Andy Warhol’s 1964 film Empire is an 8 ½ hour film consisting of a continuous take of The Empire State Building. During the run time, not much happens: sun sets, lights flicker, movie ends. If you’ve seen a picture of the Empire State Building in black and white, you’ve basically seen the film. It’s unwatchable. It’s talentless. And it’s more or less pointless. But Warhol was at least doing something new. He was testing the boundaries of cinema — aiming for unwatchability and succeeding. There’s no other film like Empire, and maybe there shouldn’t be. But Warhol, in creating this drab of a film, found originality. Empire is unwatchable, and the point of a film is to watch it. But is the intention, and the experimentation, more important than creating a bad, watchable movie for cynical reasons? What I’m saying is this: is Empire a better movie than The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has had the honor of making it into the number two spot in my worst films of 2014 list. It’s artless, cheesy, terribly scored, poorly acted, structured, and directed, but most importantly it feels like a product. Product placement fills the screen. The whole film feels like just a way to make an exciting trailer in order to sell tickets. Obviously, every piece of media is made for profit, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s profits are entirely based on deceit and distrust for the average intelligence. It’s a movie made by suits. Attempting to appeal to every human on the planet, it appeals to no one. But regardless, the budget is huge, the crew is enormous, and the effects are astounding. Obviously a lot more care, talent, money, and time went into making The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but the intentions behind it are plainly evil.
So which movie is “better?” The simple, unwatchable film that’s doing something new with the intention of original art? Or the cynical, evil movie that has a huge budget, action, effects, a celebrity cast, and explosions? Obviously, the second takes more training, talent, and time — but the calculated greed behind the film makes it disgusting, just artless, mindless pictures on the screen, thereby making it just as unwatchable as Empire.
Empire is only a movie by name. There’s no way you can sit for eight hours watching basically a still image. You’re unlikely to get anything out of Empire, but I’ll take an unwatchable attempt at art over a cynical approach to mediocrity any day.