Karl Puschmann: Being able to miss blockbusters has been the best thing for them


This is bound to be an unpopular opinion but the enforced lockdown has been the best thing to happen to blockbuster franchises in a long time. Big studio bean counters, cinema owners and the ultra devoted fans will disagree but I’ve really enjoyed the super-powered silence this year.

There’d just been too much of a good thing. The relentless pace with which superheroes and space heroes had been invading screens on an inescapable train of noisy hype had left me exhausted and increasingly blasé about the whole business.

I was not alone. The term “superhero fatigue” was quickly coined to describe this malaise that many found themselves mired in. My interest levels just couldn’t sustain a manufactured massive “event” every month or so. They stopped feeling special and exciting and went from “must see” to “probably see one day”.

It’s showing my age but “event” cinema used to exist because huge budgeted franchise films were rare. When a massive movie came out it was a genuinely exciting time. Compare the bat-ballyhoo around the release of Tim Burton’sBatmanin 1989 and 2017’sBatman-led Justice League. Do you even remember the latter?

Younger readers think back to the forceful frenzy that greetedStar Wars: Episode 7: The Force Awakensin 2015. It’d been a decade sinceStar Wars had zoomed onto the big screen withStar Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and oh boy were people thirsty for more adventuring in that galaxy far, far away. Or, at least we thought we did.

After a drought there was a deluge. A frantic schedule saw a new Star Wars flick every year for four years on the trot. Interest waned and the plan of bi-yearly spin-off films was put on ice, despite them being arguably more entertaining than the main franchise films.

People need time to miss things. It won’t of course but I genuinely hope the relaxed release pace continues because I’ve very much enjoyed the feeling of looking forward to movies again.

For example, in the “before times” I’d of probably skipped seeing Marvel’s upcoming Black Widow at the cinema.

This has been stuck in a web since lockdown with the release date being pushed back and pushed back and pushed back. Now though? I’m genuinely excited to see this Scarlett Johansson-led, action-packed superhero flick on the big screen.

It’s also meant that I’ve been digging the second season of Star Wars sci-fi/western The Mandalorian immensely. I liked the first season a lot but this year having been starved of sci-fi at this scale, quality and expense, has made my enjoyment levels hit way harder.

As has the canny decision by Disney+ to hold back and only release a new episode every Friday instead of dropping a full season dump. Had they been available I’d have blasted through the whole thing in one sitting. I’d be back with nothing to look forward to. Now, I’ve found myself looking forward to Fridays with more enthusiasm than usual.

In interviews leading up to release its show runner Jon Favreau said he’d been heavily influenced by Game of Thrones’ political intrigue and huge cast of conflicting characters.

And for me that’s what’s made this season so satisfying. The show hasn’t dropped its throwback, self-contained episodic style – Mando still lands on a planet, has a mini adventure and then zips off again – but its galaxy has expanded greatly through those he’s met and those they’ve joined forces to fight.

We’ve heard of broad warfare, ongoing battles and seen evidence of foul play and long feuds. All of it happening beyond the reach and scope of the show. The quick hellos and goodbyes as Mando briefly dips into these conflicts before dipping out again and leaving them to continue past what we will ever see has given the feeling of a much greater, living universe.

He may be the hero of the show but the Mandalorian is an insignificant part of his galaxy. This is exactly the way it should be.

I’ve loved every minute of this season. From the giant sandworm battle that kick-started the season to the brutal raid on the Imperial freighter (kamikaze orders and cold blooded, back of the head executions were properly shocking) right up to last week’s thrilling Jedi-led raid on an occupied city.

The only disappointing thing about the series is its truncated eight-episode season length. Next week’s will be the finale. Which means we’ll have to wait a whole year to find out what happens. I couldn’t be happier. I’m going to really enjoy missing it.

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