So I’m excited about Mad Max.
I know this is kind of a writing blog, but I’m a huge movie buff, and this is really about storytelling in general. So bear with me.
For the last thirty years, as everybody knows, there’s been a huge impetus to get studio films in front of the largest possible audience. Since its inception in 1984, the PG-13 rating has been the benchmark of that effort. Any film PG or G is labeled as a kid’s movie, anything R has an artificial ceiling due to its adult skew. When was the last time we saw a masterpiece like 2001 get released with a G rating? When was the last time something as poignant and over-the-top as the original Robocop actually made money? Someone can probably think of an exception, but the allure of appealing to the widest demographic has traditionally been too strong to deny, at least as far as studio pictures are concerned. So if it were released today, 2001 would probably have a little more violence and a gratuitous butt shot, and Robocop would be… well, Robocopwas remade, and we all saw how it turned out.
Until Harry Potter came along, books were largely immune to that. I LOVE Harry Potter, but its effect on the fiction world was not awesome. For the past 15 years, we’ve had a slew of imitators and an explosion of Young Adult dystopian-paranormal-futuristic-vampire-werewolf-teen-romance… things. Yes, it’s good more people are reading. Yes, there are great Young Adult books the same as there are great PG-13 movies, but for every Ready Player One and Dark Knight, we get a thousand duds. More importantly, market saturation has squashed the outliers. Where’s the next great Stephen King? Or Dan Brown? Those guys are as strong as they ever have been, but they’ve been around forever! Despite the prevalence of independent film and independent publishing, adult fiction feels scarce. Doesn’t it?
As it turns out, 2015 might be the year adults finally have their say. Although it was technically released in 2014, American Sniper was a box office juggernaut, squashing everything in its path and surpassing Hunger Games in domestic earnings. Following that, R-rated movies dominated the box office for 7 of the next 8 weeks. Fifty Shades turned out to be an even bigger hit than anticipated in spite of abysmal reviews and an even more abysmal IMDB score. What’s more? A lower rating isn’t guaranteeing higher returns any more. Near the end of 2014, Expendables 3 flat out bombed, earning half of what its two predecessors made during its domestic opening weekend.
And now we have Mad Max. If you haven’t seen the original films, you should. The Road Warrior is still one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, the adrenal equivalent of jumping a go-cart off a cliff ramp at 150mph, with all the fear, exhilaration, and dirt-in-the-back-of-your-throat that entails. Most film buffs consider the last installment, 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome, to be the weakest in the old trilogy. Not surprisingly, it’s the only one with a PG-13 rating. However, it does set a precedent. It would have been easy for studio execs to follow the same path with the most current entry, sending a middle finger to the critics in the hopes of again roping in that widest possible audience.
But they didn’t, and now I’m excited.
I’m not excited because of the promise of any specific graphic content, because really, who cares? As long it’s contextually appropriate and right for the film’s tone, the specifics don’t matter. No, I’m excited because Warner Bros. said, “You know what? This is an adult franchise, and we’re going to make the best possible movie with adults in mind.” We’ve seen a ton of watered-down sci-fi sequels and reboots these past few years, everything from Total Recall to Terminator. I’m glad this doesn’t look like it’s going to be of the same ilk. And the trailer is badass, isn’t it?
I think what’s really happening is that the film world is finally bouncing back, finally realizing there is a market for adults if the content is good. I’m waiting for the fiction world to bounce back the same way. I’m not saying I won’t ever write a Young Adult book, but generally, I write adult fiction. I read adult fiction. The world is full of adults, at least until The Children of the Corn take over and murder us all. So get off your butt and support adult entertainment!
Well, you know what I mean.