We’re now more than halfway through summer movie season, and by this point, I’ve watched a lot of films. I feel like I’ve made a trip to the theater at least once a week, and blockbuster seasons feels — at least on the surface — the most normal it’s been since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, even though I’ve watched a lot of movies at theaters this summer (and earlier this year), my “best geek films of the year” list remains surprisingly bare. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is the only movie with a guaranteed spot on said list. While there are plenty of wonderfully geeky movies still to come (Dune: Part Two!!!), I feel like I’m still waiting for something to wow me. 

Which leaves me wondering, is the problem me? Is it the movies? Is it a little of both?

While I didn’t get a chance to join the ESO crew on the Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny podcast due to traveling, I did get a chance to watch the film last week. I enjoyed it. It was fun, and overall a decent time at the movies. I didn’t regret watching it. 

Yet my overwhelming feeling, now that I’ve had a chance to sit with it, is that the film was still missing that certain special spark of magic. 

I feel that the phrase “I liked it but…” is a recurring theme surrounding the movies I’ve seen in theaters this year. I didn’t hate Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But I’ve seen them once and really have no particular desire to see them again, even on the oh-so-easy to access Disney+. I actually really liked The Flash, but that movie is mired in controversy and the impending DC cinematic reboot. 

Is anyone else feeling the same way about the movies lately? In some ways, I feel like I’m being ungrateful or perhaps a little too picky. In the midst of COVID, I worried I might not get to experience movies in theaters in the same way again. I’m so glad the movies are back, even if many of them haven’t fired up my imagination. 

General audiences seem to be feeling apathetic as well, with a number of big budget blockbusters recently underperforming. Is it the quality of movies, the cost of ticket prices, people waiting for streaming, fans getting out of the habit of going to theaters during COVID, or a declining interest in superhero franchises? 

I believe it’s a mix of all the above, and I don’t fully know what the answer is. People say, “We need more original movies!” but it continues to be big name franchises that drive people to the theater. Or the argument could be made, Hollywood is leaning too heavily into nostalgia, except one of the biggest moneymakers this year was The Super Mario Bros. Movie. (No. 2 on that list is actually Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which makes me so happy. Even though I didn’t love it as much as the first one, I’m so pleased it’s doing well.)

I don’t know how to solve these box office blues, and I realize I’m probably part of the problem. Due to my schedule, I’m only able to go to the theater once per week, and that doesn’t always leave time for smaller films. 

With so many big budget movies underperforming and rumors of streaming services not actually making that much money, I worry that studios may start scaling back the number of movies and TV series they release. I wish that the creation of live action art and storytelling wasn’t so driven by money, but these projects are not cheap to make, and if studios keep losing cash, at some point they’ll have to address that. 

However, I take comfort in the fact that storytelling has always been a part of human history, and it’s not going away. We may have to accept that Hollywood is going through a painful period of adjustment, and the result of that may be fewer of the big budget sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero films and TV series we all love as geeks. 

Yet that doesn’t mean that storytelling and geek art will stop. Maybe when the blockbuster bubble bursts, it will make more space for storytelling on a smaller scale with a more limited budget. Maybe studios will be more careful about what expensive, special effects driven stories they greenlight. Dune: Part One had a comparatively modest $165 budget to Fast X’s eyebrow-raising $340 million. 

I’ve also been getting really into an entirely different storytelling medium lately: audiobooks. I’ve been amazed by how this format transforms a story for me, and it allows me to do more “reading” than I’d get to in this season of my life as a parent of a toddler. 

Reading more comic books has been a longtime goal of mine as well, and if we’re going to soon see a content slow down, now might be the perfect time to check out some of those stories.

Despite my reputation as a diehard Star Wars fangirl, I’ve been going through a Star Trek phase lately and have had a blast watching Strange New Worlds, the most recent series of Picard, as well as some classic original series episodes over on Paramont+.

And as always, it’s never a bad time to rewatch your favorite films or discover quality movies produced in years past.

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