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Don't drink the Kool-Aid: how anticipation has murdered reflection


Yesterday, Sunday, I took my regular weekly trip to the multiplex for a double bill. I try to avoid attending the cinema on the Christian Sabbath as for some strange reason it seems to attract the worst crowds. I'm not a violent man but recently I've had experiences with cinema audiences that have pushed me close to the edge. At this point I've given up trying to educate ignoramuses on the subject of how their cellphone use is detracting from my enjoyment of a film. During the second half of yesterday's double bill, "The Raid", one particularly obnoxious punter spent half the movie messing around with his smartphone. Now "The Raid" is not "The King's Speech", it requires you to actually watch it to follow proceedings. It's not like a TV soap which is designed to be listened to while you prepare dinner in an adjacent room. This guy missed half of the film. To my disbelief he gave it a rousing standing ovation at the end before immediately using his offending instrument to call a friend and rave about how it was just as "awesome" as he had expected.
"Expected"! Why should we have any expectations going into a movie? I have certain film-makers I favour over others but I never "expect" anything from them, I'll accept anything but expect nothing, to paraphrase Robert Altman. I've slaughtered films by some of my favourite directors. Why? Because they were awful films. I doubt any film-maker with more than three movies under their belt has an untarnished record. In the new fanboy culture films are considered classics before anyone in the real world has even seem them. The Sunday afternoon cellphone enthusiast had decided "The Raid" would be a great movie so much so that he didn't even have to watch the damn thing. How did he know it would be great? Because Rotten Tomatoes told him so of course. We now live in a culture where movies generate a level of anticipation like never before but reflection on cinema is at an all time low. 
I love reading film reviews, especially in the internet age. It's great to live in a time where Joe Public can question the opinion of a revered critic through a comments box. Conversely it's dumbed criticism to the level of press pack reproductions. Critics are constantly bashed for giving away "spoilers". I fear the general public would rather just read the rating than the review. I rarely read reviews before seeing a film, for two reasons. Firstly I write reviews myself and worry I may ape a more well written take on the film. Secondly if I have no opinion on the film yet I can't engage with the reviewer. 
That's the problem with so-called fanboys, they don't need to see the film to have an opinion on it. Take the case of "The Avengers". Any critic who dared give it even a merely average review was castigated despite the fact it wouldn't be on release for another few weeks. Marvel studios marketing department said it was gonna be fantastic so how dare some dumb critic say otherwise. 
Spoilers shouldn't be avoided, they're an essential part of a film's discussion. If you're trying to avoid spoilers you're essentially handcuffing your writing. It's for this reason that only reviews of old movies so often get the reviews they deserve, as if critics presume none of their readers will bother watching them anyway. 
If you look at the lifespan of the average blockbuster as covered by a mainstream magazine like Empire or Total Film you'll see the marketing machine at work. For up to two years before it's release it will be given page after page of coverage. The month before release it could get as much as thirty pages devoted to it's anticipation. The month of its release however it will likely get no more than a one page review, shortened to a single paragraph some six months later when it turns up on http://www.lovefilm.com/. That will likely be the final mention of said film in the publication's lifetime.
It's not uncommon to see people wearing a T-Shirt promoting a film that hasn't been released yet. That's right, some people actually spend good money to help market a movie that could well be (and most likely will be, let's be honest) abysmal. During my time working in a video store (remember those?) there were countless times customers would hand over money to purchase the latest DVD release only then to ask me if it was "any good?". If you're willing to pay close to thirty euro for a movie you haven't even seen you probably won't care if it's "any good" or not. After all it's likely to become little more than a soundtrack to your constant texting. Today hype is king and critics are great once they're telling us what we want to hear. And the movies? Well they disappear as easily as the billboards which once told us how great they were.