Cinema is a wonderful tool for showing us other lives. Stories that we enjoy on the big screen connect intimately to our understanding of our own lives and to the lives of others. The best films can be wish-fulfilment, they can throw us into unimaginable terror, or they can show us what we might do given the circumstances the film presents us with.
Many of these films feature a protagonist whose life at the beginning of the film is not too dissimilar to our own. How many of Hitchcock‘s great films use the premise of extraordinary things happening to ordinary people? And because of the way film works on us as an entertainment medium, there is a very real connection between our visceral reaction and what we see on screen.
Certain films shake us to our core, or delight us in ways we couldn’t possibly have imagined. The amount of times I’ve come out from a particularly good film and been buzzing, forever changed by the experience. This is one of cinema’s true pleasures, and one that is the basis for our article today on what would we do if events from blockbuster films actually happened to us.
Aliens Among us
The search for extraterrestrial life has long powered much of blockbuster cinema. Whether we go all the way back to the work of Georges Méliès who shot rockets into the face of the moon and found bizarre jumping creatures there, or if we spend terrifying days on Forbidden Planets, rescue an abandoned extraterrestrial, or fight off an alien invasion, the extraordinary events of sci-fi blockbuster cinema help us imagine our world changing forever.
Who among us hasn’t looked to the stars and conjured up images of flying spaceships, or imagined witnessing first contact as an alien spaceship lands on Earth? In these instances it’s easy to be as afraid as it is to be awestruck, but in the case of something like E.T. there is a genuine emotional charge that helps us to see the world through alien eyes.While these events probably won’t happen during our lifetimes, though the advances made in space exploration may yet increase, the chances of coming face-to-face with beings not from this earth are slim. Thankfully we get to enjoy the wonder and fear from our cinema seat. And as with the best cinema we get to learn something a little about ourselves too.
We’re in the money
Some of the greatest wish-fulfilment films centre around a sudden, huge influx of wealth. During the ’90s we were told ‘It could happen to you…’ in the film starring Bridget Fonda and Nicolas Cage. Danny Boyle told us a wonderful tale about what happens when a young boy finds a massive bag of money, and our various cinematic travels with Charlie Bucket and the Chocolate Factory show what it can be for our prospects to change overnight.
It is true that money makes the world go round, and in no place is that more obvious than in Hollywood. There’s been a great piece of research done on what you could do if you won the lottery, and Lottoland have drawn up some intriguing infographics showing which lottery you need to look to win in order to finance some of the biggest, and smallest, films in Hollywood. Check it out at the link above, then start writing that script…
One of the most enduring tales in Hollywood is Brewster’s Millions. Originally written as a novel in 1902 by George Barr McCutcheon, the story has been told many times across the decades. Even now rumours about a forthcoming adaptation in the 21st-Century have been rolling around the rumour mill for as long as this site has been around.
This makes sense, it is an evergreen tale – the cinematic equivalent of discovering a child smoking and locking them under the stairs until they smoke the whole pack. Brewster‘s Millions has at its heart an important lesson about the value of money. For HeyUGuys readers the adaptation best known will perhaps be the 1985 Walter Hill adaptation starring Richard Pryor and John Candy.When we watched this film growing up it was easy to enjoy the race against time, and the spending of huge amounts of money. Equally it was a lesson that money doesn’t always make us happy and it, like most of the tools in our lives, may have its place but it is usually a means to a more important end.
It is a sincere hope that none of us ever experience the events of a disaster movie in real life. And it is that hope, and the vicarious thrill of seeing other people go through world changing events that give disaster movies a permanent spot in our collective movie pantheon.
While some of our favourite disaster movies focus on people with a particular set of skills to help them survive, others are happy to focus on the everyday person on the street. Or as this month’s Godzilla vs. Kong attests, you can bypass the actual people and concentrate instead on the beasts doing most of the damage.
Disaster movies are best for asking us the questions we would never normally have to broach in everyday life. And there are many types of disaster lying in wait around the corner for us to see if we could live through. Most recently with the advancement in CG technology the disasters in our blockbusters tends to be toward the global scale. Even this year, in Greenland we found ourselves racing with Gerard Butler as meteors descended on a doomed Earth. In that film in particular we have different types of people reacting to the same fate. One of the most terrifying moments comes not from the skies but from the kidnapping of a young child by a couple who have not been selected for survival.
One of my personal favourites is the underrated 2005 adaptation of War of the Worlds by Steven Spielberg. Key to the success of this particular adaptation is the cast against type Tom Cruise, who has a little of the typical Spielbergian everyman about him. While many of us would hope that if we were to suffer through the San Andreas earthquake, we would have The Rock by our side, it is far more likely but we would try and survive through these disastrous events alone. Not exactly the most cheery of thoughts.
Who would be a superhero?
No-one who has visited the cinema in the last decade can be in any doubt about the massive expansion of superhero films on the big screen. Much has been written about these characters, their powers, and the fates of their particular worlds but some of the best movies chose to focus on what it would be like for a person, totally normal in every way, to suddenly gain powers. I always found the most interesting superhero films to be those where the everyday is set up against the incredible.
Chronicle tells the tale of three young men who suddenly become incredibly powerful, and spins its central story on how they choose to wield such powers. One of the latest MCU additions centres around a talented pilot becoming imbued with powers beyond imagination. On TV the shows Misfits and Heroes told similar stories of people whose lives are changed forever by their strange new powers.
Our relationship with superheroes is long and storied. From the gods above us to beneficent aliens, to industry titans (with billions of dollars) or a courageous orphan (with billions of dollars), these people serve to show us what we can achieve, or who we can become.
So, if you could choose a blockbuster life – which would it be?
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