Expectations and Their Effect on the World of Cinema
Imagine this scenario: it’s been six months since the announcement of the sequel to your absolute favorite film in existence. Every single part of its marketing campaign has been executed brilliantly. The first trailer was action-packed and synched to your favorite song: “Take on Me” by a-ha. Each time someone else brings up the film, goosebumps spring to life on your arms and you can’t help but indulge that person with your whimsical knowledge on the details of that new film. You start thinking to yourself, “This film is going to blow away my expectations! There’s just no way it could be bad!”
That’s when it hits. It’s the week before the film is set to release in theaters. It’s approximately five minutes after the Red Carpet Premiere and critics are starting to tweet out their thoughts. Interested in what they have to say, you follow their tweets.
“Outright piece of flabby garbage,” – Rolling Stones
“This is a monstrosity, whoever wrote the script should be fired and banished from Hollywood forever!” – The Hollywood Reporter
Seeing these reviews, you start to question whether or not this film will actually be as good as you thought. You decide to go anyway, just to get your own take on the film. Yet, there’s still that lingering sense of dread as you take your seat in the theater. You watch the film you’ve been anticipating for an entire year and…you’re disappointed. It wasn’t as great as you thought it would be. The cast just didn’t have the right chemistry together, the score didn’t match the tone of the movie. You scroll through Twitter and see multiple of your mutuals bashing the film, tearing it apart. What went wrong?
That’s the question I'm here to answer. As viewers, we start building up “expectations”, which means that you’re looking forward to a certain event or situation that’s coming up. There are two different types of expectations: positive and negative. Positive expectations involve hyping up the movie, like the scenario I described earlier. You can’t wait for this event to happen, so you talk about it as much as you possibly can. On the other hand, negative expectations are centered around disliking or even hating a film that is coming out soon. You do everything in your power not to go.
Expectations can be influenced by numerous factors including social media, critic reviews, and just general conversations between mutuals. If you start talking about how you’re looking forward to the new Jurassic World film and your friend tells you it’s going to suck, you’re probably going to be influenced by that. Either you’ll reinforce your expectations by defending the film, or you’ll give into their expectations by choosing to believe them.
The biggest influence on expectations is that of critics. Rotten Tomatoes, a very popular critic website, uses their formula to calculate how great a film is based upon the number of positive critic reviews. When critic reviews start pouring in, the Tomatometer (yes, that’s actually what’s called) register every review and calculates the film’s percentage. That percentage determines whether it is “fresh” or “rotten”. The thing about Rotten Tomatoes is that a lot of film fans look to this website as sort of guide to whether or not they should go see a film. I know personally that it has influenced my expectations going into a film. An example of this would be the Academy Award-winning Suicide Squad. When the first trailer dropped, I watched in awe as well-timed editing blended beautifully with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the background. The trailer got me incredibly excited. Yet, when the critic reviews start coming in and the Tomatometer sank to 27%, I panicked. I had already made plans to see the film with a group of friends. So rather, than enjoying the film, I ended up nit-picking and making fun of what went horribly wrong. The problem is that websites like Rotten Tomatoes ruin viewers’ experience of forming their own opinion.
The second biggest influence on expectations is that of social media: whether it be your mutual telling you not to go see a certain film because they thought negatively, or celebrities giving their input to either make or break a viewer’s opinion. Celebrities usually attend the premiere of films, and they are known for giving their opinion on what they just saw. Say, for instance Laurence Fishburne sees the new Mission Impossible film and raves about it on Twitter; you might trust him enough to get excited for the film. Celebrities can influence us in this way because as fans we trust their judgement. If Simon Pegg tells me that he LOVED Blade Runner 2049, that’s absolutely going to make me want to see it.
Another form of social media is an app called Letterboxd. On this app you can rate films, share reviews, and follow your friends to see what they have reviewed/rated. It’s a neat way to follow your friends and see what they think of the films that you’re looking forward to and/or have already seen.
Speaking of friends, the third biggest influence on expectations is that of peers. These are your friends/acquaintances that may or may not have the same opinion as you. This could have both a positive and negative impact on your opinion. Perhaps your best friend goes to see a film and recommends it to you. They can’t stop raving about how awesome it was. More than likely, this will make you want to see what they’re raving about to see if it’s actually as great as they say it is. On the other hand, if all your friends are bashing a film you love, it’s heard to get your voice heard through the echoes of your peers. Even if they make fun of you for liking a certain film or franchise, stand up for yourself. Prove them wrong. You’re the fan here, not them. They don’t have to agree with you. Formulate your opinion, your peers won’t always be right!
Social media, critic reviews and the opinions of peers can strongly impact our expectations in both a negative and positive light. What fans need to do is formulate their own opinion by watching trailers or stay up to date with on-set photos and production. Get yourself hyped up for a film! You should be able decide not to go to a film because you want to, not because some bozo said it wasn’t great. If you go into a film expecting it to be bad, then that’s exactly what you’re going to experience: a bad film. This is cinema, it’s what we love! Why should we let other people’s opinions get in the way of what we love?