The Evolution (or Devolution) of Movie Anticipation: Are We Spoiled?

Sometimes I miss the good ‘ole days.

I remember in the summer of 1999 before Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace was about to come out. The hype was staggering. I remember watching the trailer months before the movie opened and that being my only glimpse of the film until I saw the movie in May of 1999. I remember getting wrapped up in the marketing, the merchandise and the hype. I also remember not knowing anything about the movie. Yes the movie was a disappointment, but it was a rare time when I had no idea I was about to be disappointed.

Let’s flash-forward to the summer of 2014. We have another Star Wars movie that is currently being made and is slated for release (as of right now) for December of next year. I am very curious to see how the next year and a half pans out because we live in a very different time than we did in the summer of 1999. Filming has just begun on Star Wars: Episode VII and we are flooded with speculation about casting and story rumors. Set photos galore get leaked on an almost semi-daily basis. We even have the film’s director, J.J. Abrams, purposely leaking photos in a satirical jab at the whole thing. There’s even speculation that Abrams himself is behind the leakage and that’s how advanced our paranoia has evolved in this day and age of movie anticipation.

To be fair, the basics haven’t changed since the prequel trilogy was in production. After Episode I, I remember the Internet being more of a hot commodity for film blogging and speculation. During the production of Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones, I remember seeing set pics and rumors galore. However, I wonder if we’ve been spoiled a tad. Better yet, I wonder if by living in this day and age of set photos, speculation on story and everything else in between that some of us have even become jaded. Take, for example, casting announcements for Star Wars: Episode VII. When the cast was initially announced, there was instant criticism – and rightfully so – that the cast was male centric. However, just weeks later, two more female actresses were added to the cast. Now, one could speculate perhaps that was Abrams and company reacting to the criticism, but realistically that’s probably not true. Casting is a process that takes months with the script already in place. While certain details (such as character gender) can change, Abrams and company know what they are doing. However, before the entire cast was announced, people were criticizing Abrams, his team and the entire Star Wars franchise for being sexist. They were criticisms that were admittedly somewhat fair, but I wonder if that was slightly premature since two more actresses were added to the cast just weeks later? Maybe as a collective whole we should have waited until the film was finished casting before we threw judgment?

I guess what I’m getting at is that I feel like sometimes we’ve become so jaded that we as a community are more prone to jump at something and criticize it before we even have a chance to process what just happened. It’s like these filmmakers and movies are liars and we can’t trust a word they are saying, so we immediately don’t believe the next thing they say. As another example, people were very quick to criticize Gal Gaddot the moment she was cast as Diana Price/Wonder Woman in the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I understand that fans have certain aesthetic expectations from the comics, but we are criticizing and judging a performer more than two years before we see her in the film. Unless I am mistaken, I thought the purpose of an actor was to transform oneself to fit the character he or she is supposed to be playing. Before we’ve even seen Ms. Gaddot in costume or in an officially released photo or even a second of footage we are condemning her for something that is essentially her job.

There is another example of photos from the Batman v Superman set leaking which actually spoils what could be an important part of the film’s story. After the photos leaked, people were quick to speculate about what it could mean for the story. Some even went as far as condemning what leaked, going as far as criticizing the filmmakers for incorporating such an element when we have no idea how that plot point might fit into the story. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Man of Steel, but I am actually looking forward to Batman v Superman. I’m not going to let set pictures or speculation about plot points ruin what could be a great experience for me and neither should you. I admit that sometimes I can get caught up in the excitement and the hysteria, especially when there are whole conversations sometimes dedicated to dissecting even the smallest picture or piece of information, but sometimes it is important to take a step back from everything for a moment without getting sucked in.

Sometimes I feel like with the advent of set photos, ten second previews of trailers, exclusive clips and ten minute long exclusive sneak peeks and so on that we’ve been greatly spoiled. Instead of actively looking forward to something with an open mind, I feel like some of us are actually looking to be disappointed. Some of that might be fair and balanced. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been disappointed by some of what this past summer has had to offer in terms of blockbuster entertainment (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, A Million Ways to Die In The West, Maleficent) but I’ve also been highly entertained (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past) and even pleasantly surprised (Edge of Tomorrow). I’d rather stay open minded, remain cautiously optimistic and actually look forward to an upcoming release verses actively finding reasons to dislike something the moment it becomes available for consumption.

Going back to Star Wars, I think we live in an incredibly exciting time where we have such talented filmmakers as J.J. Abrams, Josh Trank, Gareth Edwards and Rian Johnson being tapped to help expand the rich and dense Star Wars universe. That’s exciting. My only fear is that we already have immense (if not unrealistic) expectations and then compound that with people dissecting every piece of speculation and rumor and casting announcement that comes our way and bit-by-bit it starts to slowly eat away at our excitement and anticipation. I know a lot of people have tempered expectations thanks to the prequel trilogy and understandably so, but I just hope that some of you try to look forward to these movies with a clean slate. This is a brand-new beginning and while we have every reason to be concerned, we also have every reason to be excited.

A part of that comes from absorbing almost every detail about an upcoming release and I don’t blame anyone for getting caught up with that. It’s especially hard when a studio releases tons of marketing materials and almost floods the Internet with pictures, clips, trailers and trailers of trailers (seriously, whose idea was that?). Especially with set photos and plot speculation becoming much more readily obtainable in today’s online blogosphere, I am imploring every single one of you to not be swayed by what you read or see. When you see a link about a story rumor or set photo relating to Star Wars: Episode VII, Batman v Superman or any other upcoming release you are anticipating, try and don’t click it. I understand that we are all tremendously excited for these movies, but let’s remain excited. Let’s not have a plethora of unofficial pictures and possibly inaccurate information spoil what could be a great time at the cinema.

What’s your take? Do you think we get flooded too much with spoilers and set photos or do you think we don’t? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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One thought on “The Evolution (or Devolution) of Movie Anticipation: Are We Spoiled?

  1. I completely agree.

    We live in a time of instant reaction–tweets are fired off in a moment’s notice and there is no sitting on information. I was bummed out when people were up and arms about the Star Wars casting–especially since Disney said something to the effect of “there are more roles to be cast.”

    I also think that the anticipation and all of the internet feeding it, we’ve become jaded as audiences. I think a lot of the blow back on Interstellar was because we’ve known about it since the summer of 2012 and that’s a lot of time to stew in our brains. I think if this movie came out in 1999, a lot of the negative reviews wouldn’t exist..

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