Damon Lindelof WonderCon

Much ink has been spilled lately about the movie industry’s “bigger is better” problem. Studios regularly throw $200 million or more at the latest Marvel- or DC-based adventure, yet even icons like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have trouble wrangling mid-range budgets for projects like Lincoln or Red Tails.

Nor does that attitude stop at the financial level. Those hefty price tags come with the expecation of correspondingly massive stories, which is why it seems like every other summer blockbuster hinges on the fate of a major city or even the world itself. And though writer Damon Lindelof acknowledges that he is himself a “purveyor” of these big, explosive moments, even he cops to feeling “slightly turned off by this destruction porn.”

In an illuminating interview, Lindelof offers an inside look at Hollywood’s self-destructive gigantism — how the approach inflates even intimate dramas into superhuman epics, and why it’s so difficult for writers and filmmakers to buck these trends. Hit the jump for more.

Speaking to Vulture, Lindelof lamented the industry’s current emphasis on what he calls “trailer moments.”

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. 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.

Part of the problem, he explains, is that expectations for these movies have changed drastically.

Once you spend more than $100 million on a movie, you have to save the world. And when you start there, and basically say, I have to construct a MacGuffin based on if they shut off this, or they close this portal, or they deactivate this bomb, or they come up with this cure, it will save the world—you are very limited in terms of how you execute that. And in many ways, you can become a slave to it and, again, I make no excuses, I’m just saying you kind of have to start there. In the old days, it was just as satisfying that all Superman has to do was basically save Lois from this earthquake in California. The stakes in that movie are that the San Andreas Fault line opens up and half of California is going to fall in the ocean. That felt big enough, but there is a sense of bigger, better, faster, seen it before, done that.

Lindelof goes on to engage in a thought exercise in which he imagines how a studio might take a smaller concept — John Henry‘s race against a steam-powered hammer — and morph it, over multiple drafts, into a bloated superhero tale with theoretically higher stakes but far less nuance.

As Lindelof himself readily admits, there’s serious irony in the guy behind Prometheus, Cowboys & Aliens, and Star Trek Into Darkness complaining about Hollywood’s big-budget, big-story approach. But if anything, that serves as an even more alarming sign of the impending industry “implosion.” Click over to Vulture to read the article in full; it’s well worth checking out even if you’re in the anti-Lindelof camp.

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