The 'lowering your expectations' facade

It's now so very common, especially with the slew of crap coming out, that the most acceptable attitude when seeing a movie is to lower your expectations, otherwise you're just setting yourself up for a disappointment, they say. People want to make sure they get their money's worth, since there's no refunds, so if you didn't enjoy the movie then it's just as if you flushed your money and time down the toilet, right?


Disappointment is a good thing. I'm here to say it's OK. It's perfectly healthy to have a bad movie experience, at least you will know where your standards are. I think we need high standards, as high as you can go. It's worth it, when you actually find something that exceeds your expectations there is no greater feeling of elevation and stimulation. Of course, I understand everyone will have different standards based on their experience. Not everyone has sat through every Stanley Kubrick film, or enjoy foreign subtitled films with foreign eyes. Some movies are made with the intention of audiences who watch many movies, but many people aren't interested in the art of cinema. I guess there's a large fascination with celebrities and the rich & famous - do they really work hard enough to earn the enormous amounts of money they get?

I doubt most people watch a movie for such superficial reasons, there is a crowd of people who do, but they are a minority, and need medical attention. I'm certain most people watch movies to watch a movie. The most profitable films usually go into family-orientated entertainment - but only if they're really well made. As long as kids can enjoy it, and they have the least film experience of us all, then the parents are happy.

But if a movie sucks, and you know it, you have a right to say you were disappointed. It doesn't mean you just wasted your money and time, because that's what experience is about. Do you see what I'm saying?

OK, here's an example. Recently my friend and I went to go see TRON: Legacy. I didn't get a free pass for it so I had to pay for it myself. My friend hadn't seen any pictures or trailers on it and he expected some trashy piece of stitched-together device-driven crap (he didn't even think Jeff Bridges was going to be in it, mind you). I was the one that convinced him to see it with me, since I had seen trailers and posters on it, plus I listened to the soundtrack and loved it. I thought the story was going to suck but I had hopes that the visuals and the soundtrack would be cool enough that I was going to enjoy the hell out of it. Keep in mind, this doesn't mean we had our standards lowered, we retained our high standards and were ready to tear it to pieces like vultures to a fresh corpse. We both were surprised at how well the film turned out, it met our high standards and we enjoyed the hell out of it, like I expected.

I should contrast that example with a bad experience. In 2005 there was a movie called Doom. I'm a fan of the games (except Doom 3, which sadly the film most resembles) and maintained an interest in how the film was going to turn out. I figured it would suck, but I saw screen-shots of the first-person mode scene and thought "this will probably be pretty cool after all". It wasn't.

The first-person mode was great, but it was all too brief, and didn't save the grueling nothingness the rest of the film plodded through to fill up its feature-length time. My friend (the same from before) often says that if the whole movie was in first-person, it would have been the best movie ever made. Some people think he's crazy, but I whole-heartedly agree. In fact, two movies come to mind which are entirely in first-person. One is a recent film called Enter The Void, directed by Gaspar NoƩ, which is no doubt a masterpiece, the most amazing film experience I've ever had yet. The other is Russian Ark, directed by Alexandr Sokurov, which only becomes more and more amazing the more you learn its story, and by its very existence is convincing evidence of divine intervention. However, those two aren't 'mainstream' films designed for a general audience. Then what does that make Doom? It definitely was not designed for a general audience. I think Doom is worthy of being analytically scrutinised scene by scene in its own post, but in the end what was really wrong with it is that just about every scene is trying to remind you that it's based off a video game series, especially if you've played the games and know about the company who made them, and played all their other games, including Commander Keen. Doom is a movie for a very specific audience, and my ultimate disappointment was that it failed to appeal to that audience (which I feel I am a part of) on many levels.

Doom is an especially sad case for me because it's one of those movies that nerds can point their fingers at and say things like "see this is why video games shouldn't be made into movies". Film makers like Uwe Boll don't help either, but fortunately I think he's more recognised as a terrible film maker rather than his films being bad adaptations of video games.

I would like to think there is a good movie behind any idea that inspires it, granted that it takes hard work to chip away at the rough edges and polish it until its ready. Ideas for movies should be sourced from whatever media is available, even as far as online drama on an Internet message board (eg: All About Lily Chou-Chou), as long as it's told effectively and with care.

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