I am taking a bit of a break from the usual review format today and going to hit reflection mode. I have always understood that the statement in the title of this post is very true, yet I still find myself a victim of expectations. True, it happens a lot less regularly than it once did, and I can often find something in most films such that I spend an enjoyable 90-180 minutes. Yet anyone who read my Skyfall review would be aware, my biggest complaint is that the film did not feel like a James Bond film.
Before I delve into Skyfall specifically, I want to examine what expectation often is. Many people just claim they expected something better than what they saw. This can certainly be true, especially with comedies that feature all the most humorous gags in the trailer. My sights are squarely set at the Meet The Parents franchise here, but most films with Adam Sandler also apply. Where one expects the trailer to be a sampling of many high quality set-pieces, we already know what is going to happen when the best occur, and spend the rest of the film waiting for these moments.
Expectations can also just be that we expected something entirely different to what was delivered. The film may be no better or worse as a result, we just did not see the film we thought we would. One’s reaction in this case can sometimes go beyond disappointment, and result in extremes such as outrage or disgust. I can quote an example of each with my parents. My father left Quantum of Solace outraged, with a complaint like I made with Skyfall, that it was not a Bond film. He continued on to claim Craig should pass the role on to someone else. My mother, meanwhile, went to Black Swan wanting a ballet movie. With those expectations, one can not blame her for being disturbed by the film she ended up sitting through. Quantum of Solace was indeed a poor action film, so my father’s reaction to a large degree was justified. My mother’s reaction to her ballet movie was also justified, but that does not mean that Black Swan was not an incredible psychological drama. These examples are seen everywhere. I loved both Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Prometheus (review pending), films that divided audiences, from those that raved about the films, to those that expected a traditional espionage or Alien film respectively.
Perhaps the main cause of these expectations is marketing. I have already indicated how trailers can make a comedy seem better than it is by revealing all the best gags in a single montage. Other times, a film can be marketed in such a way that a false impression is given of a film. This is often the case for films that have comic elements, but perhaps are not comedies. Many a film headlined by Steve Carell is in this category (Crazy, Stupid Love and Dan in Real Life spring to mind). SUPER is also a prime example of this, with a trailer indicating it was a rip-roaring comedy, with a film that is really quite dark and disturbing. There could be two reasons for this mis-marketing. Either the people cutting the trailer just didn’t get the film, or there is an intentional attempt to make the film appeal to a wider audience just to get bums on seats.
There is a third scenario of expectation quite free from the influence of marketing. This is the case of a film franchise which has become a brand, a definition quite aptly attached to the Eon Pictures 007 franchise. Prior to seeing Skyfall, readers of this site will know I reviewed every single Bond film in the Blu-Ray set that was released to celebrate 50 years of 007. Having done this, despite the differences in many of these films, I had gotten myself into a certain rhythm, and as a result, I had prior expectations for the film I went to see when going to the cinema for Skyfall. I did not get one of those films, and this made up a large portion of my review. In self-reflection, I was also perhaps watching it with the question “Would my father enjoy this film?” My father and I often watch favourite films together, something that started long ago with James Bond films. We even joked it was our Father-Son Bonding time. Having seen his QoS reaction, I made the assumption that he would not enjoy Skyfall.
As Bond is something we will always share, I still went to see it again with him yesterday, warning him that he may not be happy. I went in with an open attitude, wondering if, as I now knew what was going to happen and expectation is therefore voided, I would enjoy it more. And I did. A lot more. If I were to review the film again today, it would be 5 stars. To top it off, my Dad loved it too. Perhaps my warnings may have influenced that, as his expectations were pretty low when he entered the theatre.
So despite already knowing the villain to the cinema goer that is expectation, I am still a victim of it when I am nor careful. Rest assured, should that happen for any review I post, there will be an accompanying retraction just like this one when I examine something with clearer eyes.