This summer has seen a slew of movies that cost over $100 Million dollars hit theaters (some over $200 Million, some possibly near $300 Million), and yet this is the first summer I’ve noticed that I’m okay with totally skipping a number of the biggest films of the year. This is likely a feeling that’s been building for a while, but now it’s gotten that much worse. It’s not that I won’t catch up with certain films eventually, but most films no longer pass my Redbox test. Here’s why:
1. I Am Older:
This is fair to say, but I am no longer in my twenties, and I don’t live in a basement apartment. I don’t have as much discretionary funds as I used to, nor am I as willing to part with money and time on a lark. While in college, I would often go see most of the new movies that came out (to date myself, films like Half Baked, Firestorm and Dirty Work come to mind) just because it was Friday, but nowadays that just seems stupid because of number two…
2. Movies Have Gotten More Expensive:
I live in Los Angeles, and it may be much worse there. Here I have a local theater that has matinees for $6.50, but otherwise, it’s often closer to $20 if I want to go at night. The Arclight has non-peak tickets for $14, but then you also have to pay for parking, and if something is in 3D or Imax (or both), there’s often a surcharge. The problem here is that I can own the movie on Blu-ray for the same amount if I want if I’m willing to wait three to four months, or if I’m just curious I can get it from VOD or from Redbox, where if I watch it in a day, costs me around a dollar or two. This also ties into the next problem.
3. Digital Projection:
Here’s where film snobbery comes in, but the aesthetic difference between a 35mm print and a digital project is noticeable. But if a film is shown digitally, it doesn’t have a different feel than a Blu-ray presentation. Yes, size matters, and so does the communal filmgoing experience, but if the experience of seeing something doesn’t feel that different, I have way less motivation to go.
4. The Iron Man 3 Bar
But when it comes to big summer event films we’re at a point now where the product has become more important than the art. Star Trek Into Darkness was a terrible movie, but it was partly terrible because it appeared that the people behind the camera weren’t as invested in it. It was product that needed to be made. The same could be said of Man of Steel or Smurfs 2 and much of the summer’s biggest event films. And what is the motivation to see something like G. I. Joe: Retaliation on the big screen when you know it’s either going to be passable with moments, or just not very good?
One of the best summer movies was Iron Man 3, but that was because it was co-written and directed by Shane Black. The movie has its problems, but it came from a voice, played with formula, and had wit. But if that’s the bar that has to be crossed, that bar is pretty low. Which leads to my next problem.
As Jules once said “Personality goes a long way.” Having seen films by J.J. Abrams, Zack Snyder, Gore Verbisnki, James Mangold, and Justin Lin, it’s hard to get excited about them as filmmakers because they don’t seem to have a voice. Some started in independent films and did some interesting personal work there, but it’s hard to say their more recent output reflects much besides “a desire to keep working.”
Abrams may be the worst offender, but often even their “one for me” pictures after having a big hit film present copped and incoherent ideas, or don’t seem all that personal. What does Super 8 or Sucker Punch say about those filmmakers? If I’m not invested in the storyteller, then I’m less motivated to go to the theater if they’re churning out franchise films. Even with someone like Guillermo del Toro at the helm of Pacific Rim, with a film of that size, the film is dictated to have such a scale that the events felt rushed, and ultimately the film is pretty empty. Fun empty, but after a summer of films like it (most not done as well), it just felt like leftovers.
6. The Conversation
As I lightly addressed before, there’s a lot of big summer movies that get varied responses, but when it comes to a lot of the big summer movies, many I saw to be a part of the conversation (which is, to be fair, part of my job as a writer/film critic). It’s why I ponied up to see Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel, even though I knew going in that the films either had problems or might not be very good. But then there’s something like World War Z, which was surprisingly successful, but there’s no reason for me to rush out to see a film that was viewed positively partly because it wasn’t as god-awful as feared, or something like The Lone Ranger, which would be two and a half hours of me testing if the film is as bad as they say (granted, I wasn’t alone in that).
If this is my job, it should be important for me to see these movies, but we’ve gotten to a point that it’s not important to have an opinion on a lot of blockbusters because they’re made to be disposable. And if I catch up with them a couple months later, and then tweet about it, those 140 characters are likely all that’s worth saying about them. And with so many films like The Hangover Part III, so utterly disposable, so completely forgotten by pop culture days after release (if even thought about then), it’s better to be curious about these films for a dollar or two, because I’m in more control of the experience, and if I want to look at my phone, I’m not being rude.
But Why is This a Problem?
It makes the film going experience less appealing. And so I skipped films I thought might be good because I’m no longer in the rhythm, and like a beaten dog, I’ve begun to approach paying to see a movie in a theater with apprehension. Which means I skipped films that might have been interesting (like The Bling Ring or Before Midnight), because I’ve started falling into a pattern. And though I’ve got no problem with VOD, one should be actively supporting films that one wants to see, and of late, it’s just that much harder to want to go to the theater. Of course this tends to happen as I move out the of the core 18-35 demographic (these films aren’t for me any more), but I feel bad I don’t like going to the theater as much as I used to. But if it’s the choice between spending $20 to see World War Z right away, or $2 to see it in November, I can’t make an argument for the former.
How often do you go to the theaters these days?