Everyone knows what Jodie Foster said about modern blockbusters, in particular, superhero movies:
Studios making bad content in order to appeal to the masses and shareholders is like fracking — you get the best return right now but you wreck the earth.
Not the most professional statement from someone who can arguably still do what she does because of those movies.
At the same time, she is not totally wrong, in a broad sense.
While I admit I enjoy Transformers, Tom Cruise’s The Mummy and even the occasional DCEU trainwreck, I can’t call these movies good. They don’t really offer anything more than escapism, and even in that department at times these films are lacking.
However, it’s undeniable they are intellectually honest.
Take Transformers: what do Paramount and Dreamworks offer? Robots kicking each other butts. What do we get? Robots kicking each other butts. Is it wrong? No. Is it good? Not in a cinematic sense, so to speak, but there’s a huge amount of people that found it amusing.
Movies have always been escapism, first and foremost, since the actual dawn of the film industry, at the inception of the studio system.
Why? That’s because what people want. Life can be beautiful, but most of the time and for most people it just sucks. They don’t necessarily want to get into a dark room looking at images that force them to think about themselves or yet other problems. They just want to see a story and feel thrown into another world. Is that wrong? No.
Also, defining all blockbuster stupid reveals how little does she know about these movies. Or lack of wanting to know them better. I know it’s fashion to define these movies shit and use it as the reason they are successful, but it’s preposterous. Think about it: Marvel Studios released 17 movies in 9 years; if they really were bad, I can guarantee everyone that the franchise would have died 5 years ago. Proof? Look at the DCEU. Or the Dark Universe. The latter seems dead before getting a second chance.
Sure, I’d love these movies to be more just escapism. On the line with The Matrix or Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. But that’s not always the case.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe offers social commentary, even though it’s not specific but rather political. Age Of Ultron, no one’s favorite MCU flick, sees Tony Stark creating Ultron, which is supposed to be the ultimate weapon to protect the Earth. And giving the fact Tony justifies its creation this way, it’s easy the parallel this with the Patriot Act, especially if we consider the Battle of New York we saw in The Avengers as the MCU’s 9/11.
Eventually, Ultron does abide by its duty, by individuating Earth’s biggest threat to the Avengers themselves. And this leads to Captain America: Civil War, which sees the superhero group questioned after they cause an explosion in Nigeria during a mission, killing innocents. They get questioned by the US Government and by the UN. It’s easy to parallel this with how the world constantly questions US’ military presence basically everywhere.
Of course, those commentaries do not dominate either movie. First because first and foremost you need to tell a good story, and not a message. Age of Ultron kind of lacks in this department (they spent too much time in establishing grounds for what would come next in the MCU), even though they managed to have every character fulfill a decent arc.
Secondly, because of what really comes next in the franchise, from a realistic and logic standpoint. As much as the Sekovia accords are intellectually captivating, would you really force the Avengers to respect the accords if someone like Thanos menaces to destroy the Earth? Of course not. We could not afford to.
So, I found it reasonable to not spend too much time on them if you know you’ll have to throw them away at some point. Because it will be annoying. So, unless you really want it to be annoying (in an artistic sense), it’s better to not spend too much time on that.
In addition, we have to consider the fact the movie industry still lives in a capitalistic environment. All the major studios are part of public traded companies, conglomerates valued dozens of billions of dollars. They need to make money to survive. While this doesn’t preclude the possibility to make good movies, is much more challenging to write and produce a really good flick when you have a lot of people telling you what should be done. Look at the DCEU.
Of course, when in your movie there are between 1000 and 2000 people working, you are contributing very much to society also, even if you consider they are hired with project contracts.
Overall, I get Jodie Foster words in some ways. I really do. But at the same time, she clearly generalizes her statement. And generalization is never a good thing.