2012, like any other year, had its host of good and bad films. But it’s hard to recall a year that also had so many disappointing films as well (not quite the same as bad films–we’ll get into that below). To the sheer, just awful dreck from such perennial underachievers as Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, and Tyler Perry, to the frankly shocking disappointments from filmmakers who could have done better (let’s just say a few people in tights and an escaped slave pop up on this list), 2012 was, ironically, no let-down in the disappointment department.
The Worst Films of 2012:
First off, to clarify: a bad film is a film that simply is, well, bad. It fails at even the most modest of goals, and can’t even serve as an entertaining way to shut your brain off for two hours. A bad film is offensive–not because of inflammatory content (though it can have that, too)–but simply because it’s very existence insults your intelligence of love of film.
Further, just because we don’t like a film that you happen to love isn’t the end of the world. The filmmakers still got paid, and you got a film that you dug. So if we don’t like your gem of 2012, relax. It’s going to be OK. Got it? Good. Let’s get moving.
5. A Thousand Words
A stale, stuck-in-the-studio-vaults-for-four-years ripoff of Liar, Liar, A Thousand Words is yet another pandering, family-friendly bit of brainless pap from the once-brilliant Eddie Murphy. Long story short, every word out of his jerk character’s mouth equal’s a leaf that falls from a magic tree. When the tree loses a thousand leaves, it dies–and so does Eddie. Cue a bit of spastic humor and an obligatory and overly sentimental life lesson. We’re guessing that the tree representing Eddie’s talent, wit, and charm got chopped down and mashed into the pulp that the A Thousand Words script was printed on a long time ago.
4. That’s My Boy
A film that finds the height of hilarity to be the statutory rape of a child, and Adam Sandler beating up Leighton Meester. At least it doesn’t star Rob Schneider, so that’s something.
3. Alex Cross
“Don’t Ever Cross… Alex Cross.”
Yes, that’s the real tagline for the film, which features an epic battle between a sleepy-eyed and doughy Tyler Perry and an emaciated serial killer who apparently really hates body fat. Playing like a compendium of Really Dumb Modern Thriller Tropes, the film features The Career Cop with the Reluctant Yet Supportive Wife vs. The Insane Yet Brilliant Serial Killer Super Criminal. Then, of course, Matthew Fox’s bad guy goes after Alex Cross’ family, so he must then become The Cop Who Colors Outside The Lines Because This Time It’s Personal and engagse in a Suspenseful Game of Cat And Mouse before an Improbably Violent and Elaborate Climax. Because that’s what happens when you cross… sigh… Alex Cross.
Look, even Michael Bay can’t even seem to make decent Michael Bay films anymore (the whacked-out trailer for Pain and Gain notwithstanding), so why try to hijack his style in an adaptation of a board game that adds such tiny little modifcations as a full-scale alien invasion and the misguided assertion that Rihanna can act? We don’t know either.
1. Atlas Shrugged: Part II: The Strike
So remember how Atlas Shrugged, the adaptation of the Ayn Rand novel, was the worst film of 2011? Well, Atlas Shrugged: Part II: The Strike is just like that, except it’s even worse, is ten minutes longer, and somehow tries to give philosophical import to a message that basically exclaims “MONEY IS TOTALLY AWESOME!” while featuring some of the most amateurish acting this side of The Room. Shrugged, indeed.
The Most Disappointing Films of 2012:
Now, a disappointing film, however, can still be a technically well-made and even enjoyable enterprise; rather, it’s just a film that fails to live up to what came before it, either from its director or its genre. Please keep in mind, before running to the comments wall with a blow torch or sharp weapon, that we are not calling the films in our Disappointments list bad–in fact, almost all of them were the films we were looking forward to the most this year. It just comes down to the fact that they did not live up to work that came before them, or the promise and potential of their material. Warning: Some spoilers ahead.
5. Django Unchained
Django Unchained isn’t a bad film at all–it’s just that it falls so woefully short of the films that Quentin Tarantino has released in the past (only Death Proof falls below it) that one can’t help but be disappointed. While it’s still the best film most other directors could hope to direct, this is definitely b-grade, unfocused Tarantino. Most of it seems to come down to that: focus. Perhaps the loss of his longtime editor Sally Menke has left QT rudderless, maybe his ego has just finally eclipsed his considerable talents; whatever the reason, the film spins from one overlong setpiece to another, with full, 15-minute sequences simply having no bearing on the rest of the film (the Ku Klux Klan scene, through broadly funny in a Mel Brooks kind of way, is the most egregious example, popping up as it does for no other reason than QT thought it was funny and likely “Ku Klux Klan” was likely written on a checklist on his desk).
Elsewhere, two central characters are killed in a quick, almost afterthought-like fashion, while the film then immediately jumps to an all-slow-motion five minute sequence in which a series of extras are killed with far more attention and detail. Why? And when the best scene in the film (we’ll call it the “Leo explains phrenology” sequence) is simply a ripoff of a similar scene in an earlier QT film (“Bill explains comic book mythology” from Kill Bill), well, it makes things problematic. The direction is still sharp at times, and the performances are top-notch, but this still feels like a bit of a clunker, coming as it does from the man behind Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Inglorious Basterds.
4. The Avengers
Sure, the third act battle royale in Manhattan is a blast, and yes, the Hulk stuff is all ineffably badass. But the first act is a boring, mis-directed mess (seriously, if you can’t wrench more fun out of the most important Marvel heroes that aren’t Spider-Man or the X-Men, well, honey, you’ve got problems); and often the film simply stops being fun for long stretches, especially whenever Hawkeye or Black Widow appear for their contractually obligated screentime. Also: the best the climax could come up with was a group of faceless CGI bad guys with no established power or weaknesses, and who die instantly if you simply blow up one big spaceship? Avengers can be big dumb fun at times, but coming from Joss Whedon, we expected better.
3. Hyde Park on the Hudson
The ads for the film would have you think this is simply a more highbrow and literate take on Bill Murray’s classic work in the “slobs vs. snobs” department, featuring as it does a randy FDR welcoming staid British royalty to the States, all while having an affair with his cousin. Instead, it’s a sloppily-directed bore, barely hung together with that odious cinematic crutch, the voiceover. Murray’s fun to watch, sure, be he’s been in (and deserves) far better than this simply average bit of fluff.
2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Take the Lord of the Rings cinematic trilogy that you love so much. Take out any and all of the best-directed sequences. Then remove all of the decent special effects. Oh, be sure to remove most of your favorite characters. Then pad the story out about 50 minutes too long with a ton of deleted scenes. Then play it about 1.5x faster than normal on your Blu-Ray player. Voila! You’ve just replicated The Hobbit viewing experience, and you didn’t even have to visit the multiplex.
1. The Dark Knight Rises
Sigh, where to begin? A lead character who spends the first act crippled, then shows up healed for 10 minutes, and is then crippled again for a 40 minute middle-act stretch? A film which seems to steal entirely the structure of Rocky III? A character no one cared about showing up in the last reel to be revealed as a villain that–again–no one really cared about, and who also got the most ridiculous death scene in recent memory? The ability of every pertinent character to somehow magically and continually keep bumping into each other (in a city the size of New York) whenever it was convenient for the story? The list goes on and on.
Yes, the IMAX cinematography is breathtaking, as are the action sequences. Yes, Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway turn in charming performances. And yes, there are scattered moments of grace and cinematic majesty scattered throughout. But this is the first film in which director Christopher Nolan has actively seemed bored, with no real themes to hold the film together or keep him interested. The dark knight rose, be he sure didn’t go anywhere.
What do you think–which films disappointed you in 2012?