Recently, Tim and I embarked on watching the Transformers Cinematic Universe.
I know, not everything is a “Cinematic Universe” like Marvel, but Transformers did have some early worldbuilding for one way back in 2007, a year before Iron Man kicked off the Marvel movies that are currently defining our movie culture.
While Transformers is nowhere as good as any Marvel movie, I found myself enjoying them more with an energetic 8-year-old bouncing beside me as giant robots battled in physics-defying HD glory. But my enjoyment struck me as odd because I remember thinking these movies were terrible. The thin plot exists only to propel us from one giant robot slugfest to the next, with Peter Cullen’s gravely voice giving us needed exposition in his longtime role as Optimus Prime.
Tim didn’t mind the plot holes, the occasional overacting, or the screenwriters’ tendency to forget characters in the third act (check out other movies by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman to see what I mean). Instead, when Megatron and Optimus fought, he was wide-eyed.
So, what, exactly, was I expecting from a series of movies about giant robots?
I make allowances for Marvel movies, and even DC movies, but I didn’t extend those allowances to Transformers. To be fair, Marvel makes good movies – you can argue that they’re formulaic, but the formula works – and DC uses some great set pieces and casting to make some pretty-bad-but-enjoyable movies. Transformers should just be stupid fun.
My expectations are sometimes too high. Whether it’s politics, mask wearing, or a Quesalupa, I notice that I’m setting myself up for disappointment, and it’s not necessarily the fault of the thing I’m setting expectations for. There are situations that we should have high expectations, but others that we should manage our expectations and keep them reasonable.
Our vaccine rollout has finally gotten off to a start it should have had ages ago, but that does not mean everything will instantly go back to “normal.” Variants of the disease are spreading, and people are giving in to caution fatigue and diving into normal life before the country is ready. I, myself, am already guilty of expecting a return to “normal” by Oct. 22, when Baltimore Comic-Con is supposed to begin. I miss comic-cons and can’t wait to join thousands of my people there again in nerdy solidarity.
But will it be normal? I mean, even ignoring the variant strains, there are plenty of people who are refusing the vaccine and others who ignore masks. And if we have to wear masks at comic-con, that will certainly mess up the costumes. And I wonder how many creators will skip the show this year altogether, either for health or financial reasons. The guest list has not changed in a year, after all.
If I go to Baltimore, that will be the first time I’ve been in a real crowd since 2019. How will I feel? Is the usual bustle of a con going to short-circuit my enjoyment? Will my social-distance meter have me breaking out in a sweat whenever I’m in a line? And, more to the point, what if I’ve built up the con experience my head so much that no matter what happens, I will be disappointed?
I really have to work on my expectations. Sometimes, expecting too much from giant robots beating each other up can have emotional consequences.
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