Upon Entering the Movie Theater: Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla (2014)

This is following my post on comic book films and narrative exhaustion. Rather than speak to the film itself – I have very little to say about Godzilla (2014) – I want to speak about my experience of the movie theater.

Return of Godzilla, 1955-56

3D Return of Godzilla, 1955-56

Prior to the screening I was feeling slightly nauseated due to the weather and the fear of seeing another 3D film. I arrive 20 minutes early. It is the first Tuesday after opening weekend, Tuesdays being the day tickets are cheaper. To my dismay 20 minutes is not early enough for Godzilla – the legendary cinematic monster has nearly sold out the early show.

I now must wait 50 minutes for the next one to begin and, since seats fill up quickly, must venture into the poorly lit theater many minutes in advance. I would rather be in the lobby, outdoors, in the washroom until the film starts.

I briefly wait in a line, my first line in years. I take my seat and try to keep my eyes closed for some time, shut out the buzz of voices and store up the energy to intensely gaze at a darkened screen in three dimensions. I try to relax, knowing that in 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or an hour into the show I will be in some degree of physical discomfort – my eyes will burn, my head will ache, my stomach will turn.

Eventually the pre-show advertisements begin – not the advertisements that are prior to the trailers, but the ceaseless carousel of car ads, cola ads, and horribly interviewed celebrity spots that draw our attention away from the persons sitting next to us. A new X-men film, new gadgets, new music to dislike.

I watch ads and trailers; I’ve been in this seat for over 30 minutes and the film has yet to start.

The feature begins: buildings crumble, monsters attack, for some reason Juliette Binoche has an American-ish accent. My eyes begin to water; I remove the glasses and notice how much brighter the picture is without them.

I need a break.

I go to urinate and take my time ambling to the washroom and back again. I step over and across cinema-goers, try to watch my feet in the dark – perhaps the other patrons are as uncomfortable as me. Upon re-entering the theater, I smell popcorn, nacho cheese; half the audience is crunching some kind of junk food or slurping a sugary cola. The food smell mixes with the stench of sweaty bodies. Not abject, just more nausea.

The film eventually ends. I am relieved. The cool night air helps relax my tense body. Godzilla danced on my retinas in 3D for 30 minutes too long.

A week or two ago I had a similar experience with Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier (2014). Why do we put ourselves through this? Where have the 2D screenings gone? Why have I paid an extra three dollars for extra discomfort?

I prefer leaving the movie theater.

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