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



Going on the old adage that ten thousand lemmings can’t be wrong, the above facts and figures should probably just be the end of the discussion. But one brief post-viewing consultation with the internet revealed fairly quickly that I wasn’t the only one who had noticed that something was possibly amiss here. In addition to the fairly neutral reviews already mentioned above, there were many more that were not nearly as generous, including ones that accused Disney of simply wanting to squeeze something out in time for Christmas, that pointed out glaring plot problems, confusing indecision over character roles and – crucially – obvious plays for marketability (which, let’s face it, were pretty successful).

Of course, it is not that Frozen isn’t good – it is. But why did Frozen get this sort of super-reception when there was a lot of evidence to suggest that its predecessor Tangled, which did not, was a superior film in terms of script, characterization and even (if there was a keyboard function that allowed typing in a whisper I would be using it right now) soundtrack? Obviously nearly all Disney films and the like generate merchandise and can become a craze. In fact, entire social standings were won and lost on the basis of The Lion King cards possession across many a school playground in 1994. But the point about Frozen is how categorically etched on the public consciousness it has become. It is championed constantly in every direction, from social media to Broadway (it took The Lion King three years to get to Broadway – it took Frozen about three minutes), by young and old alike. Not to overuse the Frozen jokes here, but there has most definitely been a snowball effect.

In short, it would seem as though the answer lies in trending, or rather in what trending will become once popularity reaches that ultimate level of enthusiastic appreciation – hype. Hype is something different entirely. Hype can do things. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey achieved instant glory in some parts of the cinephile world, despite the fact that there were many who could list a fair few reasons to be disappointed with the long anticipated return trip to Middle Earth. Skyfall was loudly declared by many to be the best Bond film of all time, when actually it wouldn’t be entirely unfair on the basis of some questionable plot devices and the constant need to suspend any kind of even Bond-movie-level disbelief to review it simply with the phrase “….eh??” Bridesmaids enjoyed a period of being revered by critics and viewers alike as a complete reinvention of the romantic comedy genre, while it wasn’t actually all that difficult to find at least a few of the clichés that its popularity depended on it challenging.

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