Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.

I went to see Inception recently; reviews were almost universally positive (including, most crucially, from Mark Kermode), there were many glowing tweets about it, but I came out feeling a bit dissatisfied. It was definitely a good film with visually stunning sequences, combining pacey action with a lot more depth than the average summer blockbuster, but didn’t quite have that extra something that would have elevated it to the point where the only way of encapsulating a response to it in a textual format would be “ZOMGZ!!!1!1!!!”

It might not help that for the first ten minutes of the film I thought Leonardo DiCaprio had a weirdly Oedipal thing going on, calling his wife “ma”, but it turned out her name was Mal. Mostly, though, I think it was just that after such a big build-up, very little could live up to those expectations. By way of contrast a new series, Sherlock, started on the BBC, and knowing nothing more about it than it was a modern updating of Sherlock Holmes I really enjoyed the first episode. Course it’s hard to tell how much is the film or programme itself and how much is the associated expectations, but I’m fairly sure had I gone to see Inception totally cold there wouldn’t be that niggling hint of dissatisfaction. It’s a bit like how if somebody gave you £10 you’d be totally happy (if slightly puzzled as to why someone’s just handing out money), but if it was a coin toss and they said “heads I give you £10, tails I give you £50” and it came down heads, the pleasure at getting £10 would be offset slightly by a feeling that you’ve somehow missed out (plus even more puzzlement at why someone is handing out money in a weirdly random fashion).

From a marketing perspective, though, you have to at least get people aware your film exists, and then interested enough to see it in a crowded market, and on the balance sheet one sale with a slight sense of disappointment is preferable to no sale because your film sounded a bit rubbish, hence quotes on posters like “Hilarious! The funniest comedy of all time ever! I ruptured my spleen in nine places from laughing so much!” as opposed to “Y’know, it’s all right, if you haven’t got anything better to do give it a go, it’s moderately amusing in a couple of places.”

That’s why I’m not eagerly devouring every scrap of information about Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic or other forthcoming MMOGs. I’m not going out of my way to avoid news, I’ll skim headlines as they crop up in Google Reader (I was pleased to see an announcement about space combat in The Old Republic, that was my favourite bit of Star Wars Galaxies for the few weeks I tried it), but with the fluid nature of game development, where features can be added, removed or changed at almost any point, there’s no sense in getting too excited months or years before vague release dates which have a habit of getting delayed anyway. I generally find that applying a light dusting of cynicism to pre-release hype and being pleasantly surprised by a game to be more satisfying than buying into THE MOST ASTOUNDING GAMING EVENT IN HISTORY and finding it’s a Yet Another Diku-esque Grind.

Plus you get to say “I told you so” a lot more…

5 thoughts on “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.

  1. Caspian

    I approve of your view that is the genius that is Wittertainment… Have you heard last week’s show yet? The email that Simon reads out about Toy Story 3 and the parent/child relationship had me almost in tears (and *did* have Mark/Simon in tears) – radio at it’s very best! Also, the unbridled fury that Mark levelled at ‘Sex and the City 2’ a few weeks back was a sheer, unmitigated joy to behold…

    I agree with you about Sherlock as well, we didn’t really have much expectation of it at all but it was handled with extraordinary aplomb and although the second episode wasn’t *quite* as sublime as the first, the show is shaping up very nicely indeed… And I think that the chap playing Sherlock would have made a far superior Doctor Who to Mr Smith…

    For all of the naysayers about the TV license and the commercial vs funded debate, the BBC continues to put some truly excellent shows together (others gems of recent years including Being Human, Spooks, Gavin and Stacey etc (although YMMV))

    Looking forward to Inception as well – I heard it described as ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ meets ‘The Matrix’ so it already hs quite a high bar of expectation to reach…

  2. Zoso Post author

    The Toy Story 3/Winnie the Pooh was most moving indeed, though you can’t beat a full-on Kermodian rant and SatC2 was right up there with his best. I’ve taken to launching into The Internationale whenever it’s mentioned as a tribute…

  3. Fuzzy

    It helped that I had no idea what Inception was about coming into the theater. I’ve heard my friends rave about it on Facebook, but I think I might have seen one trailer a while back and it wasn’t very clear as to what the premise was. Although one of my friends compared it to Paprika, so that clued me in.

    I also saw Slumdog Millionaire with the same mindset. I only knew it had something to do with the game show.

    I ended up enjoying both immensely.

    Ignorance is bliss. The hard part is giving away just enough information to pull me into the theater in the first place :)

  4. Hunter

    I saw a banner for sherlock pop up on ice films and, having no idea what it was, started downloading.

    It doesn’t air in canada, so theres no marketing for it here, the only thing I knew about it was that it was likely a mystery involving sherlock holmes. i enjoyed it, but here’s the thing, its sherlock holmes. I’m familiar with it. What could possibly be so new about it that i’d enjoy it more?

    if its a well told story, or a well made game I’ll enjoy it either way.

  5. Skiffens

    When a movie is heavily promoted, I usually assume it stinks, and the studio is trying to sucker people into the theater before word gets out how bad it is. That was my thought about Inception, but I heard good things, and we went to see it on the weekend. I thought it was a really good movie.

Comments are closed.