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Top 10 films that should have been good, but weren't

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Sometimes it's a long wait for short weight...

Films that disappointed after very high expectations

Last time I checked, cinema was supposed to be about the entertainment and expression of us as a society and culture. So why, may I ask, has it become common practice to simply advertise great films and deliver something completely different? Or to give us a fantastic film and then try to subdue us with mediocre sequels? You can’t flick through movie channels on a lazy evening at home without coming across some form of wasted potential; Pandorum, Chronicles of Riddick, or even Spider-Man 3. This list is compiled of two types of film; the kind that have a good pedigree of cast and crew and somehow still managed to mess up, and the kind that are bad in every sense of the word but had some semblance of potential in their plot that was lost amongst whatever choices that turned it into a bad film. So here we go...

10: Taken (2008)

Taken (2008)

Taken provides 90 minutes of decent action involving Liam Neeson threatening, maiming, and killing as many faceless bad guys as you could hope to see in a brainless action film. But this is exactly my point: Taken is a perfectly adequate action thriller but is found wanting in the fields I was hoping for; particularly in light of its adverts, which seemed to think of it as a Bourne Identity-type psychological thriller. Liam Neeson is a fantastic actor, and I was disappointed to find him used for brainless, thug-like violence, rather than the chilling and thoughtful character with ninja-like skills that I had been promised, and foolishly hoped for.

9: Salt (2010)

Salt (2010)

Some may argue that the crime thriller Salt never promised much in the first place, and therefore it can’t be called a disappointment as such. But one thing it did have was potential. Wasted potential is, to me, even sadder than advertisements being better than the films themselves, and Salt is no exception. The film has an interesting plot which was executed in entirely the wrong way; it keeps you guessing, but only out of frustration at being told nothing. The writers of Salt conceal the protagonist’s identity and goal in the hope of engineering a ‘twist’ at the end of the film, creating an entirely unsympathetic character for most of the movie. It basically felt like the director was chanting “I know something you don’t know!” repeatedly from off-camera.

8: Avatar (2009)

Avatar (2009)

Despite the obvious approbation given by box office figures, I found Avatar somewhat underwhelming. Like any other film on this list it was enjoyable enough, but the stunning visuals only went so far and could not occlude the frankly mediocre plot. The problem with having such over-the-top villains is that the audience stops caring about the story, because none of the characters feel real, and therefore whatever emotional impact you were aiming for is lost. Even the beautiful 3D environments eventually wear thin when you realise how much James Cameron could have achieved with the technology at his disposal, and yet he decided that the word ‘innovation’ meant sticking an extra pair of legs on a horse.

7: The Godfather: Part III (1990)

The Godfather Part III (1990)

After the first two films, The Godfather: Part III had no excuse to be anything but phenomenal. It wasn’t. End of story.

6: The Hurt Locker [minor spoilers] (2008)

The Hurt Locker (2008)

The Hurt Locker was given such praise by various awards ceremonies that you were hard-pressed to miss it in the cavalcade of media attention that ensued. The film, however, was underwhelming in every sense. Each scene was interesting in its own right, but as the film ends you find yourself with a significantly empty feeling. The Hurt Locker tried so hard to be poignant that it forgot to have anything but a rather obvious message that was just repeating the sentiment of other, better war films. Kathryn Bigelow's direction deserved a better plot, and I can’t help but wonder if the killing-off of the most talented cast-member in the first five minutes was an attempt to show the audience that no-one was safe - or whether it was just a successful mission of self-sabotage.

5: I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend (2007)

Anyone who has had the good sense to watch the alternate ending of this film will know the small fire of burning potential that I Am Legend had at its core. Unfortunately, focus groups suggested that the original ending wasn’t good enough (despite the fact that it follows the book), and a new one was written for the cinematic release. I’m not saying that the entire success of the film depended on the ending being changed, but the ending is just one example of what is wrong with this film. It started well, and could have told a good story with a message that linked to that of the intellectually stimulating book, but instead decided to tweak it and rob it of any meaning. The end of the cinematic release does little to provoke the minds of its audience and does even less to entertain them.

4: Hancock (2008)

Hancock (2008)

Strangely, Will Smith actually appeared in many of the films that were considered for inclusion within this list. Not that I have anything against him; indeed, he’s probably the reason that Hancock was even part-way entertaining. The film’s main downfall is that it tries to follow two plot-lines; one is the intriguing story of a lonely man who uses his superpowers for good, but often causing more destruction than was needed (a clever analogy for the US if ever I saw one), and the other is a love story between ‘gods’. Both stories would work well on their own, but neither work well together and serves to create a badly hatched film whose first half doesn’t seem to correlate with its second half.

3: R.E.D. (2010)

R.E.D. with Morgan Freeman (2010)

With a cast including John Malkovich and Helen Mirren, it is hard to believe that R.E.D. even could go wrong. Hard, but not impossible. The film has its moments of comic genius as it follows a cast of retired black-ops agents, and does have an element of parody that I can appreciate, but it wasted so much of its potential on cheap gags that could’ve worked so much better given proper time and attention. The film itself didn’t seem to know whether it was trying to be serious or a parody, which made for slightly awkward viewing. A fun film for a Friday night, but the high pedigree of actor was lost on the run-of-the-mill dialogue.

2: Terminator: Salvation (2009)

Terminator: Salvation (2009)

Having been a science fiction fan my entire life, I cannot communicate to you the love that I have for the Terminator trilogy. And it is a trilogy, because I cannot include Terminator: Salvation in this spectrum. While the first two films The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day took themselves seriously and did it well, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines didn’t take itself seriously but did that very well; it was delightfully self-aware and playfully made fun of itself. Terminator: Salvation, however, takes itself way too seriously to be tolerable. The constant tension of Christian Bale stalking around rooms trying to look aggressive is so unintentionally comical that I can’t bring myself to like the film for any of the reasons it wants me to.

1: The Matrix sequels (2003)

Matrix Revolutions

I think I can speak for a generation of young film-goers when I say that ‘disappointment’ is an understatement when it comes to these two so-called ‘films’. The Matrix Revolutions had its share of good action, but just like the proceeding The Matrix Reloaded, it simply didn’t measure up to The Matrix. This trilogy was meant to be my generation’s Star Wars, and I feel proportionally let down by the Wachowski brothers for promising us so much. Now I know how Star Wars fans felt when George Lucas released The Phantom Menace.

See also:

The movies that save our lives

Auteur This: Aggressive Mediocrity

Tintin, the movie: will it work?

 

Is The King’s Speech really that good?

10 things that Ghostbusters 3 would need to get right

Why 'The Stand' should never be a movie

There can be only one: Why the first Highlander is the Best

Are fanboys fascist?

Could 'Mass Effect' be the first worthwhile videogame adaptation?

Top 10 most mishandled comic book characters in film

Ten reasons why a Goonies sequel will work

3 + 1 = Poor: Four trilogies that took it too far

8 films that aren't necessarily 'untouchable'

7 Things The Hobbit needs to do in order to be a success

Lists at Shadowlocked


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Comments 

 
#1 Great list! Caleb Leland 2011-05-09 21:36
My only disagreeance is in the inclusion of Terminator: Salvation, which I felt to be a vast improvement on the lackluster T3. I respect your opinion, though, and you make valid arguments for your choices. I am always glad when I find a fellow sci-fi fan that didn't care for Avatar.
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#2 Taken?? Carl Hermon 2011-05-14 21:23
No way should Taken be in this list - a great film that grips you and keeps you gripped throughout. Neeson plays this role excellently, building the character that makes this film run so smoothly. Everybody I know who has seen this movie thoroughly enjoyed it, and for me it goes down as one of my all-time favourites. To everybody else who reads this article and hasn't yet seen Taken, I emplore you to watch regardless of what this article states and make your own mind up.
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#3 RE: Top 10 films that should have been good, but weren't Bill 2011-06-14 05:29
I nominate "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". Harrison Ford at the beginning of the movie seems like he just woke up three minutes ago, Ray Winstone and John Hurt are largely wasted, Shia LaBouf swings through the jungle like Tarzan, the climax underwhelms, the wedding of Indy and Marion lacks emotional punch, and there are other problems. There are a few things to like, but it's not hard to imagine that a significantly better screenplay could have been written to make the movie great, and not just barely good at best.
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#4 RE: Top 10 films that should have been good, but weren't Taylor1874 2014-08-29 12:22
Well wide of the mark with hurt locker.
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