skip to content or skip to search form

Kill Bill Foundations: Audience

I’m still not into the meat of my discussion of Kill Bill, but I have a few comments about the moviegoing experience. I don’t like being in crowds much in general, and I particularly dislike it in movie theaters. It’s possible that I gravitate to non-Hollywood movies in part because there will be fewer people in the audience to make me wonder whether they’re observing me and, if so, what they think. But we were lucky both times to be in fairly sparsely populated theaters, and I’m getting over my awkwardness anyway, so it worked out, although there were tough spots.

What I hadn’t expected was that Kill Bill Vol. 2 would be such a comedy classic, at least if the audience was to be trusted. They thought all the fight scenes were exhilarating and funny and any character mannerisms were hysterical, particularly Pai Mei’s beard toss. I realize I have a stronger than normal response to violence, but I guess I’d hoped people would be more shocked or disturbed than amused by at least some of the fights. Then again, maybe the horrified people were as quiet as I was. On the other hand, the audience seemed at best lukewarm toward the dialogue, shifting awkwardly during any emotional episodes. I was somewhat chagrined by the family behind us, who had brought two elementary school children with them, but I’m sure there are benefits to introducing violent imagery early, at least one of which is that it will keep your kid from growing up like me.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 was a different setup. There was a group of maybe four college-aged guys and another couple there, and that may have been it, so there were two women watching the movie. The more recent crowd had something like a 3:1 ratio, I guess. The first crowd, particularly the guys, laughed some and sort of grunted approvingly during action sequences, but it mostly seemed to be in keeping with what I saw as the tone of the movie. Maybe it was what seemed like a drastic change in tone between the two that made the second audience so rambunctious. All I know is that it took me a long time to settle in because of the ridiculous giggles, and that I probably liked the movie less because of it, but that’s a criticism of myself as a viewer.

The reason I’m writing this at all is because I never got a sense of intended audience for the film. It’s possible the intended audience is just Quentin Tarantino, but I don’t know. I just don’t know if the rest of our audience left wondering whether Bill had loved The Bride and whether he would have been able to stop hurting her, and to what extent her total adoration had made him want to hurt her in the first place. I know one audience is geeks, the kind of people who are excited by the namedropping and the intertextuality, and that’s a valid group. I just wonder whether Kill Bill would have been better served by being less accessible and making viewers work a little harder to enjoy and appreciate it. Should it have attracted the same audience that went to see The Punisher? I guess I was hoping the answer would be no, because I’m so sick of revenge stories glorifying that ideology and am not much of a fan of women-in-peril pieces, though Kill Bill managed to subvert that at least a bit. As with Hellboy, I might have liked it more if it had been targeted at me more closely, but I liked it enough on its own merits. A lot of things would be easier if I were a fanboy, but I’m much happier as is, even if it means silently cursing moviegoers while they laugh and laugh. They should be glad I don’t support revenge!