the characters, apart from Cooper, showed emotions but were quite shallow. Showing emotion without a relatable basis relies on audience self-doubt to be effective: something sad is going on, I guess I should feel sad just about now. Any film that uses this strategy deserves major criticism; they are a cheap trick guised as high art. Many B+ action movie have the self-respect to own up to being B+. They are not pretending to be anything. The first Avengers was just that. It had plenty of holes but it was utterly unpretentious and a bunch of fun. Interstellar is a C+ movie pretending to be an A movie.
For that, it deserves to burn.