Somewhere in the middle of the film
Take Star Wars. This was big news back in 1977 and endless showings of the same clips on TV somehow made me think of it as a grand epic tale with the scope and intense world building of Frank Herbert's Dune (although I hadn't read that either). Those clips. This was surely going to be the best film ever? I couldnt wait. That bit they kept showing where the two droids crash landed a spaceship in the middle of the desert. Wow. Obviously somewhere in the middle of the film; the droids on a mission of some importance that must have been interrupted somehow.
But when I eventually saw the film the clips I was already familiar with from TV (not to mention the pictures on the bubble gum cards) were somehow diminished. Too near the beginning, too close together or not imbued with nearly as much significance as I first thought they might have. The story seemed too short and above all too simple.
It just goes to show that even when you're watching someone else's vision translated into big budget 3D widescreen, your own mind still somehow does a better job. Star Wars was always better before I actually saw it.
This doesn't happen quite so much these days because your expectations are managed by high-octane jump-cut trailers with deep voiceovers (now almost always ironic):
One man...And so on. Of course perhaps I don't watch enough TV these days and should tune into Film 2011 more regularly. I am sure they show proper clips. But half the time it's of films I don't really care about and Harrison Ford is suddenly an old man talking earnestly to some Hollywood clone woman about Issues.
MAN JUMPS OUT OF FIREY EXPLOSION
...is about to discover...
MAN ABSEILS DOWN SIDE OF BUILDING
...that the one thing...
MAN MACHINE GUNS OPEN A DOOR
...his training can't prepare him for...
MAN JUMPS DRAMATICALLY INTO ROOM
WITH A GRENADE IN HIS TEETH
...is a baby
SHOT OF CRYING BABY
MAN PULLS COMICAL 'SHOCKED' FACE
MUSIC GOES SILLY
But I don't even go to the cinema that often any more. There's something about the narrative structure of most films these days that is the same and makes it seem as if its straight of out a text book. Too many reversals of fortune whilst heading towards the denouement. Perhaps sometimes this is done with the best of intentions, but half the time you think that they only did this to spin it out for another ten minutes because the studio felt that the running time was a bit on the low side.
And as for alternate endings because a test screening went wrong... I'm sorry but it's the audiences at the test screenings that are in the wrong (even if they're right if you see what I mean). The ending of the film is the ending of the film.
However shit that might be.