5. Ghost in the Shell
1995’s Ghost in the Shell is considered one of the best animated films of all time. This hard-R cyberpunk sci-fi film set in 2029 New Port City, Japan, follows the efforts of an assault team lead by synthetic cybernetic human Motoko Kusanagi to track down a hacker named Puppet Master who is “ghost-hacking” people for his own political ends. Meanwhile, Motoko is haunted by her own ghost, which may hold the key to who she was before being rebuilt into the being she is today.
Radically original and visually stunning, Ghost in the Shell became a high watermark for anime, becoming a breakthrough hit in the Western world and introducing a generation to Japan’s animation output. Now considered one of the best films of all time, there was no reason to remake it–but because people like money and hate to come up with original ideas, 2017 saw the release of the live-action Ghost in the Shell.
Forget some of the more obvious and well-trodden criticisms of the film’s whitewashing of its main characters: why was this film made in the first place? It cost an unbelievable amount of money to make ($110 million, not including promotional costs), and while it looks spectacular, what did it accomplish that the first film didn’t?
In fact, it accomplished less since even CGI and MPAA rating-conscious studios couldn’t capture the ultra-graphic stylistics of the first film. Key elements couldn’t even be reproduced, such as Motoko’s somewhat androgynous nature and copious–but symbolically important–nudity.
A live-action (and whitewashed) adaptation wouldn’t please fans in its home country of origin, and while Ghost in the Shell is a much-loved anime, for the most part it’s also relatively obscure to mainstream Western audiences–besides which, those that do love the original film hated the idea of it being adapted and would refuse to see it. But at least Scarlett Johannson knows how to play an unemotional character.
Having only grossed $169 against a total $250 million budget with promotion included, the live-action Ghost in the Shell is considered a gigantic box-office bomb at this point, which hopefully will signal to studios that there are some things that don’t need to be adapted or remade.
Amy Schumer has had an incredible rise to the top: breaking through to mainstream American audiences thanks to NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Schumer became one of the most successful stand-up comedians in the country whose raunchy stand-up routine found a number of young fans. In 2015, she starred in the big screen comedy hit Train Wreck and enjoyed critical acclaim as a new face and voice in comedy.
This sort of quick success would probably push any performer to capitalize on it–especially when big studios are guaranteeing a big payday. From this came Snatched, a big-budget comedy starring Schumer and Goldie Hawn, the first film Hawn has starred in since 2002.
The story of an estranged mother and daughter who go on vacation to Ecuador but get kidnapped and held for ransom, early previews of the film didn’t exactly generate excitement. When the first reviews came out, the initial hesitation of the film’s potential audience turned to active indifference, and when the film opened on Mother’s Day weekend 2017, the film was marked dead on arrival.
Budgeted at $42 million (promotional costs not included) and only grossing an anemic $55 million, Snatched is a disappointment in a lot of ways. It’s difficult to say what the problem was here, but the answer is manifold: the story itself is hacky, and in this context what was once Schumer’s greatest strength, being an edgy comedian, was watered down. Hawn and Schumer were also a mismatch, never coming across as a believable mother/daughter combo.
The plot is predictable and all of the familiar beats it hits are telegraphed from a mile away. Finally–and the most crucial element of any comedy–it wasn’t particularly funny. A lot of the humor fell flat, and when an occasional solid laugh does show up, too much time has passed since the last one. Maybe Schumer’s sharper instincts will return in her next outing because as Snatched suggests, a toned-down Amy Schumer doesn’t seem particularly funny.
3. The Circle
Mae gets a job at a tech company called The Circle, a sort of Google and Facebook hybrid busy with making new technologies that will change the world. She quickly advances in the company but begins to grow concerned about their latest experiment that she becomes a part of that makes one’s entire life transparent–literally, one is hooked up to the internet with a camera so that everyone can see everything they do.
After some demonstrations of the terrible effects of being completely “transparent” and witnessing the increasing omnipresence of The Circle in everyone’s life, Mae becomes conflicted about the ethics of what the company is attempting to achieve.
The Circle may have been seen as an unbelievably prescient and revelatory film about the dangers of social media and the downsides of oversharing your life online had it been made a decade ago.
Instead, it’s 2017 and what The Circle details is pretty much just the world we already live in, only nobody particularly objects to it and those that do simply don’t engage social media outlets. Besides this, the film has a problem with tone, largely oscillating between being a corporate drama or a sci-fi Orwellian nightmare, and never finds a balance–or a satisfying conclusion.
Unfortunately, it also wastes the talents of Emma Watson as May, along with Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan, and Patton Oswalt; Oswalt and Hanks especially seem miscast here as the villains of the film. Also wasted was the $18 million making it, which isn’t a lot for a film but this must have meant something to somebody to put the money up for it in the first place. Instead, it seems like a completely unnecessary movie and one that–although just released this year–is already behind the times.
In yet another example of an adaptation nobody asked for, here’s CHiPs. You know, CHiPs? That buddy cop TV dramedy with middling ratings that went off the air 34 years ago? Surely making a movie based on a TV series that nobody under 40 would remember in 2017 isn’t a bad idea. At least, that’s what Dax Shepard thought when he wrote and directed this film.
Apparently current attitudes and ideas aren’t in Shepard’s wheelhouse in general, since the “comedy” on display throughout CHiPs is stale, juvenile, and rife with sexist and gay panic jokes. As every female in the film is there to throw themselves at the leads (unsurprisingly, Shepard stars in the film) or else show off the goods, this film seems to be made solely for adolescent boys–only with its R rating they wouldn’t be able to see it.
Even if they could, they may find the humor a notch below their 4chan standards. Worse, instead of being a smart parody of the source material, CHiPs plays it straight–which is unfortunate, since the source material wasn’t exactly Shakespeare to begin with.
On its opening weekend, it appeared in dire 7th place, having only made $7.6 million. It sank even lower than that the next weekend, until finally it disappeared from theaters all together. Crass, pointless, and somewhat unbearable to watch, CHiPs is the second-worst adaptation to appear on this list, the worst one being….
Baywatch was a syndicated TV show that ran from 1989 to 1999 and was once billed as “the most-watched show in the world,” recording a billion viewers in hundreds of markets across the world. It would be nice to say so many people watched it because it was an incisive, cinematic, and well-acted show that depicted complex characters experiencing the various highs and lows of life while creating a rich tapestry of meaning, but that would be a lie.
People liked it because it featured buff bods and buxom babes running around on the beach in skimpy clothing.
And that’s fine. We’re all human beings that enjoy a prurient thrill every now and then–especially back in the 20th century when internet access to such things was limited. But like Playboy, there’s no real purpose for that kind of entertainment anymore.
And this might shock you to find out, but a show that was mostly about women jogging around in swimsuits was pretty shallow. But Hollywood, never being able to pass on literally any pre-existing property hoping to cash in on its fan base, gave the green light and handed over $70 million to produce a big-screen adaptation of Baywatch.
The results were expectedly terrible, of course. Centered around a group of lifeguards on a Florida beach and the various intrigues and romances they get into, it’s possibly the most disposable film to enter theaters this year. Directed by Seth Gordon–who previously made the similarly craptastic Pixels in 2015–and starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, and Alexandra Daddario, one wonders why this film was made in the first place and even further why it has a two-hour running time.
Considering the original series made 242 episodes, you could save some money and just screen two episodes of that back-to-back and garner the same experience as you would watching this, the worst film (so far) of 2017.
Author Bio: Mike Gray is a writer and academic whose work has appeared on Cracked and Funny or Die and maintains a film and TV blog at mikegraymikegray.wordpress.com.