Skip the action scenes.

I don’t visit the movie theater very often. The nearest cinema is nearly an hour away, and the nearest decent multiplex takes a solid ninety minutes to reach. Even if our hometown had a theater, our seven-month-old daughter makes catching a flick seem complicated and expensive. The logistics involves—babysitters, breastfeeding, nap times, etc.—boggle the mind.

Fortunately for me, few films merit a theater visit anyways. I refuse to even consider films that aren’t well-received by reviewers. With a few notable exceptions,[1] I don’t darken the theater doorstep for any movie that earns less than 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. I want to know that the movie is worth the exorbitant ticket price, the overpriced popcorn, the snickering teenagers in the next row, and the sticky floors.

Film aficionados may coo about the “big screen experience” of the movie theater—how some films simply demand the cinema’s mammoth screen and teeth-rattling sound system. But too many big-budget, spectacular movies bore me to no end.

See, the rise of CGI has ushered in an era of dissatisfying action scenes. Watching these movies feels like looking over someone’s shoulder as they slog their way through a bad video game: fake, stilted avatars glide over imaginary, digitized peril. When the heroes can do anything, you suddenly don’t care what happens to them.

Take the latest Avengers movie, for example. When I finally watched Age of Ultron (at home) a few weeks ago, the interminable battle sequences left me checking my phone for some much-needed distraction. I’d ignore the movie until someone started talking again. Let The Hulk dance his fist-happy dance with Iron Man. Let Captain America sling his super-shield like some invincible boomerang. Each time these scenes took over, I checked out until the so-called “plot” finally inched its way forward again.

Ironically, the only Age of Ultron scene that captured my attention was an actionless, straightforward moment between the eponymous Avengers. They bantered playfully, teased each other, and took turns trying to budge Thor’s magically dense hammer. That single, two-minute scene revealed more about the characters than any of the film’s action sequences ever could. It offered more intrigue, charm, and delight than the rest of the film combined.

And that scene in its entirety was available online before the movie’s release. So why bother visiting the cinema to endure the dull film itself?

  1. There are some beloved franchises that get a reprieve from my strict standards; The Hobbit films weren’t great, but I love the books enough to cover over the movies’ multitudinous sins.  ↩