Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Fantasies: All About Expectations

I have a confession to make. After all my blathering in the blogosphere a couple weeks back about the thrill of driving two hours to see the 3-D spectacle The Final Destination, I must admit that I was less than thrilled – even despite very low expectations. True, it didn’t help that the couple that went with me and Dan walked out halfway through the film. After all, I tend to be overly sensitive about disappointing people – despite the fact that I didn’t make the movie, that I warned them it could be bad, and that the male half of the couple has notoriously bolted out of 20 percent of the movies he’s seen. What can I say? I’ve always been affected by other people’s moods.

But beyond all that, it’s just a horrid movie. First off, the acting is fairly dreadful – even from the likes of Mykelti Williamson, who’s usually good in everything he does, from Forrest Gump (1994) to August Rush (2007). Secondly, the kills are pretty outrageous, even by Final Destination franchise standards. Lastly, due to poor writing (as well as poor acting), I really didn’t care about any of the characters – which means I really didn’t care if anyone lived or died. Whether you like horror movies or not, you can probably agree that the more you care about the characters involved, the higher the stakes and, therefore, the scarier the film. Scoff if you will, but that’s what I like about the first three films – true, they’re gory and outrageous, but each one also has at least one character for whom I can root – though, admittedly, the films have gotten progressively worse in regards to character development.

Going into this fourth film, my expectations were super-low. For one thing, while the first three films focus on tragic accidents that terrify most folks in the modern age – plane crash, highway pile-up, and roller-coaster snafu – this one begins with a rather ridiculous fiasco at a racetrack – which I’ve feared less during my lifetime than getting hit by a wayward puck at a hockey game. The other thing that concerned me was that I suspected the filmmakers would be so preoccupied with setting up elaborate death scenes that made the most of the 3-D technology that they would fail to concentrate on something more important – the screenplay – and sadly, I was right.

So, I guess even my low expectations just weren’t low enough. And yet, despite the fact that the movie was mediocre and our friends’ sudden departure perturbed me, I’m glad that we saw it. ‘Cause the 3-D technology was indeed well done – and boy, did we laugh! It might not have been billed as a comedy, but it sure does seem like one. In its own way, it also respects the franchise audience – even having a unique opening credit sequence that uses skeletons to demonstrate kills from the previous three movies. And there are a couple scenes that genuinely freaked me out – guess I’m not the only one who finds escalators and automatic car washes terrifying.

As a bonus, this curious experience has made me reflect on the nature of expectation: how, sometimes, high expectations can ruin a perfectly good movie (like Signs, which I hated the first time I saw it and have now grown to love) and how the opposite can also be true – that low expectations can often heighten the movie experience. That’s what happened with this summer’s Star Trek remake. Despite some serious doubt, I enjoyed the heck out of that flick – especially Karl Urban’s spot-on performance as the insufferable Bones.

So, have expectations played a role in your movie-going experiences? If so, what film overcame your lowest expectations, and which fell far short of your hopes?


Bane of Anubis said...

Off the top of my head:

Film that overcame expectations: Starship Troopers (my wife hated it, but I viewed it as a satire and thought it was hilarious).

Film that fell short: Star Wars I - III (i.e., the new ones).

Speaking of hilarious -- there's a scene in Hannibal (w/ Anthony Hopkins & Ray Liotta) where AH has RL eat his own brain -- the entire audience was a bit disturbed, except for me -- I was LMAO (much to the embarrassment of the missus :)...

RE: Final Destination -- I hate movies where planes blow up/crash/etc... I used to love flying when I was a kid, but now I'm terrified b/c of my stupid education... Two words: Fatigue Cycles... You know how rapidly those wings are vibrating? One little crack & BAM, you're toast.

Mira said...

I agree with Bane about Star Wars 1-3. Well, 3 was okay. I loved the new Star Trek, and the new Harry Potter - and I wasn't expecting much out of either one. I'm looking forward to Fame - I have a secret love for dance movies.

Fun topic, Laura. :)

Laura Martone said...

Okay, Bane. I'm just going to stop saying that the similarities are creepy... 'cause I feel like a broken record. But I love STARSHIP TROOPERS! I, too, view it as a satire, albeit somewhat campy, and while I know it deviates from the Heinlein book in tone, I thought it was freakin' hilarious - and clearly the best thing that ol' Casper has done.

I also agree that the newer STAR WARS movies were awful... I was ROFL when I read on your site (wasn't it your last post?) that the awkward TWILIGHT love scenes reminded you of the Portman/Christensen nonsense of the STAR WARS flicks.

And I absolutely love that scene in HANNIBAL - priceless - which, of course, makes my husband think I'm even nuttier than he previously thought.

P.S. Thanks for making me even more terrified of flying... I've never heard of "fatigue cycles" - and here I was already worried about the drinking habits of pilots and mechanics. Sigh.

Bane of Anubis said...

Yeah, the romance in those movies was way cringe-inducing... makes you feel uncomfortable all over... hence why I think Natalie Portman is not a good actor (b/c a good actor can, well, um, act, um, regardless of poor direction).

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Mira! Thanks for stopping by. :-)

Yeah, I guess the third STAR WARS was a little better... that is, until Anakin becomes Darth Vader and screams "NOOOOO!" at hearing that Padme has died. Obviously, I loved the new STAR TREK, but I was actually super-disappointed with the latest HARRY POTTER, especially the scene where a certain wise ol' wizard dies... where was the impact? Not sure about FAME, but I liked the original.

Laura Martone said...

Really? I usually like Natalie Portman... although you have a point. After all, Ewan McGregor still managed to transcend bad directing in the STAR WARS flicks... of course, that wasn't exactly the case in ANGELS & DEMONS, IMO (See? I'm learning from you... I've now removed the "H" - guess I'm no longer humble). :-)

Bane of Anubis said...

Keep up the strong work :)

Natalie said...

I had very low expectations for the new Star Trek movie too, and I liked it. We've been to a few movies that weren't meant to be comedies that were so funny they were almost worth seeing (two that I can think of-Bulletproof Monk and Journey to the Center of the Earth--maybe it was meant to be a comedy but I think we laughed in all the wrong places).

Lazy Writer said...

I hate to say it, but I haven't seen any of the movies mentioned here except for Forrest Gump. I tend to go for the heartwarming movies rather than horror or sci-fi. Maybe I need to expand my horizons.

Becky said...

Oh gosh, I'm pretty lame and probably shouldn't even post anything, but all of the movies I see these days are "kid" movies. I was really disapointed when I took the kids to the "local" theater to see Aliens vs Monsters in what we thought was 3-D, and it wasn't in 3D, and the movie was pretty lousy. I loved "UP" though, but once again, even in the burbs of Chicago we thought this was going to be in 3D, but it wasn't (and we paid 5 times as much to see it). What gives with that anyway? If a movie advertises itself as being in 3D, shouldn't it be in 3D EVERYWHERE? Maybe living in rural America makes us a little less knowledgeable about such protocals. Since you bring it up, just how DO you find out if a movie that's advertised as 3D will actually BE in 3D?

Right now the kids are watching "Bolt" for the 2nd or 3rd time. Love it too, as well as "Kung-Fu Panda". The only adult movie I've seen in the last year is "Slumdog Millionaire". LOVED it! I'm with Lazy Writer though,... too much horror and grief in real life to pay to watch it. Haven't seen a horror flick since high school and have no intentions to in the future.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Bane. ;-)

Hi, Natalie. I know a lot of folks who were pleasantly surprised by the new STAR TREK. As for movies not intended to be comedies, well, that happens more often than it should - although I actually thought BULLETPROOF MONK was supposed to be funny... the situation certainly was, and Seann William Scott usually IS pretty darn amusing. I wasn't a big fan of JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, though - despite my adoration for Brendan Fraser.

That's okay, Susan. Horror and sci-fi (two of my faves) certainly aren't for everyone, so there's no need to expand your horizons if it's not your cup of tea. As much as I talk about scary movies, though, I have very eclectic tastes. I'll pretty much watch any type of movie... thriller, horror, sci-fi, Western, heartwarming romance, fantasy, war drama, family drama, documentary, family adventure, experimental, etc. I guess when you help your hubby run two film fests, you pretty much have to be wide open to the possibilities.

Laura Martone said...

Becky - You're not lame at all... I'm glad you posted regardless. :-)

Dan and I don't have kids, so we're not limited yet by kid-friendly movies - and despite all the sadness and violence in the real world, we still love watching horror films - talk about escapism. Still, we manage to see most of the big "kid" ones - all Pixar flicks, of course, as well as the ICE AGE films. Still have to yet to see KUNG FU PANDA, but I want to.

As for 3-D flicks, it's tough up here in northern Michigan. You have to call the theater to make sure. FYI, the goofy theater in Gaylord NEVER plays 3-D films in 3-D - they don't have the capability for it. We actually did see UP in 3-D, but we had to drive two hours to Traverse City (the mall theater) to see it with the glasses and all. That's where we saw THE FINAL DESTINATION, too - any movie that's advertised as being in 3-D is always in 3-D there - they have a special theater for it. I understand your frustration, but it costs a lot of money for a little rural theater (like the Gaylord one) to upgrade their projection set-up. One of the pitfalls of living in loverly northern Michigan!

P.S. I liked SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, too, but I don't think it should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. Course, you don't want to get me started on that rant! LOL!

Morgan Xavier said...

I was incredibly disappointed by the last Harry Potter movie, especially because I had waited so long to see it. I'm not saying that they did a bad job, but I never really got emotionally involved with the movie, like I usually do, and when the movie finally ended, I felt a bit stunned. I had been expecting to fight back hysterical sobs and an ocean of tears and instead I didn't really care. HOW COULD I NOT CARE?! When I finished the book, I cried for a half hour straight. I think they changed too many details and it ended up lacking heart.
Ok, enough of a rant from me on THAT subject, hehe :)

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Lisa! I know exactly what you mean. I was also disappointed by the sixth HARRY POTTER film - given the pivotal event that occurs near the end, I, too, thought I would cry my bloody head off (as I had while reading the novel). But by making Snape aware of Harry's presence (and getting rid of the invisibility cloak factor), it made that pivotal scene less than emotional, to say the least. I have the opposite fear with the last two films - I don't think the last book, which has a lot of filler IMO, justifies two films... I feel like there's going to be TOO MUCH in the way of detail. Wish the filmmakers could get it right. Sigh.

Yet said...

I saw the first final Destination and that enough for me. I'm not into watching people get killed in horrible ways...I heard the latest one sucked. Oh well. I also heard Signs was a great movie.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Yet. Welcome to the blog. Well, I certainly hope that my like for such films doesn't keep you from visiting again. :-)

I can completely understand why you wouldn't want to watch people getting killed in horrible ways. Sometimes, I'm not as in the mood for such grotesque nonsense as I used to be. Maybe Becky's right that there's too much horror IRL. Horror movies upset me more than they used to, though I've always been a fairly sensitive viewer. Still, I find such films totally escapist - I know the actors are okay, and it's all just horrible fun. I find it much harder to watch news footage or films like FACES OF DEATH - in other words, the horrible stuff that really does happen. So, I'm not all bad. :-)

And, yes, SIGNS is worth a viewing - despite what Shyamalan's critics say. (Of course, everything after SIGNS has been horrid, IMO.)

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

Laura - I never imagined you going to this kind of movie! My daughter laughs at my sqeamishness, but it's the anticipation, combined with the knowledge that the violence will be on a vast scale that keeps me away from anything like Final Destination or Saw.
Loved Signs - much more cerebral - no need for the sofa/jumper/large coke to hide behind there.

Becky said...

Thanks for the 3D explanation. I figured it may take special technology or something. I just wish teh theater would make it perfectly clear BEFORE you see the movie (and buy the ticket) that theirs is not in 3D. So who do you thing SHOULD have won the Oscar? I'll try to get that one next. BTW I deplore the video store here in town! Maybe deplore isn't a strong enough word, but it's all we got! Let's just say too many X-flicks..... Ick!

Laura Martone said...

Elaine - Teehee. After reading my family-friendly novel, you'd surely never guess that I like such horrific movies. What can I say? I'm a complicated woman. Sometimes, I thrive on such flicks - in fact, I've seen all of the FINAL DESTINATION and SAW movies (two of which were written by people I know), and the anticipation is exactly what thrills me... although I watch a lot of scenes through my fingers. LOL!

Yeah, SIGNS has been repeatedly viewed in my house. It's more the kind of story that I'd want to write... a little creepy (like when the girl says, "Daddy, there's a monster outside my window. Can I have a glass of water?") but with a serious message and a lot of heart... and I think Joaquin Phoenix's performance is inspired.

Laura Martone said...

No problem, Becky! Glad my useless knowledge comes in handy sometimes. I agree, however, that the theaters should be more clear about what they can and cannot show... but I've learned not to expect much from the Gaylord theater. The staff never closes the theater doors, and we've often heard the vacuum cleaner just outside, in the hall, DURING THE MOVIE! But the tickets are cheap, relatively speaking. Guess you get what you pay for. :-)

As for last year's Oscars, I didn't think any of the nominees were stellar enough... Don't get me wrong, a lot of my favorite directors were represented (David Fincher for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, Gus Van Sant for MILK, Ron Howard for FROST/NIXON, even Danny Boyle for SLUMDOG), but all of them have done something far better and far more memorable - like Fincher's FIGHT CLUB, Howard's APOLLO 13, Boyle's TRAINSPOTTING, etc. Frankly, I think TROPIC THUNDER should have been nominated and won - that was a freakin' priceless satire, with killer performances all around... but comedies rarely win. The last one was SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998), and it was part drama/romance, too. I could rant about the Oscars all night, but I have other work to do!

P.S. I don't go to the local video store... Dan and I get most of our rentals from Netflix. We also own a ton of movies - if you want to borrow one, let me know!