I'm a huge fan of opening showings.  Before I got married, I used to book my midnight show tickets weeks in advance.

Conveniently, the Thursday midnight openings have become earlier and earlier lately; the opening show of Star Trek: Into Darkness was Wednesday at 8pm. I still stay out late, but not nearly as late as I used to.[ref]Working the day after an opening show no longer involves an extra pot of coffee.[/ref]

Recently, I bought advance tickets for the opening show of Captain America: The Winter Soldier for my wife and myself.  She's not the biggest fan of super hero movies, but we turned it into a date night and had a blast.

The next day, she asked why I like sci-fi and super hero movies so much.  It took me a while to explain.

Social Analogs

The biggest reason I enjoy fiction is for the social commentary of the stories.  Most modern fiction is some sort of critique or study on the issues or players of the day.  Without giving too much away, Captain America is very much the story of a police state using illegally-gathered surveillance to preemptively isolate and eliminate perceived threats to the nation.

When I try to discuss the NSA or Edward Snowden with my father, he shuts down and argues with my every statement.  Throw in a lame agency acronym (SHIELD) and a 95-yr old super soldier, and he's all ears and entirely on my side.

Discussing current affairs or political movements quickly polarizes just about anyone involved.  Discussing how similar policies or issues affect super heroes, aliens, or robots, on the other hand, is somewhat safe.

Captain America parallels our current arguments about privacy and government (overuse of) power.

The upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past film deals somewhat with racial identification and immigration issues - who is and is not a "legal" or "safe" member of the public?

Deeper Thought

I know, it's ironic that it takes fiction to help me consider non-fictional implications, but it definitely helps.  I sometimes identify with aspects of the protagonists' character and try to imagine myself in the same, or similar situation.

Would I duck and run for cover, or charge at a threat to save those I care about?  When faced with a corrupt superior or authority, would I stand for my principles or take the easy road to acquiescence?

I like to think of myself as being more similar to the hero in some stories than the people he or she chooses to protect.  When I take that comparison and add it to the direct juxtaposition of the fictional conflict and contemporary affairs, it makes me think even harder.

Am I currently giving in to a corrupt authority?  Am I already acting more like the extras on screen than the hero standing for his or her convictions?

Why am I in such a position?

The Bottom Line

When I go to the movies, I get more than just an hour or two of entertainment.  I come away with hours of potential self-reflection and analysis, a healthy respect for the power of story-telling, and inspiration to tell stories about which I care deeply to others for the same ends.

All this from staying up late to watch a bit of explosions and larger-than-life characters on the silver screen.

What do you get out of the movies?