5. Ghost in the Shell
Honestly, Ghost in the Shell is somewhere between a disappointment and a pleasant surprise. On one hand, all signs pointed to a bad movie from the minute production started. Sanders wasn’t the most appealing director, Johansson’s casting was met with endless controversy, and the screenwriting process was apparently a mess.
Despite all of this, Ghost in the Shell was a surprisingly watchable adaptation of the popular anime. On the other hand, this new take on the series is a far cry from the original. It seemed to sacrifice intelligence for stylish action, and it suffered as a result.
Basically, the film is a disappointment that’s better than expected. This is may be an oxymoron, but it’s the best way to describe the movie’s quality. When viewed alongside the original cult classic, Ghost in the Shell is a watered down Hollywood production aimed at a wider audience.
It’s hard to blame the team behind the movie considering the general stereotype that mainstream moviegoers can’t appreciate intelligence. On the other hand, just because there’s a reason behind the more streamlined screenplay doesn’t make it any more of a bummer for longtime fans.
Viewed as a standalone sci-fi action movie, Ghost in the Shell is visually dazzling popcorn entertainment. That’s what makes it better than expected. Just because it’s not a disaster doesn’t mean it’s not a disappointment though, especially for fans who have been waiting decades to see a live action adaptation of a brilliant anime. Ghost in the Shell is perfectly fine, but its failure to live up to the source material ultimately earns it a spot on the list.
4. A Cure for Wellness
A Cure for Wellness is visually stunning and frequently ambitious, but the film’s insane length and predictable storytelling make for a mediocre experience. Verbinski has never had problems creating visually appealing movies. Even his biggest flops tend to look pretty impressive. His (in)ability to tell an interesting story is usually the big issue. He’s not incapable of it, but his movies often end up feeling like overstuffed visual effects extravaganzas.
A Cure for Wellness looked promising. Verbinski may have missed his chance to direct a Bioshock movie, but this psychological horror flick looked like the next best thing. With a cast consisting of Dane DeHaan, Celia Imrie, and Jason Isaacs, there was a lot to look forward to prior to the film’s release. Following so many adventure-filled blockbusters, it was great to see this director try something new. Honestly, this is a nice change of pace after Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lone Ranger. Unfortunately, the genre switch-up doesn’t make up for the irritating issues.
A Cure for Wellness has too much going on within its incredibly lengthy runtime. If you’re going to make a 146 minute movie, you need to make sure that each of those minutes are engrossing. Pacing problems and stretches of unnecessary screentime cause A Cure for Wellness to stumble. If they could have made the two and a half hour runtime feel meaningful, that’d be awesome. It’s a shame that so much time is wasted telling a story that never really goes anywhere.
A Cure for Wellness may be a step up from The Lone Ranger, but it’s still not a good movie. It’s a movie with a lot of good ideas, but it’s executed so poorly that it’s hard to give it the benefit of the doubt. There are going to be people who love it. After all, the ambition is easy to appreciate. Many others will have a hard time looking past the flaws. That’s the biggest issue.
3. War Machine
War Machine was one of Netflix’s biggest gambles to date. After the recent cancellation of The Get Down, it’s clear that Netflix may need to cool it on big budget risks. With a hefty $60 million budget, this isn’t the usual Netflix indie fare. By comparison, Beasts of No Nation costed only $6 million to make.
With a budget that size, Netflix better be damn sure they can create a hit. Unfortunately, War Machine isn’t exactly the hit Netflix was expecting. Reviews have been middling at best, and rumor has it that it’s not pulling in the same numbers as the recent Sandler originals.
Some disappointments can be seen from a mile away, but War Machine should have been a slam dunk in theory. Director David Michôd knows how to make a good movie. His screenplays are consistently top notch, and his two directorial outings have been incredibly well received. In addition, Brad Pitt has never been one to disappoint in a leading role. These two factors, along with strong trailers and an interesting premise, should have given viewers an excellent satirical war film.
While everything looked peachy from a distance, the end result was a tonally jarring mess with a bizarre performance from the usually excellent Pitt. War Machine bounces between ideas throughout its two hour runtime. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a satire, a character study, a war drama, or an off brand Coen brothers flick. This is even more of an issue due to the fact that it’s never really successful no matter what it tries to do. Meanwhile, Pitt’s exaggerated version of his Inglorious Basterds performance is more frustrating than fun.
“More frustrating than fun” is actually a solid phrase to describe the entire movie. It has a lot of good ideas, but its failure to stay focused hinders its quality. Yes, it’ll likely make you laugh. Yes, it certainly has a few clever things to say about the subject matter. In the end though, everything is too sloppy to appreciate. In the case of War Machine, less is more.
2. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
When it comes to making fun action movies, Guy Ritchie is one of the best directors out there. His take on Sherlock Holmes may not have been as clever as the Cumberbatch series, but it sure was entertaining. The Man from U.N.C.L.E was no Bond, but it was charming and silly in all the right ways.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword tries for the trademark Guy Ritchie fun, but the flat dialog, monotonous story, and uninteresting characters sour the experience. It’s not like Ritchie is especially skilled when it comes to dialog, story, and characters, but this movie feels especially mediocre.
It’s not like we were expecting an Oscar contender, but did the movie have to be such an uninspired bore? The stylish action scenes only help so much. For every dazzling action section, there are enormous chunks of tedious exposition and eye-roll inducing dialog. Hunnam, who gave a fantastic performance in this year’s The Lost City of Z, is as interesting as a cardboard box this time around.
The supporting characters are somehow even more forgettable. It’s not just because they have less screen time. It’s because they have even less depth as a result of poor writing. Visual effects and fast paced action are great, but only when they’re accompanied by things like interesting characters and great storytelling.
Ritchie allegedly wanted to make more King Arthur movies, but considering the box office numbers, that doesn’t seem like it’ll happen. Hopefully he’ll go back to making fun action movies with actual charm. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is almost a fun action movie, but it’s not even a little bit charming. In fact, it’s so soulless that it feels like a “just for money” job for everyone involved. Better luck next time.
1. The Mummy
Okay, so maybe nobody was expecting The Mummy to be a masterpiece, but the studio’s excitement over the project gave a few people hope. This would be that puts the Dark Universe on the map. Dracula Untold was actually supposed to be the first movie in this shared universe, but due to the middling reception and subpar box office, they decided to try again with a Tom Cruise led action flick.
Ironically, The Mummy has done worse with critics and the box office numbers are projected to end just as poorly. If you thought DC was having a tough time creating a shared universe, you haven’t seen this poor excuse for a franchise starter. The weak script is the biggest issue, but it’s hardly the only one.
Mediocre visual effects, flat characters, and a reliance on blockbuster cliché also make The Mummy one hell of a tedious slog. Tom Cruise does his usual Tom Cruise action hero performance. So if you’re into that, you may get a kick out of him. That’s basically the only part worthy of (mild) praise. Even the usually charming Jake Johnson comes across as a zombie (pun intended) with his half-hearted performance.
The Mummy is made even more frustrating due to the fact that it seemingly gets worse the more things progress. It starts mediocre but promising. The ending, on the other hand, is disastrous. This kind of lazy blockbuster ending brings to mind Suicide Squad’s “finale” from last year. Everything builds up to a giant concoction of visual effects and poor editing.
This is a poor start for the Dark Universe. If Wonder Woman has proven anything, it’s that we can’t judge a franchise based on a couple misfires. Still, with Kurtzman sticking around as a producer for the future movies, it’s fair to be a little concerned. He dropped the ball here, and he seems likely to do it in the future depending on how involved he is with the upcoming Dark Universe films. It would be unfair to give up on the series completely, but it’s definitely an easy thing to do right now.