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I Have Yet To See A 2017 Film

It occurred to me recently that the last time I bought a movie ticket was four months ago. After going through a chronological list of major film releases, I am pretty sure that I have not gone this long between movies since 2012. Here are the release months for films that I saw in various years. The maximum span here seems to be three.

  • 2016: February, April, June, July, September, November, December
  • 2015: February, March, April, May, September, December
  • 2014: January, February, March, April, May, August, October, December
  • 2013: April, May, June, August, October, November, December

An obvious problem with this list is that it is easy to watch a film one or two months after its release. If this had happened with the April 2013 film for example, then that would be an example of another four month gap. However, in this case, I happen to remember that I saw Iron Man 3 right when it came out. Another shortcoming is that the list omits movies that I saw in airplanes, people's houses or rented out venues. The latter type of cinema is something I have actually attended multiple times in 2017.

Four months instead of three is not much of an outlier. So I cannot really say whether this marks a sudden change in my interests. However, I can certainly mention two movies that I actively avoided.

The most egregious example is the new King Kong movie. My criticism of that one goes back to the 2014 Godzilla incarnation. As you may know, Godzilla was born out of protests against nuclear proliferation. The catastrophic nuclear bomb tests in the South Pacific that were common by 1954 prompted Ishirō Honda to write a cautionary tale in which the consequences of such recklessness were personified in a monster. Instead of some intangible political disaster that could have easily come out of the Cold War, it is the mutant Godzilla, rampaging through a city, that shows us what happens when humans have great power and don't take responsibility for it. This bold statement is completely undone by the remake.

Meme showing that Godzilla 1954 portrays nukes negatively.

Meme showing that Godzilla 2014 portrays nukes positively.

Instead of presenting weapons as the cause and monsters as the effect, the 2014 movie does the opposite. It states that a pre-existing monster is what motivated the US to drop bombs on the ocean in the first place. This is completely against what the original authors intended, and it is a shitty lesson to impart in general. After the trailers warned me about this glaring example of sloppy writing, I checked some of the reviews and they confirm that this praise of nuclear testing is committed repeatedly in the film. One particularly good statement is:

The 2014 film paid superficial lip service at best to the nuclear issue, but really there's almost nothing of substance there. Rather than offering caution about nuclear energy, the new film almost gives you the idea that nuclear weapons are actually the answer to everything.

When the Kong: Skull Island trailer came out, it was annoying to see the exact same approach being used. People frame the nuclear tests as an effort by righteous heroes to save humanity from King Kong. People have told me that both movies are sequel fodder where the title monster only appears in the last few minutes. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that they keep following the same pattern. After all, there are plans to put them in the same universe with a Godzilla vs Kong movie as was done in 1962.

The other film from this winter that I refused to watch was Logan. Many friends who saw this one and liked it had the same initial fear as me; that it would be just as crappy as the other two Wolverine movies. Given all the acclaim it's receiving, I can admit that this fear was probably unrealized. However, my objection has more to do with condoning all this undue emphasis on Wolverine over other X-Men. The one character who's completely invincible and solitary doesn't need three movies about him. The title of the first instalment, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", reflects the fact that the studio wanted to focus on several superheroes over time and make an origin story devoted to each one. I am not in a hurry to watch movies in this vein when they keep passing on people like Storm and Nightcrawler in order to do Wolverine again and again. I will watch Logan eventually, but until then, I am happy to stick with "the good series" consisting of 0, 1 and 2.

On the topic of franchises that make more sequels than they should, my favourite examples are Ice Age and Transformers. In both cases, I watched the first film and found it to be decent. A fun thing to watch that doesn't take itself too seriously. But the abysmal ratings of the sequels are well-deserved.

Decreasing scores of Ice Age and Transformers movies.

I decided to look at these ratings when I saw a vague trailer that turned out to be advertising Transformers 4. Some character played by Mark Wahlberg was wondering why he couldn't get his truck to work. Thinking that my idea was too stupid for any movie to actually use, I put on a demented voice and blurted out "maybe it's a transformer!" To my amazement, the truck proceeded to transform and it revealed what the trailer was really about. I made this joke before Transcendence, which was very unpopular, so no one was around to hear it. Apparently Transformers 4 is missing even the one redeeming feature that the other sequels had; the debut of a Linkin Park song. One has to search the tie-in game for that. I fear that these films will continue for a long time, what with an army of sheep becoming more and more obsessed with watching them.

Increasing revenues of Ice Age and Transformers movies.

In contrast to Transformers, where Michael Bay's lack of substance is very well known, the Ice Age case is more interesting. It seems like the filmmakers didn't expect their series to last this long. With names like "the meltdown", "collision course" and "continental drift", only the first film purports to be set in the ice age itself. Everything else is about the ice age being over. This is just the beginning of the franchise's disregard for scientific accuracy. Something the third film does is show that a few dinosaurs have survived long enough to walk the earth with humans. At the risk of sounding like Helen Lovejoy, this is a terrible thing to put in a movie that many children will watch. Unlike obvious liberties like woolly mammoths speaking English, I am willing to bet that some kids come away from Ice Age 3 with the legitimate impression that dinosaurs were alive back then. Prehistoric time scales are hard enough to grasp as they are and there is a wonderful fact that illustrates this: the amount of time that passed between when the stegosaurus lived and when the tyrannosaurus lived is longer than the amount of time between tyrannosaurus and today. People have a hard time learning this in parts of the US that still cling to creationism. And Ice Age 3 is something that can be added to the arsenal of fundamentalist Christians like Ken Ham.

To answer the question of what I saw in an independent cinema recently, it was Ghost in the Shell. The revolutionary 1995 anime that is, not the Americanized remake that I have no interest in seeing. It looks like people who live near my parents will also be able to keep enjoying non-Hollywood classics. A great theatre that I've visited many times was recently bought out by a group that plans to restore it and further its mission of supporting the arts. When it comes to movies, I bet most people would be able to complete the exercise that I did in the first paragraph — reading film titles in a list and remembering whether they were viewed in cinemas or elsewhere. The trick is finding ones that will form other memories beyond this!