The Comic-Con effect

February 21, 2011

I didn’t see a commercial for “The Green Lantern” during the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention.


But I saw commercials for “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Cowboys and Aliens,” “Pirates of the Caribbean 4: Waterlogged,” “Transformers 3: The Brain-Dead,”  and something called “Super 8” from J.J. Abrams.


In other words, the prime-time lineup for 2011 Comic-Con (already sold out for its late-July run in San Diego).


I’m sure there are other movies – interesting movies, thought-provoking movies, movies in which nothing explodes and no one has super–powers or comes back from the dead or from another dimension – that will be released this year. But the Comic-Con mentality is the one that is ascendant in the culture.


Which is why, when I visit a multiplex, that’s the only kind of movie I ever see advertised. If it doesn’t include a super-hero, it is either digitally animated, in 3D or both.


(I’ll have more tomorrow on 3D, the latest successful effort by the movie industry to find a bogus gimmick with which to rob you of an extra $5 per movie. I’ve been railing against it since 2009, longer even than Roger Ebert.)


The Comic-Con mentality runs roughshod these days, despite evidence that Comic-Con’s aesthetic is not the one that dominates the culture. Flops such as “Kick-Ass” and “Tron: Legacy” were expected to be massive hits, based on the reception they received at Comic-Con. But when actual people were exposed to these exercises in insubstantial style, they tended to ignore them.


Which brings us back to the question: Why are we ceding control of the movies to people who live for Comic-Con? They represent a segment of the audience – but hardly the whole viewing public. Why does that particular tail continue to wag the dog?


The answer is obvious: money. When one of those movies hits, it not only does huge business, it does huge repeat business. And it spawns sequels, franchises, tentpoles.


Which is why we’ve wound up with a movie culture that’s all tentpoles and no tent. As seen at Comic-Con and on the Super Bowl.





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