Big explosions and the dumbing-down of cinema

By Jordyn Marcellus

Anyone who’s ever been to Disneyland knows about Star Tours. Tours is a ride through the Star Wars universe, narrated by the plucky Paul Reubens-voiced droid Captain RX-24. Through a series of unfortunate events, the tour goes off the rails and eventually leads to the climactic battle at the Death Star. All the while, the audience shake and rattle in their seats, mimicking the action onscreen. If the ship swerves to the left, the audience’s mechanized chairs swerve with it.

Movie theatre giant Cineplex Entertainment recently announced they are implementing similar, but more advanced, technology called D-Box seating in their theatres. Already being tested in a Toronto Cineplex theatre, as well as in theatres in Austin, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona, this technology is a further way for the theatre giant to reap big returns in the current trend of technological acceleration gripping the theatre industry.

While D-Box may offer a great, truly immersive experience, it is just further proof that both major mainstream theatre houses and film companies are moving away from offering a good film experience and instead focusing on flashy spectacle.

This slow implementation of D-Box can be compared to the current 3D revolution. 3D was recently popularized with Disney’s 2008 Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert movie, which grossed more than $60 million in limited release. More and more theatres are now implementing digital projection — the proper technology to diplay 3D films — because it is a proven moneymaker due to its spectacular nature.

Spectacle, here, means some kind of dramatic or visual device meant to be exhilarating. Spectacle is the money shot to the scene – the pratfall, the explosion, the robot peeing on John Tuturro. Michael Bay, McG and Tony Scott are all directors firmly planted in creating spectacular works with pretty explosions, pretty women and pretty bad plots.

Yet despite their brainless nature, these films make incredible box office numbers — because of their spectacle. People love to watch stuff explode or a dude getting punched in the face by Mike Tyson. That’s nothing to begrudge, but it is troublesome for people who care about the art of film. When Michael Bay is focusing on Megan Fox’s perfectly glossed lips and the giant robot Devastator’s wrecking ball testicles, these films don’t have a lot of artistic merit. While it may seem pretentious, such films don’t say anything about the human condition, nor do they offer interesting exploration of any themes. Objects explode, people go “ooh” and “ahh” and leave the theatre.

Such spectacle trivializes one of the most vital art forms of the 20th century, replacing a powerful medium that’s produced such impacting human dramas as Fellini’s 8 ½ for forgettable movies about secret spy hamsters who fart in their hamster ball-cum­-spy vehicle.

There’s nothing wrong with the mainstream being interested in spectacle. 3D and D-Box technology isn’t going to be adding the much-needed pop to Werner Herzog’s Latest Human Drama #23. The problem is that these technologies are showing film’s slow descent into nothing more than pablum-like entertainment, as opposed to art.

When Hollywood studios aren’t focused even minutely on the artistic potential of a film, it leads to the Michael Bay-ing of film and a dumbing-down of cinema.

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