The cinema that millennials did not love, by Elena Neira

An unappealing story, a bad script, choosing the wrong time for the premiere, or a weak promotion are usually the factors that explain most of box office fiascos. Ridley Scott just added another motif to the list: the apathy of millennials. His unwillingness to see something that is not on his mobiles is, according to him, the explanation for the terrible results of ‘The Last Duel’, one of his latest works.

It is drama medieval, which adapts the true story of two nobles who fight a duel after the wife of one of them accuses the other of having raped her, has barely exceeded 28 million in revenues worldwide, since its premiere in mid-October . These results, for a production that cost more than one hundred, constitute a resounding commercial failure. Neither its acclaimed director, nor the Hollywood stars present in the film (Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck and Jodie Comer) or the subject it deals with (a kind of #Metoo in 14th century France) have prevented the economic fiasco , something that has stung the director of cult films like ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Alien’ or ‘Gladiator’.

Ridley Scott, used to bursting the box office (not shipwreck in it) has had no qualms when it comes to pointing out the true culprit of that result during an interview with Marc Maron on the podcast WTF. The problem, according to him, has nothing to do with the fear of closed spaces after the pandemic, nor with the film (which the studio loved) nor with its promotion (excellent in his opinion). Blame it apathy on the part of your potential audience, that generation born between the 80s and the mid-90s, multiscreen and hyperconnected: the ‘millennials’. This segment of the population that most digital businesses fight for is, in Ridley Scott’s view, a cinematically lost generation. «Today we have the public who grew up with those damn cell phones, the ‘millennials’, who don’t want to be taught anything unless you tell them on their phone. We are in the wrong direction, I think.

Ridley Scott has worked in Hollywood long enough to know that you cannot expect success from a movie that fails to connect with audiences. But he has in mind the kind of old time relationship, the one in which the viewer adapted to him and not the other way around. Ignore that today is the creator who has to go to meet the audience is, simply, living with your back to the reality of current entertainment, especially before a generation (those ‘millennials’ whom Scott blames for their ills) who are asked to make an effort when it is completely surrounded by infinitely more comfortable alternatives. Scott, in his reading, also ignores an emotional element that profoundly conditions the decision to go to the movies in post-pandemic society. Viewers now lean towards gentler genres or easier action, seeking escape, not worrying, and avoid all content that involves suffering. A classic dramatic story, like the one proposed by ‘The Last Duel’, is at the antipode of these parameters.

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Hollywood has been tasked with feeding a profitable immediate satisfaction mechanism, the monster of blockbusters and the adrenaline-based entertainment model to bring young adults to its networks, the generation of elusive attention that sporadically attends the cinema to live an experience, those spectators who make the difference between a hit or a mediocre result. That the duel of ‘The Last Duel’ is more metaphorical than real is part of the appeal of the film and, at the same time, what has played against it the most. It presents the public with another type of experience, one that requires process a story slowly, to observe, to appreciate the nuances of things that are often barely intuited. It has everything but the spark. Ridley Scott seems to have forgotten that cinema, today more than ever, needs a small dose of entertainment. He, better than anyone, should know.

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