Phew! So turns out Avengers Infinity War was the flavour of the fortnight. Every other person you’d meet or connect with would have that question as part of small talk, “Did you see Avengers?” “It was so awesome na?” My Facebook and Twitter feeds were flooded with conversations and reviews...some threats about spoilers too. As a comics fan, and as a person who has followed both, the comics, as well as the movies, I was rather pleasantly surprised with the kind of response this movie got. But gradually did it sink in...the vast majority who were gloating about catching the movie first day first show, full on Imax mein, didn’t really know what was going on, and were more like joining a certain bandwagon.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to judge movie goers or their ability to follow certain story-lines. But picture this...while you are watching the movie with your 3D glasses on, all your senses tuned in to what the characters on screen would do next, a voice from the back row excitedly calls out “Arre, look...it’s Hellboy!” The voice of course was referring to the main antagonist of the Avengers movie, Thanos. Trying to un-hear that, I tried to get back to the drama unfolding in the movie. And I kid you not, a couple next to me who were clearly there to err...know each other better, exclaimed, “Superman is also there in this movie, no?” That’s when I realised, people now don’t care much for what they see in a movie, or what they experience while watching it. It’s all about a check-in and a selfie with those 3D glasses. Frankly, I’ll not even know where to look and smile if I was wearing those dang glasses and posing for a selfie.
I haven’t seen a bigger crowd in a theatre since Hum Aapke Hain Kaun maybe (I of course had chosen to skip other movies of the same “genre” later, so this one’s a benchmark), until the day I went for Avengers Infinity War. My goodness, people everywhere, all age groups! Teens with extra enthusiasm shouting on top of their lungs about what knowledge they have of Marvel comics, 20 and 30-year-olds very sombrely critiquing how DC movies have got it wrong and how Marvel has got it right (I am a DC fan), clueless parent-category folks with their equally clueless kids because they had to be there so that the next day their kid isn’t ragged in school about missing the early screenings of the movie, by even more clueless bullies who just had to watch the movie because of same reasons (phew), older folks who probably had read a Spider-man comic in their teens and wanted to relive the experience, and the like. Everyone was there. So were a miniscule number of genuine comic fans.
Superheroes aren’t for everyone. Audiences expect every movie to be action packed, with the heroes facing off with some extremely evil villain in a very sci-fi battle. That’s why in a movie like Watchmen, which actually is more about emotions and drama, I overheard folks seated next to me say, “This is such a boring movie, nothing happening at all.”
This is exactly why I think that making superhero movies in today’s times is tricky. Who are you catering to exactly? The comic fan who knows it all right from the characters’ origins to their death in comics? Or the noob who has to be lassoed in so that the studios make more money on account of more people watching it? Whichever the case, it all boils down to the check-ins! I’ve seen the movie first, so I’m cooler than the person who hasn’t!
Reminds me of the guy who kept blurting out spoilers at the Justice League screening. Clearly, he had been to the morning show and wanted to show how big a comics guy he is to his friend who had accompanied him this time. And I was left wondering, “Why? Had this guy waited all this time to ruin my experience?” Can’t help it though, I guess this is what we have to put up with more and more.
Coming back to Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, I guess I still need to catch up on Hum Saath Saath Hain. After all, Hollywood isn’t the first to do big crossovers like the Avengers, we already had the Barjatyas do it for us!
(The writer is a comic creator, illustrator and animator)