With “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” in cinemas and garnering rave reviews so far, filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie is riding high on critical buzz. Will the audience follow though?
McQuarrie knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the wrath of the audience. Recently he found himself embroiled in a fraction of all the negativity surrounding “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” reactions online after that film’s director Rian Johnson tweeted a message of support to McQuarrie.
McQuarrie tried to engage with some heavy ‘Last Jedi’ bashers and got some rude responses. Speaking about ‘Fallout’ recently with Collider, he was asked for a take on the issue of ‘toxic fandom’. His resulting answer was long but interesting:
“Look, movies are very emotional. They’re extremely, extremely emotional. A movie like Star Wars or movies like Marvel where you’re dealing with comic books, this is stuff that’s coming from their childhood. It’s the same thing as campfire stories, and in some cases it’s the very fabric of their growing up. It’s something of which they’re hugely protective.
Going back to The Way of the Gun, what I did in The Way of the Gun is I defied the expectations of the viewer; I subverted them right from the very beginning of the film. And I learned a valuable lesson which is that people tend to react quite extremely when you don’t meet their expectations or when you don’t tell them the story.
What I did in The Way of the Gun was I was asking you to figure it out instead of telling you what I wanted you to feel. Mass audiences – I’m not saying everybody, but mass audiences tend to reject that sort of thing. It’s very upsetting [to them]. They’ve come to be entertained and they find themselves doing the work, and you confront that sort of thing at your peril.
So I understand why they’re as angry as they are, and I’ve been listening to their complaints about the movie that they’re complaining to. I’ve actually engaged some of them directly and spoken to them, and it’s kind of confirmed everything that I’ve felt which was we messed with their expectations, and when you do that that’s the reaction you’re going to get.
At the same time, I feel like the reactions are pretty extreme, and what I noticed that they were not able to separate was their being upset from their choice of how they were expressing it. So you would confront them on the way they were expressing it, and they would defend their right to express being upset. They really couldn’t separate the two things.
And that, I think, speaks to a bigger issue. I think that speaks to what we’re seeing on virtually any issue on the internet. People are so busy defending their point of view that they’re not really looking at the way they are defending it. What we’ve done as a society is we’re attacking logical problems with emotional responses.”
The Catch-22 all filmmakers face is that subverting expectations is often what makes a movie both stand out from the crowd and memorable, but to not satisfy long terms fans’ expectations and ignore certain formulaic beats that work will often draw ire. The best get the balance right, but it’s tricky to do and with disagreements about films in recent years having gone from genial discourse into vitriolic shouting matches thanks to social media and the anonymous nature of the Internet, filmmakers are likely to take less and less risks at all.