By Josh Williams As discussed in Episode 39 of our podcast, adventure films have always been a big part of cinema. In fact, you could argue that the adventure genre takes up over one-half of the films that we have seen. Films that take advantage of situations we know deep down could never happen, but they still excite and entertain us. Sadly nowadays it seems like all adventure films are made to simply entertain. Versus trying to create a unique movie going experience or craft something original and emotional, adventure films are just trying to crash those box office numbers and entertain the general movie going audience. Instead of something new we just get reboots, unnecessary franchise continuations, whatever it may be adventure films clearly lack one key element to making films, the emotion. This is exemplified even further with this weekend’s release of “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” What exactly is an adventure film? Personally for a film to be classified as “adventure”, it must have some extreme outlier event. By this, I mean something on the caliber of films like “Pirates of the Carribean,” “National Treasure,” or “Indiana Jones.” A setup or plot that seems way too far from reality, forcing us to suspend our disbelief quite a bit. Basically, an adventure film is something where the audience must work harder than they normally have to in terms of suspending their disbelief. This doesn’t always necessarily fault a film, it definitely makes it much more difficult to not only enjoy these films but view these films on a prestigious level. In rebuttal, however, adventure films are not mean to sit on a throne. They are meant to strictly entertain and satisfy the general audience.
Now there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with approaching filmmaking from this angle. The base objective of a movie is to entertain, when you leave a theater at the bare minimum you should leave entertained. So can we fault films that dissatisfy our pampered taste buds? Not necessarily because everyone likes a little bit of junk food from time to time. The problem with this is a lot of adventure films that release nowadays lack the simple filmmaking elements that entertain us.
With iconic films like Indiana Jones one thing that succeeded admirably is the consistent momentum with the story. The story is such a high tension thrill ride from start to finish that it’s hard to ignore the pure excitement happening on screen. Not only is the film exceptionally well made with its editing, how it is shot, the immaculate direction from Steven Spielberg, but the story gives us everything we could ever want from something that falls under the umbrella of adventure. The story is thrilling and constantly tries to one-up itself and then on top of this momentum driven style of storytelling you have Spielberg at the helm. “Indiana Jones” is more than likely the first film that comes to mind when you mention the phrase “adventure film”. Why is this? Why is the shared consensus among the cinema universe that “Indiana Jones” is the keystone adventure film? Personally, I believe this shines through the sheer weight that the name carries.
The biggest problem with modern adventure films and there are plenty of problems to point out, just look at the past few “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, is that there is no character connection with the audience. Indiana Jones is so successful because Spielberg does such an incredible job at making us not only care but relish at the sight of Indiana Jones. This definitely helps with Harrison Ford being the lead actor, but the character connection that the audience shares with the main protagonist is exactly what we need in this genre. Not only does Indie have so many human characteristics that we can relate to (being afraid of snakes, just your average guy in an extraordinary situation, etc.), but we get to ride along with him from start to finish.
There is something for the audience to chew on in every single scene that Indie is in. We get to see how he interacts with other characters and we get to see how he handles these specific scenarios, making us not only relate to him but also connect with him on a much deeper psyche. Sadly, with most modern adventure films there is absolutely no connection with any of the characters. It seems like adventure films nowadays are trying to cram their already full suitcase and add as many characters as they possibly can. As if they’re attempting to create an adventure film cinematic universe much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Oh, wait, that’s happening.
Adventure films are just attempting to shove as much exposition and as many A-List actors into their movies so that they can at least crack that specific box office goal. Nowadays most adventure films are simply just attempting to crack the box office, break the latest record and force people to see their movie simply off of how much money that they have made. Quality has fallen off of a very steep cliff and not only are our pampered pallets spoiled, but we are just left with our heads shaking vigorously.
Adventure films lack such a specific quality that it nearly points out every other flaw that these films possess. They cannot even capitalize on the fact that they have these all-star actors at their possession, so after the eye candy starts to slowly dwindle we begin realizing just how many holes are actually within these projects. Sadly the quality is taking a rather steep dive and it is disheartening. If these filmmakers could make us just care about their characters, they could actually have a chance at improving their quality. But we just get the “Dark Universe” and an insane amount of franchises being created where the only goal is: to entertain the general audience and to crack the box office and make as much money as possible.
“Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is out now in theaters. Be sure to let us know what your thoughts are on the current status of the “Adventure Film” in the comments below. You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @josh_williams09