How I lost all enthusiasm for mainstream cinema.
I missed the midnight showing of Solo. It just slipped my mind and I failed to check my calendar so wasn’t until I saw friends’ thoughts start popping up on Facebook I realised my error. Usually I’d be disappointed. Well, usually I wouldn’t have missed it at all. But with Solo I can’t help but feel a little… well, I just don’t care.
This sort of lack of enthusiasm has happened to me once before during the release of the final Hobbit movie, The Battle of Five Armies. I’ve been a Middle Earth fan since I was a kid and my dad read The Hobbit to my brother and me. When Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy was coming out I was there first showing, first day for every film. I loved it. Since then the movies have become an annual tradition in my house, and they remain every bit as enjoyable as they were that first time. When the first Hobbit film arrived, I felt that same sense of excitement, and once again I headed out; first showing, first day.
I was bitterly disappointed. That movie is a wreck. It’s an awfully written, badly made mess of a film that deviates wildly from the source material, feels finally inconsistent and doesn’t really have a single worthwhile moment. I was genuinely upset with the outcome. I was so upset, in fact, the by the time Desolation of Smaug rolled around a year later I’d lost any will I had to go see it first showing, first day.
I went to go see Desolation of Smaug one random afternoon and I didn’t care for it. Far from improving upon the issues with Unexpected Journey, Smaug actually manages to make them worse. All logic goes out the window and the frame rate (an easy target I know) is even more difficult to look at than it already was. I was so disillusioned with the franchise by that point that I didn’t even bother going to see Battle of Five Armies at all. I still haven’t seen it.
I used to have The Lord of the Rings posters on my wall. I own the films three times! I loved them. Peter Jackson, with his Hobbit movies, had destroyed my love for Middle Earth. I still cherish the original trilogy, but there’s a bad aftertaste to them now. An uncomfortable feeling that, even though they tell a completed story, by watching them the tale is somehow unfinished, and in order to finish it I’d have to suffer through two of the worst films I’ve ever seen.
As a person I would call myself a film fan. I’m an obsessive. I love cinema, I love the experience and I love the thrill of watching something new. Sadly, for me at least, I fear that something new is harder and harder to come by.
Going to my local Cineworld now feels more like a chore than it ever has, and while there is the odd stroke of genius hidden amongst all the rabble, I find myself longing for a good Indie film, a new experience that will thrill me in the way the movies used to. I don’t get that from blockbuster entertainment anymore, and the truth is I haven’t for a long time.
The more I think about it the more I realise just how bad things have become. Just this month we’ve have Infinity War, Deadpool 2 and Solo all released within weeks of each other. No wonder there’s no place for interesting new talent when so many big budget tentpole films are hogging the spotlight. I enjoyed Infinity War, but I can’t honestly say it surprised me all that much, and the knowledge that more is coming just makes me feel tired. I disliked Deadpool 2, it felt like a bored retread of the original and lacked the biting satire of the entire genre the trailers seemed to promise. And I’ve already told you about Solo.
Looking around my local cinema lobby I counted one original movie poster; Show Dogs. I might take my daughter to see it, but it’s hardly the exciting new movie I’m looking for, is it? Still, Will Arnet I suppose. The rest were for the three movies already mentioned, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Ocean’s 8. Like, who cards anymore? I know what all these films are before I’ve even stepped for inside the screen, and that’s not a good thing.
Forget superhero fatigue, what I’ve been suffering with is blockbuster fatigue. I’m so tired of the same films about the same people or the same universe. I’m tired of expecting to be excited by the lazy fan service these movies throw up in place of actual plots story. I’m tired of CGI battles and lame one liners, and I’m so, so tired of these boring, predictable movies being the only option I have if I want to go and experience something at the cinema.
Recently I watched Coralie Fargeat’s absolute brilliant reconstruction of the rape revenge sub-genre, Revenge. I enjoyed it (as much as one can enjoy a movie so unsettling), but I was saddened by something as I watched it. The film is so cinematic, or stunningly beautiful to look at and so engrossing that I couldn’t help but feel the whole experience would have been greatly improved by viewing it on the big screen. Alas I had to settle for my TV at home because it’s not available in any cinema near me.
I felt a similar sense of disappointment when I discovered Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room a few years ago. A strikingly original and brutal movie that had me on the edge of my seat. I tweeted Cineworld at the time it was being released, asking if they had any plans to show it, the official Green Room Twitter picked it up and even tweeted the cinema chain themselves, but the film never materialised, at least not anywhere near me. And those aren’t the only two times I’ve been unable to catch something at the cinema because it’s simply not available. I was lucky enough to see Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories on the big screen, but I had to travel to do so.
I’m not sure how we remedy the current problem with blockbuster overload short of simply not paying to go see the blockbuster (and, let’s be honest, that ain’t happening anytime soon), but something needs to be done. So many great films are flying under the radar. So many new and unique voices are going unheard and unnoticed. So many important, exciting and memorable films are being left at the wayside in favour of the new Star Wars or the new Marvel movie.
Solo will likely just be another in a long line of films I’ll find myself indifferent to. But I hope for something else. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with my TV. Maybe something will change soon, maybe it won’t, but either way I’ll be here trying to find the enthusiasm I used to have, wondering whether it will ever return.
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