In Defense of the Summer Blockbuster

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Is the latest Pirates film great cinema? No. But that doesn't mean you won't enjoy watching it. - WALT DISNEY COMPANY
  • Walt Disney Company
  • Is the latest Pirates film great cinema? No. But that doesn't mean you won't enjoy watching it.

What is there to say about Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales that has not already been said? New York Times critic A. O. Scott called the flick “the perfect opposite of entertainment.” Ouch.

The movie is, technically, awful. The plot is—most definitely—garbage. And yet I found myself enjoying the film, despite the ridiculously over-long runtime of two-and-a-half hours.

To counter the opinion of Scott (or Mr. Scott in the style of the Times), I would contend movies in the vein of Pirates are meant to be enjoyed much like their theme park inspirations: with bells and whistles and in the company of family and friends.

Let me explain.

I attended a showing of Pirates on Memorial Day with my mom and her friend in Chandler, Arizona. Since I was visiting from out-of-town, my mother suggested we visit a new theater, Alamo Drafthouse.

It’s similar, I’m told, to RoadHouse Cinemas here in town.

Alamo is known for pioneering the “fork and screen” style cinema experience, where patrons can order a brew and some food to help with enjoying a rom-com or summer blockbuster.

The seats also recline, making for a viewing experience more akin to your home den than Harkins 10. Just like rides at Disneyland are similar-but-totally-superior to rides at the Pima County Fair, a movie at Alamo has the distinct feel of first class versus coach.

So maybe it was the good food. Maybe it was the three beers (more likely). But even after reading every legitimate movie critic skewer this Johnny Depp-paycheck machine, I came away thoroughly entertained.

This isn’t to say that Pirates or any other movie can’t be enjoyed at the local megaplex or the small-town cinema. There is definitely more to the equation than decent chicken wings.

After all, recliners and booze can only go so far. It wasn’t until a few hours later, after my buzz wore off, that I thought about why I enjoyed the experience so much. Admittedly, big, dumb blockbusters with no depth are not my idea of a good time.

Yet, I still laughed with my mom at all the dumb “horologist” jokes in the movie. We still marveled at the impressive action sequences.

I probably wouldn’t have done that had I attended by my lonesome. Sure the beer assisted in the enjoyment, but being with family brought out even more of my silly side.

What’s often lost by movie reviewers, who attend most screenings by themselves or with other critics, is the ability of movies to bring families and friends together for fun.

Who really cares if Depp mailed a performance in if you’re enjoying the experience with those whose company you value?

Far from being the opposite of entertainment, Pirates and movies like it offer the opportunity for families and friends to create real, lasting memories. That’s why as bad as it’s a small world is as a ride, you can’t stop talking about it.


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