The time has come good people to look back at the year just gone and think about which movies we were most excited to see and which disappointed us the most when we finally watched them. A harsh exercise you might think but one that must be done for the good of mankind.
So, here we have the list of movies that thwarted our expectations in 2014. May God have mercy on their souls (and box office takings…)
1) 12 Years A Slave-
and before you say it, yes, we know the film turned out to be an award hoover with three Oscars, three golden globes and numerous other sparkly things in its final haul but the cynic in me thinks that might have had more to do with the subject matter than the actual movie itself. Don’t get us wrong it was absolutely an example of solid film-making with well honed technical skill and good performances all round (and to be fair Lupita Nyong’o deserved every accolade she got for her work in particular) but… and this is where the problem arises, it just wasn’t great. Neither groundbreaking nor illuminating in terms of the brutality of slavery, the film was simply good quality rather than high quality. Outside of one single uncut shot used during Solomon’s hanging which rightly took the breath away, the direction was unremarkable- not something usually said about Steve McQueen. And the screenplay was serviceable but not memorable overall, relying a little too much on shock rather than explanation for the characters actions. So while the critics may disagree, in our opinion the film just didn’t live up to the hype around it and it turned out to be quite the disappointment as the one of the first movie offerings we saw last year.
2) As Above So Below-
and a fairly impressive switch of genre from the last entry. Not many horror films come out with great expectations attached (unless they are a sequel to a surprise hit like Paranormal Activity or The Conjuring) so it could be argued that this has no right to disappoint if we weren’t expecting much to begin with. But the trailer was tense, atmospheric and gritty set as it was in the actual Parisian catacombs and so our little horror-loving hearts beat a little faster when we bought our ticket. And truth be told, the first half of the film met each and every anticipation we had with its claustrophobic locations, sparky dialogue and pared down visuals. But then the film’s internal logic just seemed to fall apart- throwing in cheap narrative tricks like jump-shocks far too often and offering religious overtones that muddled the story, throwing off its carefully built tension. It’s a common failing in horror movies these days but one that really brought this film to its knees. Combined with an overly shaky hand-cam (another overused device) and an ending that comes off as confused rather than clever the movie just lost everything that had set it apart to begin with and for this very reason it makes our list of disappointing flicks of 2014.
and speaking of internal logic falling apart…This one really makes me mad actually. Because there’s so much to like about the film from the get go. Christopher Nolan has barely put a foot wrong in his career especially when he shares writing duties with his brother Jonathon but his most ambitious film so far might just have halted that trajectory (somewhat ironically given the title.) Advertised as an epic adventure when in reality its more of an existential drama the film is all expansive vistas and hard human truth. The cinematography is stunning whether down in the dustbowl or out in the vastness of space and the acting is uniformly good (with an unexpected cameo you won’t see coming.) But…and this is what makes it so irritating, the film undercuts these positives by ending up as overlong, too sentimental at times especially when discussing the concept of love and most frustrating of all, impenetrable rather than ambiguous. If Nolan had cut to the credits after they realised the mission was doomed to failure, it would have been concise, hard-hitting and remarkable. But the final foray into black holes and time-bending/ethereal libraries really muddies the cinematic waters and confuses the crystalline vision that had been previously playing out before our eyes. The patchy sound problems we could probably have dealt with but the slow dissolution of the narrative’s structure was just a little too much to ask in the end. Sorry.
Interestingly given the last entry, here we have Jonathon Nolan’s regular cinematographer turned director Wally Pfister. We also have Johnny Depp, an actor who’s always watchable regardless of circumstance and a cache of awesome Batman related actors including Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy. So how could Transcendence go wrong, right?! Well I’m afraid it does and in spades. The interesting central concept gives way to a mediocre thriller pretty quickly and Depp is relegated to a thankless role as a cybernetic creation almost entirely devoid of the charm he always exudes. And although its visual effects are much more advanced, this Lawnmower Man clone also loses the human touch that Brett Leonard’s cult classic managed to maintain. Pretty but vacant none of the stars have much of an impact on screen and the final climax turns out to be as unsatisfying as it’s moralistic message. Add to that a dumbed down scientific slant and a truly disappointing screenplay what you’re left with is a forgettable cyber-drama without edge or merit. And a film you could easily describe as mediocre to the point of being offensive.
this one may have been a given. I mean, what could the modern world really add to the gloriously satirical Verhoeven original? That question crossed my mind as well but honestly the more I thought about it, the more excited I got about a remake. Because look at the problems we have these days- overzealous policing in the US. A growing cynicism over the military interference of Western forces both outside and within American borders. Distrust for the forces of authority that just seems to be picking up speed every month. And so, this reboot could have been an amazing commentary on the twenty first century; proving to be entirely relevant and socially damning. And instead what did we end up with? A lacklustre drama that was toothless and unnecessary. Director Jose Padilha was a bold choice to be fair- his documentary Bus 124 was powerful and stirring but this, his first foray into Hollywood action seems to have been a little premature since he brings little style or flair to the visuals. The three screenwriters also seem to have created a mishmash script which is dull, pedestrian and purely without emotion. And despite the powerhouse team of Michael Keaton (on an upward swing thanks to Birdman) and Gary Oldman, the acting is too exaggerated for a straightforward drama but not manic enough for true comic book glory. The outcome of all this? An unremarkable piece of celluloid that fades from the memory the second you step outside the cinema rather than the incisive knuckle-punch we were hoping for. Well, that and a big kick in the teeth for those of us that yearned for more. So…yeah.
And there we have it. Our pick for the five most disappointing flicks of last year. Now it’s your turn- what were yours? Did you have any at all? Let us know your thoughts, by commenting below.