(’14)Do films offer anything more than an escape from reality?

Related: (’04)Discuss the appeal and value of fantasy stories and films.

(’01)A film has one purpose- to entertain. Using examples, consider this view.


(Introduction) The history of cinema now spans more than a century. One could say that the twentieth century was the first century to be recorded in motion pictures. But what is the purpose of motion pictures and what do they offer? Many say that films only entertain, by providing us an escape from reality. In this sense, they have much appeal, but little value. However, in my belief, films offer much more than just that. Through the stories told in films, certain meaningful messages/themes are discussed. Furthermore, films are also a source of revenue/profit for the filmmaker/film company, and some reflect our reality to us, serving as a record of the world itself.

(Refute 1) Some say films only entertain. This is because, Popular films often have fictional plots, an imaginary story that happens in an imaginary setting, detached from real life. Such only offers viewers an escape from reality, allowing them to immense themselves in the imaginary world, and ultimately, entertainment from doing so. For example, fantasy stories told through film such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings series brings viewers to a whole new world (literally), where characters and beings such as wizards, dwarfs, goblins, non-existent in the real world, become a reality.  Science fiction and cyberpunk films such as Blade Runner and Inception allow us to get a glimpse of alternative realities, of what the world could be like, whether in past, present, or future. Such unrealistic films would not have taught viewers any real, practical things, and hence just exists as a form of entertainment, for people’s enjoyment purposes.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. Indeed, fictional films usually do not teach viewers any tangible things, but they almost always leave viewers with something intangible. Through the themes explored, subtle social commentary, and character development, viewers may be able to realize something, or start pondering over certain collective beliefs and big topics in society, such as the nature of humanity. Using Inception again, the main character, Dom Cobb, is a skilled thief who steals valuable ideas from within the sub consciousness of others. Hired by Saito, a highly powerful businessman, he and his team now has to do the reverse: to plant an idea instead of steal one. Through the process of manipulating other people’s sub consciousness, Cobb deals with subconscious issues of his own. He does so by burying them in a prison he created to dump them in, and locked them away without intending to address them. However, this only caused his inner issues to come back to taunt him even more, surfacing in different ways; at first sporadic, then later on frequent, and in the most unexpected situations. They were self-sabotaging. Such thus allows the viewers to learn that avoidance is never a solution to anything, and that the best way to deal with our issues is to deal with them straight on. The ‘Rocky’ film series, the story of Rocky Balboa, a small-time club fighter who later gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship, gives viewers an inspirational take on the value of determination, grit, and never giving up. Hence, films offer more than just entertainment.

(Supporting 2) Furthermore, not all films are fictional. Documentary films present certain information or events, seen or unseen, that exist, or have existed, in reality. Their purpose is to impart knowledge of this subject to viewers, let them understand, be aware of these issues and know what the world needs today. Citizenfour, a 2014 documentary film, is about Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. Super Size Me, directed by Morgan Spurlock, is a social experiment on fast-food gastronomy which sees him attempting to subsist uniquely on food from McDonald’s for an entire month. In the process, he gains weight, his energy level plummets and he experiences many unexpected and terrifying side effects. The film also examines the corporate giant’s growing role in the lives of American consumers and explores its methods of indoctrinating young people and its contribution to America’s obesity epidemic. In An Inconvenient Truth, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim follows Al Gore on the lecture circuit, as the former presidential candidate campaigns to raise public awareness of the dangers of global warming and calls for immediate action to curb its destructive effects on the environment. As shown, rather than a form of entertainment and an escape from a reality, these films are the reflections of realities that the audience is living in now. Hence, films offer more than just entertainment.

(Refute 2) Some say films only entertain. This is because, film techniques that have been developed evidently seem to be only targeted towards increasing the entertainment factor for viewers. Increasingly sophisticated techniques are used to delight and entertain audiences. For instance, animated films, which involves the display of rapid movement in an art work, usually more vibrant and dramatic compared to their live action counterparts, has become more widespread. The advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) also made it possible to do spectacle more cheaply and on a massive scale.  CGI techniques and visual effects can be used to create realistic images of people, landscapes and events, both real and imaginary, and also to animate non-living items such as Lego. Furthermore, with the rise of 3-D technology and films, once 2 dimensional images projected onto a flat cinema screen come to life in full 3 dimensional glory. Much technologies were created just to make movies seem more entertaining than they actually are, and give viewers a better movie experience. As seen, given the amount of work put into making a film interesting and entertaining, the sole purpose of film is to do just that.

(Supporting 3) However, I beg to differ. Another purpose of the film is to create profits for the film-makers. That is the ultimate reason why such technologies are developed for and used in films nowadays. By doing so, films remain more relevant with the tastes and preferences of the current generation, allowing them to gain popularity, and eventually have a higher gross in the box office. The highest grossing film to date, with worldwide box-office gross of about $2.8 billion, Avatar, utilized many special visual effects and CGI. The studio created over 1,800 stereoscopic, photo-realistic visual effects shots. In addition to digital characters and environments, the machines, vehicles, and equipment in the movie were also digitalized to further blur the line between imagination and reality. Animated family films have also performed consistently well in the box office. Disney enjoyed success with films such as Frozen (the highest-grossing animated film) and The Lion King and also with its Pixar brand, of which the Toy Story films and Finding Nemo have been the best performers.  Beyond Pixar animation, the Shrek, Ice Age, Madagascar and Despicable Me series have met with the most success. As seen, films with these technologies fared better with the crowd. Hence, aligning with a film’s purpose to create money, many film-makers use, and film companies develop, such technologies. In this case, the purpose of a film is more than just entertainment.


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