Editorials,  Movies/Entertainment

Do We Over-Hype A Movie Into Disappointment??

TRON: Legacy comes out this Friday and along the path to the theatrical release I have found myself more and more drawn to the film. I’m firmly on the bandwagon but I still find myself very apprehensive about how it will all play out. Amidst the staggering press and publicity we’ve seen a long running (and confusing at times) viral campaign, trailers TV spots, video game tie ins etc. Basically Disney spared no expense and some are starting to believe that this kind of money thrown at a product may be falling blindly into that “too big to fail” mentality. Granted people out there really LOVE Tron but I didn’t think that it had the fan base that would justify spending over $150 million on a sequel 28 years after the original.

Seeing the Tron for the first time just last year (I liked it) I am very excited to see how they improve/expand on the story but I do so heeding one newly minted personal rule: “Don’t Over-hype Anything“. I’ve written before that a trailer can get people excited to see crappy movie and conversely how they can turn away an audience from a film that is actually very good. Now I think we’ve all had, at the very least, one experience where our expectations of a film failed to play out as we would have liked. Whether the trailer misled us to disappointment or some other factor is irrelevant, but whatever the case some movies just don’t meet our expectations.

While I am optimistic for Tron Legacy, I am cautiously so because I easily recall my three biggest let downs of recent years – Quantum of Solace, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and this year’s The Expendables. All three films, which probably had the unfair advantage of being over-hyped to begin with, were far different outcomes than most fans (myself included) were expecting. They all made tons of money but overall most fans have been left disappointed. Further, in the case of Transformers we as an audience were flat out insulted by how the film killed what the first one set up. But maybe that’s the hype that we either buy into or create ourselves…and that’s what I want to attempt to figure out with this post.

So here’s my question: Is it news hype and trailers that mislead the audience to make the movie something that it isn’t or do we just over think and imagine something grander than the studios can produce??

Had substance, but lacked style…and an interesting plot

To try and find an answer to my own question, I want to touch on the subject of our expectations of film rather than dwell on a our opinions of a film’s outcome for now. Where ever a movie’s inspiration comes from, be a book, TV, show, short story or news article etc. the film’s development will take on a following of its own and people interested in to see the movie will start forming their opinions early. They’ll determine, with each bit of progress released, if they are still on board or have decided to move on to something else.

So why, in any case, do some us (myself included sometimes) unfairly and without sufficient substance take firm stances so early? Brand loyalty is one answer, but what if it’s for a movie with an original premise. What if we made out Inception to be the greatest movie ever and it didn’t deliver (thankfully it delivered in spades)? Also, how do we keep ourselves from being these insatiable critics of something that is too out of context to fully appreciate the development prior to the films release. I think deep down we want things we like to succeed so we, in some cases, hope against hope for something to do well. But hoping for so long can really only end in disappointment because if the movie is 99% great, we’re still upset that the last1% isn’t fulfilled…as well as the missing extra 10% we were hoping for.

Had style, but severely lacked substance

Many trailers are misleading and show you what the creative team making them wants you to see (notice the difference between the original Tron trailer and this fan made one). That puts all the high points right in your face and you should get an idea of what the film is going to be. The problem there is that they follow a sort of formula so you are getting a preview of the movie that is not necessarily where the film is headed. The most misleading trailer that I can recall is for Burn After Reading. In my opinion, it was severely misrepresented so after seeing the trailer I thought the film was going to be a laugh riot, not the sadistically dark comedy it turned out to be. And, maybe it was just me but that’s the problem I have with trailers. Don’t show me great things when the movie itself isn’t great.  I know movies are made to make money and the studios try to advertise so that a film brings in the money, otherwise if the movie was crap and people knew that from the trailers, then no one would see the film.

Our brains, when we aren’t given the whole story, try to connect ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’.  Such is the case with trailers and that’s always going to be misleading.  When our ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ doesn’t play out on screen, we get disappointed. Trailers should give more of a sample of the movie in series, so we get a better interpretation, rather than just high points which may or not be representative of the story we’ve yet to see. Its that interpretation that will guide us, (lull us rather) to choose one film vs. another when standing in front of  the box office window.

Sometimes we gravitate toward something, surrounding a movie, be it the idea, a plot line, an actor, but regardless of what it is, we have a tendency to make something more than it is because our mind is constantly spinning and thinking about it.  Then, like most things in life, the fantasy of something is much more entertaining and appealing than the reality. For me personally I was pining from the day after I saw Casino Royale to the day Quantum of Solace opened. During that time I built up the movie to be so great that I was actually quite disappointed with the outcome because it failed to live up to what I expected it to be. In the end maybe I was wrong and can’t blame the trailer for me not liking the movie, but in other cases the trailer IS the culprit.

Lacked both style and substance…good action/explosions though

Maybe the problem with our disapproval of what we consider a sub-par film is that we (thanks in large part to the Internet and the constant info/need for information) imagine and expect so much more than what we get and that’s why some films’ outcomes are letdowns. Revenge of the Fallen was just stupid (despite it’s surprisingly successful inceptor), Quantum of Solace, to me, failed to live up to the first film in so many ways and The Expendables was lacking in nearly every aspect of film making save for the intense all out action it promised.

With hope I wait for Tron Legacy to hit the theaters yet I do so with reserved excitement and fewer expectations. Based on a few of the examples above I know enough not to put 110% faith in an unseen product. I really hope it does well both as I’d hate to see this be yet another example of the reality killing what our imaginations have been crafting all this time.

So to end this, I’ll ask you all: Have you ever hyped a movie up to be more that is? Have you ever kept a vigil for a movie that ended up being terrible? What are the films that really disappointed you?? Anyone have mixed feelings about Tron Legacy??


  • rtm

    I too just saw the original TRON recently and though it was enjoyable at times, I can’t say I love it. It’s a better concept than film I think, and Univarn has a poll going on right now on his blog and that is one of the choices. I somehow knew the new movie will dazzle visually but lacking in storyline/acting so I’ll go in with that expectation in mind.

    I don’t know about holding a vigil for a movie… I mean, of course there have been movies that I’m excited about more because of the filmmakers/actors involved (i.e. The Tourist for Dalton), but I wasn’t absolutely convinced it’d blow me away (it didn’t). Funny you mention Expendables. I was quite excited about that one whilst still keeping my expectation in check, but I never thought it’d be such an abominable! So I guess that’s one from this year that was utterly disappointing.

    • MarcC

      Sorry to hear The Tourist wasn’t all that. I got a meh feeling watching the trailers and I think it came from never seeing TD. You want a movie to succeed? Then put TD in a lead:)

  • sizzle

    The Expendables was not over rated. If you ask me, Scott Pilgrim (which opened the same weekend as Expendables) was highly over rated and so was The Dark Knight. I am not saying these are bad movies, but people really do over hype things so much. Now Transformers 2 and QOS were very over rated and disappointing. I am looking forward to Tron Legacy.

    • Andrew

      You obviously have no idea what “overrated” means. While it is closely related to your opinion, it is not the same thing as “I thought it was bad.” For example, how could Scott Pilgrim be overrated when no one saw it? And how could Transformers 2 and QOS be overrated when no one thought they were good to begin with?

  • Liz

    The Matrix sequels. *Blah*, no…what *word* connotes dying a little inside?

    American Beauty failed for me also because of all the hype and wild acclaim. It was okay, and therefore a massive disappointment from what I was led to expect.

  • Ross McG

    good job getting imdbd again Marc. yeah sometimes a brilliant trailer can mean a terrible movie. cant believe you were excited about the Expendables after seeing its trailer though – it was poorly done. Quantum of Solace is quite simply one of the most boring films ever made.
    its easy i suppose to say ‘lower your expectations’, but we movie-goers cant help but get excited about upcoming releases.
    in the case of tron: legacy however, having seen it, i would say: ‘lower your expectations’.

  • Frenchman

    To answer the question of having kept a vigil for a terrible movie, I still do my best to not call Indiana Jones and the KOTCS a terrible movie, even though deep down I know it is. I grew up on Indy and pretended I was him for many a years, so the thought of it being terrible just makes me a sad panda. And yes I also think the movie studios over-hyped that one, even though the rest of us saw it coming haha. I kept thinking “no way they can screw it up THAT bad” before the movie, guess I should have kept quiet. QoS falls into the same category, but I have grown to accept there will always be bad Bond movies with as many that have been put out, so I just hope the next one is the better kind!

  • Julie

    All I know is that it has been a long time (about 2 years) sine I have been really excited about seeing a movie. For one thing there has not been any movies that I have thought would be interesting to see and for another in the movies that I have thought looked interesting I have been disappointed in. Now all I get is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about a movie.

  • Alexander

    If anyone expected Transformers 2 or the Expendables to be anything but massive piles of shit then they are cinematic idiots and deserve to be disappointed.

  • Luke

    Congrats on IMDB! I think about this quite a bit. I think it was a topic worth looking into with Inception as well. Sure the movie got fantastic reviews and was quite well liked, but had it not had the hype and had it not proceeded The Dark Knight, would there be a far more favorable reaction to it?

    My answer is yes.

    I agree with you about Quantum of Solace as examples. I think Transformers and The Expendables aren’t in the same caliber necessarily, but I agree with your Tron Legacy fears. I am having similar fears with Black Swan. How could it falter?!

  • vadermccandless

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

    I saw that film on midnight, psyched off my ass, and from the first shot, where the Paramount logo dissolved into a prarie dog hole, I knew I was in for dissapointment. The entire film felt like a half-baked attempt at “mixing it up” within the Indiana Jones universe, and it sucked hardcore. Easily Spielberg’s worst. Yes, worse than 1941.

  • Jade Arthur

    This particular topic that you’ve written about is exactly how I feel towards so many movies that come out in theaters that I was very interested in reading what you had to say. I’m glad you touched on this subject. Thank you.

    As for me, movies that I’ve been disappointed by are limitless. For example, one ridiculous film I got way too excited about was the atrocious parody, Epic Movie. I’m such a fan of pardoy films that I got way too caught up wanting to see it and it basically dashed any expectations I had for it when I eventually did sit through that monstrosity.

    Some other films would be:

    Four Christmases(The setup was great, the film not so much.)

    Avatar(Not as great as everyone says it is. The plot was too generic.)

    Alice in Wonderland(Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. How could it go wrong? Well, it did. Not funny, cute, or witty, it lacked any staying power with me.)

    Date Night(Again, great setup, but it still didn’t do a thing for me except make me a little bit sleepy.)

    Shrek 3, Pirates 3, Spiderman 3(Hmm, 333. I guess together they’re half-evil.)

    Killers(I didn’t have high expectations, but it really didn’t matter what I had because it just sucked.)

    Nine(A very forgettable musical, which, for someone who’s as big as fan as I am of them, is hard to do.)

    And many others that I either can’t remember or just didn’t have the time to write. I still love trailers, but sometimes they can be so misleading. I think Hollywood needs to tone down the sequels, remakes, and big-budget blockbusters and we might just be able to get back to something that’s more worthwhile.

  • Auburn

    It sounds to me the message is if you overhype the movie and you are disappointed on its outcome, uou have no one to blame but yourself. Either your nostalgia told you the original was perfect or you have been sucked in by the ad campaign. Either way that perception falls on you. What do you hope to gain from the movie and what you saw with it. We are the ones who respond to the overhype then in return fall quickly on the hating bandwagon. So, who really is to blame the one who leads or the one who follows?

  • Jackie

    The Social Network, it opened here about three months after it did in the US; I had been reading all these comments about Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield’s performance, the marvelous script and the perfect direction, so I thought I would be seeing something shakespearean writing and performances, that I would be awed by the talent displayed…
    But I wasn’t, I mean it IS great, but not as I had imagined, and I’m sure that if I hadn’t been reading all those things and just watched the movie without knowing anything I would have been really impressed, not disappointed…

  • Ping

    Interesting points. I know there was massive let-down in the Star Wars fandom after Episode One, because of all the hype and excitement.

    Yet is that a bad thing? Does it not mean that we are able to appreciate the qualities of good story-telling, or at least their absence? If we became dull to it, we would probably be less intelligent, and less thoughtful, and that would be a bad thing.

    The one thing I can’t figure out is how to stop Hollywood from earning lots of money on a bad movie. If people are disappointed but the film still makes the cash, Hollywood isn’t learning the right lessons, IMO.

  • yoda900

    Avatar anyone? It received more hype (and still does, you could argue) than just about every other movie in the last decade and indeed it did deliver in terms of pioneering effects…but it was mediocre otherwise. The movie seemed to have no unique elements (from the Matrix/Stargate effect of jacking into an avatar to the blunt historical allegory to the inordinate pilfering from the plots of Fern Gully and Pocahontas, the list is almost endless). It broke a lot of new ground in an area of filmmaking in which ground has constantly been broken for the last 30 years. It served up a fun, but empty experience with forgettable characters to spare (except for the villain who I found myself rooting for), which deserved a lot less than the attention and revenues given it. I expect Tron Legacy to play similarly, but if it ends up being an engaging story, that will be a cherry on top of its visual effects sundae.

  • Jeff

    I’d say the biggest recent disappointments for me were King Arthur and 300. King Arthur I went in expecting an Arthur movie close to the equal of Gladiator. Came out shaking my head at this ridiculous mishmash of Braveheart and the aforementioned Gladiator with so little to do with King Arthur.

    399 I liked a lot better. But it still came off as disappointing to me, primarily because I went in kind of expecting Sin City at Thermopylae. It was good overall. But it wasn’t the full dose of pulp fun I was anticipating.

    The Expendables? That one entertained me while it was on. But it faded as soon as the lights came up. As I observed later, “Machete was the better choice if you were in the mood for an action film that summer”.

  • clayton

    While I would agree that QoS did not live up to the hype of Casino Royale I will say that I have both movies on Blu Ray and watch QoS more. CR is the better film but it is not a re-watchable (IMO) as once you know what is going to happen it is not as much fun. On the other hand, QoS has more to it than a first view (especially a view with expectations) would show. I look at QoS not as a film on its own but more of the 4th and 5th acts of Casino Royale.

    @Jade : I also love Parody movies (Airplane!, Top Secret, Scary movie) but had low expectations for “Epic Movie”. My expectations were low because the trailer showed too many scenes that seemed to be skits and not anything related. That is how parody movies have gone lately and I am disapointed. Parody movies these days seem more like a collection of skits where the main characters move from one skit about movie “A” to the next skit about movie “B” with no real reason to go from one to the other.

  • Jeff

    Another recent one was The Hurt Locker. When I saw it I thought it was good, yet not quite best picture material. When I did my top 10 list for 2009 The Hurt Locker placed fourth.

  • nowhereman136

    Napoleon Dynamite was so over-rated. when it came out people were saying it was the funniest movie ever. i saw it and it sucked.

    i saw it again a few years later, i though it was good and funny but not even on my list of best comedies of the decade.

    good but totally overrated

  • Clay

    For me the movie I most over hyped in recent memory was X-Men: The Last Stand. First the second X-Men movie is one of my favorite movies ever. Then I saw the trailer for it and it was so amazing, with Dark Phoenix and the formula to take away mutant’s powers. But then I saw the movie and it was terrible. Everything that was build with the first two movies was destroyed with that one. Even though it was over four years ago I’m still bitter about that one.

  • sevenof9fl

    Legal Eagles. I know probably most of you have never heard of the movie but let me say it was Robert Redford’s very first and maybe only complete and utter flop, and the very first film that in my experience, the studio made sure that the teaser trailers were better than the film. It left such a bitter taste in my mouth that it really jaded my film experience from that point forward – e.g., firstly, I never again wanted to pay money to see a first run film and secondly, I never again experienced that “excitement” or “anticipation” about seeing any film. So in my opinion, yes, studios DO overhype films and they DO try to make hits out of stinkers. Hence, buyer beware has been my 25 year mantra.