The paradoxical Inverse Cost and Quality Law (ICQL) "states very simply that the larger a movie's budget is, the shittier that movie is going to be." It was formulated by David Foster Wallace in his essay entitled "F/X Porn".

In financial terms, a film that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make is going to get financial backing if and only if its investors can be assured that at the very least they will break even. In other words, an expensive movie must not fail. To accomplish this feat, the films producers strictly adhere to certain reliable formulae that have been shown by precedent to maximally ensure a runaway hit. Ironically, since these reliable formulae are undoubtedly awful and insipid, an even heavier burden of importance is placed on the film's special effects, thus driving up costs and yielding two corollary formulations of the ICQL:
  1. "The more lavish and spectacular a movie's special effects, the shittier that movie is going to be in all non-F/X respects."
  2. "There is no quicker or more efficient way to kill what is interesting and original about an interesting, original young director than to give that director a huge budget and lavish F/X resources."
The example Wallace focuses on during the course of the essay is James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which exhibits many ideas of the Inverse Cost and Quality Law. First, T2 has a rediculously large budget (thanks mostly to its mindbending special effects). And second, the story is riddled with many types of the aformentioned reliable formulae (big name star in Schwarzenegger, the idea that a terminator was "reprogrammed" to protect, the buddy premise of bonding between a robot and a smartass kid, etc...)

Info taken from David Foster Wallace's article in the Winter/Spring 1998 edition of Waterstone's Magazine. Full text can be found here:

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