The movie theater on Western makes you constantly feel you’re on a high school date.
It’s the same bright shiny posters-and-neon from when a movie was the only place you could feasibly go for a few hours in the dark with that girl from Spanish class or the one who asked a friend to ask a friend if you’re seeing anybody.
It’s still the same ’80s/’90s/oughts/2010s tack and cheer, still the same epileptic war zone of video games, flashing lights and snack food sized for small militias or average Americans.
The video games are just a little more high-def now. The lightbulbs around the Coming Soon posters are the curvy eco-friendly ones instead of filament. And the posters are for new, bigger, bolder, brighter films.
Sometimes. And sometimes they remake Godzilla.
In 2014, a friend and I caught the latest Godzilla remake in IMAX 3D at the place on Western. It was good. Incredibly stupid, of course, but fun.
The same friend and I saw the 1998 version together too. We and the third of our high school nerd Musketeers drove to an ’80s/’90s tack and cheer epileptic war zone my first summer break from college. That version was terrible. Joyless, snide and just poorly everythinged. My friend wanted to ask for his money back, but had lost the ticket.
In 1956, my mom was too young to catch that the Raymond Burr parts had been dubbed into the original for the American release. She told me this at some point in the ’90s when Godzilla, King of the Monsters! came on basic cable. She walked in the room as I was watching it and we ended up watching it together.
I was secretly thrilled when she said that, thrilled in that way only a 13 or 14 year old who just saw a parent admit a mistake can understand.
We need new characters, I scream sometimes. We keep reloading and rebooting 1939′s Batman, 1887′s Sherlock Holmes and 1953′s James Bond. The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings franchise came from 1937. The first Avenger came from either 1941 (Captain America) or the 7th century, depending on how you want to categorize Thor.
They do it because we keep coming back. They do it because name recognition works.
We go back because, an occasional crappy ‘Zilla and nippled Bat-suit aside, we know what we’re in for. We don’t even have to think about who’s good and who’s bad. We know that before we even buy the ticket.
There’s some fun in seeing if the new guys match our mental versions of Hannibal, Superman or the Doctor — and a Dark Knight, Iron Man or Sherlock will sometimes surprise — but we don’t go to see the characters. We go to see ourselves, remember where we were when when when.
In 2014, I rode my bike to the theater. My friend and I hit a bar after. He recently increased his 401(k) pay-in, he said.
In 1998, I drove my mom’s minivan to the movies and, if past evenings were any indicator, the three of us likely drank illicit beer and smoked just-legal cigarettes in the third nerd Musketeer’s parents’ garage after.
At that random point in my home-locked, pre-car section of the ’90s, I listened to my mom talk about seeing Godzilla in the ’50s, thrilling as that giant monster tore through Tokyo to the horrified eyes of a completely plot-relevant Raymond Burr and the always obscured Japanese people he spoke to.
This lazy comfort isn’t better than new art, writes the man remaking a 1920s newspaper column. I’m just identifying what I think the attraction is.
It’s still movies and lights and Coming Soon posters and hoping your high school date doesn’t want candy because jeez that stuff’s expensive. It’s the same tacky glitz, same neon nostalgia and, in this case, the same giant, screaming, smashing, laser-mouthed, building-hating destructor of major world cities.
(Except for the 1998 one. No laser-mouth? What were you thinking, Roland Emmerich?)
This was story #333, just shy of one-third of the project. Let’s see some other fractions: