Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Digiplex Churchville

My initial intention was to do a review of THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and focus on the character development of Captain America and the role he plays in the second Avengers movie. Fan boys at conventions wear tee-shirts that shout "In Whedon We Trust" and Joss Whedon certainly understands the characters and the way they should be portrayed on the big screen. For Marvel's screen version the character started out as a poster boy and graduated to a man respected by his peers... and feared by those who plotted against America. Adaptations from comic books can never be faithful one hundred percent. Let's be fair. Love the costume or hate the costume, there were many over the decades as a result of various artists. I generally go in to the movies with a clean slate, no expectations, and write my review afterwards.

The first AVENGERS movie rose the bar for superhero movies. Joss Whedon and his snappy one-liners added to the fun. The question was whether he could accomplish the same task a second time. Marvel had the theory that if you add seven superheroes in one movie and make a movie that generates enough money to rank as the third highest grossing movie of all time... twelve superheroes would make twice the money. With Whedon at the helm, the recipe sounded tempting.

The story is simple: Tony Stark has the rare opportunity to tamper with something he knows nothing of, artificial intelligence, and integrates it in the Ultron program, "a suit of armor around the world." Naturally, the A.I. takes over, employs the twins (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) and starts a plot that could potentially wipe mankind off the face of the earth in a similar method that exterminated the dinosaurs. "Avengers Assemble!"

The film is entertaining and is a close second to the first entry. But I don't think it matches up with the first movie. Comic book fanboys might argue with me but I got the impression that Joss Whedon, artist and craftsman in the field of story-telling, was not provided 100 percent liberty to create another masterpiece. Marvel no doubt provided him with a list of bullet points to integrate and he did what he could under the circumstances. There are a number of scenes setting up the stage for the next Thor movie, Avengers 3, and Captain America: Civil War. Cramming too much into the film that was unnecessary hampers the storytelling. Reminds me of an artist who is asked to create a book cover for a publishing company. The publishers get genius. If they tell the artist what they want, the finished product is good, but not impressive. For that reason this movie comes off as a close second.

I would like to state for the record that my wife and I visit the movie theater almost every weekend. I write a movie review for the local newspaper every other week. That means the theater gets 52 ticket sales a year (26 x 2 = 52). I don't know about you, but who do you know goes to the movies 26 times a year and buys 52 tickets a year?

According to CouponCabin, Harris Interactive conducted a poll gauging consumer interest in hitting the movie theater. For the most part, interest is fading. Slightly more than six in ten (61%) of adults said they rarely or never go out to the movies. Fact: of the people who do go to the movies, the average number of visits is 2.7 movies per year. Which means that I go to the movies more often than the average person and I represent the perfect clientele: repeat business. In other words, the life blood of any movie theater.

I suspect I might have enjoyed THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON if the sound system in the theater was better. The Walt Disney Company apparently sent the theater an inferior print for the 2-D version than the 3-D. This has happened a number of times prior at the same studio. A fraction of my viewing was fixated on the challenge of comprehending what the characters were saying on the screen. This handicapped my enjoyment.

Years ago, UCLA conducted a fascinating study. They scheduled two screenings of the same movie, with the same audience demographics. The difference between the two screenings was that one had superior picture and 7.1 channel audio. The other featured 3 percent soft focus on the picture (which is barely noticeable) and 2 channel sound (left and right, two speakers instead of seven). After each screening, UCLA gave every person a questionnaire asking what they thought about the movie and what they liked best about it. They never indicated or asked about the sound or picture quality. The results? The folks who watched the superb presentation enjoyed the movie. More than half the people who saw the lesser-grade presentation had less to speak of. Sound and picture makes a difference. 

When a movie theater is asking customers to pay for two tickets at the movies, because most people do not go to the theaters by themselves, and the price of admission is more than it costs to rent movies from Netflix, they should be aware that their customers have an expectation level. With sound impaired, I was unable to enjoy a movie and felt my money was wasted. I recall the guy behind me in the theater shouting "Come on!" when the sound got defective for the umpteenth time. He too was getting frustrated. And 200 plus people on Facebook complaining about the sound in the same theater  (Digiplex Churchill) for the same movie is testament that the defect was not in my ears. I never complained on my own Facebook but stumbled on someone's rant and read all of the comments from other people that followed. This forces me to disclose the reason for my slightly negative review of this movie.

Follow-Up
I would like to take a quick moment to acknowledge that I went back to the movie theater today and paid for two additional tickets for my wife and I to see the same movie a second time. This is not something I should have done. We watched the 3-D version and my wife agreed within minutes that the sound was much better. 

If the customers pay for movie tickets and the movie is bad, the customers takes the gamble. When the movie theater has defective sound, they should make good on it. I complained through Facebook to Digiplex personally, they deleted my posting. At the theater this afternoon I told the woman in charge, as I was instructed by the main corporate office when I e-mailed them, and she said because I did not lodge a complaint a few days ago when we were there, she would not credit me and my wife. She suggested I contact the main office. But it was they who suggested I go back to the theater and told me they would make good on it. (How many of us have experienced this kind of runaround with poor customer service?) I explained to the employee in charge that I meant to make a mention about the defective sound last week, but there was such a long line of people at the ticket window, I did not want to intrude on the company's business. So much for thinking of the other fellow...

The only thing worse than knowing what a customer complains about is not knowing what they are complaining about. For the sale of two general admission tickets tickets and failure to make good on what I felt was wasted money, Digiplex now lost 52 tickets a year, year after year. 

Apologies for the rant. Experiencing poor customer service is rare for me. And from a company like Digiplex, I expected better.

Because most households are already paying around $100 a month for cable and movie channels at home, as well as another $9 or more for Netflix or other service, and because a DVD rental at Redbox  costs just a bit over $1.00, and the next nearest movie theater from Digiplex in Churchville offers $6 matinee ticket prices versus the $8 ticket price my wife and I paid today... well, you get the picture.