The Problem with Movies Today

As companies like Disney have adopted a business model of forgoing artistry for maximum profitability, movies are becoming increasingly bland and repetitive


Alexander Call, Staff Writer

Over the past decade, there’s been a dramatic shift in our movie-going habits, and not for the better. Accentuated by the massive influx of media consumption from the Covid-19 quarantine, we are consuming entertainment on a larger scale than ever before. However, this trend is not just limited to an increase in movie-going and streaming activity; it’s reflective of the public’s changing tastes in entertainment choices and increasing dependence on mindless escapism through media to desensitize us from reality.

It’s no secret that Marvel Studios and its parent company, Disney, have occupied a fair share of the movie-going market in recent years. Avengers: Endgame became the highest-grossing movie of all time in July 2019, setting a whole new precedent for our idea of a “blockbuster.” This is not a unique occurrence. In fact, between 2008 and 2019, Mickey Mouse’s share of the U.S. box office rose from 10.5% to 38%, thanks largely to its acquisition of studios like Marvel (2009), Lucasfilm (2012), and 20th Century Fox (2019). Indeed, The Walt Disney Company seems to have figured out the secret to exponentially increasing its dominance of the film industry. 

Disney’s business model has become reliant on providing as much mindless, generally crowd-pleasing entertainment as possible—forgoing artistry for maximum profitability. This is not to say that a person is “stupid” if they enjoy Disney movies; rather, it indicates the decreasing level of thematic depth and intellectual stimulation within films produced by Disney and many of its subsidiaries—particularly Marvel.

Of course, not every movie has to be incredibly deep or philosophical; sometimes people just want a good time. Yet increasingly, it appears that all people want is a good time—to escape from reality rather than explore it—and this desire undermines the artistry behind filmmaking. Renowned film director Martin Scorsese famously said, with regards to Avengers: Endgame and the MCU as a whole: “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” 

This perspective is difficult to deny. Think back to the last Marvel movie you watched: what effect did it have on your perception of the world, if even for a brief time? For the vast majority of us, the answer to this question is the same: none. 

Moreover, Disney has doubled down on this philosophy as it releases more and more “soulless” live-action remakes of its classic animated films, stripping them of their thematic nuance to make them as mass-marketable as possible and relying on nostalgia to fill seats and sell Disney+ subscriptions. From axing Mulan’s inspirational and empowering training arc in favor of a “let’s just make her a child-prodigy-superhero” approach in Mulan (2020), to going out of their way to make Pinocchio less responsible for his mistakes in Pinocchio (2022), Disney seems to be forgetting what made their films so beloved in the first place. Either that or they simply don’t care because nostalgia is more profitable than effort. 

Yet we continue going to see these movies—year after year, reboot after reboot, and “world-ending threat” after “world-ending threat.” Disney does not subscribe to a high standard of filmmaking anymore because we no longer hold them accountable. And Disney is not the only example; all around Hollywood, studios are successfully employing similar tactics. As a society, we have become so focused on escaping into a world of meaningless laughs, gilded tears, and superficial thrills that we view genuine emotion and artistry as secondary. This is not to say that mindlessly fun movies shouldn’t have a place at the box office. The danger arises, however, when we treat this as the standard of filmmaking, rather than just another aspect of it. 

        So next time you’re deciding what movie to watch over the weekend, remember that these types of movies aren’t the only option. There’s a plethora of great films that push beyond the status quo, that will challenge and move you long after the 90-minute runtime is up. All you have to do is look.