This weekend sees the release of Cowboys & Aliens, a movie that feels like it should be a much bigger deal than it seems to be: Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in a movie directed by Jon Favreau and written by the men behind Transformers, Star Trek and Fringe? Where’s the inescapable buzz and omniprescent hype? Is it possible that we’ve reached Summer Burnout already?
To be fair, if we have, it’s not as if the collective American Moviegoing Public has wussed out: We’ve made it through Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, Captain America: The First Avenger, Transformers: Dark of The Moon and the final Harry Potter movie in the last few months, along with The Hangover Part II, Bridesmaids, and all of the other, not-quite-blockbustery movies that have come out over the last few months. The world has been endangered – and then rescued from certain destruction – over and over again, and only one thing is for sure: That even more calamity is around the corner.
Something that gets discussed a lot in the comics industry, but surprisingly not so much in the movie industry is the idea of “event fatigue” – Literally, the idea that so much big scale storytelling can happen that the audience becomes overwhelmed and exhausted by it, and slowly drifts away. But, while it’s been shown to be the opposite of the case of how the comic market performs (Look at the sales of things like Flashpoint or Fear Itself), I’m surprised that few people have started to wonder whether a similar thing happens with movie audiences over the course of the summer: Is there a point where people have seen too many special-effects heavy SF movies in too short a time? Is there a time when it’s too late in the season to open something like, say, Cowboys and Aliens?
Of course, I may be misreading the signs – Perhaps there’s all manner of excitement surrounding Cowboys that I’ve not seen, and it’ll turn out to outgross Captain America… but somehow, I’m unconvinced. The early reports suggest a film that’s shiny and glossy, but ultimately empty, and if there’s been an excitement outside of some well-placed magazine articles, I’ve yet to find traces. And the problem, ultimately, may not be the movie itself, but the fact that, as a mass audience, we’re just too tired by the spectacle by this point.
Maybe each summer should be shorter, at least in terms of movies.
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