David Fincher’s critically acclaimed (and financially successful) The Social Network hit DVD and Blu-ray yesterday, riding a wave of year-end top-10 list placement and Oscar buzz. But, lest we forget in all of the warm goodwill surrounding the picture, that it was far from a sure thing; the notion of “the Facebook movie” was mocked and snarked pretty widely while the film was in production (Will audiences “like” it? Har har).
But “the Facebook movie” had two saving graces. First, the cultural object on which it centered was still in vogue by the time the film hit screens — in fact, it had only grown in popularity. This is key, since the long lead-time of motion picture production (averaging at least a year from conception to delivery) often puts exploitative spin-off films into theaters long after audiences have lost interest in the phenomenon at hand. Second, it was scripted by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, neither of whom were interested in creating a disposable entertainment for a quick buck; when you’ve got real filmmakers in the mix, chances are pretty good that you’re going to get a real movie out of it.
Not every “fad film,” however, has been so lucky. After the jump, a look at a few less fortunate moments when the trivial and the cinema didn’t intersect quite so skillfully.
Matthew Vaughn’s darkly comic superhero movie landed with a thud in spring of 2010, to the surprise of many; some have blamed the film’s R rating, others a misbegotten marketing campaign, others the controversy over the language and violence connected to 11-year-old “Hit Girl.” But we’ve got another theory: the problem was MySpace. The other social networking site was all over Kick-Ass; the titular character solicits super-hero assignments and maintains his huge fan base via his MySpace page, as does friend-turned-villain Red Mist. In the world of Kick-Ass, everybody’s on MySpace; meanwhile, in the real world, MySpace was “pretty much an abandoned shopping mall” (in the words of comic Patton Owalt). This — and the frequent use of Gnarls Barley’s “Crazy” — gives Kick-Ass the uncanny feeling of a movie that’s been sitting in a vault since 2006.