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The Gran Turismo Movie: A Study of Pre-Awareness

July 25, 2013

I’m sure plenty of you are wondering what my thoughts are regarding the announcement that the next Superman movie will be a Superman/Batman cross-over. For those of you who can’t fill in the blanks yourselves, I’ll offer this bit here.

One, I think this is just one more way to side step the Clark Kent problem. This whole new series of movies seems deathly afraid to offer anything remotely resembling the dichotomy of Clark Kent and Superman. After all, if you’re angry god being yearns to be human, it kind of sucks something out of the character because Superman needs to be an angry gritty god being who is more one dimensional than many of his critics claim he is in the comics.

I’m partially surprised that they’re not just going for a straight up reboot of Batman, though I suppose since Warner Bros is terrified of these risky DC superheroes it’s safer to just tie them together. It will be a new Batman of course, because despite the interesting notion that Joseph Gordon Levitt would play Batman, when you think back to the ending of The Dark Knight Rises, the idea that he’ll actually be able to continue as the Caped Crusader really doesn’t work (after all, where does the funding come from?).

There’s plenty of other nitpicky things I could complain about, like the idea that they’re going to draw on the Dark Knight Returns, in which Superman fights Batman as a representative of the United States Government. Yet, we’ve already established that the government doesn’t trust Superman in Man of Steel. Maybe Batman will work for the government, because big government is Batman’s thing and Frank Miller is a known lover of the government (haha!). I’m not sure what they really meant by saying that other than, “there will be a Batman vs Superman fight,” because I’m sure that will be entertaining after we’ve already stated that Superman is willing to kill if the threat is large enough in Man of Steel. Yep, nothing more interesting than watching a human get the shit kicked out of them by an angry god….

Of course, to suggest that the Superman/Batman movie is the dumbest or most infuriating film news this week is actually pretty laughable. After all, Sony has just announced that they will be releasing a Gran Turismo film.

I’m going to let that sink in for a bit, and while it does I’m going to talk about two problems that have always been prevalent in Hollywood but are becoming exacerbated by the current climate.

The first of these problems is the concept of pre-awareness. Basically this is the idea that concepts that already exist within people’s minds will be more successful because our dumb monkey brains are more likely to follow along with something we’ve heard of before than go with something new. Even if we know the old thing is bad. This is one of the myriad of factors that, for example, helps keep terrible incumbents in office.

I’m not sure what the official term is for the second issue, but I would simply call it ‘Trending Genres.’ You know how if you see one successful version of a movie or television show, all of a sudden you start to see similar themes get reproduced continuously. An example of this being a good thing is how The Sopranos with its dark male anti-hero struggling with his horrible actions amidst a suburban backdrop has given us shows like Mad Men, or Breaking Bad. An example of this being a bad thing is how the success of comic book movies has somehow given us two Ghost Rider films starring Nicholas Cage, two unrelated Punisher movies, Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and of course, Spider-man 3.

A more concrete example would be how Hollywood Historical Epics in the 50s and 60s like Kubrick’s Spartacus and DeMille’s The Ten Commandments produced the Sword-and-Sandal genre of Italian films. Largely a bundle of terrible to mediocre movies set in Biblical or other mythological historic periods starring either well-known Italian actors or American B-listers. There was a comeback of these movies in the 80s thanks in large part to the American Conan the Barbarian, which also gave rise to a number of terrible sword-and-sorcery films in the United States.

These genre trends have a tendency to tick up whenever anything is exceedingly successful.

In Hollywood these days though, to be successful we’re no longer talking about one good film with one good opening weekend. After all, how can a film really be a success if it doesn’t have a number attached to it?

Successful films create franchises that can be milked dry, until they no longer resemble their original premise anymore. Films franchises worth copying are ones that become even more successful the further they stray from their original premise. Most importantly though, a film franchise is something that has inherent pre-awareness, because the audience has heard of it before.

Pre-awareness is a somewhat esoteric term for a pretty easy to understand concept. If you’ve heard of it before, if it exists somewhere in the flotsam and jetsam of the public consciousness then it has pre-awareness. This is the trait that will supposedly ensure that a film rakes in a massive haul at the box office because it doesn’t matter what critics say, people will recognize the name when they’re looking at showtimes and go see it based on that. If it’s good, that’s great, and if it’s bad you already have their money. At that point it’s just a loss for the theater that’s contracted to dedicate space to it for a month and a half, and who cares about them? It will all balance out from the corn they’re shoveling down people’s gobs.

It wasn’t always important to have pre-awareness for a film, but it’s supposed necessity has been creeping forward since the 90s. In the 1990s we saw a number of film reboots of television shows from earlier eras with The Flinstones, and The Brady Bunch being the ones that stick out in my mind for being successful. I believe that 2001 and the arrival of Harry Potter in theaters truly showcased the box office take you could get out of pre-existing cultural phenomenon. This was further cemented by comic book films, prominent reboots in both theaters and on television, and of course other Young Adult series adaptations such as Twilight and The Hunger Games. This is why tons of YA books get optioned now, so that just in case they become a thing with pre-awareness, studios are ready to make movies out of them.

The real problem with pre-awareness though has always been evident, which is namely the simple fact that sometimes no one wants something to be rebooted. I don’t mean this in the way I often complain about Abram’s Star Trek, where it was simply unnecessary and not really Star Trek. I mean this in the sense of who really wanted to see Uma Thurman star in The Avengers.

For those who forget, when comic book movies were a laughably bad idea in Hollywood, people were just as likely to associate the 1960s British spy show with the phrase “The Avengers,” as they were the superhero team. Therefore, in the summer of 1998 we were given The Avengers, complete with terrible attempts to harken back to the old television show while maintaining a plot that would have never passed muster in the ’60s. It was atrociously bad, is notorious in circles of people who watch terrible movies, and fell below its 60 million dollar budget at the box office. In many ways, it is a prime example of how pre-awareness is not always the horse you want to bet on.

In fact, for as many examples of films that are successful because you’ve heard about them, there are plenty that you completely forget were made because they were so terrible. Case in point, 2011’s Green Hornet movie. Most of the nation doesn’t even remember Green Hornet, who is a poor man’s The Shadow anyway (also made into a terrible flop from the 90s), but yet we had Seth Rogen starring in a modern update of it. A modern update that was a pretty good take on the character, but was still ultimately a dumb and bad film. This was a nice January draw for the studio, and it had a solid box office take (one might even call it successful) but who the hell remembers it?

This summer we were treated to Green Hornet’s ancestor The Lone Ranger, which is being hailed as some kind of Blockbuster Anti-Christ. We also just got ourselves RIPD, a film that will ensure that Pacific Rim breaks even or becomes successful, based off of some barely known comic book that Dark Horse printed at some point. On top of this we have sequels being made just because of the pre-awareness lent by their title and actors in Grown Ups 2 and RED 2. Some of these films will do well, theoretically proving that all you need is a pair of the right names to make your film a success, while the failures fall back into the cultural backwaters they sprang from till the year 2021 when someone brings up that terrible Lone Ranger movie that came out in… 2009? 2010? 2015? Who remembers, all that matters is that it was terrible…

Has the fact that there’s going to be a Gran Turismo movie sunk in yet?

See, the reason why there’s going to be a Gran Turismo movie is that Universal’s biggest franchise right now is, I shit you not, The Fast and the Furious movies. A series of films that have essentially become parodies of themselves at this point, with the characters literally becoming superhumans who can jump between highways. We’ve rediscovered that America loves cars with roaring engines and white guys with muscles. I didn’t know that this ever stopped being a thing with America but that’s the whole problem with Trending Genres, sometimes we can just be subsumed by one or two of them that we literally forget that there other genres that people love.

I mean, seriously, that’s why there’s so many fantasy and young-adult inspired movies right now. That’s why it seems like the only films that exist that aren’t fantasy or YA were inspired by superheroes. This is what makes a movie like Pacific Rim, which toes the line between homage and rip-off of Toho movies and giant robot anime, a breath of ‘originality.’

So anyway, seeing how well Universal is doing with their movie about fast cars, babes, Vin Diesel, and the Rock, DreamWorks says, “We want a piece of the action.” They look at what they have optioned or what they can snatch up the rights to, and land on the Need for Speed games. Need for Speed being a plotless series of racing games published by Electronic Arts. Attach Paul Aaron from Breaking Bad, and you now have an actor people fervently follow who is looking to break into movies. Congratulations, with these two items and two hundred million dollars, you have yourself a blockbuster movie.

Not to be outdone, Legendary says, “Oh yeah?! Well we’re going to make a Hot Wheels movie.” Sadly it will most likely not resemble any of the absurd children’s television shows that the Hot Wheels brand has lent itself too before, since after all that would be too much like Speed Racer, another example of big budget films that were made even though no one wanted them.

So, Sony, not wanting to be without a movie in the genre of “copying The Fast and The Furious,” has greenlit Gran Turismo. A movie that will surely capture all nuances of racing that the video game series is known for simulating, and most certainly will not be a complete waste of 90 to 200 million dollars.

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From → Movies, Opinions

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  1. Need for Speed | From the Desk of Mark T. Hrisho

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