Friday, July 25, 2014

2 x 0 interest = 0 interest

Without me caring or almost even noticing, there have been two major motion pictures about the Greek hero Hercules released this year -- one of them today. (Actually, yesterday in Australia, and tomorrow in the U.S.)

My suspicion that I cared very little about any new movies featuring Hercules was confirmed last night when I saw Dwayne Johnson promoting Hercules on Jimmy Fallon. (Strangely, a compacted half-hour version of Fallon's show plays on one of the stations here at 7:30 p.m.)

I like Johnson a lot, but the clip they chose to show reminded me just how little movies like this interest me these days.

And what do I mean by "movies like this"? Well, movies where a heroic figure rallies an army into battle with words about destiny and courage, and then two armies run at each other.

The fact that the clip ended with Hercules putting his shoulder underneath a horse, then shotputting it and its rider, only made me marginally more interested.

I'm not going to rant about the armies running at each other movies today, though -- I'm just going to use the release of Hercules (and The Legend of Hercules earlier this year) to recognize how isolated I feel from movie advertising here in Australia, and also how much the event movie itself has changed.

Let's take the first one first.

I feel like I should know a lot more about both of these movies, and in the past, I certainly would have. I'd have seen billboards and TV ads, and likely a trailer or two in the theater as well.

Here in Australia, though, billboards are considerably fewer overall (haven't seen a single one for Hercules), and TV advertising seems to be far less prominent -- though to be fair, most of the TV we watch here is through an on demand format known as Fetch. As for trailers ... well, maybe I just haven't seen the right movies to get these trailers. (I bet I would have seen a Hercules trailer if I had seen the likely similar 300: Rise of an Empire.)

What interests me, though, is how little you have to do in the U.S. to be aware of movies. The awareness just seeps through your skin, even if you aren't naturally attuned toward cinema.

It was my constant awareness of what was coming out next that made it easy for me to write a new release post every Friday in the U.S. Since coming to Australia? I've done maybe two of them. The fact that the days don't coincide very well has something to do with it. The fact that I'm writing for a largely American audience, and the release dates aren't usually the same between here and there, is a factor as well. But it's still rather astonishing how much I've lost the awareness of which movies are getting released, when, just by moving halfway across the world.

Then there is the second part of what I want to talk about today, the steady depreciation of movies like Hercules from seeming like must-see summer tentpoles to "I'll catch them on video, if then." Hercules is one of those characters we all know about, where if they haven't just made a movie about him, they should be soon. There was a time when such storied characters would always pique my interest. Now, I make almost no note about not only one, but two movies about them.

I suppose it's that Hercules isn't distinctive anymore. Whereas he may have once seemed like a unique character, whose feats of strength had to be seen to be believed, now every second movie hero is blessed with some otherworldly talent for moving mountains. What chance does Hercules have in an era when superhero movies are the most reliable bet at the box office? Hercules may have been "the original superhero," but now he predictably seems antiquated. Throwing over a horse, in this day and age, is a quaint showing of strength indeed.

And if Hercules weren't being marginalized by today's superheroes, he would also be getting rendered less distinct by the series of other sword and sandal heroes who have flooded our multiplexes today. Not only are there the 300 movies, but there's Immortals, the Clash of the Titans movies, Gladiator, Beowulf, Troy, Conan the Barbarian, Kingdom of Heaven, Braveheart, the Lord of the Rings movies and even Game of Thrones providing some kind of direct competition ... and often doing it better. Speaking of Beowulf, I'd almost prefer for Hercules to go that route, using motion capture to burst outside the limits of what we would expect to be able to see with human actors. That sea monster scene in Beowulf alone is probably ten times more interesting than anything we'll see here.

Interestingly, the onset of two more Hercules movies does make me more interested in revisiting Disney's Hercules, which I quite liked. Maybe that's where I'll go on this, and leave Dwayne Johnson and Kellan Lutz -- or their schlock directors, Renny Harlin and Brett Ratner -- to fight it out for the remaining shreds of our collective interest.

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