Who Watches The Audience ?

I went to see Watchmen on opening night, fresh from re-reading the comic and was predictably displeased with what I saw. I thought it missed the point of the comic, was almost pornographic with its 300-style slow motion kung-fu action and certainly with its insistence on granting Dr Manhattan’s pendulous appendage more arresting screentime than most of it’s female leads. It came across as pompous, self-important and most distressingly, rather dull.

This fact I’m sure of because not only was my girlfriend fidget-arsing around throughout, but people in the audience were audibly voicing their dissent. I assumed that the late opening night screening would be full of similar geeky fanboys, but quite the opposite was true. People were fairly quiet for the first few minutes but then the noise level started to grow. Half-hearted shhhhhh’s were flung but to no avail; the audience was revolting. Yes, in both ways. People were having audible conversations about totally irrelevant shit and calling out after lines like we were in some kind of Rocky Horror show. Some fellow kept on wolf whistling when Little Manhattan popped up and people were just laughing throughout. It was just ridiculous and undoubtedly tainted mine and other non-ignorant audience members enjoyment of the slow motion fest.



The question is what can one do to negate such a situation. The whole cinema was against me on this occasion so I kept my mouth shut and waved an imaginary fist at the culprits. An individual anarchist is a far different proposition- often one of them granny shhh’s is usually sufficient, but who does those anyway? I always hope someone else does so I don’t have to step outside my grumpy little bubble and deal with some bandit who may decide to respond to my scolding with a bop on the nose. It’s when it turns personal that you really have to take action. Say, for example, some bozo is kicking the back of your chair during the film, what then? You could turn round and give them a damn good glaring, but sitting in front makes you extremely vulnerable to popcorn attack, gum in the hair or possibly even a boot to the head. If you go tittle tattle to a cinema-attendant I bet most of them wouldn’t give a shit, either. So you either put up with it and fidget a bit to communicate your annoyance, move (if possible) or leave. Which is no fun at all.

To me, cinemas are hallowed ground that suffer from a medieval lawlessness. It’s every man for himself, baby. Choice of venue is paramount to a satisfying experience, obviously, as is seating choice. I tend to position myself around old folk as they seem to enjoy films in quiet appreciation or silent bemusement. Couples are a good shout mostly, unless they look a bit frisky. Which may or may not be detrimental to the show, depending on how perverted you are. People sitting on their own are perfect to sit near, though I did have one weird experience when a guy shifted up next to me and started chatting idly during the film. I could have sworn he had his hand down his trousers as well. I didn’t know what to do so went as if to go to the loo and stealthily pounced on another seat. I didn’t hang around for the end credits that time.

Of course, being part of an audience is part of the whole experience and I wouldn’t want to individualize the whole process. I must have annoyed people myself on reflection, having released an involuntarily loud guffaw with a chum during Trinity’s death scene in Matrix Revolutions. Probably throughout the whole thing, if I’m being honest-talk about believing your own hype. Maybe I’ll have to “man-up” or wait in view for some kind of entrance examination to weed out those rotten troublemakers. Some films are made for reactions and that’s just dandy, but for those other films you really do have to rely on human decency. There’s no easy solution for a rogue goon in the audience I’m afraid and it’s not wise to pick a fight in the arena; in doing so you spoil your own enjoyment as well as making it worse for everyone around you. ‘Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster’, or so the quote goes. Quite.

© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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