The highly awaited Spider-Man: No Way Home debuted six months ago and broke records at the box-office, becoming the highest-grossing film since the start of the pandemic. And while critics and audiences loved it, there are many who have pointed out a series of flaws and problems that seem to be more and more recurrent in Hollywood. What I originally intended to be a review of Spider-Man quickly turned into a rant / essay, so here is why I’m tired of laziness in Hollywood.
No Way Home, the third instalment in the MCU’s reclaim of Spider-Man, found our webbed hero (Tom Holland) messing up with the continuity of our universe to the point that other versions of the character, that we have seen in previous Spider-Man franchises, arrive in his world. After months of speculation, the reunion of three ‘Spider-Men’ should have been an amazing moment of cinema, but seeing what was done in No Way Home, I left the cinema with a bitter aftertaste. Why was it that seeing three of my favourite actors reunited felt so cheap and wrong?
Perhaps it is that the film relies on and uses fan service to cover up for its poorly-written scenario. Seeing Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield return to the roles they once carried is great, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the plot is full of awfully written incoherences and that they’re stuck playing parodies of what used to be complex characters. The three talented actors are reduced to scenes that fans could have written and often had predicted years ago, only delivering quips about what type of webb they use or asking for help with their back pains. A film should not be shoving call backs in every other scene to exist, fans shouldn’t have to point to the screen and say “omg I get this” every thirty seconds, especially when the jokes are created in ways that hinder the movie’s story. No Way Home also suffers from a truly awful CGI work, so much so that the film got an update two weeks after its original release date to fix some scenes in which special effects look terrible. The over reliance on green screen technology is annoying, especially when it is used to digitally recreate a New-York street that the crew could have easily travelled to? No Way Home’s success might be great for fans of Spider-Man, but it sets a dangerous precedent for films to come, telling them they don’t need to be creative, coherent or well executed to be successful since fans won’t complain.
It is hard not to see a pattern of the ever-growing appetite of Hollywood, one embedded in laziness and wealth.Elie Breton des Loÿs
It is not to say that fan input is always wrong, one only has to look at Sonic’s updated design in the live-action film to see that fans can be trusted and listened to, but movies shouldn’t be done in the fear that novelty and original ideas are bad and will scare fans away. Seeing Spider-Man fans predict every single joke and scene in No Way Home months before its release, solely because they relied so much on fan-service that would suit the fans, is utterly disappointing and is in itself a failure of filmmaking.
But this isn’t always the case. Let’s take for example 2022’s Scream, the newest entry in a saga I utterly adore. After the passing of horror legend Wes Craven, the creator and director of the four previous Scream films, there was little to no hope that the franchise would be revived, especially after the failure of its MTV series adaptation. I was therefore surprised when, in 2020, it was announced that Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett would make a new instalment in Ghostface’s saga. I was excited but also worried, wondering what importance this new creative team would give to fan service.
In the end, Scream was everything a fan could ask for: a mature sequel that fully understands what made the saga a beloved cornerstone of the slasher genre, with clever call-backs and nods to the original, but the courage to surprise audiences and not make fan service its biggest priority. Jokes and references flew naturally because they were not, nor hindered the pacing of the story. Scream reminded me fan-service is not inherently bad, it just has to feel organic and not be the driving force of any scenario. I guess fan-service is like baking, it’s all about precision and quantity. Use too much of it and your movie will feel like a sugary overload that leaves you bloated and unhappy.
An over-reliance on fan-service feels like the symptom of a lazy Hollywood that chooses easy solutions at every corner. When movies like Morbius are released without a coherent plot or ending, when Americans want to remake foreign films in English to that audience understand them (like CODA, this year’s Best Picture at the Oscars) or when it is announced that 2019’s Joker will get a sequel despite his early statements that the film was an original vision with no need for continuation, it is hard not to see a pattern of the ever-growing appetite of Hollywood, one embedded in laziness and wealth.
The whole “Hollywood has no original thoughts these days” mantra is not something I’m particularly fond of in general. While there is definitely some truth in this statement, it also grossly ignores a lot of incredible independent films, further perpetuating the misconception that Hollywood is only made of big mainstream blockbusters. If you are bored of Disney films, why not try the indie route. Just take Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, the new indie multiverse film starring Michelle Yeoh that is shattering box office results in America and coming on our British screens on the 13th of May. Go watch it, you’ll be happy to witness creativity truly has not died, and that not all hope is lost in Hollywood.