By Preman Koshar || Arts & Entertainment Editor
Steven Spielberg is, undoubtedly, a very talented man. His work is often praised as powerful and original. Yet, somehow, whenever I watch one of his films, I always get the impression that I’ve seen it before. Somehow I know how it will end even before it’s begun, and his characters seem to drift into simplistic amalgams and stereotypes that are all too familiar. There’s the “good guy,” who is conflicted in some way, but has strong morals nonetheless. Then there’s the bad guy or guys, who aren’t really evil or anything—they just have their own agenda that happens to be counter to the good guy’s agenda. And lastly we have the worried family members who are never really fleshed out in any kind of significant way, but are simply there to add a little drama. But don’t worry, the family drama is just an insignificant sideshow, and will never actually impact the story arc. There will also be a few side characters on both sides, but they too will not be fleshed out properly, and will likely simply be plot devices to move the story along. Unfortunately, their simplistic nature means that they also tend to fall into stereotypical roles and personalities.
And yet. Somehow, Spielberg’s films are still enjoyable to watch, and they are still unquestionably well made. How can this be, you ask? (Or you don’t, I don’t know what you do with your life.) This is because Spielberg is a master of constructing fables and of generating audience emotion from characters that don’t really deserve it. He tells the kind of stories that you read in children’s books and that are told to you so that don’t do something you’re not supposed to. His stories are simple and moral and, in a way, classic. Timeless. They are the historical fiction equivalent of Cinderella or The Hare and The Tortoise. They are easy to understand, have powerful, clean-cut emotions, and have morality as their centerpiece. These stories are comforting and, despite their realism and corresponding violence, remind us of the stories we were read as children. Spielberg’s films are essentially children’s stories made for adults—fables with some ambiguous morality—and that has nearly universal appeal. That is why his films, despite their blatant flaws, are still well received and are still worth watching. Bridge of Spies, while unoriginal and predictable, is still a reasonably good use of your time.
Preman Koshar is the Arts & Entertainment Editor. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.