Chekhov’s Gunman: Viewers Should Ask More of Movies
The main downside to our current blockbuster movie culture, besides Captain Jack Sparrow making stupid faces at increasingly ridiculous foes and producing increasing levels of unwatchability, is the notable lowering of movie audience expectations. We used to expect a comprehensive, quality story alongside budding and interesting characters for the exorbitant price of a movie ticket, bucket of popcorn and the cheap dinner you take your long-suffering girlfriend to before the show. Now, the phrase I hear more often than any other is, “Well, it set up nicely for the sequel.”
Take this summer’s past stinkpile, “Man of Steel,” for example. The movie fails on a number of the basic levels necessary to be a movie, including story, character, not having 9/11 references and being able to point a camera at pretty people. Many of the film’s major detractors have given it the “Well, it’s just the first part of a saga” pass that seems to get handed out as frequently as your girlfriend glares at you when you buy her Burger King and take her to see “Man of Steel” on your anniversary.
So — much like General Zod in that Superman movie, which I claim to despise, yet can’t stop discussing — I have a message to deliver to humanity. And this one’s not for the industry: it’s for the moviegoer.
Moviegoer, look at me. Look at me right in my face. You need to demand more out of your movies. You are paying to see them after all. You are throwing down an absurd amount of money for pretty people to get paid too much to be 60 feet tall and read lines at each other. You’re not paying this money for entry, and Henry Cavill’s skin-tight pants are not a museum. You are doing the movie makers a favor by going to see it. Think about it. If you paid a contractor to build a wall and that wall sucked at being a wall, you wouldn’t say, “Well, it’s not great, but it’s laying a really good framework for the other walls.” You would call that contractor and demand that he not only fix this wall, but make you better, subsequent walls for your trouble.
I fully understand that “Man of Steel” is going to have plenty of sequels, equals, spin-offs, toys, posters and commemorative toasters, and that the creative team wasted the opportunity to make an interesting Superman flick by doing absolutely nothing but laying groundwork for future films to also misuse Amy Adams. That’s exactly what most television pilots do anyways. But TV and film are different. Most programs on TV are free. You don’t pay for each story. I’m not throwing down $11 per episode of “Breaking Bad” to wait for the payoff. We didn’t extend this courtesy of leniency to “Iron Man” because “Iron Man” was both a good movie and a great franchise starter. It used its redheaded love interest properly. It didn’t need excuses.
Until we ask more of the movies we watch, they will continue to suck. The industry hinges on how we spend our money. If you didn’t like “Man of Steel,” don’t go see its sequel just because it’s out. Teach “Man of Steel” a lesson. I know that I’m going to save the cash I would have spent to go see the Affleckian “Batman vs. Superman Or Whatever The Crap” and use my money to buy a few extra Whoppers for my girlfriend. And you should, too. She’ll love it.