Money or Critical Praise – What Makes A Movie Successful?

Success: The favourable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavours; the accomplishment of one’s goals; the attainment of wealth, position or honours.

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Just a few short months ago – after what seemed like a lifetime of TV spots, incessant trailers and frankly way too much marketing – saw the release of Michael Bay’s over-the-top, robot action romp sequel Transformers 4: Age of Extinction starring Mark Wahlberg. Like a large portion of movie lovers, I wasn’t that excited to see it. In fact I still haven’t seen it and have no desire to do so in the near future. But from what I’ve read – and I’m not normally one to simply judge a movie by it’s reviews – I didn’t miss much. There’s no question that those brave souls who did tolerate almost 3 hours of “noise” perhaps did go in with some preconceived negative thoughts. However I’m not sure many of us were expecting quite the resounding deprecation upon it’s release.

Despite the continued negativity from viewers and critics across the board Transformers 4 has currently surpassed $1 billion worldwide making it the highest grossing movie of the year so far. Potentially it could take over Dark of the Moon and become the most successful movie of the franchise.

But how exactly is success judged?

Obviously the studio behind the movie – any movie – see it as a money making scheme so it’s main priority is to make a sizeable profit, and who could blame them? A movie is an investment after all. I think it’s fair to say that the first movie in the series is easily the best of the bunch but it never made anywhere near as much money as any of it’s sequels.

Personally I see movies as an art form rather than a money making device, but do they have to be mutually exclusive? Can movies be artistic and critically acclaimed but also be a commercial success and make a ton of money? Of course they can and that isn’t really the question here. The question is what is considered more important, money or praise?

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Take for instance The Shawshank Redemption. Unquestionably one of the greatest movies of all time, a supreme masterpiece endlessly popping up on ‘polls’ and ‘lists’ across a wide array of magazines and websites. But when it was released back in 1994 it struggled to reap any profits whatsoever and commercially was only the 51st most successful movie of that particular year. It’s baffling to think how those stats can be true considering how revered the picture is 20 years later. I’m pretty sure that no sane person alive would ever be audacious enough to claim that Transformers 4 was even in the same league as Shawshank in terms of quality filmmaking. Heck it’s barely playing the same sport.

A movie can be backed by a highly experienced and adept marketing team which can perform all sorts of tricks to help get butts in seats once release day rolls around but it doesn’t mean said movie is particularly good. In the same respect a movie struggling to gather funds to help distribute it to as many screens as possible may possess the greatest display of acting and storytelling of all time, but if less people buy tickets to see it does that make it a failure compared to the big money makers? I would never believe that anybody involved in the industry – beyond the realms of the studio desk – would be naive enough to consider that cash in their pockets to be an irrelevant subsidiary to a high score on Rotten Tomatoes. However I would like to think that the majority of the industry professionals take their rudimentary baby steps in the hope of replicating to some extent the work of their peers.

Success in the film industry will always be somewhat of an anomaly, destined to forever be as easily cross examined as the flip of a coin. Like style over substance, money over praise is a thin line in the sand that draws the water in, stopping those who choose to stand on each side from drowning. Michael Bay might be smiling all the way to the bank but I wonder just how happy he’d be if he woke up every morning with an Oscar statue sitting on his bedside table?

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4 thoughts on “Money or Critical Praise – What Makes A Movie Successful?

  1. I disagree with your article. Ive been a moviegoer for a while now and i can boldly say the Reason i go to cinemas is not to watch some emotional movie with intricate storylines and great acting. I go for the blockbusters. The thrill of huge explosions and big action scenes blowing up before me that gets my pulse racing. The thing is that, sometimes all i need from a movie is an explosive wild ride. For me its like an adrenaline shot to the heart. And i leave the cinema with awe and wonder. It gives me a break from the boring world around me. And no one delivers a wild ride better than Micheal Bay. And thats why for me he is one of the best filmakers of our time. No oscar worthy performance. No substance. Just a good old action flick. I loved age of extinction. Not everyone goes to the cinema for the reason that u do. Pls think about that.

    • Hi Jesse, thanks for reading and giving your opinion. But nowhere in my article do I state that I don’t enjoy action movies or don’t go to the cinema to watch entertaining blockbusters. All I said was that I believe movies are an art form. The article was written as a debate starter. Thanks again for reading

  2. Interesting piece dude. Jesse the explosions and the action doesn’t make up for a weak story. The Transformers Movies (apart from the first one) have been very weak. Totally get what your saying, sometimes you just want to throw a movie on that requires squat in the way of thinking. Bay should take heed of Del Toro, now that man knows how to make a proper summer blockbuster hit, Pacific Rim! Great Action, Funny with a tight story. The quality doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the action and loud noises and that is what Bay has done in recent years.

  3. Jesus, how can people even talk about movies when the examples they bring up of good films are pieces of crap like Pacific Rim or Transformers? It’s like trying to have a discussion with a 3rd-grade class. Call me a snob if you want, and then go watch another ‘classic’ Wolverine movie.

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