‘Inception’ And Past Expectations: A Hype Machine Report Card

Christopher Nolan’sInception” is getting a lot of hype. Is it deserved? It’s hard to say — I have yet to meet a single person who has seen the film that’s had anything but glowing reviews to give — but one thing is for sure: hype can be a very, very dangerous thing for a movie.

If fans are in a fever pitch over a film and it fails to meet expectations, that movie — which very well could be a halfway decent movie, or even a good movie — could well go down in flames. On the flip side, if the film hits that super high glass ceiling and even exceeds it, it could go down in history as one of the all time greats. It’s all a matter of risk and execution.

Will “Inception” live up to the hype? We’ll find out soon enough — but we don’t have to wait any longer to find out if other overhyped movies of the 2000s managed to match or surpass their reputations. After the jump, check out some of the most hyped movies of the 2000s!

X-MEN (2000)
The Hype:
Based on the Marvel Comics property, comic book readers waited since the 1960s to see their favorite mutants battle it out on the big screen.
The Aftermath: Certainly not the best movie ever made, “X-Men” kicked off a highly entertaining and lucrative franchise that remains well intact to this day — if you don’t count “The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” that is!
Grade: B

HARRY POTTER & THE SORCERER’S STONE (2001)
The Hype:
J.K. Rowling’s novel series caught on like wildfire, so it was only a matter of time before the magical world of “Harry Potter” leaked off the page and into theaters.
The Aftermath: You saw that trailer for “Deathly Hallows,” right? Not quite 10 years later, the “Harry Potter” brand is as strong as ever. Mission accomplished, as they say.
Grade: A-

LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001)
The Hype:
Fantasy enthusiasts the world over were biting their nails in anticipation of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy hitting the big screen, especially under the guidance of a director that very few people had ever heard of before.
The Aftermath: Peter Jackson isn’t just a household name these days, he’s also considered one of the great visionary directors of our time thanks to his work within the world of Middle-Earth.
Grade: A

SPIDER-MAN (2002)
The Hype:
After many false starts throughout the 1990s, the “Spider-Man” franchise was finally getting its cinematic due in the very capable though largely unknown hands of filmmaker Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire.
The Aftermath: Certainly a blockbuster success, most fans enjoyed the first two “Spider-Man” outings. The third, however, wasn’t widely embraced and the fourth film fell apart completely, paving the way for a full reboot of the franchise less than 10 years later.
Grade: B

THE MATRIX RELOADED/REVOLUTIONS (2003)
The Hype:
“The Matrix” was revolutionary, an excellent think piece with heaping amounts of awesome action and reality-bending violence. How would two back-to-back sequels hold up in comparison?
The Aftermath: Not very well. Not very well at all.
Grade: D

STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
The Hype:
Unless George Lucas decided to push ahead with a new trilogy following “Return of the Jedi,” the cinematic “Star Wars” saga would end with “Revenge of the Sith.” No matter the quality of Episodes I and II, this was a momentous occasion to behold.
The Aftermath: Surprisingly, “Revenge of the Sith” was a rather solid film. Sure, it has its weak points, but even those spawned some incredibly hilarious popular culture touchstones. (“NOOOOOO!”)
Grade: B-

BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
The Hype:
After “Batman & Robin,” there was no way the “Batman” brand could sink any lower. Hopefully. Please, don’t sink any lower.
The Aftermath: It did not sink lower. In fact, at the hands of director Christopher Nolan, the Caped Crusader was once again one of the single coolest superheroes on the block.
Grade: A-

SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)
The Hype:
Seeing the success of “Batman Begins,” would Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns” similarly reestablish the Man of Steel as a paragon of awesome?
The Aftermath: Although not a bad film, Singer’s “Superman” relied too heavily on the past and failed to push towards the future in any meaningful, tangible way. Hopefully Nolan’s role as the producer of the next “Superman” film will improve things.
Grade: C+

CASINO ROYALE (2006)
The Hype:
Pierce Brosnan was a great James Bond trapped in some truly terrible James Bond films. It was time for a fresh start, but was the unconventionally rugged Daniel Craig the right person to slip into Bond’s tuxedo?
The Aftermath: Described by many as the “Batman Begins” of the Bond franchise, Agent 007 got a successful gritty reboot that reestablished the British spy as a character to watch.
Grade: A-

TRANSFORMERS (2007)
The Hype:
“Transformers” fans long hoped to see the property thrive on the big screen, but at the hands of explosion-happy Michael Bay? Perhaps not.
The Aftermath: Bay’s “Transformers” certainly took its own path away from the original source material, but it was a memorable affair and it introduced Megan Fox into popular culture. If nothing else, old school fans still had the 1986 “Transformers” movie cling onto.
Grade: C+

THE SIMPSONS (2007)
The Hype:
The longest running animated series in television history sure took its sweet time getting into movie theaters. Was the wait worth it?
The Aftermath: Meh. Sort of. “The Simpsons” certainly wasn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have worked just as well on the small screen. As far as an extended “Simpsons” episode would have gone, it worked just fine.
Grade: B-

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
The Hype:
If “Batman Begins” wasn’t so good, perhaps “The Dark Knight” wouldn’t have received so much hype. But then there was Heath Ledger’s controversial casting as The Joker and Ledger’s subsequent death fueling further interest in Nolan’s second comic book adaptation.
The Aftermath: Considered by many to be the quintessential comic book movie, “The Dark Knight” stood on the shoulders of “Begins” and hit the ball out of the park, thanks largely to the late Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance.
Grade: A

IRON MAN (2008)
The Hype:
Although it didn’t have quite the same rabid fan base as “Spider-Man” or “X-Men,” the first cinematic outing of Tony Stark generated plenty of interest as Marvel Studios’ first major foray into the world of filmmaking.
The Aftermath: Considering that “Iron Man” has paved the way for a whole line of superhero movies building up to 2012’s “The Avengers,” I’d say the movie was at least a small hit, wouldn’t you?
Grade: A

INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)
The Hype:
Getting the original “Indiana Jones” team of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford out of retirement after “The Last Crusade” was a ballsy move. One would hope it was worth the risk.
The Aftermath: It wasn’t worth the risk. “Crystal Skull” nuked the fridge.
Grade: D

AVATAR (2009)
The Hype:
James Cameron’s grand return to filmmaking after a very lengthy absence had many people on the edge of their seats, not just because of the space-spanning subject matter, but also because of the ambitious scope of the project, the effects and the budget that was once rumored to have exceeded $500 million.
The Aftermath: Even if the “Avatar” budget was that high, it more than made up for it with the well over $2 billion and counting worldwide total. It certainly didn’t hurt that “Avatar” was absolutely awesome, too.
Grade: A

WATCHMEN (2009)
The Hype:
Director Zack Snyder’s adaptation of “Watchmen” was a real nail-biter. Staunch fans of the original graphic novel did not believe it could be adapted for film. It was the subject of a ruthless lawsuit. It did not have the blessing of Alan Moore. Needless to say, the world was watching to see how “Watchmen” unspooled.
The Aftermath: “Watchmen” was far from a box office success — many would consider it a failure — and the altered ending was disappointing for many fans. That said, there’s no question that the movie accurately represented a massive portion of the original graphic novel, offering fans with something that very closely resembled the initial vision.
Grade: B-

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2009)
The Hype:
Not since “The Blair Witch Project” has a ghost story elicited such an electric response from moviegoers. With a production budget of $10,000, “Paranormal” originally unspooled in front of a mere handful of crowds. But word of mouth increased, leading to a wider release, leading to…
The Aftermath: …a cult phenomenon. “Paranormal Activity” scared the bajeesus out of horror fans all across the country, becoming an unexpectedly huge financial and critical hit for Paramount, so much so that a sequel is already well underway.
Grade: A