"If anything, the massive success of The Hunger Games is a confirmation of a kind of cultural vapidity or failure. It says "look how malnourished and under-developed we are...look at the spiritual junk food we're eating!" — Jeff WellsI feel Jeffrey's pain — the wild success of bad films does test your faith in your fellow man, particularly if you are a populist like me who believes there is no such thing as the lowest common denominator, and that on the contrary, what we have in common is the highest, not the lowest thing about us. But his despair is quite unnecessary. Just penalize the pre-sold*, and the box office quits its resemblance to the moronic inferno and once again becomes a place of order, harmony and perfectly legitimate hits. The biggest blockbuster of 2010? Inception. Of 2011? The Help and Bridesdmaids. This year so far? The Vow, Safe House and John Carter. There may be films in there you don't like, but none whose success is as mystifying as The Hunger Games is to some. The people have not lost their minds. The movies will not suck your soul. The pre-sold will.
* A refresher: the 'pre-sold' is that quality, much beloved by movie executives, and shared by sequels, tween-bestseller-/comic book adaptations, that guarantees an audience before a single bum has touched a seat ("The highly anticipated big-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' bestselling novel has sold out nearly 2,000 screens in its pre-sale, Fandango announced on Tuesday"). It is what differentiates the faux-popularity of today's mega-blockbusters from the popularity of films made 40 years ago (The Godfather), or even 20 years ago (Pretty Woman). It is populism's circuit-jammer — it's super PAC.