I learned a valuable lesson last night. Movies, no matter how good or bad they might be, will always be affected by our expectations. Whether we go into a movie expecting nothing at all, or whether we go in expecting to find a treasure, our experience as a viewer can be completely skewed when we go in with extreme expectations. This is the problem I encountered when some friends and I went to see Sicario last night.
When I saw the first trailer for the film a couple of months ago, I was more than excited. The cast alone was enough to get me into the theater and they looked even better than most of their other roles. Another trailer came and it seemed like this was the thriller we had all been waiting for, a non-stop thrill ride that actually had a purpose. After a little IMdB investigation, I realized that the director (Denis Villenueve) had also helmed the 2013 hit Prisoners. I absolutely love that movie. Once festival season started up, the reviews started pouring in for Sicario. Every critic or fellow filmmaker who screened the film had nothing but praise for the film. As of today, Sicario boasts a 93% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That's the exact same score as international mega-hit, The Martian. All of this combined put a thought into my head that I wasn't prepared to let go of. Sicario was going to be the best movie I've seen all year. This is where expectations led me to disappointment.
Don't get me wrong, Sicario was not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It had some incredible performances, great action scenes, and I really important message for it's viewers. The last ten minutes alone were enough to move me into caring for an entire group of people I otherwise never would have even thought about. The problem was that I had set my internal bar so high, it was almost unreachable. I wanted a movie that was going to firmly plant me at the edge of my seat, move me to tears, and leave me gasping for air by the time it was through. I had built the perfect movie around Sicario in my mind, and I was disappointed when it was only great. I left that theater feeling empty and let down, even though I can recognize that it was a wonderful film. Why is that? Why should my little expectations ruin a great picture? It's an incredibly frustrating question to ponder, and I realized it's been happening to me long before this weekend.
I remember growing up, Batman & Robin was one of my favorite movies. I knew nothing about movies and was given the VHS as a gift. I watched that movie over and over again for years, quoting all of the terrible lines. I expected nothing from the movie, and was really too naive to know any better. I think about just a few months ago, when I went to see Terminator: Genisys. I really enjoyed that movie. Why? Because I thought it was going to be the worst movie I'd seen to date. While I was able to recognize that it wasn't very good, I was able to leave the theater with a smile because it exceeded all of my expectations. Looking back, movies really are swayed to each and every one of us, depending solely on the attitude we take in with us.
I'm sure I'll watch Sicario again and really enjoy it, at least I really hope to. And I hope that maybe I can take this experience and teach myself to keep all movies in the realm of realistic expectation, The Force Awakens not withstanding. Here's to hoping my experience can help you do the same.