Like any year, 2013 had a number of big stinkers. Films that could have been contenders, but left us slightly wanting — and sometimes offended that the film got made. It seems the biggest offenders are often the over-hyped summer movies (though sometimes it was would-be Oscar pictures as well) that promise so much and deliver so little. So here’s our list of the worst and most disappointing films of 2013:
When the trailers and posters were first being released for David O. Russell‘s latest movie, it appeared to be visually appetizing to any movie-goer. By the time the end credits started rolling on my screening of American Hustle I had a heavy taste of disappointment lingering in my mouth, the same way it feels the morning after when somebody drank heavily the night before. The performances are note-worthy, especially Amy Adams as a femme fatale, but that’s about it. David O. Russell’s vision comes off as lost, muddled in between his imitations of master directors like Martin Scorsese that are scattered throughout the picture. American Hustle feels rushed, dull and you can definitely feel the run time an hour into the film. – Melissa Molina
The first half of Man of Steel is pretty solid. But once Superman starts battling other Kryptonians the film falls apart. The story gets lost in a sea of debris thanks to overly-extended action scenes. Superman himself isn’t even the most compelling character. Both Russell Crowe‘s Jor-El and Kevin Costner‘s Jonathan Kent give Henry Cavill a run for his money. The film’s inability to add substance to its namesake makes us question how he’ll standout in the sequel. If he can’t hold his own against his two dads, how will he stand with Batman and Wonder Woman? – Krystal Clark
When the first trailers for Pacific Rim arrived, it would have been rather easy to dismiss the $200 million film as exactly what it looked like: a loud and Michael Bay’d CGI extravaganza in which Stringer Bell and Jax Teller play Dance Dance Revolution inside an army of Robot Jox in order to punch-out various low-tier members of Godzilla’s rogues gallery. However, cynicism was held at bay due to the fact that the film was directed and co-written by the extraordinarily gifted Guillermo del Toro, who had previously infused such horror and fantasy films as Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, and Pan’s Labyrinth with a haunting sensitivity and beauty. So, there was hope—perhaps del Toro would give us the action-sci-fi-spectacular that would be both entertaining popcorn-fare and not totally intellectually insulting.
So, imagine our disappointment when Rim turns out to be not only everything that we dreaded it could be, but also managed to work in a nearly beat-for-beat remake of Top Gun in which a hot-headed pilot must overcome the grief of a dead relative, earn the trust of a suspicious fellow pilot, and finally overcome his personal demons to kill the bad guys. It was a stupid plot in 1986, and despite being buttressed with big-ass robots and cool monsters 27 years later, it was a stupid plot this summer, too. – Travis Woods
Give the devil his due, J.J. Abrams knows how to put a set piece together, and there are moments of great excitement and spectacle in Star Trek Into Darkness. The problem is everything else. The film reboots the 2009 reboot by erasing the lessons learned in the first film to go through those motions again. Spock learns to be more human, Kirk learns how to be a good leader, while also repeating many of the scenes from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which still stands as the best Trek movie ever. Would the movie have worked better if the ads and people making it didn’t play cutesy with the villain reveal? No, because it’s written so it’s supposed to be a big moment, a big moment that means nothing to anyone except audience members who already know who Khan is. Certainly it means little to the characters who’ve never heard of the guy. And when it replicates the ending of Khan, and that film’s big sacrifice scene, it doesn’t build on fifteen years of our awareness of these characters, and the relationship those people have, it builds on the previous four hours of us watching these actors get comfortable in other people’s clothes. And the film doesn’t even have the balls to make that a permanent decision — or at least something that doesn’t get resolved in the sequel — which makes the sacrifice worthless. When the 2009 reboot came out, people liked it and actively wanted more, but it felt like a film that’s worth would be determined by the sequel. What makes Star Trek Into Darkness so disappointing is that it retroactively makes the first film less good. On top of it being not very good itself.
Also, for the love of god, Hollywood could you please stop using 9/11 imagery or ideas in big summer tentpole franchises? It’s wearing thin, on top of being offensive. – Damon Houx
World War Z wasn’t a bad movie, but it could’ve been a lot better. Sure the zombie summer flick was an overall success, making $502.7 million at the box office – Brad Pitt‘s highest-grossing film to date – and getting some good reviews from the critics. But most of this success was due to the large amount of bad press the film garnered prior to its release. When WWZ hit theaters, everyone seemed pleasantly surprised with the final product because expectations had been substantially lowered. But it could’ve and should’ve been a lot better, especially if we consider the work it was based on. Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is a great book that made the New York Times Best Seller List. And for those who know the source material, the movie is the least interesting version of that story. – Laura Frances
M. Night Shyamalan started so promisingly, but there’s a case to be made that every film he’s made since The Sixth Sense is worse than the one before. As After Earth is his most recent movie, it’s worth saying that it might be a little bit better than The Last Airbender, but let’s not split too many hairs here. As a director, Shyamalan seems like a hired gun all things, while the big offenders here are Will and Jayden Smith who star as Cypher and Kitai Raige. It’s almost worth recommending the film just for the fact that it features a character named Cypher Raige, but the movie, which attempts to a a boy’s adventure film, is sunk by the messages about fear and controlling your emotions that sound vaguely like religious beliefs. But more than anything it’s just so f-ing boring. – DH
Back in 2009 Ruben Fleischer was considered to be a director to watch, mainly because of his surprisingly good horror comedy Zombieland. Fast forward to 2013 and we get garbage like Gangster Squad. This movie is a train wreck all around, between the phoned-in performances, the disgusting visual look and the story. After a certain point you realize that you can’t walk out of the movie since you paid for it, so you have no choice but to trudge through the bland dialogue and lackluster scenes while following a group of characters you could care less about. If it’s based on a true story you have the gist of where it’ll end up, so do yourself a favor and read the historical account of this tale rather than sitting through this movie. – MM
Existing only as an ATM for 20th Century Fox and Bruce Willis to wring a few more hundred million out of a once-beloved but increasingly-tattered franchise and character, A Good Day to Die Hard is the absolute worst entry in a franchise that already contains a film called Die Harder and another in which a New York cop manages to fire a police car at a helicopter like a cruise missile. The film wouldn’t be nearly as insulting if it would simply try to be entertaining (hell, at least Live Free or Die Hard was trying to be a satisfying action movie), but everything about A Good Daye to Die Hard is lazy—from the obvious and ridiculous plotting (“hey, the last movie shoved one of John McClane’s kids into the plot—how do we do that again, but in a way that makes things go boom-boom more?”) to the half-lidded performance from sleepwalking star Bruce Willis. It’s a film too mechanized and stitched-together by committee to even attempt to hide its disregard for its audience or its franchise. If there’s a positive here, it’s that the movie serves only to remind us how entertaining and innovative the original Die Hard truly was. – TW
Grown Ups 2 is everything you expect it to be. Like most of Adam Sandler’s films it’s filled with juvenile jokes to mask its paper thin plot. We actually enjoyed the first movie, but the sequel is beyond moronic. The script spends more time with a running fart gag than actual character development. There’s also a repetitive nature to it that’s like beating a dead horse or should we say, deer? – KC
2013 was not Robert De Niro‘s best year, but his lowest point was hit with Killing Season, a movie that also stars John Travolta. The movie tells the story of two former soldiers who go hunting together only to realize that one of them is trying to kill the other for past actions. The story is just the beginning of this movie’s problems. The effects are laughable, and both Travolta and De Niro move through each slow-action scene like a couple of rookies. Plus, Travolta sports such a horrible Russian accent throughout the entire movie, that he makes Harrison Ford in K-19 sound like a real native. Seriously, one has to wonder how this awful film ever got made. (Someone must’ve owed someone a very big favor.) –LF
What were your biggest disappointments and least favorite films of the year?