by CHARLIE PINGEL
The Internet ran afire recently after filmmaker and cinema icon Martin Scorcese dubbed the modern theater experience caused by studio franchises, such as the ones created by Marvel, nothing more than “theme parks.” While a rather passive comment on the director’s part, individuals from all sides of the argument came out of the woodwork to attack and defend it in equal parts. And as Twitter and the rest lay in flaming ruin, Scorcese himself sat atop his palace of indifference and fiddled while they burned.
With that, who cares what the internet has to say. This is my column, and it’s all opinion. So, enough with all that, here’s my take:
I grew up to cherish the cinema. From a young age, it became apparent that the movie theater was a natural space for me. There remains much to be said in praise of the “classic” cinema experience. Sticky floors, no recliners, and the smell of popcorn everywhere. The organic beauty of stale food and back pain elevate the screen. In their intentioned state of mediocrity, they fall backup to the massive canvass before which they bow. The theater, as it once existed, was an altar at which voracious artistic consumers knelt in worship. The cinema, with its MAJESTIC-stamped steeple, was a cathedral of cinephilia. But, in 2019, this is niche.
Franchises and sequels, in all their saturation and reliance on nostalgia and cheap thrills, aren’t necessarily meant for those monks of the multiplex. It is important to acknowledge that mass-marketed entertainment is for mass markets, and they demand nothing less than the latest in recliner technology.
Movies are first-and-foremost a business. And while Terminator: Dark Fate may just be the most unnecessary sequel since Terminator: Genysis, it is almost guaranteed to rake in millions, and in that way it will do its job. Cinephiles, while an important market, are not the market. Cinemas are amusement parks, that’s the reality of a consumer-driven industry. It will rely on comfort and base-level entertainment so as to catch the greatest variety of audience members in its net.
For a moment, all journalistic integrity must be put aside for the sake of transparency: I think franchises and sequels are, in just about every case, stupid. Yet, I enjoy them. I will pay hard-earned money to witness the end of the Skywalker Saga. My wallet will open with joy when Fraggle Rock finally gets its silver screen debut. I love franchises and every single Lethal Weapon made after the original because for a brief 120-minute period I can shut off my brain and fall in love with the same two-dimensional boneheads all over again. And there is absolutely no shame in that.
One day, cinematic universes, sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots will be as forgotten as fossils. The market will shift, demand will change, and, hell, maybe even the classic cinema style will return to its rightful home. For now, the truth remains whatever one makes of it. Art is subjective. It’s all relative. Directors are pawns, stars are demigods, and theaters are theme parks. Last I remembered, roller coasters are pretty damn fun.