Great Expectations

Sitting at the top of IMDB’s Top 250 film list is Frank Darabont’s classic prison drama The Shawshank Redemption. After 826,470 ratings it holds an average of 9.3 out of ten. It is fair to say that it is a picture held in high regard.

However, had you not experienced Red and Andy’s journey before, could you now go into it with an open mind knowing what you know? Or does the reputation prevent the film from being truly and fairly considered? It seems expectations play a vital role in the cinematic experience.

Expectations were never higher than for the summer of 2012. Releases such as Avengers Assemble, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man were all hotly anticipated and therefore subjected to a higher level of scrutiny.

This was particularly evident with Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi, Prometheus. Sold as a prequel to Alien, the film’s release became ever more anticipated as the marketing campaign began to attract a large audience. It seemed that Scott was returning to the long suffering Alien franchise to reinvigorate it.

So, when Prometheus was released and it wasn’t what was expected, it was met with a mixed reaction. While originality is by no means a criticism, some considered the film a disappointment not because of it’s cinematic problems, but because it failed to live up to the enormous expectation. The hype that it worked to create seemingly backfired.

Of course, the pressure of expectation is not always a curse. Indeed Avengers Assemble manipulated the anticipation extremely well. Ever since Nick Fury walked into shot at the end of Iron Man, fans worldwide were waiting for the release.

With teasing post-credits scenes in various releases, the studio and directors created an interconnected cinematic universe in the build-up to the 2012 release. Marvel built up characters and storylines, knowing that the ever growing expectation would create interest. At the time of writing, Avengers Assemble has taken over $1.5bn worldwide. It seems to have worked.

However, this is not just applicable to big summer blockbusters. If a film is recommended, or has a good reputation, certain expectations will always be placed upon it. For example, if someone was a massive Adam Sandler fan, perhaps they would walk into films like Jack and Jill and Grown Ups with a positive mind set. If they expect it to be funny, perhaps they would find it so.

It seems that in a world of advanced reviews, viral videos and clever PR that expectation and anticipation have become a vital part of the film business.

This is not a negative, or a positive point, just a development in the industry, and one which works in the studio’s favour. This is why sequels and reboots dominate the cinematic horizon; there are captive audiences anticipating them, so immediately expectation builds. It is for this reason that expectation and anticipation have such a telling and dramatic impact on modern cinema.


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August 2022
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