There are times when the hype can set us up for disappointment. This is our attempt to manage these expectations.
This isn’t going to a downer. Promise.
Here’s the pitch: we love movies, television, pop culture, and anything that gives us a good narrative, some strong visuals, and sometimes just a silly reprieve from the real world. We spend day and night thinking about these things. In fact, we’ve already written about 52 upcoming movies and 32 upcoming TV shows that we can’t wait to see in 2017. That is, at a minimum, 84 things we can’t wait to watch int he coming year. As the youths say, we are hype.
But therein lies the potential problem: there’s such a thing as “too hype,” in which one’s excitement for something sets an unreasonable expectation. We enter a movie or sit down for a new season of a favorite show so deeply convinced that it’s going to be great that we end up trapped, disappointed, and frustrated. The following list is the Film School Rejects team identifying this year’s pop culture traps, a way of tempering our own expectations so that we can “sit back, relax, and enjoy” when the time comes. And the irony is not lost on us that many, if not all of these movies also ended up on our Most Anticipated lists. It’s not to say that we’re concerned that these things will be bad, it’s more about recognizing that maybe we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Because before we can allow 2017 to save our collective pop culture soul, we need to be realistic about its chances.
Game of Thrones
Neil Miller: If it hadn’t been for two tremendous episodes to finish season 6, Game of Thrones may have ended up being a disappointment last year. Combine that narrow victory with the longer wait until summer and an even greater degree of unknown thanks to a story that is well off the beaten path of adaptation and I’m legitimately worried about Thrones season 7. The pressure is on for the show’s creatives as they are now in the home stretch, which is equal parts exciting and excruciating. How will these storylines – many of which have been investment-worthy since season one – finally come together and coalesce into a big finish? Will we like the way things shake out in Westeros? With Jon Snow Jesus as my witness, I’m ready to go along for this ride with full knowledge that it might end, as many Thronesy things end, with my doom.
H. Perry Horton: The expectations for the third season of Twin Peaks couldn’t be higher. The last time the series was on the air it forever altered television and ushered in a new era of storytelling that many consider the medium’s “Golden Age.” And not only is it the return of a beloved series, it’s also, in a sense, the return of David Lynch, who hasn’t released a proper film since 2006’s Inland Empire. Lynch is behind the camera for all 18 episodes of the new season, making this his magnum opus, the biggest, boldest thing he’s ever attempted as a storyteller, and at the age of 70, it could also be his swan song. So a tally then: revered cult property making the biggest comeback in TV history, the return of America’s premier experimental filmmaker putting a possible coda on his career, and a legion of rabid fans who’ve been waiting a quarter-century for the stars to align – what could possibly go wrong? Anything, really, but most likely? Twin Peaks could be too Twin Peaks.
For seasons one and two, Lynch’s penchant for the obtuse was tempered by other writers and directors, he only actually helmed six out of 30 episodes, and by the middle of the second season he was all but off the project. Too much Lynch in season three could make for too much intentional misdirection, which could turn off everyone but the die-hards, who themselves could be turned off if Lynch and writer Mark Frost spend too long in metaphysical realms rather than solving all the dangling plotlines. Twin Peaks fans know what we want, even if we don’t exactly know what that looks like. That’s a dangerous way to go into something which is already unprecedented and thus doomed to an exorbitant amount of hype, quite possibly more than it could ever live up to.
Christopher Campbell: Thanks to the “Logan Style” meme, we know that any trailer set to Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” makes the movie look great. Yes, even X-Men Origins: Wolverine. So the actual Logan trailer doesn’t seem so special anymore. The thing about the X-Men franchise is a lot of them allow for great trailer cuts despite the fact that so few of the installments are actually any good in their entirety. Now, there is a good chance that James Mangold has made another decent Wolverine movie. His previous effort was fine, not especially memorable but well-made, especially compared to Origins. It will be at the very least passable. I certainly don’t expect this R-rated modern Western thing to be as crummy as last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, nor do I think it will be as interesting as Deadpool. Still, it’s going to be hard not to be disappointed based on the hype. The fan excitement over the first trailer is one thing, but when Ryan Reynolds claims it’s going to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar based on seeing some of it, that’s too much. Even though I know that’s exaggerated hyperbole, it won’t be easy to ignore that idea while watching Logan. Hugh Jackman’s supposed final Wolverine movie shouldn’t be terrible, it just won’t be uncannily superior to all things, as it’s being sold.
Ciara Wardlow: Christopher Nolan has many strengths as a filmmaker. However, even as a huge Nolan fan, I can acknowledge his weaknesses – one of the most notable being his struggle with emotional resonance. Oddly enough, this problem seems to only get worse the harder he tries (see: Anne Hathaway’s love monologue in Interstellar), which brings us to Dunkirk. Not only is a WWII drama well outside of Nolan’s usual wheelhouse, but it is also the sort of film that plays far more to his weaknesses than his strengths (there’s only so much mind-bending and plot-twisting you can do when dealing with a relatively well-known historical event). I will admit I was extremely confused and a little concerned when I first saw Harry Styles in the cast list, but then I reminded myself that a lot of people thought Heath Ledger was a poor choice for the Joker before The Dark Knight was released. Besides, just look at the rest of the cast – Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and Mark Rylance!? (No Michael Caine, though. Didn’t Nolan himself say he was his good luck charm? Hmm…) The trailer shows promise, though it features the most nondescript tagline ever (“The event that shaped our world.” Really?). But ultimately, Dunkirk will probably go one of two ways, both of which seem comparably likely at this point: either it will be an emotional gut punch and silence Nolan’s critics, or it will validate all those who doubt him and become his first true flop. We shall see.
Kong: Skull Island
Max Covill: There’s few cinematic treats as fun as seeing a giant monster wreak havoc. Kong: Skull Island will showcase plenty of explosions and gunfire, but even with its esteemed cast, it might be hallow. Set in the 1970s, a group of soldiers (including Tom Hiddleston) and a photographer (Brie Larson) stumble upon a land they should not be trespassing on. Kong: Skull Island is the latest in the trend of hiring a indie director who has a stellar debut (Jordan Vogt-Roberts) and put him behind a major blockbuster. Other recent indie directors who’ve made the plunge into blockbuster territory have had mixed results at best. The footage we’ve seen of the film thus far has focused mainly on Hiddleston and some untended humor from John C. Reilly. Brie Larson doesn’t even have a speaking part in the latest trailer, raising the question of if the Oscar winning actress was hired just for eye candy. Unfortunately, Kong: Skull Island is looking light on everything but the giant ape. This could be an excursion that is quickly forgotten.
Blade Runner: 2049
William Dass: Blade Runner is one of the most beloved science fiction films of all-time. It’s in the zeitgeist, man. But, what does the sequel offer? Harrison Ford again, for one. Denis Villeneuve, for another. Here’s a fellow who breathes esoteric, complex fiction. Look at his trajectory from Enemy to Sicario to Arrival. He’ll give you your conversational ending. And Roger Deakins cinematography! Anticipation is high. So, what’s the tripping point? Expectations. The original didn’t exactly vault from the theater to the Valhalla of Great Cinema. I’m not sure fans even agree on which of the seven versions of this movie is the classic. It’s taken years to find a place in the hearts of most science fiction fans. Despite the curbside appeal of the talent involved on the sequel, there’s a very good chance that a true follow-up, tonally similar to the first, will fizzle on release. In ten months, do you think you’ll be eager for a meditative examination of the judgmental cruelty of humanity? If you are, can anything meet decades of slowly building expectation? (Need a reassuring counterpoint, you non-replicant you? Mad Max: Fury Road!)
Francesca Fau: I used to want DC to save its cinematic universe, a beautiful place. But the closer we come to the release date of Wonder Woman, the more I think about Suicide Squad and see the great darkness within DC’s cinematic universe. I came to learn the hard way, a long, long, time ago. DC cannot be trusted to steer its characters onto the live action screen. Wonder Woman is one of those characters that resonates deeply with fans. Wonder Woman is an icon and her symbolic meaning to young women across the globe is important. When the studio chose Patty Jenkins, the director of Monster (2003), she seemed like an unexpected choice. Fans were optimistic as Monster is a feminist film. Surely a direct who has made a feminist film can make a feminist superhero film. But as hype reaches a fever pitch and women across the globe place their faith in a childhood icon to save the DC extended universe, things could go horribly wrong. Like Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn before her, there is no guarantee that a solid actress can overcome weak source material or executive pressure. Male gaze emphasized shots and a misguided focus on male supporting characters could turn an Amazonian warrior into a supporting character in her own narrative. There is also a good chance that DC will not care about the ramifications of such a situation and that they will do it. Then, they will soldier on learning nothing with zero repercussions. Like Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, a good trailer means nothing. A good movie is another thing entirely.
Paola Mardo: From his mad web-slinger skills to his witty zingers to his perfect fight scene entrance (“Underoos!”), Spider-Man was arguably the best part of Captain America: Civil War. His presence was also the perfect promotion for the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. While the teaser trailer plays it pretty safe, it shows some promise: a charming Peter Parker (Tom Holland), a fresh and diverse new cast of teen friends, a little Iron Man to spice things up and an interesting villain who isn’t Harry Osborn. The key to taking this film to the next level is to distinguish it from previous Spidey films while staying true to the comic book legacy of everyone’s friendly neighborhood hero. Can this new Peter Parker finally break the mold and surprise us, or will he live through roughly the same story we’ve seen time and again just with different girlfriends? Director Jon Watts proved he could take a tale about two trouble-making boys into a compelling feature (Cop Car), but can he pull off working on a much larger budget with higher stakes and a huge audience? We won’t know until Spidey slings back into action in July. Here’s hoping he gets the homecoming he deserves.
Meg Shields: There are plenty of reasons to be excited for Alien: Covenant, the least of which being Ridley Scott’s return to true-blue space horror. However judging from the recent trailer, Scott’s most recent entry in the Alien prequel trilogy is revisiting more than just a genre. What’s worrisome about Covenant is that it looks a bit too familiar: a crew with a shifty robot in tow stumble across an unfamiliar and violent species by shoving their faces into eggs-that-one-obviously-shouldn’t-shove-one’s-face-into. Not to mention that Katherine Waterston’s Daniels is being aggressively positioned as a Ripley surrogate. For all of Prometheus’ many faults, I don’t count its attempt to do something different with the Alien franchise (for better or for worse) as one of them. There’s a line between “return to form,” and superfluous regurgitation, and I worry that Covenant might cross it. Don’t get me wrong, I really hope Covenant is more than nostalgic fan service; that the deja vu is being exploited purely for marketing purposes and that it brings ampulative insights to the Alien franchise that justify its existence. But at this point, it’s not looking good – and honestly I’d rather just watch the o.g. Alien. Though admittedly, the scene where a xenomorph impersonates Norman Bates is new ground.
The Dark Tower
Brad Gullickson: The first Dark Tower short story, “The Gunslinger” was started when Stephen King was only 23 years old. It did not see publication until 1978 when The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction published it for their annual Halloween issue. Later collected and cobbled together with a series of other Roland The Gunslinger adventures, the first Dark Tower novel did not reach my hands until high school, somewhere between the years 1992 and 1996. I desperately read the first three books so that I could catch up to the publication of Wizard and Glass in November of 1997. I waited not-so-patiently through Stephen King’s near-death experience and several frustratingly not-Dark Tower novels, before Roland’s final tale was published in 2004. So, I’ve basically been anticipating a film adaption for 24 years. That’s a lot of dangerous love, right there. Some dorks pine romantically for The Shire and the second breakfasts of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but my jam has always been Roland’s Ka-Tet and Nozz-A-Laa. We’ve had a lot of close calls with this series. At one point it was going to be a television series. Then it was going to be a series of films and a selection of television seasons. Ron Howard was good to go with Javier Bardem under the hat. Utter madness. Now we are apparently getting a film that might act as a sequel to the most epic of Stephen King sagas. Idris Elba is an inspired choice for Roland, and Matthew McConaughey seems diabolically perfect for The Man In Black. However, with so many liberties being taken with the source material, I seriously doubt there is any way for a Dark Tower maniac like myself to enjoy it. That’s a shame. Being a fan is so hard. The safest and sanest option is too keep my hopes realistic, and just enjoy the opportunity to see my favorite characters up on the big screen. If I could do it for Dolph Lundgren’s The Punisher, I can muster the same for The Gunslinger.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit Film
Matthew Monagle: Few directors are capable of bringing different segments of movie fans together quite like Kathryn Bigelow. For some, she’s one of the most powerful female directors in the industry and the first woman to crack the $100 million budget mark. For others, she’s the rare director capable of giving onscreen action and politically charged commentary equal weight. Most will quickly point to her as an industry legend, a director who helped inspire countless action, science fiction, and horror directors of the last two decades. And that’s exactly why I’m a little worried about her untitled project about the 1967 Detroit riots. A story about the American civil rights movement that is written and directed by white filmmakers is undoubtedly going to attract some heat; if Bigelow does not deliver the nuance and cultural specificity that story demands, then there will be those who look to tear her down despite her valuable other contributions. The conversations regarding Bigelow’s project are shaping up to be rather complex and nuanced, and if there’s one thing that the internet doesn’t do well, it’s complex and nuanced conversations about Hollywood. I can already feel the headache starting to kick in.
Beauty and the Beast
Sinéad McCausland: The tale of Belle and her captor Beast has been told and retold since the 18th century. Gabrielle Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve was the first to write the tale, which was later rewritten by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont 16 years later. Then, in 1946, came Jean Cocteau’s magical La Belle et la Bête, which went on to influence Disney’s 1991 animated musical adaptation. Just from these adaptations alone the task at adapting the tale is clear – from Cocteau personifying the Beast’s hallways, candelabras and statues to Disney’s fantastical and lavish ballroom dance scene with Belle in her golden dress, each new Beauty and the Beast film adaptation adds something new. 2014’s French live-action interpretation of Beaumont’s tale (directed by Christophe Gans) saw the first digitally created Beast. What Gans’ digital Beast results in is a detachment between the Prince as Beast and the Beast as Prince, instead presenting them as two separate beings.
With the upcoming March release of the inevitable Disney live-action remake that follows on from its Cinderella and The Jungle Book predecessors, Bill Condon’s adaptation has a big chance to disappoint. Since Disney’s 1991 version owes a lot of debts to Cocteau (it’s where they got the idea for talking candelabras from; this was not in the original written tales), the comparisons between Cocteau’s film and the latest live-action are inevitable. Whilst the trailers for Condon’s film have proven the costume design and set design to be beautiful, the digital Beast and his servants – Cogsworth, Lumière, Chip – present anxieties. The enchantment created in Cocteau’s adaptation came from both its subtle reflection on the post World War II society and its magical realism created by the handmade, imperfect special effects. What the digital aspect of the upcoming Beauty and the Beast presents is a distancing from true, human emotions. Instead, the ubiquitous digital animation has the potential to draw away from the story being told with viewers instead being alienated by the obviously altered Beast. Perhaps it’s unfair comparing Condon to Cocteau, yet when comparing to the 1991 hand drawn film Condon’s version still feels impersonal. Because of the digital animation, the film is missing, as Cocteau would phrase, the hand of the artist.
Tell us below: Which movies and shows are you most excited, but also worried about?
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