Recurring motifs in cinema, 2013

by Mr. Nobel

The American Dream is dead. Love live the American Dream.  

  • The Bling Ring
  • Elysium
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Pain & Gain
  • Spring Breakers

It’s hard not to see why so many movies are adopting a cynical outlook on America. The more interesting trend, this year, has been watching so many movies take a post-modern twist on the classic disillusioned believer routine. In Elysium, we’re meant to root for an impoverished, but nonetheless outright terrorist. The Bling Ring, The Great Gatsby, Pain & Gain and Spring Breakers try (to varying degrees of success) to argue that the American Dream is all materialism whilst making us complicit in their violent spin on hedonism.

All of this points back to the ever evolving notions of what it means to be a modern protagonist; traditional concepts of hero and antihero are not sufficient to describe the ensembles of these five movies.

So many god damned things

  • All is Lost
  • Gravity

I’m not even going to bother listing all the weird similarities between the two. Suffice to say, they would make a killer double feature.

New York’s gotten enough licks, let’s fuck up D.C. 

  • Olympus Has Fallen
  • White House Down

If I were a wanker, I’d say this trend reflects the growing dissatisfaction Americans have with Congress and the President. I, however, am not a wanker, so I’ll just write this off as one studio taking a peek at another’s test.

Space sure is deadly

  • Gravity
  • Elysium
  • Ender’s Game
  • Europa Report
  • Man of Steel
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Thor 2

“I hate space.” – Ryan Stone, Gravity

Space maybe the final frontier, but 2013’s cinema would rather you clench buttocks firmly in couch (or IMAX seat).

What better way to sum up modern culture’s obsession with cynicism than with 2013’s parade of grim space flicks? Hollywood (plus Europa Report) have effectively turned space from a thing of wonder to a terrifying vacuum in which murderous aliens may exist but oxygen certainly doesn’t. Even Star Trek, one of the most optimistic pop culture establishments, took on an emo fringe with Benedict Cumberbatch’s incredible space terrorism. That’s not to suggest that space was always regarded with awe instead of fear (2001, after all, is terrifying), but so much of mainstream cinema has never been this pessimistic about what lies beyond the clouds.