Letting the Audience Know What The Characters Don't

I'm consuming more Easter eggs than popcorn whenever I'm watching a Marvel movie these days.

When I first watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorceror's) Stone, I was aggravated. I hadn't read the books, but seemingly everyone else in the cinema had. That meant every time they unveiled a new character (Dumbledore! Draco! Neville! The Sorting Hat!) there were these titters of delight rippling through the audience.

And I hated it. Here I was, just some person trying to enjoy a movie, and every time something new happened I could immediately tell It Was Important just because the audience of more knowledgeable viewers were telling me by their responses that it was.

I'd felt that way before - not deliberately, but rather I'd been made to feel that way before, and it was during the Star Wars prequels. Young Anakin Skywalker gets introduced to Obiwan Kenobi and OMFG that's the little kid that would go on to kill his mentor three movies later (uh... spoilers, I guess?).... or R2D2 meets C3P0 on Tattooine and OMFG, they're finally meeting.

There is no intrinsic reason why a young kid shaking the hands of the Jedi Who Stayed On The Ship is such a big deal at the time it happens. But please, movie... linger on it longer.

There is no intrinsic reason why a young kid shaking the hands of the Jedi Who Stayed On The Ship is such a big deal at the time it happens. But please, movie... linger on it longer.

These are fake 'Moments' - an easy trick, to pretend to be profound. Some kid meets some guy on a starship. Two toasters say hello to each other. Those moments have no importance in the moments they occur, but the music swells and the knowledgeable part of the audience shivers and.... aren't prequels and reboots magical when you, in the audience, knows how important what just happened is but the characters don't?

The music swells and the audience shivers and.... aren't prequels and reboots magical when you, in the audience, knows how important what just happened is but the characters don't?

No. It absolutely is not, in my view.

It's this kind of snobbish elitism that's inherent in every adaptation, prequel and reboot, especially when attention is drawn to it. The audience gets to act superior. In Game of Thrones' first four seasons, readers of the books could lord their supposed superiority over non-readers. And that's fine, because I was one of them. But when the audience gets to basically lord their superiority over the characters themselves, like we're the Gods overseeing the predestined behaviour of mere lesser beings like Batman and Superman and Anakin Skywalker and Robb Stark..... aren't we great?

I'm trying to figure out whether this is some kind of reaction to something. Is the real world so complex and difficult that story tellers and movie makers are tapping into a gap in our psychology that makes us gain joy by knowing more about the upcoming fates of fictional universes than the inhabitants of that fictional universe? Is that the kind of joy we're packaging into our movies? Not the joy of adventure or discovery, but rather the joy of confirmation of already having known something?

Are story tellers and movie makers tapping into a gap in our psychology that makes us gain joy by knowing more about the upcoming fates of fictional universes than the inhabitants of that fictional universe?

Do I desire that power? Well... no. I'd prefer to not know. Or rather, I'd prefer to learn something, than merely get a pat on he back for having known something already. I'd prefer for storytelling to be about telling stories, not the intellectually interesting but less entertaining idea of knowing what's important to future stories in the middle of stories I'm being told right now.

Side-note : I don't read comics. And OMFG watching a comic book movie has become an excercise in restraining myself from frustration, of not wanting to know about the deeper story beyond the one I'm seeing. When I'm trying to watch a movie about a Rogue AI intent on destroying the world, it takes me out of the movie when all around me people are orgasming over mentions of "Wakanda" and Vibranium Mines and Sokovia and Vision saving Scarlett Witch, and f***ing Thanos finally doing what he should have done three or four years ago and getting his ass out of his chair, grabbing a shiny duelling gauntlet and getting on with things. I swear I'm consuming more Easter eggs than popcorn whenever I watch a Marvel movie these days.

I swear I'm consuming more Easter eggs than popcorn whenever I watch a Marvel movie these days.

But OMG can you feel the foreshadowing? Can you feel it?

Yes, I can feel it. And I don't want to. I don't want to watch Daredevil and know what happens any more than I want to watch Spider-Man yet again knowing that Peter Parker's Uncle dies, Batman knowing his parents die, Superman knowing who Lex Luthor is, or Age of Ultron knowing what the Infinity Stones are.

All of these movies are anathema to an enjoyable viewing experience to me because not only do I know too much already, but the only way movie makers can subvert expectations is to play on what I/you (or think I/you) know and make changes to THAT. Maybe in this one Black Widow falls in love with somebody else, maybe Iron Man creates Ultron, maybe Hulk doesn't change colours, maybe Coulson DID survive.

Isn't it exciting when you don't know? I say yes : but it's even more exciting when you don't even know the parameters. Whether Coulson is alive, whether the Red Wedding takes place, whether Dark Vader is alive... these are binary questions : the answer is either Yes or No. But I'd rather ask questions that don't have simple Yes/No confirmations of previously suspected facts.

Knowing more than the characters in a movie do - not due to scenes they're not in but because I know what happens next in the grander arc, doesn't make me feel superior. It makes me bored. And being surprised at having my expectations subverted doesn't make me any happier, because the framework by which I've had my  preconceived expectations set has already been set and agreed upon.

So rather than pandering to what I already know, and rather than playing mind games with me and setting expectations so they can be subverted, I wish stories showed more interest in telling stories.

The joy of discovering something is greater than they joy of having something I suspected confirmed, or something I was told to expect subverted.