I’ve disappointed a lot of people in my time, so I know how it’s done.
First, I create expectations. “Wife, I promise to meet you at Fellini’s Italian Restaurant at eight,” is something I might say. Then, I fail to deliver.
Note how important the first part is. If I don’t promise to meet my wife, she is not disappointed when I forget to show up. She experiences Fellini’s fine food and cordial atmosphere for what it is, not even contemplating the possibility of my (admittedly excellent) company.
Where else can we see this formula for disappointment? Movies. They are teased and buzzed and hyped and promoted and then we show up one day in 1999 and watch The Phantom Menace.
I’m not going to bash Jar Jar Binks or midi-chlorians or Darth Maul, because, as should be clear by now, I do not think they are inherently bad. If audience expectations had been lower, they would have been largely ignored and soon forgotten, like John Carter or Episode III.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens seems to be doing everything right: bringing back John Williams and Larry Kasdan, using practical sets and effects, and getting a terrific director in J J Abrams. Of course, this is a nightmare. Each time I hear something positive my expectations climb, closely followed by anticipation of the increasingly likely disappointment.
So I am doing the only reasonable thing I can do to avoid this disappointment. No, I am not getting perspective by considering how unimportant a single film is in the context of even my own life, let alone the world at large. That would be too hard. Instead, I have written the worst versions of Episode VII I can imagine. I am bringing my fears into existence and staring them in the eye, thereby lowering my expectations to the point where basically any film will exceed them. And the best thing is, if you’re a little over-excited about The Force Awakens, I think they might help you too.
Star Wars Episode VII: Principles of Interstellar Banking and Finance is a two-and-a-half hour cinematic debate over a single piece of space banking legislation, complete with lazy and insensitive characterisation. Compared to this, 12 Angry Men seems like a sweeping, action-packed space epic (well, not quite).
What if the film tries too hard to be adult and forgets to be fun? That’s why I wrote Star Wars Episode Se7en, a dark, gritty Star Wars introducing the secret third side of the Force: the Very Dark Side. Its themes include despair and serial killing. By these standards, the real film could include a cheeky torture scene or two and still be a light-hearted romp.
Then there’s the risk that J J Abrams will overplot the film into the realms of Lost or Alias. That’s where J J Abrams Presents: J J Abrams’ Lost in Star Wars comes in. With a quintuple agent, flash forwards and flash backs, and more mysteries than you can feasibly count, this is the most confusing story I could come up with (so about half as confusing as Lost). I don’t actually think there’s much of a risk of this with Kasdan on board, but I want to be prepared just in case.
To round things off, Star Wars Episode VII: Star Wars versus Godziller is a fan fiction based on some of the greatest abominations the internet has produced. If the film focuses on more on cool wish fulfilment for fans than a real story, then yes, we could end up with Jedi fighting lightsaber-proof Godzillas (and part of me hopes we do).
So now you’re prepared. Your expectations are low enough to enjoy whatever film comes our way, meaning you can now expect to enjoy the film!
Oh no. I see what I’ve done. I really didn’t think that through.