The shared experience of the movies may be gone forever - Tony Earnshaw
For several years at the start of the film season I would draw up a preview of the summer’s blockbusters.
I must confess: secretly I loathed so much of the product being rolled out. It was – in my opinion – over-baked Hollywoodised pap, a succession of mega-hyped prequels, sequels and remakes featuring wooden actors mouthing lines from lousy scripts.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t yearning for a string of monochrome subtitled Armenian dramas featuring peasant woodcutters. But I did tire of the conveyor belt of comic book behemoths that boasted obscene budgets, a plethora of superheroes and explosion followed by explosion.
In truth I was probably two decades too old to fit the demographic, plus I wasn’t conversant with the various universes that gave us Batman, Thor and Magneto.
So I gravitated towards movies like Spotlight, which focussed on journalists exposing child abuse in the Catholic church, and which I felt were actually about something. Yet there was something childlike about the summer season at the pictures.
In the mid-70s my parents took me to see films like The Land That Time Forgot or the remake of King Kong. I have a memory of crying in the foyer of the Huddersfield ABC after Kong slid to his doom from the World Trade Center and wailing, “But I didn’t want him to die!” That, in a nutshell, represents the summer blockbuster experience.
And that, sadly, is something that may not come again – at least in the way we have always known it – following Covid-19. The changes that the coronavirus has wrought upon us – notwithstanding the hundreds of thousands that have perished – means our lives have altered irrevocably. For this film aficionado it has manifested itself in the prevention of freedom to be entertained. As we emerge from lockdown, it is in the knowledge that the shared experience of the movies may be gone forever.
I considered that notion when the newest 007 flick was delayed. Then it was delayed again. I ruminated on the possibility that No Time to Die could well be the first flop in the near 60-year history of the James Bond franchise. Movies like that – and all the superhero extravaganzas that have flooded our screens over the past two decades – need big, appreciative audiences. Apart from anything else, they need the bums on seats to recoup their average $200m budgets.
As the health emergency evolves No Time to Die and that ilk might not enjoy the benefit of an opening weekend. And that means Commander Bond may fall victim to something not created by SPECTRE or SMERSH. I’m nervous, I really am. As the song said, I’m looking out for a hero…
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