Posted in: by Kathleen Murphy, Contributors, Essays

Secondhand summer: A season of movies that can feel like an infinite loop

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in 'Men in Black 3'

In a couple of unusually melancholy Doctor Who episodes (“Logopolis” and “Castrovalva”), nothing less than universal entropy and apocalypse loomed. Even worse, the Time Lord and his current batch of companions found themselves trapped inside a recursive occlusion. What the tesseract, you may well ask, is a recursive occlusion? For the Doctor, it was a perspective-deranging city that mimicked an M.C. Escher nightmare: Threading an infinite loop, folks simultaneously went up and down stairs, in and out of doors, all within a no-exit design—architectural and existential—that folded in on itself like a Möbius strip.

Or, as I like to call it, summertime at the movies.

Seems like we warm-weather moviegoers have been trapped in an infinite loop of recycled screen scenes for years and years, with no end in sight. No matter how many times we whine “been there, done that,” the sequels, remakes, spin-offs and re-hashed comic books, fairy tales, TV shows, toys and video games just keep coming. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that refurbishing old stuff is inherently bad or unrewarding. (After all, there really is nothing new under the sun.) The real problem is that writers and directors lack the knack of injecting new life into their secondhand subjects. So we’re inundated by too much that is repetitious and familiar—formulaic action and cardboard characters—all tricked out in F/X drag.

Has our pop culture hit a dead end, creatively speaking? Will summer “tentpole” cinema eventually become one long, self-referential saga of superheroes, crowding out any authentically new places to go, people to see?

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