The Avatar Effect: How Too Much Hype Can Ruin A Movie


Hype is, by definition, a pretty great thing. It increases awareness and creates excitement. It brings people together and generates new understandings. It encourages new interpretations, inspires new ideas, and so on. Also, every once in a while, hype occurs because something is actually good.

When Disney’s Frozen was first reviewed ahead of its theatrical release back in December 2013, the general consensus among critics was that it was pretty decent. It was no Tangled, but it was nice to look at and apparently there was a pretty good song or two in there. All in all, it could count itself among the respectable additions to Disney’s catalogue. And that was about it.

Then something happened. Somewhere in the social-media-sphere, it was quietly decided that Frozen was the best thing to come out of Disney since one of its artists glanced at a computer generated animation from some partner company of theirs and thought ‘say, I wonder where we could go with this?” With that, the world went instantaneously hot for Frozen. It has remained a steadily growing sensation ever since, with cult references, merchandise and soundtrack-covers leaking into pop culture faster than a snowman in summer. It took $1.14 billion dollars at the box office, far outstripping both Toy Story 3 and Disney’s long-standing masterpiece The Lion King. Its long list of accolades is probably best summed up by its taking home of the Best Animated Feature Oscar, Disney’s first ever win in this category. It also walked away with the equivalent BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critic’s Choice awards. Small countries could be fed on the revenue earned by “Let it Go” alone.

I will admit that I came to the Frozen party a bit late. But after several months of being steadily drip-fed the belief that it was spectacular, I was finally persuaded to take leave of my own senses long enough to go into it expecting a marvel. Thirty minutes found me still expecting. As did 102 minutes. It was only really on reaching the nine minutes of closing credits that the expectations could finally accept it was probably time to take the film’s advice – and Let it Go.

Comments (8)

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  1. Chuck Sylvestersays:

    Personally, I find being someone who usually likes everything he watches is a good counter for the hype machine. At least the first time I see an enormously hyped movie in theaters (Pacific Rim would be a recent example), it’s AMAZING. And then I just quietly fall off that hype train a couple days later. But I still loved it! Since that happens with most movies I see, the ones that entice me to purchase the Blu Ray immediately when it releases or the ones I’m thinking about months later (The Avengers, Cabin in the Woods are examples from 2012) are the ones that will firmly put into my favorite category. I like them all, I’m excited for them all, but I continue that excitement well into the future if they truly were great.

  2. Jensays:

    I have to admit…with how everyone was talking about it…as I usually listen to movie goers reviews over critics…I was disappointed. It was good, it had a couple of cute moments, but like the writer said, it was no Tangled, which I thought was vastly more entertaining and emotion inducing. Flynn & Rapunzel had much more chemistry and funny moments than Anna & Kristof.

  3. Bugbogsays:

    Frozen I believe, based on it’s incorporation into Disneyland features, had already been decided as a hit. I agree with you in that I cannot understand why?!

    Inconsistencies abound in the script; after following the elder princess through the [literal] years it took for her to grow up, the main tale itself then takes place in some sort of weird “non-time” where you can’t tell if days, weeks, months or even years have gone by!

    I’ll admit, based on the pre-released footage of the snowman, I had some anticipation for the film, but after watching it, I instantly forgot about it and deleted it from my mental rolodex. It was decent, but nothing exceptional. So, imagine my surprise months later to find that it had crossed the 1Billion dollar mark!?

    Good for the makers? Yes. Deserving? Not particularly. Tangled and Puss in Boots were waaaaaaay better and more deserving in every single criterion, from script, to animation, voice acting, comedy/fun factor, remembrance (i.e. time in mind); Everything!!

    I’ve come to the conclusion, as I’ve gotten older, that hype, for certain things (like actors, singers, art, and, on point, films) is a pre-concluded quantity sometimes determined in advance (kinda like a money-saving lotto co-op; every so often each saver definitely wins the big pay out! All other times they take their chances with the minor prizes). But then, that’s the other side of ‘false’ hype, it tends to make one both jaded and cynical.

  4. AaronSFsays:

    I think what most critics miss with regard to Frozen is the power of telling stories through song. In some ways Broadway is popular now, but it’s recovering from about 20 years of people making dance-fighting jokes about West Side Story, and frankly, more than a little homophobia in the fear of being seen associated with something too fancy and not “gritty” enough. So the obvious reason for Frozen’s popularity can seem ephemeral when you aren’t willing to give credit where it’s due.

    That is to say, “Let it Go” was ingenious, and the pre-release was a very smart move. I have some issues with the execution of the song (thought it was a little belty, and the arrangement didn’t touch the darkness in it’s theme) but it told the entire movie’s story better than the entire movie. It married emotional narrative to plot and created a palpable character you wanted to root for in under 3 minutes. That’s the power of musical story-telling, there is almost no other genre that can pull that off and then have you repeating the story to yourself over and over afterward.

    When I saw Frozen it was a bit like watching the Phantom Menace, it was just more context to the story I already knew and wanted to see more of. There were some other good parts (wanna build a snowman?) but mostly it was just the extended version of the song which had already gone viral before the movie released. Imagine that movie without the song and you’ll see what I mean.

  5. Cadincesays:

    if you have a sister, then you understand how deep and loving that movie truly is. Don’t be so critical. That movie has a cult following for a reason. If something is popular, don’t just assume it’s because people simply hopped on the band wagon. That movie is an art. Don’t knock it. Accept it. And on an off note, that’s 1.14 billion dollars helping our shitty economy, which is currently comparable to a snowman in the summer.

  6. Vanitassays:

    I thought Frozen was okay but most of the songs were shit and the infamous Let It Go has been so quoted to death everywhere that I fucking hate it now. The “hype” has killed it for me, as do the fans.

  7. Observersays:

    Fully agree. Frozen made a lot of money, but the critics were right in the first place. I went in with high expectations, and was shocked at how average it was. Below in some cases. There were a couple of okay songs, very little actual adventure, and the most irritating plot “twist”. Which was just really the filmmakers lying to the audience about the one fellow’s sincerity before deciding late on; no, no clues or foreshadowing, he’s the bad guy now even though we just hardcore sold you the opposite.

    Still, the positive: its profitability means more opportunities for good roles for female protagonists.

  8. juarhelasays:

    I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch Frozen, simply because of the hype. I’ll watch it when people have stopped talking about it and I can just simply enjoy it without expectations.

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