In doing a quick bit of research for this article, I came across an article from none other than our own publisher, Neil Miller. Now, I didn’t bother to read the entire article, because I got what I needed and wouldn’t want to be swayed by facts or reason or anything, but his opening felt perfect for this topic, so I’m going to use it here:
“Expectations are a funny thing. For a critic, they are the worst thing to have. Going into a film with any kind of expectations, good or bad, can color one’s ultimate perception of a film and sway a review one way or another.”
I hope that now Neil feels good knowing that I think he has a really good point there, because in a minute, I’m going to use him as an example of what the fuck is wrong with this world. His point is relevant though, because expectations definitely influence how we view movies. If you go into a movie with super high expectations, you may feel let down. If you go in with low expectations, you can be pleasantly surprised. The best thing to do would be to go in with no expectations and just feel the movie slip inside you, deep and raw.
But the modern world doesn’t allow this. Everyone is vying for the top spot when it comes to the final word on a film. To be noticed, we shout out the following words: amazing, funniest, greatest, best, of all time, tremendous, terrific, terrifying, scariest, and so on and so forth.
Hyperbole is killing the critical community and the way we all see movies.
It has become very difficult to just watch a movie without expecting something of it. We are constantly bombarded by advertising. There are trailers upon trailers upon posters upon viral campaigns. Films are screened early for select press, press, foreign press, and film festival goers.
Let me clue you in on what “select press” means – it means the studio handpicks people who have a habit of either being super friendly to that studio, or of generating hyperbolic quotes that look good on a poster or in a campaign. No movie was ever sold with the tag “It’s pretty good.” No, “The Best of All Time” puts asses in seats, but it also puts expectations sky high.
I recently got see The Raid: Redemption about 40 hours early. I was as far from “select press” as it gets and was basically shown the film because at this point so many positive things have been said about it that even if I left the screening room claiming it raped me and forced me to have an abortion, you wouldn’t care. You’re seeing The Raid. Why? Because the internet has told you. They want your attention, more than that, they want attention.
A few of the things said about The Raid so far:
- The Raid: Redemption is a milestone for action cinema. – Neil Miller, Film School Rejects
- …a bone crunching, visceral experience. – Drew McWeeny, HitFix
- The Best Action Film in Decades. – TwitchFilm
- A slam-bang, knock-your-socks-off action bonanza with some of the most peerlessly shot, performed and choreographed fight sequences you’re likely to see on screen. – Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
So what did I think about The Raid? Well, I thought it was pretty good, but I was actually disappointed in it. Why? Because I was expecting the greatest action film of all time. That’s what I had heard about it. My expectations were sky high. There was no way any film was going to live up to the hype. I really wanted The Raid to live up to the hype. I wanted to come out of it and say something snazzy like “There’s a lot of hype surrounding The Raid, WHICH IT TOTALLY MOTHER FUCKING EXCEEDS.” Put that on your DVD case and credit me!
The thing is, The Raid is a good movie. It is a bone crunching and visceral experience. It might knock-your-socks off. The problem is, when everyone writes like this, we get over-saturated. Our opinion is muddled. Our expectations get too high. Too many people are writing too many single-dose bite-sized reviews to capture the attention of the masses. Regardless of this, The Raid is enjoyable, but far from perfect. At 1 hour 40minutes, it’s easily 10 minutes too long, features almost no plot, no characterization, and the action scenes are repetitive after awhile. It’s kind of like a live-action Transformers with cops and robbers instead of robots. The positives and negatives of both movies are roughly the same.
It shouldn’t surprise you that we in the online writing world are not millionaires. We’re not hundred-thousandaires. Many of us work at least two jobs, or write at several publications, and even then there are a good bunch of us who are nine-hundred bucks in the bank account-aires. So why do we write? When we start, it may be because we love movies, but once you get a little taste of fame, you start to change. You see quotes on billboards. Names of people you know. You want that. You want all the people in the world to see the words you write.
Pen a great article and you may still end up with 500 readers. Maybe you strike a nerve and get 10,000. Maybe you hit paydirt and generate something with a million readers. It feels so good, but you get your name on a commercial that plays during South Park, how many people just saw that? How many people see the billboards, commercials, and posters? We congratulate each other on being quoted on stuff.