Reading various forums, hardware and disc reviews over the past few weeks as part of my research regards buying a new (4K) television, has resulted in some troubling observations. I watch movies because, well, I love movies- good, bad, indifferent, I enjoy watching them, experiencing them, being uplifted, frustrated, awed by them. I enjoy the art and craft of them. Sure, some might turnout to be stinkers but its extremely rare that I ever stop a film mid-way. When I start watching a movie I’m making an effort, a statement of intent, an investment of my time and I’ll see it through no matter what. I love movies, just as I love books.
But I don’t choose to watch particular movies because they look good, or show off the hardware I’m watching them on. I watch them because I enjoy them or want to experience something new, perhaps be enlightened or surprised.
I have discovered the rather troubling trend of many enthusiasts who watch particular films just because they look great. Regardless of how good a movie it actually is, if the film has a brilliant image quality and ‘wow’ credentials, it gets praised/highly rated and bought and watched if only to justify the expense of that high-end screen sitting in the corner/on the wall. Films are actually rated not by credentials like story, acting, drama, craft, but rather by superficial nonsense such as moments of impressive HDR or Dolby Atmos sound-staging, as if the films are simply multi-million tech demos and not creative pieces of art.
Surely these home cinema enthusiasts are simply missing the point?
I loved Blade Runner at the cinema, and I enjoyed it on a pirate-copy VHS that I was gifted at Christmas in 1983, grainy and fuzzy and mono and replete with blooming colours as it was, it was still a great movie. I am certain that it will look great someday when I watch it in 4K on a new television, but it has always been a great movie and while it would not be ideal, if I had to watch it on an ancient b&w portable because that was the only way to re-watch it, then I probably would. The movie is the thing, not the bells and whistles of the hardware I’d be watching it on.
But this does make me wonder if this trend is indicative of why films are so often all visuals and spectacle and little substance now. Are people so obsessed with the size of their screens and all the bells and whistles of modern hardware that elements like script and drama seem antiquated and immaterial? Wow me don’t involve me?