If you’ve read my reviews for quite some time, you’ll know one of the things that really annoys me about a film is when there’s a great idea there and it gets screwed up immensely. It’s something I really cannot stand, and this is my chance to vent it. I actually got the idea for this list from a suggestion from a member of the Axia team, and it really got me thinking, just what are the films that I think have really great concepts but they didn’t exactly work? And, in all honesty, it was not a difficulty to fill this list; it was a difficulty to narrow it down. I was even asking for suggestions from my friends and family. In fact, I just really had a hard time narrowing it down to 10. I even had a hard time ranking them. Therefore, I’ve decided this time not to rank them since I would go into some weird ratio of how bad the film was to how good the concept was, and it would end up being a complete mess that I probably would not like. So, I’ve decided to take 10 films in particular that had great concepts and great potential but did not live up to it, and I just simply put them on a list and I am going have them go in alphabetical order. These are all bad films, but they could have been good.
I actually looked into a lot of lists to make sure I was not repeating too many of them. But the weird thing is, I never saw this film on the lists whenever I looked into them. This film came out back in 2000 and it has the basic concept of the idea of diving into the mind of a serial killer using near-future technology. The idea is that you could create several worlds based on the psyche of a person. Now, this idea could have gone well. Anyone who plays video games knows that Persona 5 Royal, while it did not dive into a serial killer, it did dive into the minds of several criminals with distorted desires and it did a very good job. The Cell does not have what Persona 5 had. See, Persona 5 really reins it in and trusts its audience to understand what is kind of overt symbolism, but it works quite well. I hate movies like The Cell – The Cell is a prime example of a pretentious writer and director trying to make a movie that is more confusing than it is informative, but want to act like it is artsy. No, you just made a mess and you’re trying to get away with it and have the audience fawn over you to tell them about the symbolism of everything that’s happening. Not to mention, the film is also not helped by some terrible performances from Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D’Onofrio and Vince Vaughn, the middle of which should have known better than to be in this movie. And the fact that this film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Make-Up astounds me considering that everyone in this film looks ridiculous. It really is an indictment of a film that relies on effects and weird imagery over a coherent story. And the imagery is not even that good – it just looks like a really bad Marilyn Manson music video.
I actually reviewed Chappie years ago and I didn’t have much to say about it, but it’s one of a few films that confirms my suspicions: if a film has Hugh Jackman playing the villain, it’s going to be bad. Now, Chappie has a brilliant idea; it’s all about artificial intelligence and basically the one person on the precipice of making the first fully sentient artificial intelligence inhabiting a robot body. You kind of think of it the way the trailers were putting it: the trailers suggested that this film was going to be rather like a more modern and serious take on short circuit, which I was all up for, especially considering that we already had an excellent film like that with Ex Machina that had come out the previous year prior to it. (Seriously, Ex Machina is an amazing film. Go and watch it if you haven’t already.) Chappie fails though because, while it has a few interesting ideas, it squanders all of them. For one thing, most of the big stars are not really in the film all that much. Hugh Jackman is barely in the movie and despite the fact Dev Patel was over all thee trailers and clearly was advertised as being one of the main characters. He’s kind of pushed aside; he’s barely in the movie. In fact, even the titular Chappie is not really much of the focus. He’s mainly being created to be a tool for a gang pulling off a heist that’s played by the two members of Die Antwoord, a South African rap group that are both playing themselves and not playing themselves. It’s kind of weird; they have the same names but they’re not the rap stars, they’re actually now gangsters in Johannesburg, and I honestly have no idea what they were thinking with that casting decision. If it was designed to make me want to go and see the rap group, it had the complete opposite effect. And, in all honesty, Chappie is not one of the worst films I’ve ever seen but the fact it could have been so much better is infuriating.
Now, Death Note has been adapted several times successfully. In fact, to such an extent that it became such a phenomenon. It really should not be that surprising that a Western adaptation was going to happen. The downside is: it happened. It’s not just the fact the concept of Death Note – what happens if you give a really smart kid with a God complex a notebook on which anyone’s name he writes down will die of a heart attack 40 seconds later – is not just good, but you could even work the idea of a Death Note story into an American setting. Despite what a lot of people ahead of time were telling you, that story is not inherently Japanese or requires a Japanese setting and Japanese actors. You can do it. Unless you want to have Watari in the film then yeah, you have to hire a Japanese actor and thank God they did. The problem is that director Adam Wingard, who directed You’re Next and some of the shorts of VHS, doesn’t really seem like he is up to the task. I don’t really blame him for this film. I suspect though that a ton of editorial mandates were put in his way considering that the film is a bit of a mess from a storytelling standpoint. The problem with the film is that none of the characters are as smart as they are in the source material or even the Anime version, so as a result, it loses a lot of the compelling cat-and-mouse nature that the original gave us. What’s more, everyone’s just acting weird in this. And it seems like they’re more interested in adding a bunch of gore effects into the film which have no real reason to be there. Granted, a lot of people say I’m a bit naïve but I was really rooting for this film and I actually though it had the potential, and there are a couple of things I like about the film: I think it’s actually got some every good cinematography and William Dafoe is actually really good as Ryuk, but as a whole, Death Note is a film that really stands for the massive failure in not understanding how to adapt Anime to a Western audience. And the worst part is: It has a sequel coming up.
M. Night Shyamalan might not have directed this but his fingerprints are all over it, so the fact I’m going to feature another one of his films later down the line is fair game. Picture this: it’s about five people stuck in a lift and one by one the power goes out, and every time it does, someone is killed. One of them is a killer. That sounds like an excellent suspense novel, right? The problem is, one of them then turns out to be the devil. Yeah, I know the title suggests that that was obviously going to be the case, but even then, I actually thought that was a pretty decent concept. It almost feels like something that would be in the Twilight Zone. The problem is that everyone is really dumb in this film and, of course, like most of the M. Night Shyamalan films, no one acts like a human being. I don’t believe any one of these people. Plus, the film screws it with one of the worst plot twists to any movie I’ve seen. In fact, there are only two other films on this list that have plot twists worse than this. Seriously, skip Devil. It is a good idea that has gotten out of hand.
Yeah, I decided to lump all these in together, though I would stress that I actually quite liked Final Destination 5. I know that’s weird to say but honestly, if I do have a list of films that surprise me for how much I enjoyed them, Final Destination 5 is definitely getting on the list. But that’s mainly because of what Final Destination 2-4 did to me, because it proved once and for all that the Final Destination series was doomed from the start. The biggest problem I had with the Final Destination films is something that the sequels really emphasised. For one thing, they tried to up the sort of weird Domino-effect deaths that happened in the first film, and they just look ridiculous. The third and fourth film, for example, have sequences that just beggars belief. But my biggest flaw with the Final Destination films are that they establish a set of rules, and then immediately at the end of the film just basically go, the rules didn’t matter. If the rules don’t matter, then I know going into these films that there is no chance for any of them to get out alive. So, I know that everyone will die. They never actually address why certain people get premonitions for their deaths in this film series; you think with five films they would have at least addressed that by now. The problem with the Final Destination films is that they never kept the deaths short and sweet, which they really needed to do. There is a reason why one of the best deaths in the series and the most memorable ones is from the first film, a death that is very quick and to the point, and just saying that means I’ve probably conjured up the image of it in your mind. The problem is that the rest of the films don’t space them out like that so, as a result, there’s no real suspense. If I had to state which one is the worst I think I would have a tough time choosing between 3 and 4 – both films had terrible characters and terrible sequences, but I think 4 might be slightly worse because the effects were appalling and they were clearly trying to cash in on the 3D gimmick.
If it wasn’t for The Last Airbender, this would be M. Night Shyamalan’s worst film and I am done hearing people defend it. No joke, I’ve actually had friends who defend this film and I really have to ask them why. It’s not even a funny film, it’s just weird. So, here’s the thing, The Happening’s concept revolves around the idea of people suddenly losing all urges to live and committing suicide en mass, with a real mystery edge about why it’s happening. What ruins it? Well, the fact that the dialogue is appalling, the direction is terrible, Mark Wahlberg is giving one of the worst performances of his career and that the humour is incredibly tone-deaf. But the main problem is the fact that the twist is terrible. Not only is the twist terrible, it actively contradicts several moments in the film and actually is dumber the more you think about it. And it’s just a bizarre film all round. This proves why everyone really needs to tell M. Night Shyamalan, “You are not as deep and clever as you think you are.” M. Night Shyamalan actually mentioned in an interview one time that Hollywood does not seem to understand him and the critics did not understand him, to which the sycophantic ITV reporter said, “They just don’t get you,” which he responded to by saying, “They’ve never got me and it’s getting worse.” No, here’s the thing Shyamalan, we got you. We got you ages ago and that’s why we give your films bad reviews. It’s not that we don’t get you, we get it completely and it’s terrible. And after The Glass last year, any goodwill you brought back that made us think you might have some good films still left in you seems to have gone.
This is one that was suggested by my colleague Reece and I have to agree with him. Just the concept alone of Ang Lee doing a Hulk movie when he is fresh off Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon should work, and I think Ang Lee really would have suited it. The thing is the effects aren’t that good and it has some really bizarre choices. The dialogue is another thing I really don’t like in this film, and Eric Bana is an actor I like but he feels really miscast as Bruce Banner. Mind you, it would take until Mark Ruffalo was cast before we get the best casting. And, what’s more, I really don’t like the effects in this film – everything’s just too floaty. I know Ang Lee was really into the idea of that after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but as a result of that and the fact that the Hulk looks really fake, even back when that film was made, it appears like the Hulk has no weight to him; I don’t get the sense of the amazing strength and pure rage that he has. What’s more, they make some bizarre changes from the comic that really don’t work. I really find the whole thing bizarre. The MCU film The Incredible Hulk is slightly better but it’s still not that great and in fact I actually would say it’s the weakest MCU film. So it kind of proved that the Hulk really has not had much success on the big screen outside of Avengers and Thor movies.
This is one my colleague Elliott insisted was on the list and I can’t help but agree with him. A film about aliens receiving a transmission from Earth around classic 80s retro arcade videogames is a really cool concept. Bringing those videogames to life and having us do battle in them for our society – sign me up. Okay, fine, it’s been done in Futurama but they kind of made it work. It’s being directed by Chris Columbus, the director of the first two Harry Potter films? That could work… Oh crap, it stars Adam Sandler. This is a film that really doesn’t care too much about videogames surprisingly. Yeah, you’ve got the license games there but it’s bizarre how much they take a backdrop to the usual Happy Maddison rubbish that I was sick of years ago. Everyone got sick of this years ago. Okay yeah, it was cool that they mentioned lesser known games like Centipede, and the Pacman sequence is alright. Man, is it terrible. Kevin James is in the film and actually plays the president… No, I’m serious. And the only reason why that’s not what we would consider ridiculous right now is because of you-know-who, but trust me, at the time it was considered one of the most ridiculous in casting. There’s terrible lines for Peter Dinklage’s character, who deserved better than to be in this film, and it has some of the weirdest cameos – Sean Bean shows up for like five minutes in one of the most thankless roles he’s ever been in. And I really have no idea what anyone was thinking being in this. Adam Sandler’s commentary on a playthrough of The Last of Us really reeks of old-man-yelling-at-cloud, with the idea that older videogames were better. And I could go on and on about how much I don’t like this film, but I wanted to leave people reading this with the will to live so let’s move on.
Prometheus was actually supposed to revitalise the Alien franchise. I already mentioned last week when I talked about Alien Covenant that it seemed to get rid of any sort of good will that Prometheus had. But really, that’s kind of stretching it because Prometheus is really not a good film. It actually has a cool idea – let’s look more into the space jockeys that we saw at the beginning of the first Alien film, and actually has some cool ideas about the mythology. Problem is, it doesn’t really capitalise on it. The characters are too dumb, and it doesn’t really reflect the world of Alien. It just doesn’t quite reach it; that’s the whole film in a nutshell. Good idea but doesn’t quite do it right. Everything needs just one more rewrite or slightly better direction. It’s just a weird film that’s way too full of itself and it doesn’t really have much to say when you really think about it. When I was in the office with some of my colleagues I actually got into a debate with my colleague Ren over whether this film or Alien Covenant is worse, and honestly, the fact he was saying that Prometheus is worse and I wouldn’t mind losing that debate should tell you everything. Though I do stand by that Alien Covenant is a worse film.
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