I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older – I’m not THAT ancient quite yet – or if it’s because the world is getting dumber, but I’ve noticed in the past weeks, months, even years, that the oversaturation factor in media in general (and film in particular) has finally gotten on my nerves. And I’m not the only one.
When I say ‘oversaturation’, I mean the hype. The constant barrage of trailers, posters, TV spots, leaked scripts, clips, extended clips, television specials, and internet promotions – including games, treasure hunts, puzzles and memes – that we are subjected to in support of the newest film. This is particularly true in terms of big budget sci-fi, horror and action films, with the superhero genre as the most egregious transgressor. I know what they’re going for. They’re trying to get us excited, trying to whip up a frenzy, so that we all buy tickets for opening weekend, so that all IMAX showings are sold out, so that midnight showings have lines around the block. Which is the marketing department’s job, after all. I’m just beginning to think that they’re doing their job with far too much gusto.
Let us take The Dark Knight Rises. In the interests of full disclosure, I admit that I am not one of those people who worships at the altar of Chris Nolan’s Batman franchise. I enjoyed The Dark Knight largely because of Heath Ledger and Gary Oldman; I thought Batman Begins was big and loud and dark and boring. But, whatever. I’m going to go see The Dark Knight Rises like the rest of the movie-going public. Everyone who goes to see movies will go see The Dark Knight Rises. So why have there been teaser trailers running around the internet for what seems like a whole year? Why are we reading production notes to try and figure out who shows up in a party scene? Are we really so starved for entertainment, so excited for the Dark Knight to rise that we can’t wait to actually SEE THE FILM? We have to see bits and pieces of it and figure out everything about it?
See, I think we can wait. In fact, I think we should wait. I swear to God that I feel like I’ve seen The Amazing Spiderman already and I have not been to the theatre in weeks. When The Avengers came out, I did not get a chance to see it until several weeks after its release. But I had to hear about it. All. The. Time. Cast interviews, clips, extended previews; reviews too, but not just reviews! Whole profiles of various aspects of the film, the characters, the plot, the special effects, how they did this, that, and what everyone, from my grandmother to Joss Whedon, has to say about it. And 3/4 of that was before it even hit theaters. By the time I got around to actually seeing it, I was more than prepared to despise it, not because I wanted it to be a bad film but because I was sick of hearing about it. I had been oversaturated with information. Luckily, it was a good enough flick that I did not despise it.
Not so with Prometheus. I was sick of the hype surrounding Prometheus long before it ever hit theatres. So much speculation, so much discussion, so much information! And in the end the film was shite, a shadow of Scott’s best work, and an embarassment to the Alien franchise (here I thought you couldn’t get dumber than Alien: Resurrection). But again, the hype that surrounded Prometheus didn’t help. I did not need the speculation or the debate about where it would fall in the Alienfranchise. I went in demanding that Scott impress me with the remarkable nature of his vision because otherwise it just wasn’t worth it. If the hype had been less, maybe my ire at the sub-par product would have calmed.
I don’t know why the studios feel they have to shove these movies down the collective throat. After all, these are films built to be blockbusters. Maybe it’s because of declining ticket sales and the increase in pricing, or because we have so many options at the theatre they feel they have to convince to see this one particular film; we cannot possibly wait for DVD, obviously. I agree that ut better be something spectacular to pay the equivalent of your first born child to see something in 3D (the last film I remember being worth it in the end was Hugo). But I also think that studios distrust their public. There’s a sense of hysteria within the hype; a sense that maybe the film they’re trying so hard to sell is just not that good.
A few months ago, The Avengers was THE GREATEST FILM IN THE HISTORY OF GOD. This month, it’s The Dark Knight Rises. At a certain point, this kind of hyperbole turns back on itself. The Avengers was not the greatest film ever made, and I’ll be shocked if The Dark Knight Rises is either. I just wish that the studios, the media and, yes, the fans would stop acting as though they have to be. It only sets you up for disappointment or, as in the case of Prometheus, anger.
I still love going to the movies. I had as much fun watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with a bunch of senior citizens as I did watching The Avengers in a theatre full of teenagers. But one of my best cinematic experiences was seeing Casablanca late at night in St. Andrews, surrounded by half-drunk undergrads. Everyone cheered when they sang La Marseillaise. There’s no hype in the world that can make up for a well-made film. So I think that Hollywood needs to stop being so worried about promoting and marketing and media. Just make a movie that can inspire applause.