Sep 2009 03

Sometimes hype is a good thing. Hype can bring in new viewers who would have potentially ignored something if the hype hadn’t been there. Although, more often than not, hype can bring in unrealistic expectations. Take for example James Cameron’s latest project, Avatar, the hype surrounding it has been huge, and why not? It is the product of one of the most successful directors of all time. Once the trailer was released, there was a surprising amount of backlash. Is it not bound to be the game changer many film fans expected? Perhaps not. Well, let’s take a look at some other Hollywood projects that have not lived up to the hype.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

jar-jar-carboniteStar Wars is easily the largest pop culture phenomenon to take place on the silver screen. It is one of the few BILLION dollar franchises. There aren’t many people who were born after 1970 who don’t have knowledge or attachment towards the epic saga. So, naturally when George Lucas announced his prequels people went a bit nuts. People turned up in droves to the re-released Special Edition versions of the original films, so Lucas thought the time and the technology were right for him to create the prequels that told the story of one Anakin Skywalker who would turn into the villainous Darth Vader. Fans flew to the burgeoning internet where they speculated endlessly on what would happen in the prequels and what we would see. A deluge of marketing soon followed bringing the hype to something that had yet to be seen. Everywhere you looked was Star Wars, it was all over the tv, fast food chains and even on your sodas. I still remember ordering a pizza and being surprised to see the new character Jar-Jar Binks. I even remember thinking, “Cool!” Oh how naive I was….

What went wrong? Well, Jar-Jar Binks did not turn out to be “cool”, in fact if you were to talk to most Star Wars fans they act like he had molested them as children. The surge of hatred towards this character is something I can’t comprehend. I personally was not that big of a fan of him, but I understood why he was there. He was childish entertainment, just like C-3P0 had been in the original trilogy. Jar-Jar Binks came off a big more jarring to fans than I’m sure Lucas and his team had anticipated. Add in the fact that there was plenty of other stupid characters, such as the blatant Asian stereotypes of the Trade Federation and their battle droid army that seemed even less effective than the Stormtroopers in the original trilogy. Darth Vader, the ultimate villain, had not been adult like so long imagined, but a petulant child played by child actor Jake Lloyd. Lloyd’s acting drew strong criticism from fans who classified his performance as “wooden”. It seemed that fans were doomed to be let down once again by their high expectations.

X-Men the Last Stand

xmen-badHow many times have you heard, “Third times a charm”? Apparently that adage doesn’t work with comic book films. The third film in the popular X-Men series was hyped up so much because of the success of the second film, X2. The second film was one of the best comic book adaptations to date, and although director Brian Singer was not returning, Matthew Vaughn was signed on. Matthew Vaughn had some success in his career being a producer on such films as Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, as well as directing the Daniel Craig film, Layer Cake. Anyone who had seen Layer Cake could tell you Vaughn had a good eye, and could make great characters. The film looked on pace to match the brilliance of the second film.

What happened? Unfortunately, Matthew Vaughn had to drop out of the project. There were many rumors surrounding it, including intrusion by studio heads to make the film more viable to a mass audience. So, what do you do when you want to make a film aimed at the masses? Bring in a director like Brett Ratner who is most famous for his direction of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour series. Yup, this was the studios solution. The hype surrounding the picture slowly turned to anger as fanboys raged around the internet with discussion of the “hack” Ratner. Once the film was released it looked like their accusations weren’t completely unfounded. The film was a mess, with numerous plot holes and two dimensional characters. Sure, there were some great action scenes, but it lost the feeling that had been created by the outsider status they had focused upon in the first two films. The opened to huge grosses only to drop solidly due to bad word of mouth.

Spider-man 3

spiderman-emoYet another comic book adaptation which followed a very critically and financially successful film in the series only to disappoint viewers. Just like the X-Men series, the first film in the Spider-man series was well accepted, but the second film had many praises lauded on it to the point where it was considered the better of the two. The ending of the second film left Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in a place where they could finally accept each other, and we could get past all the awkwardness of, “Just friggin tell her already”. Sam Raimi already a geek god from his Evil Dead series seemed poised to take his crown to lord over all the geeks, until….

What went wrong? Emo Spider-man! You see, the third film in the series dealt with the alien symbiote suit that gave Spider-man extra powers, but also turned him darker. While I won’t argue that turning into a little emo git is about as dark as you can get, for a horror master like Raimi it was a bit different turn than we all expected. Apparently, when Peter Parker goes evil he has a strong affinity for jazz hands and high kicks. Maybe the change of suit wasn’t for extra powers, but Peter’s way of showing that his true place was not in fighting crime, but in becoming the newest superpowered gay fashonista. About the most evil thing he does while wearing the suit is accidentally hit Mary Jane. When looking back at the film I can find almost nothing good about it. James Franco’s Harry tends to be as stupid as ever to every fact that stares him in the face, and the love triangle between him, Peter and Mary Jane seems so forced that it makes me cringe. Once you add in the fact that Gwen Stacey is added in completely out of context, as well as the wimpiest version ever of Eddie Brock/Venom ever thought of you get a truly horrible film. X-Men the Last Stand and Spider-man 3 almost seem to mirror each other, both with their bad choices, and huge openings with the following drops in the box office.

The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions

matrix-raveI still remember walking out of the theater with my best friend in 1999 after seeing The Matrix for the first time. I remember being blown away by the story and the visual effects. I think my buddy Jeff and I stayed up all night discussing it. Sure it was a bit of jumbled philosophy, but to a teenage boy I was convinced I had seen one of the best science fiction stories of all time. Once again like Star Wars had, another monomyth had grabbed hold of my imagination, and it wouldn’t let me think about anything else. I let my mind wander thinking what I would do with powers like Neo had gained, totally missing the point of the entire film. Before long I started seeing people crop up at school with long trenchcoats, which unfortunately also came to be associated with the Columbine killers. Keanu Reeves who I had always regarded as a bit of a joke (seriously watch Dracula or Much Ado About Nothing and try not to laugh at his performances), finally had done something cool. Laurence Fishburne was the mentor everyone wish they had, and Carrie Anne-Moss was the girl who although a bit androgynous in the film at times, was now a geek’s wet dream. So, when it was announced that the series was set to be a trilogy everyone waited with bated breath.

What went wrong? Well, the hype talked about all the advancements in CGI, and how virtual Neo would be indistinguishable from the real actor Keanu Reeves. Everywhere I was reading stories about how the technology that went into the film was so great that it would forever change the world of filmmaking (much like the hype around Avatar is saying now). I waited in line like many other people for the first showing. My friends all away at college I went by myself (which I actually enjoy, it lets me concentrate of the movie much better). I remember walking out of the theater being disappointed and telling myself, “It is one of two parts, the next one will make this one better”. The CGI had not been what I was told. The burly brawl that news media outlets had been going gaga over for months looked just as plasticky as any other CGI I had seen over the past few years. Not to mention that the story seemed to have strayed from what the first film had set out to be. Neo, who at the end of the previous film took down the agents with no problem, once again seemed to have trouble fighting them, this of course was explained away as “new models”. So, what happened to the fact that he was supposed to be a virtual god bending the rules however he wished? Well, the writers seemed to have written themselves into a hole and figured if they changed some things we wouldn’t notice. Where the philosophy was there in the first movie, it didn’t seemed rammed down our throats. That all changed with the “Architect”, whose speech confused many and bored everyone else. Unfortunately, I was not right and Revolutions was just as bad as Reloaded, in fact it was probably worse. There was nothing emotionally gripping to the story anymore. It was like the Wachowski brothers suddenly thought, “Screw the story look at all the cool effects we can do with this huge budget they gave us!”. To this day when I go back and watch The Matrix I pretend that the sequels are still coming. It gives me a false sense of hope…and I love it.

Others that are worth mentioning:


I should have known it was going to be bad when Mark Steven Johnson took over it, but he hadn’t thrown trash like Electra and Ghost Rider at us yet. Daredevil was in a great run at the time, and my hopes were a little high. The film came out feeling cartoonish and over the top. This is one series that needs a reboot, and it is one of the series that would do great from watching Nolan’s Batman films (Note to WB: I know you want to make everything darker in your DC line, such as making Superman brooding. Batman works as a dark and brooding character, because he is a freaking DARK AND BROODING CHARACTER! There are certain series that would work along the same lines, most DC properties do not.)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

The first film was escapist fun, and ended on a great note. I still remember sitting next to a drunk smelly hoosier in the theater for the first one who agreed a bit too heartily with the fact that Kiera Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann prematurely destroyed all the rum. That fact aside, the sequels were awful. Characters were in a constant idiot loop, they made decisions that were at conflict with the characters established in the first film just for drama. I was so let down by the second film that I vowed I would wait for DVD for the third film. I’m sure glad I stuck to my guns, because that piece of trash made way more money than it should have at the box office. I’m sure I sound like a snob, but I don’t know a single person who liked it.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I’m pretty sure after this film, that many people believe that George Lucas is bound and determined to ruin the memories of their childhoods. The internet had a field day with this one, especially with the “nuking the fridge” part. I don’t know how Spielberg could have been in the editing bay reviewing that footage and saying, “Looks perfect, people are going to freaking love this!”. I’m always at odds when I see a film like this. The inner child in me is telling me, “Blake, it is Indiana Jones of course you liked it!” and my adult mind is telling me, “Go to the internets and proclaim the death of filmmaking!”. The biggest problem with this film for me was the overuse of CGI. The Jones films always seemed steeped in over the top real sets. Everything in this film looked like it took place on a giant green screen. Chalk up another disappointment.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I really don’t know how you would go about adapting these books in the first place. Douglas Adams injects so much wit into the books, but the problem is that it is so much harder to convey that in film. Some of the stuff I felt they got amazingly right. The characters first off seemed pretty spot on, and I want my own Marvin voiced by Alan Rickman. The problem with it was that it just wasn’t that funny. Many of the things that came off as real funny in the book came off as kind of stupid in the film. Maybe it was because in the book the jokes are deadpanned so much that you take them a bit more seriously, where in the film everything is done with a wink. This is one I had hoped would be great, but all it really did for me was get my Zooey Deschanel fix.

So, there are a few of mine. I know I didn’t get them all. In fact mine are probably a bit limited to genre pictures, but from a geek like me that is expected. What are yours? Let us know in the comment section below


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