There was a Back to the Future marathon on TV recently, and it was immediately clear that, while special effects have certainly improved since its production, they weren't the only thing that carried the film.
And while there are numerous conjectures as to why today's films rely so heavily on special effects, everything from a lack of effective character development to a lack of new ideas, I submit that the problem is something else altogether: a lack of mad scientists.
The mad scientist is a staple of storytelling old as time. Before there was science, they were called witchdoctors, but the core of their function was the same. They are the anchor, the root, the inciting event. Without Doc Brown and his time machine, Marty McFly would be wholly unremarkable. Without Victor Frankenstein, there would be no monster. Without Einstein, there would be no Young Einstein. And in all of those cases, that would also mean there would be no story worth telling.
The mad scientist is the glue that holds everything else together, the one who "pulls the string!" to quote Bela Legosi in his role as a mad scientist in Glen or Glenda. However, outside of cartoons, in the last decade, the only mad scientist character of note was Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible, whose singalong blog was raved about as one of the best film offerings within memory. It completely resurrected the career of Neil Patrick Harris and made direct-to-web projects relevant.
Putting all that together, it seems that the decline of mad scientists as a meme in storytelling may be what is dragging down cinema.
So today, why not support the mad scientist with Dr. Lamebrain's Magic and Comedy Show. Apparently he and his pet rat Knucklehead just can't get a dang thing right, with hilaaaaaarious results.
The show is in the Hayes Auditorium of the Main Library, at 7 p.m. White lab coats still smoking from your latest failed experiment are encouraged.