Last week, I decided to go and watch Thor: Ragnarok at my local cinema. It was a late showing but there was a fairly sizeable audience, especially for a Marvel film here in Japan. I bought my popcorn and melon soda, found my seat and proceeded to enjoy two hours of brainless entertainment. But as I laughed at the jokes and the entire stupidity of the spectacle, a middle-aged man in front of me kept staring back with a look of distain. It was clear that I was somehow in the “wrong”.
Now, I wasn’t the only one laughing in the audience. There were a couple of Americans and a few young Japanese guys who were clearly enjoying the film. But apart from them, it was silent. Crickets could be heard and I may have spotted a tumbleweed or two. Not once did the man in front react. I thought to myself, “well, he could have found it boring” or “he could have been stunned to silence by the sheer wonder of what was on screen”. But he didn’t move, other than to look back at me of course.
I’ve been to the cinemas in Japan many times and I’ve always been pleased with the experience. They’re clean, efficiently-run and can be cheaper than UK prices. In terms of fellow cinema-goers, the majority have been quiet and respectful. That’s not to say that they’re emotionless drones who lack the capability to have fun, feel or react. I remember being dragged to see Beauty and the Beast with my girlfriend. By the end of the film there were women sobbing, girls gasping and one very bored Brit (me). Meanwhile the same was true for 2016’s animated, super-hit Your Name. The audience laughed at the humour and cried at the forced sentiment.
Then….maybe it was the comedy. I know that foreign comedy doesn’t translate well for foreign audiences, especially to the Japanese. “Slapstick” and “reaction-based” comedy reigns supreme in Japan. From their cringeworthy variety shows to their advertisements, Japan is a country that’s comedy isn’t terribly hard to understand. It can be funny, but it’s usually unoriginal and grows increasingly stale. On the other hand, I’d hardly label Thor: Ragnarok as the pinnacle of sophisticated comedy, nor any other Marvel film for that matter.
Well, whatever the stern man was thinking as he gazed back at me, I hope he found some small measure of enjoyment from Thor: Ragnarok. I know I did.