How cheap theaters and indifferent audiences are ruining the movies, or how to avoid writing a review of Hellboy II: Golden Army.
Intending to write a full review based on copious notes, I sat in front of the monitor, thinking. Not because of writer’s block, but the realization that the movie had not been given a fair shake. By me, maybe, but certainly by the theater. My experience with the movie was that it was tiring, overplotted, underdeveloped, and it killed off its best monster, something that looked like the inside of a greenhouse, within five minutes. The characters that I enjoyed in the first film had been reduced to the clichés normally attributed to a desperate sitcom nearing cancellation in its sixth season, a new baby is on the way (and the father is always seconds away from finding out, except something always distracts him) and two of the main protagonists sing a karaoke version of a kitschy pop classic, a joke repeated more than once. I kept waiting for a monkey to be added to the cast. Then I wondered if I had been fooled by the television ads, which suggested something bright, colorful, and varied, but what I had seen was dark, dingy, and fuzzy. I scanned other reviews by respected critics to see if its unremarkable visual nature had been mentioned. Nothing, in fact, the look of the film was repeatedly praised.
This review was originally written for Outlook Weekly, a newspaper in Columbus, Ohio.
I realized something important had been missing from my reviews over the past few months, and that is the mentioning the poor state of Columbus theaters. And I’m just talking about what is screened for the press (and those who got early screening tickets). I was at a red carpet Sex and the City screening where the sound was muffled and only came out in mono, which was actually a relief because the pre-movie feature on the movie’s opening in New York was so loud that my entire row had their fingers in their ears. Mishaps continued when, in the middle of the movie, the frame suddenly dropped halfway down the screen, so half of the image was below what was viewable, and the top half of the screen was all letterboxing. And this went on for an entire reel (nearly 15 minutes), creating the biggest laugh of the movie. Since the frame was so low, the boom mic was visible in every shot, including a scene where all of the characters are talking to each other, except Kristin Davis’ adopted little girl. The professionals are all ignoring the boom mic, they are used to it, but the girl keeps looking up at it, as if it were a strange alien she’d never seen before. And again, the movie was dark and fuzzy, slightly out of focus. This hasn’t just happened the one time, it has happened virtually every time, especially screenings at the Lennox theater.
I’m not one of the people who let things go either, I complained vigorously about each and every problem, from the focus, to the fact that the projector bulbs aren’t on all the way, making the image hazy and dark, to the air and/or fans not being on. Unfortunately, because I’m the critic, I appear snooty and picky, and I don’t represent the masses, and so while these things are usually fixed, it may take two or three visits to the management to get it done. But why am I the only one saying anything? People trek all the way out to the theater to overpay for food and tickets and watch a movie that will actually look better on DVD? I know that Columbusites are non-confrontational and don’t like to ruffle anyone’s feathers, but the studios love your complacency. It results in them half-assing everything from the production of the film down to the eventual condition of the prints. The only way this will change is if other people voice their thoughts too. If you have good eyesight and it looks out of focus, it probably is. If you’re under 400 pounds and you’re still sweating in the theater, it is too hot. If the sound isn’t working or the picture is too dark, don’t just accept it. Otherwise, why are you paying to be there in the first place?