Some movies just fail to meet expectations. Sometimes a sequel can’t match the quality of its original, and sometimes a creative team looks fantastic on paper, but isn’t able to live up to its potential when all the pieces are put in place. Sometimes issues involved in production can affect the quality of the final movie in ways that nobody could foresee. Often, the fans of a franchise get so excited about a new release that they build up such an enormous hype that no movie could possibly hope to look good in comparison.
Throughout movie history, plenty of films have failed to match expectations. So far, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has managed to escape that fate, as fans of the series seem pleased with the highly-anticipated film, but there's always a potential backlash waiting for a film like this.
Here’s a list of 15 Movies That Couldn’t Live Up To The Hype that surrounded them, for whatever reason:
The Alien franchise started strong, but has fizzled somewhat in the years since. As popular as the space horror movie Alien and its action packed sequel may have been, the subsequent movies haven’t held up well by comparison. Originally announced as a direct sequel to the original movie, Prometheus saw the return of the original movie’s director Ridley Scott, leading many fans to hope that this movie might be just what was needed to revitalize the franchise.
By the time Prometheus was released, though, the movie had undergone serious changes. The original script which had set up the events of the original Alien had been twisted and altered to tell a completely new story featuring different aliens and characters, meaning that the finished movie bore little resemblance to what Alien fans were hoping for.
The moral of the Hobbit movies is that CGI does not make everything better. This is especially true of movies like the original Lord of the Rings trilogy that made a point of using clever camera angles and real life monster models at a time when most movies were relying on unconvincing computer effects. In contrast, the prequel trilogy purportedly featured so much green screen that it made Sir Ian McKellen cry, which, as a general rule, is probably too much.
This isn’t entirely the filmmakers’ fault – director Peter Jackson came to the project very late in preproduction and there wasn’t enough time to build his vision of the films in advance. As hard as Jackson worked at tirelessly to plan the movie while simultaneously filming it, there just wasn’t enough time to organize the movie into something coherent. While the first film was hotly anticipated, by the final three-hour installment even the die-hard fans had to admit that Battle of the Five Armies was no Return of the King.
In 2003, audiences were dazzled by the year’s most unexpected blockbuster hit: a pirate movie based loosely on a Disney theme park ride. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl received high praise from audiences, cemented the popularity of its main cast, and created one of the most iconic and beloved original characters of the decade in the form of (Captain) Jack Sparrow, played brilliantly by Johnny Depp.
Expectations were high for a sequel, with trailers promising more humor, action, and adventure – and, of course, plenty more of Captain Jack. Dead Man’s Chest received a lukewarm reaction from fans of the first movie, however, as the movie failed to deviate even remotely from the formula of the original, the sequel didn’t manage to fully capture the same joy and excitement that had made the first film a success.
At the time of its release, there was a lot of excitement surrounding Pacific Rim. An original movie concept that captures audience attention is rare in Hollywood, so Guillermo Del Toro’s sci-fi monster movie, full of giant robots and over-the-top action scenes, was welcomed by many who were tired of seeing the same stories play out on screen over and over again.
Once the initial hype for the film died down, though, many fans had to come to terms with the fact that, while a decent film, Pacific Rim wasn’t quite as revolutionary as the concept had first appeared. There’s nothing particular wrong with the movie, and it’s fun to watch, but it’s not quite as powerful as the hype originally suggested.
One of the big hits of the 1980s, Ghostbusters was full of irreverent humor, sarcastic one-liners, and of course, an undeniably catchy theme song. The movie went on to spawn a massive cult following and a variety of spinoffs, including several children’s cartoons and a videogame. No Ghostbusters story has been as hotly anticipated as its sequel, though, which was released five years after the original.
Ghostbusters II is hardly as beloved as the original movie, but of course, it had a lot to live up to. While the first film was known for its wacky, bizarrely comic monsters, the second movie’s attempts to revisit the original formula didn’t quite match what fans were hoping for. At the end of the day, a demonically possessed Statue of Liberty is just not as cool as a giant evil marshmallow man.
Most Marvel fans agree that Age of Ultron is a pretty good movie. It’s got laughs, action, cool CGI, and it gives more insight into a variety of secondary characters who don’t get their own solo outing every few years. That said, in spite of it not being particularly terrible, many fans were sorely disappointed upon first seeing the film.
What’s to blame for fans not going insane with love over the latest movie? It might be the weird Black Widow backstory. It might be the confusing attempts to set up the next few Marvel movies. It might be the fact that a flying rural village is nowhere near as visually and emotionally impressive as a giant alien space portal in New York. But probably the biggest problem with Age of Ultron is simply that the first Avengers movie was so universally popular that there’s no way the sequel could live up to expectation.
Before the release of Michael Bay’s first big budget movie adaptation of a children’s cartoon, fans of the Autobots were more than a little dubious. Movies that attempted to cash in on nostalgia weren’t exactly in short supply, so there was every chance that the new Transformers movie was going to be a trainwreck.
As the release got closer, more footage of the upcoming movie was unveiled, and fans began to dream. Maybe, just maybe, this was going to be a successful adaptation. At the end of the day, it’s hard to make a bad movie that’s about giant fighting transforming robots, right? Bear in mind, this was before anybody knew who Shia LeBeouf was, or what lunacy he was capable of. The hype wheels began to turn, and Transformers fans began to think that maybe, they were going to be really happy with the movie. They were wrong.
Younger fans probably won’t have seen or even heard of the 1985 sort-of sequel to the more popular Wizard of Oz movie. While this is a Disney film, the House of Mouse has worked incredibly hard to bury this movie as deep as they possibly can, probably alongside Song of the South.
Return to Oz was incredibly dark – it opened with Dorothy locked in a mental institution following her exploits in the first movie, and gets progressively more creepy from there. There’s the head-stealing evil princess, the disturbing Jack Pumpkinhead, and abominations called Wheelers who haunted childrens’ nightmares for months after the movie’s release. While Return to Oz isn’t a terrible film, it definitely wasn’t what audiences were expecting, and as such, it’s been a subject of embarrassment for Disney ever since.
The effects of the original Matrix movie can still be seen on filmmaking to this day. Its unique special effects, most notably ‘bullet time’ showed up in a variety of copycat movies over the next few years, and many of the cinematic tricks the movie employs are still regularly used in the industry today. Making a sequel to such a popular movie was a no-brainer, and fans were delighted at the chance to see more of Keanu Reeves in a black trench coat.
Critics are divided over exactly what to make of the film. The majority opinion, though, is that while bullet time is fun, it’s only a new concept for so long. This movie also suffered from a convoluted plot that left many audiences frustrated. While The Matrix Reloaded did its best to expand upon the film that came before, it turns out that there was only so far the original premise could stretch, and unlike that film, Revolutions doesn't have a monster freeway car chase to save it.
The James Bond franchise isn’t exactly small potatoes in Hollywood. Over the course of decades, it’s had more than a few ups and downs, but has remained popular throughout, in spite of variations in quality. The last few movies starring Pierce Brosnan as the titular Bond weren’t particularly well received, and the makers were looking to shake things up. With Casino Royale and the casting of Daniel Craig as a new, rougher, punchier Bond, it seemed as if the franchise was heading in the right direction once again.
While there’s no defending the movie that followed, it’s not fair to be too harsh on Quantum of Solace. The movie was in production during the infamous writers’ strike of 2007-2008, but contractual obligations meant that a movie needed to be made even though there really wasn’t a finished, coherent script to work from. The resultant mess of a movie was pretty much the best that the studio could do with the tools that were available at the time.
During their heyday, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg created some of the most iconic movie characters and franchises in cinematic history. Friends from college, they often shared ideas and collaborated on movie plots, all of which led to their joint masterpiece: the character of Indiana Jones. The original trilogy of movies in which Harrison Ford plays a Nazi-punching hero is no doubt responsible for more than a few students choosing to major in archeology.
How disappointing it was for fans of the original movies, then, when an aged Spielberg and Lucas got together with an equally aged Ford to make a movie that’s best remembered for retroactively tainting the films that came before. From the ugly CGI monkeys and multidimensional aliens, through to the infamous refrigerator scene, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull felt more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a fitting cinematic follow-up to Indy’s previous adventures.
The first two movies in the Alien franchise are pretty darn popular. Both movies were very different tonally and are loved by fans for very different reasons – the first movie was dark, tense and suspenseful, while the second was bombastic, explosive and exciting. When the first teaser for Alien 3 showed off a tiny clip of a futuristic, Blade Runner-esque Earth city and the implication that xenomorphs would be making their way to the human homeworld, fans were convinced that this movie would live up to the first two.
As with Prometheus years later, however, the movie that fans were promised never saw the light of day. Alien 3 went through a variety of direction changes during development, leading to the decision to scrap a visit to Earth entirely. Instead, moviegoers were outraged to see almost all of the heroes of the previous film killed off right at the start of the film, effectively ruining the whole point of the previous film’s ending. It was all downhill from there.
In the early 2000s, Warner Brothers had been doing their best to get a new Superman movie into production for several decades. In that time, Bryan Singer’s X-Men had kicked off a new generation of comic book adaptation, proving that there was a strong market for superheroes on the big screen. Singer did such a good job with his dark, realistic interpretation of his comic book source material that Warner Brothers offered him the opportunity to jump ship. Singer, a Superman fan since childhood, leapt at the chance to work with his favorite comic book franchise.
Singer’s Superman Returns was a labor of love, designed as a tribute to the Christopher Reeve movies of years past. Unfortunately, though, while Singer’s artistic vision worked wonders for the X-Men movies, his attempt to create a cookie-cutter Superman movie wasn’t particularly well received. If anything it was too self-referential, and tried a little too hard to copy the movies of the past rather than showing audiences anything new. There’s a good reason why Kryptonite didn’t show up in Man of Steel.
Bryan Singer’s decision to direct a Superman movie didn’t just ruin one movie – it also nearly killed the X-Men franchise. When Singer jumping ship to work with his favorite comic book hero, he took with him the screenwriters from X-Men 2, as well as actor James Marsden (although he still made a cameo). Without the director, writers and one lead actor from the previous movie, X-Men 3 ended up being very different to the two movies that had come before, even though director Brett Ratner did his best to emulate the style of the previous films.
The Last Stand’s plot was weak, and compensated for this by killing off as many characters as possible. This was not particularly well received. Possibly in an attempt to fix this, however, X-Men 3 featured a post-credits scene revealing that at least one character wasn’t really dead after all. This was the start of a tradition of post-credit scenes that Marvel movies have continued ever since.
It’s probably fair to say that no movie in the history of cinema generated more hype than Episode I. During the run-up to the film, many fans would buy tickets for movies that showed the trailer for The Phantom Menace, watch it, and then leave. Every possible piece of merchandise was produced, and every marketing deal imaginable was struck. As far as everyone knew, Star Wars was returning, and that was all that mattered.
To this day, Episode I is still the highest grossing Star Wars movie of all time (helped somewhat by its 3D rerelease in 2012). It’s also on of the most universally despised movies ever produced, thanks in large part to its over-reliance on CGI, its annoying characters, and its stilted, jumbled plot. While a core group of dedicated fans defend the movie as being not-that-bad, The Phantom Menace is still without a doubt the most universally disappointing movie of all time.
Not all of the movies on this list are terrible (although some definitely are). A lot just happened to fall short of expectations that they couldn’t possibly meet. This is by no means a comprehensive list of every movie that ever disappointed fans, though: the years to come will no doubt see plenty more, too.
What movies do you think were overhyped? Let us know in the comments below.