Bar Banter: The Unexpected Expected Twists of the 2010s Need to be Left Behind
It’s the dawn of a new decade, which means plenty of reflection is to be had by all near and far. No one is immune from it, not even myself. Today, I come to you, humble reader, to discuss one aspect of 2010s blockbuster that I want to see left in that decade. Let’s call it the “Unexpected Expected Twist” when the writers and directors of major franchises attempt to subvert expectations in marketing that everyone calls out long ahead of release. (Be warned, spoilers ahead!)
To see where the trend started in the previous decade, we need to head to 2012 as the world prepared for the end of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy with the release of The Dark Knight Rises. For months before the movie’s premiere, the audience were told by all that Marion Cotillard would be playing Miranda Tate, and definitively not Talia Al Ghul as many fans expected in the movie.
Otherwise, Cotillard is coy about the picture, whose storyline has fueled pages of Internet speculation. All she’ll confirm is that, contrary to some fans’ belief, she does not play Talia, the vengeful daughter of Liam Neeson’s character, Ra’s Al Ghul (who also appeared in Batman Begins), and that she takes the role of Miranda Tate, an ecologically minded businesswoman who “is fascinated by Wayne Enterprises. They go through difficulties, and she wants to help provide the world clean energies. She’s a good guy.” But does she stay that way? “Yes,” she insists.
Then came the movie’s release, and surprising to no one, Marion’s Miranda ended up being… Talia Al Ghul!
The fun wouldn’t stop there for fans though. As a few years later, JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek universe would have its moment in the sun as fans around the world were informed that Benedict Cumberbatch was in no shape or form playing the iconic Khan from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness.
“I play a character called John and not that other name, it’s interesting. Speculation is speculation and that’s all fun. I play John Harrison who’s a terrorist and an extraordinary character in his own right,” the Brit said. “He’s somebody who is not your two-dimensional cookie cutter villain. He’s got an extraordinary purpose, and I hope that at one point or other in the film you might even sympathize with the reasons he’s doing what he’s doing — not necessarily the means and the destruction he causes.”
I wonder who he ended up playing in the movie, let’s go to the tapes…
Oh, well I guess his name is Khan. No one saw that coming.
The most recent example came in the latest chapter of the James Bond saga. As the run-up to SPECTRE, we learned that Christoph Waltz would not be playing the head of the organization, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
“No. No. It’s more interesting than that.”
“That is absolutely untrue. That rumour started on the Internet, and the Internet is a pest. The name of my character is Franz Oberhauser.”
Surprise surprise, “Oberhauser” died many years ago and has taken on a new, more sinister, more familiar identity.
In all of these cases, the revelation didn’t play as big or as important as anyone wanted because most fans were just… expecting it the whole time. Lying to them about it, only makes the grand reveal fall very flat. It doesn’t help that many of these moments just aren’t excitedly presented in the movies. I hope directors/writers take a lesson and just try not to outmanuever fans in this way in the future.
Before we go, I just wanted to share one more example, which is on the other end of the spectrum. Where you have an identity and subvert expectations that don’t necessarily land for all. (For the record, I enjoy the change.)