Films as Entertainment: Do we Expect Too Much?


After giving my thoughts on two similar, but different, films recently I had a conversation with my daughter Meg about them. The films were both a brilliant example of the kind of mindless escapism that a lot of folks love. But while both films were the made in the same vein; one was science fiction and based on a video game and the other a “shoot-em-up.”

If you read my blog you’ll have sussed out already the films I am writing about: The Expendables 2 and Resident Evil Retribution. Of course “Retribution” is another variation of a “shoot-em-up” but as it is based on a video game, it tends to get more than its fair share of vitriol from movie goers and critics.

*A quick word about movie critics, I tend to believe as Mel Brooks believed. “Critic’s? They are harmless and rub their back legs together to make noise. Oh! You meant critics? I thought you said crickets. What good are critics they never like anything and can’t even make noise with their legs.”*

I will clear up any possible misconceptions, I am not, nor will I ever be, a critic. I am a film fan first and foremost and I love the entertainment business. Anything that I love that much I feel I have to write about. Plus, I cannot not make music with my legs.

Films that are a combination of action and escapism usually get short shrift from critics because of the traditional high body counts, volume of blood spilt, and the overall amount of gratuitous violence. Just for that reason alone, I would have expected Expendables 2 to have garnered a lot of nay-sayers and up-turned noses.

But it did not happen. Mainly because, I think, that everyone was having too much fun seeing how their favourite action hero figure was going to be portrayed in the film. That and the added bonus of seeing Willis, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Norris all on the same silver screen made up for any shortcomings (and there were a lot) of the film’s plot.

Resident Evil: Retribution however, was a different case entirely. Ever since the premiere of the first Resident Evil it has been an almost written in stone rule that the films should be bashed and metaphorically spat upon. Generally by the same people who have such a love hate relationship with the Capcom game franchise.

Capcom offer the same type of entertainment as escapism films. Don’t put a Capcom title into the console and expect a deep and meaningful game that looks at life in anything at all resembling reality. The very verse of the games precludes that. From the settings, to the dialogue (more often than not, cheesy, hammy and not a little dopey) which is not Shakespeare by any stretch of the imagination.

The first of the Resi Evil games and the first of the fun.

The Resi Evil films are a parallel version of the games, not an exact replication of the verse. But the producers and directors have remained faithful to the roots of the game and to Capcom’s schlocky and hokey design. The games are fun to play and not to be taken seriously.

Yet the films are hammered every single time they are released with the clarion cries of, “The dialogue is hammy;” “The actor’s aren’t acting;” and finally, “The plot stinks.” I mean come on people. Really? Are we expecting Shakespearean soliloquies on a film based on a game? A film based on a Capcom game?

Really?

The same people who happily munch popcorn and cheer Sly and his crew on in both of the ‘Expendable’ films will sneer and jeer and throw their popcorn at the screen when they are presented with a Resi Evil film.

Why?

I honestly do not get it.

I do believe, though, that the audiences are expecting too much bang for their buck when it comes to escapism in cinema. I have been just as guilty of it. It is called, ‘taking a film too seriously’ or ‘expecting too much.’

Sucker Punch is a perfect example. I saw trailers for the film and got so excited. It looked like a combination manga/anime/action/fantasy picture and I just knew it would be great. I rented the Blu-ray DVD and sat expectantly, popcorn to the ready, and I hated it.

What a let down, but one that I’d set myself up for.

Again I have to ask the question.

Why?

The easy and best answer is that I expected too much.  I had gone into the film expecting a statement of female empowerment and a divergence from female stereotyping that so badly let other films down.

And I was disappointed. And the reason  was that my expectations were way too high. I was looking for something before I’d even begun to watch the film. The problem was not the film or the actors or the story writers. It was mine. Although, I do know that not many folks liked the film, but I cannot speak for them.

Meg and I have said that, as a rule, we never go into a film expecting anything. We both approach video games the same way. We do, however, expect to be entertained. Because of that we are rarely disappointed completely. Even the worst of the dross that can be shovelled onto the public can have some redeeming value.

Even if it is only a fleeting moment or funny for all the wrong reasons; for example, we once watched a horror film that was atrocious. Bad beyond anything that I’ve seen before (and I’ve seen a lot of BAD horror films) but the acting of some of the cast, especially the lead female, was hysterically funny.

If ever there was a case for the use of Botox as an acting aid, this was it. Her rubber faced acting style made any scene she was in become comedy of the absurd. We were both convulsed with laughter every single time she came on. It has now become a favourite “terrible” film.

So I think that nowadays a lot of people go into a film expecting way too much. My advice to these expectant audiences is this: if you want Shakespeare, avoid films that specialize in escapism. If you are looking for deep or hidden meanings, watch any Spike Lee film you can think of and enjoy.

If you want “thought-provoking” watch Spike Lee.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

8 thoughts on “Films as Entertainment: Do we Expect Too Much?”

  1. Critics are a ‘necessary evil’ … ? The trick is to find a critic that’s on the same wave length as you – because I can’t tell you the number of movies that critics raved about, but which I walked out on or felt like crawling under my seat. (“i hope nobody sees me here”) Likewise I’ll be watching TV and catch a movie that the critics pissed on … and I love it – but I missed it when it was in the theatres because It received bad reviews.
    Critics have gotten smarter though. They realize that most any movie is aimed at a certain audience – please don’t send me to a Rap movie .. or a cage fighting.flick. And they judge accordingly … sometimes with Dredd.
    Yet again … I’m sometimes surprised. But not often, Mr. Palpatine.

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    1. I agree to a certain extent, about the necessary evil bit. I now will go out of my way to watch a film that critics have almost universally panned. 9 times out of 10, I’ll enjoy the hell out of it! LOL

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  2. I distrust professional critics. I have never found that whatever it is they are looking for has much to do with anything that matters to me. I depend on you and others like you to talk about movies in a way that makes sense to me. Like most people, I’m looking to be entertained. If, in the process, I am also enlightened or educated, fine and dandy, but first and foremost, I want to have fun. So you are far from alone and your reviews are greatly appreciated in this house and probably many others, too.

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  3. Right on! Sucker Punch just totally was inexplicably horrible…and I didn’t even have the same expectations as you. However, sometimes, its easier to just expect movies to give entertainment and not expect too much. I often times end up enjoying a movie a lot more. I mean when I review, even with movies that seem to be hated, I seem to have some way to redeem something..even if its just giving me a good time when I get to laugh at the movie itself. Sometimes, we just need those “so bad its good” flicks 🙂

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  4. People do seem to have forgotten to appreciate fun and not just in the cinema either. We have had a fair share of truly fantastic stories told over the years in film, books and once or twice in video-games, but not every single work committed to page celluloid or code needs to be Citizen Kane for it to have value or be considered a worthwhile investment of time.

    You need diversity in every aspect of life or it swiftly becomes dull and uninteresting. If every single film made was a truly epic masterpiece how long would it be before the people grew tired of them. Would that over familiarity with ‘brilliance’ then make people hunger for the older more fun style of storytelling that is so often ridiculed today?

    I can understand why some people get annoyed by the overabundance of brain-dead blockbusters that come out ever summer, but to mock every single one of those films as a waste of time is missing the point.

    Or to put it another way; We may like to eat five star fine cuisine once in a while, but most of the time we just crave a quick sandwich.

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