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Review of 2022: There’s Too Much Plot! Overwritten Blockbusters


My last post drew attention to 2022 being a strong year for female cinema. On a less positive slant, blockbusters were afflicted with a bad case of overwriting. A nonsensical criticism made of blockbusters and especially action movies is that they have no plot. This is patently untrue, as argued eloquently by David Bordwell, and the absurdity of this statement is highlighted by analysing various blockbusters from 2022 in order to understand what worked, what did not, and why.

In terms of the major blockbusters that I saw, all were franchise entries aside from Bullet Train, adapted from the novel by Kotaro Isaka. This film, for my money, had too many diversions and convolutions on its route which led to it running out of steam. While not all action blockbusters lend themselves to transport metaphors, the problems with Bullet Train were not uncommon. As a summary of my thoughts on the blockbusters I saw: 

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore – meandering and confused 

Avatar: The Way of Water – immersive and spectacular but lacks focus 

Black Adam – an interesting premise squandered by excessive cliches and incoherent world-building 

Morbius – forced and too referential to the point of being overdone 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – under-developed premise 

Thor: Love and Thunder – too concerned with being referential and irreverent 

Jurassic World: Dominion – why why why? 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – decently balanced 

The Batman – action, spectacle and plot integrated into the detective story 

Top Gun: Maverick – clean, crisp, effective 

The blockbusters that worked best, for me at least, were those with a focused approach that delivered on a simple premise. The best example is Top Gun: Maverick, which was a huge surprise for someone who does not like the original. The sequel works because it has a straightforward, three-act structure, presented in the most spectacular way possible. By contrast, Avatar: The Way of Water, while even more spectacular and thoroughly immersive, suffers from a lack of focus, too many characters and could easily have been two films. Thus, the recurring problem with these blockbusters – they are overwritten.

The worst offender in this regard was Jurassic World: Dominion. The original Jurassic Park, like Top Gun: Maverick, is a textbook example of efficient storytelling – people come to dinosaur park, dinosaurs escape, people escape from island. Dominion could have used a similar premise or indeed explored the concept at the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – dinosaurs running amok across the Earth! Instead, we were treated to a tedious and hopelessly convoluted meander of dinosaur black-marketing and weaponisation, the return of the original film’s stars because reasons, and a separate narrative about corporate espionage and locusts.

Worrying about locusts when we have the promise of dinosaurs is a truly bizarre choice and demonstrates the strange conviction that more plotting is beneficial. That works when the narrative and character drives are investigation, hence the most impressive blockbuster of the year was for me the least blockbustery, namely The Batman. While Matt Reeves did not skimp on the action, including fights, a car chase, a dive off a (very) tall building and a finale of explosions and flooding, The Batman is largely driven by literal mysteries in the form of riddles and deeper investigations into characters and histories.

I guess all this goes to show you can get a lot from a little, such as Top Gun: Maverick, and a lot from a setting, as in The Batman, but when you over-complicate a straightforward set up, you get plagued.


1 Comment

  1. […] Review of 2022: There’s Too Much Plot! Overwritten Blockbusters […]

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