This past weekend, Movies 14 in Wilkes-Barre, Regal Hazleton 10 and Cinemark 20 and XD in Moosic had fewer titles for the many screens each theater has. According to its Fandango listings for Saturday, Cinemark was showing 12 titles – five sequels, four originals, a reboot, a prequel, and a continuation (or whatever “Ocean’s 8” calls itself). Movies 14 and Regal Hazleton 10 are no better, with only eight titles to watch and more than half of them being connected to prior releases. Either way, casual movie fans may find it difficult to pick a movie for the night when so many require audiences to digest all aspects of its fandom in order to watch the most recent release. If you find yourself confused or scratching your head while at the cinema, or if you don’t seem to be having as good of a time as some of the film geeks in the audiences, here are four reasons why being a casual fan may not be the right thing to be.
#1. There are no such things as sequels – it’s all about the cinematic universe
Blame Marvel and Disney for this trend when Phase One started in 2008 with “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk.” With the popularity of the superhero genre, Marvel has churned out 19 titles so far and growing. Is it too late to jump in and start watching now? Yes and no. “Black Panther” is a good standalone entry from this year that has a few connections with previous Marvel titles, but “Avengers: Infinity War” is not a good place to start as just about all the Marvel characters are on screen for about three minutes each. Even horror has jumped on this bandwagon with “The Conjuring” spurning several prequels like “Annabelle” and the upcoming release “The Nun.” Before long, that music box from the first movie will have its own origin story. Later this summer, “Unfriended,” the webcam movie of friends haunted by a dead classmate, is also getting its own universe with “Unfriended: Dark Web.”
#2. More movies are revealing too much about other movies
If you saw “Deadpool 2” last month, you most likely prepared yourself by watching “Deadpool.” If that was your only training, then the Ryan Reynolds starrer spoiled just about every movie released between the first and the latest. The worst is “Logan,” starring Deadpool/Reynolds’ object of obsession Hugh Jackman, and there is no way of avoiding it. The spoilers are all over the first five minutes of the comic flick. The same can be said for all the popular culture references and the end credit scenes.
#3. Movies are not limiting themselves to their cinematic library
“Star Wars” has its hands on all forms of media, from the original trilogy to cartoons and comic books. For the most part, it was safe for casual fans of the Jedi and droids could stick with whatever had been released in the theaters, and megafans were free to go to conventions, watch the cartoons and write fan fiction. That was until George Lucas sold “Star Wars” to Disney for $4 billion. Since the debut of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, a “Star Wars” movie is released every year. It may be a prequel, a standalone prequel, a backstory or another part of the trilogy. However, unlike the Lucas-directed films, some of these new releases include characters and plotlines from other sources. One that would shock many casual fans is a surprising cameo in “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and what it may mean for future standalones.
#4. Superfandom can be toxic
Saying that you’re a fan of something can sometimes mean that you have to defend your love for it or face superfans. Fanboys and fangirls are on a different level of fandom. They ingest every form of media, can get into huge arguments in online forums and on social media or can really ruin a nice night at the movies with their overzealous antics. However, their “love” for their subject can have consequences beyond their fingertips and collections. Earlier this month, after weeks of harassment and racist taunts, Kelly Marie Tran of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” deleted her Instagram posts. Other co-stars like Daisy Ridley, who left Instagram in 2016, and John Boyega, have also been exposed to this form of toxic behavior. When Zazie Beetz was picked for Domino for “Deadpool 2,” some fans of the comic made offensive comparisons, comments and drawings about her appearance. Being lumped together with the lowest form of fandom is not appealing to the casual fan, but the damage these toxic fans cause robs others of seeing stars beyond the screen. If studios choose to respond to superfans’ demands and not take risks in casting or storytelling, or worse, only appeasing to fanboys and not the all fans, theaters will become as bland as they are this weekend and many more to come.