In a recent New York Times Magazine piece, Riff writer Alexander Huls yearns for the time when death in a Hollywood movie actually meant something:
The problem is that death at the movies has died. The movie industry has corrupted one of cinema’s — if not all of fiction’s — most emotionally taxing moments into hollow formula, the kind of thing that passes in the blink of a plot point leading to a literal, if not figurative, explosive finale that takes up half the budget.
Of course action films have saccharine subplots that exist only to lend meaning to their staggering body counts. But in recent years, killing a major character in your average blockbuster has become inert thanks to the increasing use of formulas to create stakes.
These days, deaths in Hollywood movies are, quite literally, dime-a-dozen, and we’re left with a feeling once articulated, unfortunately, by Stalin: “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” Well, website Movie Body Counts has evinced this feeling to a T. The folks behind the site have dedicated an inordinate amount of time to tallying the exact number of deaths in some of Hollywood’s biggest movies.