With the last question I asked, we discussed the often unavoidable phenomenon that surrounds nearly all the media we consume commonly known as hype. I wanted to get this new series off to a positive start by asking you all to name works that lived up to the hype. This week, we will turn the question on its head.
Fewer things are more disappointing than those times when a work fails to live up to expectations. You bought into the hype and you’re treated to something you feel isn’t worthy of being praised left and right. It’s entirely possible to go one’s entire life without experiencing this dissonance, but chances are great you’ll find that one work for which everyone is going crazy that just doesn’t resonate with you. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just how life is. If an objective standard for good existed, we wouldn’t need critics at all.
One of the few mediums in which I myself have not experienced such a thing would be music. I’ve had instances where I felt an album got a little more praise than it deserved or I just didn’t see what the big deal about it was, but they still tended to be good listens. Even if they typically require two (or more) decades to catch up, music critics generally have a decent batting average when it comes to recommending the best of the best. Their problem has generally has less to do with overhyping things and more to do with overlooking talented, yet obscure acts.
I have to admit that I don’t really watch a lot of television, but when The Strain was announced, critics made it sound great. It was an adaptation of a novel trilogy of the same name directed by the very people who wrote it: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It ended up being a major letdown with a plot that only spirals out of control due to the sheer incompetence of the cast. At one point, when an interesting plotline presented itself, the next few episodes completely abandoned it. It’s a shame because I know, having seen The Shape of Water a few months ago, that Guillermo del Toro can do better than that. In a lot of ways, that makes things worse; if it was a new director’s first effort, it would’ve been more forgivable, but the people involved should’ve known better.
The 2000s was a decidedly subpar decade for science fiction in general, taking on an annoyingly heavy-handed tone that would continue into the 2010s. You know things are bad when something like District 9 can be considered one of the year’s highlights. However, as bad as that movie was (and still is), it doesn’t really answer this proposed question because it took me awhile to reach my conclusion. In terms of more immediate disappointments, I would have to go with Ex Machina. Much like how video game critics tended to praise anything independently produced regardless of quality for the longest time, Ex Machina came across as critics praising something just because it was subversive. I can get behind something thought-provoking and avant-garde, but the pacing of Ex Machina was absolutely glacial for an incredibly underwhelming payoff. It’s not even as though I have a problem with slower pacing; this is coming from someone who watched The Shape of Water immediately after The Last Jedi in a double feature with no problems whatsoever. A lot of people love it for not going for the Hollywood ending, but in practice, it just felt anticlimactic, which rendered what little goodwill the film actually built up hollow.
When it comes to video games, longtime readers would probably expect me to answer something such as The Stanley Parable or The Last of Us. Though those games are dire, they have nothing on the sheer disappointment that was Metroid: Other M. It’s true that unlike those two games, which I played in the same calendar year of their release, I didn’t actually get around to playing Metroid: Other M until 2016 for the sole purpose of bashing it in a review, but at the end of the day, those two games have redeeming qualities. If nothing else, The Stanley Parable played to the general zeitgeist of independent gaming culture at the time, so I can at least see why it became such a hit. Meanwhile, The Last of Us is exactly the kind of serious game I should’ve expected out of Naughty Dog in perfect 20/20 hindsight. Metroid: Other M has nothing practical going for it, and there’s no excuse for why it turned out so poorly; not one but two legitimately talented teams were behind its creation. I remember how much it was hyped; it seemed to top everyone’s “Most Anticipated Games of 2010” list. When it was released, it quickly became a joke for its blatantly misogynistic writing and gameplay that failed to take the canon in a meaningful, new direction. As Shigeru Miyamoto would say “A bad game is bad forever.” Indeed, considering its reputation nowadays, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time in which its name wasn’t a joke. Thankfully, Yoshio Sakamoto and the series were able to bounce back seven years later with Metroid: Samus Returns, so this story didn’t have a complete downer ending unlike, say, Ultima IX: Ascension or Daikatana.
With my piece out of the way, it’s your turn now.
Which works do you think utterly failed to live up to the hype?