Simon Pegg Talks “Dumbing Down” of Cinema

Simon Pegg, the co-writer of the upcoming third installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise and the film’s “Scotty,” recently spoke to Radio Times Magazine and warned of the “dumbing down” of what audiences expect from a sci-fi film.

“Before Star Wars, the films that were box-office hits were The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde and The French Connection – gritty, amoral art movies. Then suddenly the onus switched over to spectacle and everything changed,” Pegg said in this week’s edition of Radio Times magazine.

“Now, I don’t know if that is a good thing. Obviously I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science-fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and just thinks we’ve been infantilised by our own taste.”

“Now we’re essentially all consuming very childish things – comic books, superheroes… Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously!” he added.

Pegg, who became known for his sci-fi comedy series Spaced and later for Shaun of the Dead and Mission Impossible, thinks it may be time for us search out more intellectual films.

“It is a kind of dumbing down in a way,” he said. “Because it’s taking our focus away from real-world issues. Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions that might make you walk away and re-evaluate how you felt about… whatever. Now we’re walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot.”

He concluded by saying: “But I sometimes feel like I miss grown-up things. And I honestly thought the other day that I’m gonna retire from geekdom. I’ve become the poster child for that generation, and it’s not necessarily something I particularly want to be. I’d quite like to go off and do some serious acting.”

via Radio Times

7 Comments Join the Conversation →

  • The great thing about the Star Trek TV shows is that they often WERE about ideas — see “The Devil in the Dark” or “A Taste of Armageddon.” We don’t need to move away from science fiction, we just need to bring THOUGHTFUL science fiction to the movies as well as to the small screen.

  • ADeweyan

    I’d argue that the rise in popularity of spectacle in movies was at least partly in reaction to the overly dark, “grown up” cinema of the 70’s. There was a time that it seemed like every movie was about an anti-hero doing things that were if not downright evil, and that, if done in real life, would have been rejected by even the people who most appreciated the movie. Enter the movies about heroes. I suppose from this perspective, the darker, grittier tone we see in a lot of “hero” movies these days are something of a turn back to darker cinema. The heroes are still heroes, but they are not perfect, are conflicted or compromised, and the line between right on wrong is very blurry.

    At the same time, the rise of independent film has taken away some of the responsibility of the large studios to produce this kind of material. These movies still exist, they just aren’t as big or promoted as much as the tentpole productions, and/or are being made by independent filmmakers.

  • Benji Stanley

    Yeah, I definitely agree with what he’s saying. But that’s the beauty of Star Trek as that it really never has been childish and dumbed down. The only times it really was dumbed down per se, has honestly been in Star Trek 2009 and Into Darkness. The trouble that we face is that JJ Trek has made the most money in the theater for being what it is. A film series that was really made for people who don’t like Star Trek and want to go see action movies. JJ Trek is more rooted in fantasy than any other bit of Trek out there. And that’s what a majority of non-fans like. The trouble is, I don’t think the dedicated fan base is large enough anymore to sustain Star Trek the way the dedicated fan base likes it. A lot of the Star Trek that the true fans really love and care about, tends to be the Star Trek nobody else cared about. Look at just the films, Star Trek Insurrection is a very good example of a quality Star Trek film that had Star Trek ideas and morals and messages in it, but it just did not appeal to anyone except the most dedicated of Trekkies. To anyone other than a hardcore fan, Insurrection was just a boring movie. But it was Star Trek at it’s heart. I think Generations was probably the same way. Star Trek III and V as well. They had some interesting and good ideas, but they just typically don’t appeal to anyone but the most hardcore of Trekkies, such as myself. And as these movies need to make money when they go to the theater, from a business point of view, they need to make the movie that the majority wants to see, and usually that means having to make a Star Wars movie than a real Star Trek movie. It’s just the sad truth.

  • OphidianJaguar

    I hate when people edit articles. This article and its link clearly left out some key points. And I quote.

    “They had a script for Star Trek that wasn’t really working for them,” the actor told magazine Radio Times (via The Guardian). “I think the studio was worried that it might have been a little too Star Trek-y.”
    “Avengers Assemble, which is a pretty nerdy, comic-book, supposedly niche thing, made $1.5bn. Star Trek: Into Darkness made half a billion, which is still brilliant. But it means that, according to the studio, there’s still $1bn worth of box office that don’t go and see Star Trek. And they want to know why.”
    He further explained “People don’t see it being a fun, brightly coloured, Saturday night entertainment like the Avengers,” adding that the solution was to “make a Western or a thriller or a heist movie, then populate that with Star Trek characters so it’s more inclusive to an audience that might be a little bit reticent.”

    Exactly! Star Trek is about a bright optimist future. Star Trek 2009 (although a good movie IMO) it took Star Trek away from that bright future. And new novice audience does not know what makes Star Trek special compared to other sci fi. They think “hey another sci fi movie, future earth etc) they don’t know about the peace on Earth and between humanity in the 23rd century. Into Darkness took Star Trek further away from that. As a child growing up with TOS reruns and new TNG, I loved Star Trek because it was not dumbed down, it forced me to think, to learn. There is a reason I love Star Trek 6 the best, it’s deep, it’s emotional, it’s intelligent.

    Original article below on IGN.

  • milojthatch

    Who cares? I mean really, who cares? It feels like what he is trying to say is that “adult” entertainment has to be “dark”. What a load of crap!

  • Wilhelm-Gottsreich Sigismond-v

    You know.. I have no idea why both remakes; Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica – became so tied-up with miniature missiles as opposed to lasers and phasers..? What’s funnier, is how the both movies are so well-done, but yet so hokie – all at the same time? Let’s see; they killed Spock’s Mother, Khan is now British, the Enterprise nacelles resemble my 1986-87 dust buster, and the entire franchise was thrown back 80 years into the past, so – now I know how my grandparents felt about Star Trek in the 60’s. Nice.. really nice. …So let me see, ..if this keeps up, my grandkids will be able to watch the continuing story of the original Star Trek crew in say – 2075…

    So sorry, but as Scotty once said: “I can’t start out like a raw cadet.” Oh, and I was watching Star Trek when some of today’s fans were in diapers, and I can tell you one thing.. – this ain’t Star Trek… “…Somebody give me a vintage Enterprise Shuttle and set a course for the Abram’s Day Machine because +0+ % . . …this things gobbling up what’s left of our original franchise, hell-bent on turning federation worlds into rubble for fuel, and is now headed toward the most densely populated part of what’s left of our galaxy..” . . .. . . ..
    + . . .. . . .
    0 * . % . ..

  • nerdrrage

    Star Trek movies are dumb now because movies are dumb now, just two hours of action and explosions. It’s inevitable that Star Trek movies will not be immune from this trend. If Pegg feels so bad about the dumbing down of pop culture, he should resign from making movies and devote himself to convincing CBS to let him do a TV series for Netflix. THAT is where Star Trek can be smart again. Just imitate the structure that being applied successfully to Daredevil and three or four other interconnected series to follow. Having several Star Trek series, just 13 episodes per season, at once will solve the problem that Trekkies can never agree on what a series should be about.