Great expectations


Iron Man 3My niece called me today to warn me.  She and her sister had gone to see the early premiere of Iron Man 3.  These used to be at midnight, but this was at 9:30 p.m.  — doesn’t that lose part of the coolness?

Regular readers will immediately twig on the fact that this must be my elder niece, the one that shares a lot of common interests with her “cool” Uncle and likes to hang out with him and watch movies and stuff.  She was warning me not to waste my money on the terribly disappointing movie, but she couldn’t tell me why because it would give away the movie.

Forget about the paradox for a moment (why worry about giving it away if you’re saying don’t go?) and focus on the actual issue.  Was the movie that bad or were her expectations too high?  Wouldn’t you say this is the critical issue for all creative, especially media (books, movies, TV)?

Very few “series” of movies have managed to maintain high quality.  I think some of the time, the same could be said of books.  And while the life span is longer, TV shows also suffer the law of diminishing returns.  But is it because the quality fades or the bar was originally set too high for continued critical success?  Plenty of creative has done well financially even though the viewers/readers were less satisfied than before, so we’ll skip the money-based success measure.

My “time” was filled with impressive movies (Jaws, Halloween, Airplane) followed by lukewarm (or awful) sequels.  I’ve read some book series that started out as “can’t put it down” and finished as “what happened?” (or worse, “why did I buy this?”).  Since I’m not here to slam the creators (with apologies to the movie examples above), I’ll not go into the writers’ names.  I’m sure you can name a few of your own.

As a creator, I know the pressure of trying to match or exceed a previous work in quality, which is more exaggerated when the work is part of a series.  It’s likely not a question of lack of effort (I won’t use an absolute, I’m sure the must be occasions someone just churns something out under a deadline).  Sometimes, that lightning just can’t be caught in a second bottle.

Still, it’s not as if my niece told me “He’s Luke’s father!”.  She’s done a great service to the movie producers, really, since my expectations for the movie have been greatly lowered.  Oddly, that could in turn create a situation where I like the movie a lot.

But here’s the problem.  Will I be able to tell if it was “great” to begin with or just great because of the least expectations?

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