The thrilling reality many moviegoers enjoy remains incomprehensible and inaccessible to some critics, and they’re having a heck of a time explaining it to themselves. Stephanie Zacharek is still puzzled. She’s tired of reviewing movies she doesn’t like, so today she takes time out to psychoanalyze the audiences that she doesn’t understand.
But the movies of summer 2008 seemed to become bigger, noisier, more ambitious and more expensive with each passing week. By the time “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” limped into theaters on Aug. 1, trailing lots of sand and dead skin behind it, audiences could be forgiven for feeling fatigued. The movie had a respectable opening weekend, taking in more than $40 million, but clearly “The Dark Knight,” still drawing audiences after two weeks in theaters, had siphoned off some of its business.
Zacharek’s professional diagnosis: We’re fatigued. And yet, strangely exhilarated by a couple of movies — enough to make one of them the second biggest blockbuster in Hollywood history! Perhaps this sporadic ennui only afflicts audiences in the presence of mediocrity?
So let’s get this straight. The fact that not every movie succeeds on the same level as The Dark Knight is a sure indication of audience fatigue. But hey, what about the eager audiences who have held The Dark Knight aloft at #1 for 4 weeks? Are they not fatigued too? Hey, Steph, here’s a thought. Maybe not all summer movies are alike, and maybe we’re only bored with the bad ones.
Not for Zacharek the easy explanation that people have only been buying tickets in a morbid compulsion to see Heath Ledger in his last role. Instead she’s discovered something much more insightful about the movie business, something that never occurred to anybody before, and it’s the only reason she can come up with to explain away TDK’s success:
…there’s still one good reason that a movie like “The Dark Knight” can make more than $400 million domestically in just three weeks: That’s the purpose of the summer blockbuster: To movie studios, they’re commerce; to us, they’re a chance to escape for a few hours into another, bigger world, or at least just into air conditioning.
ok, I finally get where Zacharek has been coming from all year: she writing to us from 1926, when movie palaces promised a retreat from the sweltering heat. (And here I thought the only reason to go see The Dark Knight was so we could sit in the back row and make out.)
Yeah, I know, Stephanie’s little quip is tongue in cheek; and I guess that’s a prettier use for that tongue than blowing raspberries for the past 3 months. But it’s not a lot deeper or more analytically useful, is it?
Do I suffer from blockbuster fatigue? Nope. This summer I’m suffering from Zacharek fatigue.