Stop the applause, Spider-Man fans – you are ruining the cinema
IIt can be difficult to read the play when you go to the movies. Unless people start to come out in protest, the cinema auditorium sometimes has the full discretion of a voting booth, and you don’t know who the next government will be until the credits start rolling in. . I remember going to see a preview of Moonlight in a suburban multiplex and blown away by the wind; It wasn’t until the lights came on that everyone around me started to say how much they hated it. (Idiots!) Of course there are sometimes freebies. The uniform screams with a jump of fear. Delighted and breathtaking silences during a moment of laconic drama. In the case of Spider-Man: No Path Home, the tell was a little more obvious: every ten minutes or so, the audience burst into applause.
It’s a trend that has become increasingly prevalent in the modern franchise blockbuster, a trend particularly prevalent among Marvel audiences. When Avengers: End of Game was posted, the videos went viral of the crowd screaming and screaming as Captain America picked up Thor’s hammer, clapping as if he had just scored the winner of the FA Cup final. In Spider Man, the audience applauded the appearance of certain characters. They applauded when certain poses were taken. When certain jokes were made – even if they weren’t funny enough to cause a lot of actual laughter. The whole thing was an eager and supple celebratory circus. Now, far from me the idea of raining on anyone’s parade… but who the hell wants a parade in the middle of a movie theater anyway?
Apparently a movie theater full of people screaming and clapping is exactly what going to the movies is like. It’s the common experience, after all, that becomes one of cinema’s only selling points, as big-screen TVs and live-streaming blockbusters eat away at the rest. Of course, at its best, going to the movies is a great collective experience. Sudden and shocking moments like the end of The sixth sense or the death of Brad Pitt in Burn after reading meet visceral gasps. The fast ropes at the highest point of No time to die were underlined, for many, by the quiet sobs of the people around them. There’s no denying that the power of a shared viewing experience is evident: the best movies make you and your fellow moviegoers feel like you’ve been through something together. Horror movies and comedies are often particularly successful in this regard, with laughter and screaming en masse.. But that’s not what happens in movies like Spider-Man: No Path Home.
Clapping a smug nod at another franchise entry isn’t a natural, spontaneous, or even particularly human reaction – it’s a performance. It’s often just a way of saying I have the reference. It’s one thing for an audience to get rowdy in the days of the drenched midnight B movies, or even cheesy pop dishes like Mom Mia! Where Bohemian Rhapsody (which share a bit more DNA with West End jukebox musicals, where recurring applause is not only expected but encouraged). It’s a whole different thing when you’re as sober as a rock consuming the most mainstream corporate entertainment on Earth, something that is treated with deadly seriousness by millions of its fans. It’s not like Tom Holland or Zendaya are waiting backstage with their ears pricked for the sound of worship. This applause only pays homage to a brand. Isn’t that what the ticket price is for? This isn’t necessarily a dig into the Marvel movies themselves. The way they are able to plunder a mass audience’s appetite for continuity and referential teasing is, on some level, ingenious. Marvel plays its audience like violins, and everyone is only too happy to start dancing.
Additionally, clapping throughout a movie is detrimental to one’s ability to focus, to escape and, therefore, to enjoy the movie itself. There was a four season point in Seinfeld‘s run, when Kramer’s character became so popular that studio audiences clapped and screamed in appreciation every time he stepped into an episode (a habit that had also featured on several lesser sitcoms, dating back to Happy Days‘Fonzie). The actor hated it, the creators hated it, and it’s extremely boring to watch as a home viewer; it was finally banned on the set because it upset the dialogical rhythm of the scene. Now when it comes to Spider Man, there’s no one to disturb their rhythm, but you run the risk of missing the next line of dialogue.
Author filmmakers like Martin Scorsese have angered Marvel fans by likening the films to a roller coaster, questioning their value as art. But isn’t a series of bubbling cheers more appropriate for Thorpe Park than The Great Illusion? There is no such thing as a double meaning. Of course, audiences for more classic “smart” films have their own weaknesses; Is there anything more nauseating than the idea of a 20-minute standing ovation for a screening at the Cannes Film Festival? It is no less performative than encouraging Spider Man, and that adds a somewhat unpleasant burst of elitism.
Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon here; I should just let people enjoy it. But that’s the problem with tap dancing, with their insistent displays of boisterous appreciation. It rarely feels like fun.