Hollywood’s new, subversive reality

Famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.

By: Elijah Winn | General Editor

November 22, 2019

In the current age, expectations for blockbusters and critically-acclaimed TV shows swell into a cultural frenzy that dominates the media. Some films can attest to success even after a maddening amount of hype swirls around the project, but some still do fail horribly. To combat this, directors and writers need to break out of their expectations and wow the mind of the audience. So, they employ the magic of “subverting expectations” to land a hit at the box office. Yet, this method brings up interesting questions. Is subverting expectations just an easy way of explaining why a film could not live up to expectations? What even is subverting expectations? Is this Hollywood’s new answer to poorly reviewed films?

To begin, subverting expectations is taking system or general thought and flipping it on its head. Two pieces of modern film fulfill the criteria to have subverted expectations: Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and Star Wars: The Last Jedi; one was successful and one was not. 

Infinity War, while not completely recent, is a perfect example of a satisfactory subversion of expectations. When asked why he liked the film, senior Alan Swann said,”The movie was surprising, most movies these days end happy. But, there was an unexpected twist with Thanos winning and the heroes being defeated.” The movie took the same bland structure of fight, win, repeat and broke it. It detoured from established premonition and left some audiences weeping. 

Hollywood movie set.

The Last Jedi, to say the least, was divisive. Some loved it and some hated it. Yet objectively, it was made to subvert expectations. But, was it a successful attempt? Senior Jeremy Silverman said, “I expected a good twist and instead I wasted my money.”

Without getting into a full review, The Last Jedi was narratively confusing. It does break the structure of typical Star Wars movies by confronting the fact that Rey, the main character, has normal parents, not a black-clad space wizard dad called Darth Vadar. But, when the movie was in its final minutes and about to turn Star Wars from a good vs evil to a morally grey story, it went right back to the same old structure. When the poor reviews rushed in, Star Wars director Rian Johnson hastily dubbed it a movie to subvert your expectations. This raises concerns about Hollywood. 

In reality, Rian Johnson labeled his film as a subversion of expectations to justify why it was a poorly reviewed film. This is not the only instance of this new trend. After poor reviews for Game of Thrones, season 8 writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss again labeled season 8 as a subversion of expectations when again it was in reality just a bad season. The implications of this trend to the broad community of Hollywood do not seem bright. This new trend of subverting expectations to avoid the reality of a poorly made film could see a Hollywood where more and more synthetic, bland material is pumped out to poor reviews with directors simply calling it a subverting of expectations. 

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