When you write about entertainment all day every day, you tend to get caught up in minutiae, and it leads to editorial decisions I would call questionable. When you're writing breathless headlines about Pez dispensers, you may be working too hard to find relevance in the irrelevant. Getting hung up on the micro often prevents us from focusing on the macro, but I'd like to take the opportunity to take a step back from time to time to examine 'The Bigger Picture.'
I'd like to start by telling you three stories.
They're just three totally unrelated stories about going to see movies with people reacting afterwards in ways that are, by any definition, irrational. I can't imagine what might have happened in the last week that would have me reflecting on these incidents, but maybe by the time I've told them, we can figure out some sort of unifying thread.
First, let's talk about Marty.
Marty was “the Star Trek fan.” Out of the entire group of my friends in high school and college, there were people who loved all sorts of different things, and to different degrees. John was a huge Iron Maiden fan, for example. One of the Scotts was the gorehound, and the other Scott was really into Dave Barry. But none of them were fans on the level of Marty, who had the extra added advantage of a mom who would buy him anything he asked for and a dad who was so confused by him that he just agreed with the collecting to save himself any extra time being confounded. Marty was the Star Trek fan, and his room was a shrine to the franchise, filled with pretty much anything that had ever been released with the words “Star” or “Trek” printed anywhere on them.
One of the benefits of being a theater employee was that we got prints in several days early so we could build the print and make sure it was okay before we had our first public screening. We'd have an employee screening after we closed on Wednesday or Thursday nights, giving any of us who were curious a chance to see a film early a chance to do so. We could invite friends, and most of the time, it was the same group of us who would go see things. For certain films, though, certain friends would make sure they were included, and when the release of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was announced, Marty made it very clear that he would be joining us even if it required the use of superglue or a nail gun.
1989 was a fun summer, and we'd enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade a few weeks earlier, then been surprised by Dead Poets Society. We had to go to another theater owned by AMC in downtown Tampa to see Star Trek since we didn't actually book the theater on any of the eight screens where I worked. Our bookers were holding screens for Ghostbusters II and Batman, and couldn't promise Paramount the full contractual run they were looking for. On the drive from Brandon, where we all lived, into downtown Tampa, Marty got more and more revved up about what we were going to see. I'd enjoyed Star Trek IV, like most people, but the trailers for The Final Frontier were dire, and I couldn't help but tease Marty a bit about how excited he was.
Then we saw the film. And on the way home, that mild teasing turned into full-blown hysterical roasting. And it wasn't just me. It was all of us in the car, but I certainly did more than my fair share. I hated that film, and I thought it was bad enough to invalidate any good will that the previous film had inspired. I thought it was embarrassing on every level. And that whole ride home, Marty was quiet. It wasn't until we got to his house, around 3:00 in the morning, that he finally snapped.