What does it mean that the two (by far) top selling movies this weekend are The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, taking in an anticipated $181 million in six days, and The Last Airbender, taking in a very unanticipated $70 million in five?
- That American moviegoers couldn’t give a rotten tomato for what professional critics say.
- That the male members of families, couples, households going to Eclipse had to see something, and (according to moviegoing statistics) only 20% could be coerced into spending 90 minutes with Tayler Lautner’s abs.
- That for all the hype about Team Edward and Team Jacob, the team people really belong to is Team Jasper as played by Jackson Rathbone ( in both movies).
- That a lot of households had air conditioners on the blink.
- That in times where solutions to problems seem truly intractable, not only beyond execution, but beyond knowledge, there is something beguiling about mayhem that results not from societal, political, economic or natural forces, but, primarily, from the vengeful character of a single good-looking, and possibly destructible, individual.
- Aren’t stories with tons of plotlines, subcharacters, flashbacks, unknown connections, secret powers—fantasies that almost need a diagram for anyone but the cognoscienti to follow—fun? At least rich sources for argument? (Making all that time you thought was wasted reading the books and/or watching the cartoons finally worthwhile.)
- Who cares if the actual dialogue is execrable?
- Seemingly, moviegoers really do like seeing very fit people whizz around in semi-computer-generated martial art mode. My concern is that there’s no real “control” to test this supposition, i.e. few alternatives. Personally, I think at least 80% of the audience at my Eclipse viewing would have been perfectly happy with fewer fight scenes; the other 20% of the audience did not look very happy in any case.
Caveat – all comments on The Last Airbender are based on secondary sources, including those extremely uninfluential reviews.