Thursday, 9 April 2020

I Miss Audiences Losing Their Shit

There's a series of tweets going around with the audience reaction during Avengers: Endgame, starting with Captain America picking up Thor's hammer:
Of course, the audience loses its shit, not just with the hammer, but with the portals, the snap, and all the rest. It's glorious.

I miss these moments, but then I never really had them, not in the stereotypically-reserved (but it's true) UK. The closest I've been to an audience losing its shit over here is during the BAFTA premiere screening of La La Land, when everyone spontaneously applauded after the opening credits. Yup. Even during a packed opening night of Endgame, the most I got were a few quiet cheers and chuckles, worried about drawing too much attention to themselves.

Of course, during the 2010s, the real communal pop culture sensation wasn't in cinemas – it was Game of Thrones. I was always jealous of those blessed viewers who got to watch episodes live at watch parties or in bars, unlike those of us outside the US, who'd download episodes to watch furtively the following morning before they were inevitably spoiled by excitable Americans. The closest we got to seeing audiences losing their shit was through the Burlington Bar:

But like the Murphy's, I'm not bitter. This is the price we non-Americans have to pay for getting to live in a country with a functioning healthcare system.

And we still get to visit! My most memorable film experience is etched in memory. It was April 3rd – we happened to be in New York for work, and Furious 7 – undoubtedly the best of the series in recent years – was opening. We got tickets at Regal Union Square and because I forgot that you don't get reserved seating in the US, we had to queue up for seats, during which time Busta Rhymes appeared, apparently just to watch the movie like everyone else.

And yes – from the very first second of the titles, everyone lost their shit, copiously and continuously. Every lame joke, every click of Coronas, and especially when the Rock flexed so hard his arm cast shattered. And then the final scene with Brian driving into the sunset! That song was cheesy as hell, but damn me if there weren't tears.
It's been a long day without you, my friend
And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again
We've come a long way from where we began
Oh I'll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again
OK – there was one other film experience that rivalled Furious 7. It was a couple of years ago in Shanghai, when I'd travelled there on a very entertaining but ultimately fruitless quest to find commercial partners at the ChinaJoy games conference. On the final day, I said to a friend: fuck it, we're going to Disneyland Shanghai. I don't care what people say.

One of the attractions there was Soarin', the hang-gliding simulator where the audience sits on the end of a big robotic arm synced in front of a massive screen. They were showing the CGI-tastic "Soarin' Around The World" which I'd already seen in Disneyworld, but no matter – people loved it, despite the fact the ride was set at such a gentle pace I seriously questioned whether it was working or not.

In fact they loved it so much, the middle-aged man sitting next to me was SCREAMING in joy for the entire ride. And he was far from alone. Just once in my life, I would like to experience but a fraction of their ecstasy.

So yeah. The second the lockdown is lifted, I'm on the first flight to New York to watch Wonder Woman 1984. Then again, F9 is set in Edinburgh...

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