Damon Lindelof

Depending on how you look at it, Damon Lindelof saying he’s “turned off by [the] destruction porn that has emerged” is either like a junkie agreeing to rehab or the pusher lamenting all the damned drugs that are making him rich. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a bold declaration from a power player or a cool statement of reality from another wheel in the machine. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either brave or hypocritical.

Scott Brown at Vulture challenged Lindelof to give the summer studio treatment to a famously intimate tale — that of John Henry beating the steam engine — and alongside the story hurdle, the writer expounded on the current nature of big budget filmmaking.

It’s a topic everyone seems keen to wax on and off about these days, but if Steven Spielberg speaking ironically about giant budgets taking over was the lament of Dr. Frankenstein, Lindelof sighing at the status quo feels like the monster becoming self-aware.

“We live in a commercial world, where you’ve gotta come up with ‘trailer moments’ and make the thing feel big and impressive and satisfying, especially in that summer-movie-theater construct,” says Lindelof. “But ultimately I do feel—even as a purveyor of it—slightly turned off by this destruction porn that has emerged and become very bold-faced this past summer. And again, guilty as charged. It’s hard not to do it, especially because a movie, if properly executed, feels like it’s escalating.”

“Trailer moments” is a great new phrase for describing what the studio system wants, but the heart of the matter is in Lindelof’s math where he claims that if someone is spending more than $100M on a movie, you automatically have to make saving the world the primary goal for the heroes. The stakes have to be that large. The Wolverine may have disproved that this summer, but it holds true for a lot of projects. After all, Iron Man isn’t trying to make sure inner city kids get to keep their rec center, or anything.

The implied question of the piece is whether Lindelof (and a handful of other filmmakers) are strong enough or have the motivation to change the system from inside. Argue quality all you want, but he’s one of the few screenwriters with name-recognition and even he laments the “Does it have to be X?” mentality of the production process — a sign that even at the highest level, you’re still playing someone else’s game.

I’m encouraged by the interview, though. It shows an understanding of what’s happening inside while proving not everyone is blind to the conversations going on outside the room. The studio system is churning out (at least) 22 giant-scale blockbusters of the sequel, prequel and reboot variety in 2015, so it may be too late to curb the oncoming freight train, but even if this isn’t the light at the end of the tunnel, Lindelof’s statements are at the very least someone recognizing that they’re in the tunnel to begin with. It may not matter depending on how you look at it, but it’s a start.


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