It’s so much easier to love movies before you see them. Sure, it can be exciting to watch something you’ve been anticipating for months or years. But thanks to today’s teaser-spiked cycles of hype and speculation, moviegoers risk going in with sky-high expectations, only to have their spirits crushed like Charlize Theron under that spaceship in Prometheus. Sir Ridley Scott’s boneheaded Alien prequel was one of many recent blockbusters that garnered a withering response from disgruntled fans who frequently prefer the flicks in their minds to whatever finally arrives in theatres. (See also: Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel.)
As a result of hope’s annoying tendency to spring eternal, moviegoers may already be enjoying their own imaginary versions of 2014 titles, thereby setting themselves up for disappointment. Ardent cinephiles are just as prone to the syndrome as superhero movie nerds or readers of whatever YA fantasy-lit series gets ruined next. To prepare you for all possible outcomes, here are the best- and worst-case scenarios facing some of the year’s most tantalizing films.
ROBOCOP (Feb. 12)
What you hope for: Brazilian director Jose Padilha’s remake of Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent sci-fi action flick retains the satirical bent of the original film and maximizes the high-tech carnage.
What you might get: Another cynical and incoherent desecration of a cherished modern classic augmented with poorly disguised shots of the CN Tower. (Padilha’s film was one of the biggest Toronto productions during the city’s current boom.)
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (March 7)
What you hope for: Wes Anderson’s latest, which is set in 1920s Europe and boasts a cast that includes regular players like Bill Murray and some new faces, will replicate the mix of wit and whimsy found in his previous films, as well as their wickedly anal-retentive level of visual detail.
What you might get: A self-indulgent smattering of familiar tics and tactics that’s not nearly as much fun as The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders, the fake Wes Anderson slasher movie concocted last fall by Saturday Night Live.
NYMPHOMANIAC (March 21)
What you hope for: Lars von Trier’s two-part film about the sex-tacular adventures of a woman played by Charlotte Gainsbourg stands as a bold attempt to erase any remaining boundaries between art cinema and pornography.
What you might get: A dreary, interminable parade of pale and pimply European asses.
GODZILLA (May 16)
What you hope for: The granddaddy of giant-monster movies gets a smart and slick post–Pacific Rim reboot by director Gareth Edwards and a classy cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, and Juliette Binoche.
What you might get: A bombast-induced headache punctuated by painful flashbacks of Roland Emmerich’s abysmal 1998 Godzilla remake.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (May 23)
What you hope for: The mutant saga reclaims its status as the coolest and craftiest of modern Marvel franchises by pitting the casts of the first trilogy and the 2011 prequel First Class in a timeline-crossing battle royale.
What you might get: Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Michael Fassbender’s young Magneto attempting to stare each other down for two hours.
HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER (TBA)
What you hope for: Ryan Gosling’s debut feature as writer and director, this “fantasy neo-noir” establishes the multi-tasking “Hey, girl” hunk as an Orson Welles for the 21st century—with significantly better abs.
What you might get: A misbegotten addition to the canon of unloved films made by stars who mistake themselves for auteurs (see also: Johnny Depp’s The Brave, Kevin Spacey’s Beyond the Sea, Nicolas Cage’s Sonny).
INTERSTELLAR (Nov. 7)
What you hope for: Christopher Nolan trumps his Batman trilogy and Inception with a science-fiction mindbender that matches the most cosmic ambitions of Stanley Kubrick.
What you might get: Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as very depressed astronauts—which, you’ve gotta admit, still looks pretty impressive in IMAX.