I realized recently that the last three movies I went to see in the theater were (in reverse order): Star Wars: Rogue One, Ghostbusters, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In effect, this is pretty much the same thing I would’ve gone to the theater to see when I was 12. The question I’m forced to ask myself is: why?
Not so much “Why did I go see those movies?” but rather “Why didn’t I see any others?”
Part of the answer lies in the fact that I just don’t go to the movies very much in the first place. I think over the past ten years, I’ve probably averaged maybe just over one movie per year. In fact, I know that I paid for my Force Awakens and Ghostbusters tickets with a gift card I had been given five years earlier. But why did I skip out on, say, Doctor Strange or any other films that might have piqued my interest.
One argument could be nostalgia. As much as I say I dislike nostalgia, the fact that I only saw movies that had direct connections to my childhood could be seen as an indulgence in exactly that. There were no Marvel movies for me as a kid, so I couldn’t hold nostalgia for seeing them on the screen again. But I grew up with Star Wars, and the original Ghostbusters was pretty impressionable on me as well.
But I don’t think nostalgia was much at play here. I didn’t go to see any of these new movies expecting to relive emotions of my youth. I went to see Force Awakens on its opening weekend primarily because I had the sense that there would be some plot point that was bound to be spoiled if I waited. Much like Vader’s revelation in Empire Strikes Back. I didn’t see Ghostbusters or Rogue One right away, but within my circle of friends and online acquaintances, I was seeing a LOT of chatter about these two movies from the very start, and I felt they were worth watching to speak more fluently with them. (Curiously, I didn’t get that sense with the recent Marvel or DC movies, despite many of those in my circles being comic fans, some even working for those two companies.)
I certainly enjoyed the newer installments of these franchises, but in much different ways than I enjoyed the originals. I can count off any number of reasons why the newer ones work better from a craft or storytelling standpoint, and I appreciate what they’re doing, but they didn’t trigger my emotions in the same way as the originals did. Nor did I expect them to. Even seeing the return of many of the original actors, while I could appreciate the nods, did little more than show me they were attempting to respect the originals.
I still enjoy seeing the Star Wars universe expand from what I knew as a kid. It’s part of a larger, ongoing story. And Ghostbusters departed far enough away from the original (mostly in the form of Bill Murray’s particular brand of humor) that, for me, it stands on its own. I won’t deny that there’s probably some small part of me that’s still bouncing up and down like an excited 12 year old, but that’s not why I went to these movies.
Just because movie producers are bent on mining your childhood favorites instead of creating new ideas doesn’t mean you have watch them at a nostalgic level. Come to these films on their own terms, and enjoy them for they bring you today, not what their predecessors brought you decades ago.