Some movies wholly satisfy the fans of their respective franchises or directors like for example ‘Avengers: Endgame’ or ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’, both from this year incidentally. Particularly in the case of the former and the Russo brothers, who wrapped up a sprawling ten year series with admirable aplomb and due adulation from fans.
However quite often we get movies which completely miss the mark and leave a sour taste in the mouth of those unfortunate enough to purchase a ticket- Largely due to studio meddling and producers- who aren’t fans themselves -looking out for the bottom line only. This is a rundown of recent movies that didn’t understand what the fans wanted.
10. The Cloverfield Paradox
Surely claiming the distinction of being the least promoted high-profile movie ever made, ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ was announced during the Super bowl and subsequently released on Netflix after the big game. It was following the brilliant and underrated ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ and so carried with it some pretty hefty expectations. Starring a promising cast including the likes of Daniel Bruhl and Elizabeth Debicki, ‘Paradox’ was expected to continue with the eerie and dread-inducing atmosphere of ‘Lane’ whilst potentially tying together the previous two films in a satisfying way.
Instead, what fans were given was far less pleasing. A paint-by-numbers sci-fi plot involving a particle accelerator and alternative dimensions paved the way for head-ache inducing crash, bang, wallop action. In fact it’s almost as if the studio were making a stand-alone movie that they soon realised was rubbish so they decided to slap the ‘Cloverfield’ tag on it to make it more marketable. Then they sold it to Netflix who in turn benefited from its unorthodox promotional strategy to get more eyes on the movie than would have ever been possible had it been a theatrical release.
To follow up such an intelligent and visceral film like ‘Lane’ with this blatant cash grab was deeply disappointing and a huge waste of this franchise’s potential. One can only hope that if there are any more Cloverfield movies up JJ Abrams’ sleeve, they follow in the footsteps of ‘Lane’ and not ‘Paradox’.
9. Iron Man 3
One of the earlier MCU entries despite it being the culmination of the Iron Man trilogy- thanks in large part to the MCU now being twenty-three films in size- ‘Iron Man 3’ has somewhat been lost in the malaise of recent MCU success. As a film isolated from the wider cinematic universe it is a part of, this film is not a ‘bad’ film by any measure. Directed by Shane Black and of course starring Robert Downey Jr in his now signature role, Iron Man 3 is a refreshing departure from the standard MCU formula.
Unlike the previous two movies in this trilogy, both directed by John Favreau, Black’s Iron Man film chooses to zero in on Tony Stark in a quasi-character study more intimate than we have come to expect from this huge franchise. It manages to mesh thrilling action sequences and impressive performances with Black’s idiosyncratic humor (albeit understandably toned down here) to birth what is essentially a director-driven film in a rigid MCU framework.
All this sounds excellent right? So why is ‘Iron Man 3’ on this list? The answer is one word: Mandarin. The main thing fans were excited about other than getting to see another MCU entry is the inaugural appearance of an iconic Marvel villain from the comics- the aforementioned Mandarin.
For some inexplicable reason, the film-makers (or more likely the studio) decided to turn the Mandarin from a complex, exciting and worthy foe into a drunk, babbling Ben Kingsley. So not only did the movie squander Iron Man’s arch-villain but it wasted the prodigious talents of Sir Ben Kingsley and it is these cinematic crimes for which this film is ultimately remembered by fans.
8. Suicide Squad
WB went through some painful teething problems in their bid to build a cinematic universe to rival the MCU and this film was a symptom of them. Unofficially billed as DC’s answer to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, Suicide Squad boasts an all-star cast including Will Smith and Margot Robbie- What it doesn’t boast however is much resembling anything attempting to be a real blockbuster feature.
The whole effort is edited like an MTV music video complete with flashcards to deliver clunky exposition about its main characters at regular intervals. Whereas the aforementioned ‘Guardians’ is shot through with genuine heart to complement its humor and features likable characters, ‘Squad’ undercuts any potential emotional weight with fast cuts and pop songs.
Fans didn’t know what to expect from Jared Leto as The Joker other than his reinvention as a tattoo-clad gangster. What fans were (mis)treated to however was much worse than advertised. Replete with cringe-worthy dialogue and the word ‘damaged’ tattooed on his forehead, Leto’s Joker was so inconsequential to the story that it was obvious large chunks of the film had been left on the cutting room floor- Not that the additional footage would’ve necessarily made the movie any better but at least it might have given The Clown Prince of Crime more to do.
This was the first big-screen appearance for the majority of these B-list characters and there is some redeeming for them to be done in the sequel. Ironically, WB have hired the man whose work they were attempting to one-up with ‘Squad’ to write and direct the sequel. Fans can only hope Gunn recaptures the magic of ‘Guardians’ to breath new life into this ailing DC property.
7. The Mummy (2017)
If you’re a fan of monster movies then there’s a strong likelihood you have a warm, fuzzy and nostalgic feeling towards the Brendan Frasier Mummy movies. This iteration of the franchise began in 1999 and eventually veered off course with movies such as ‘The Scorpion King’ but the first two were great campy adventure flicks. The performances of Frasier and Weisz together with the script and Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful score created a cheerful and unironic homage to action-adventures of the 70’s and 80’s. This campiness would be ramped up in the sequel ‘The Mummy Returns’ to delightful effect despite it featuring a laughably CGI rendered Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as the scorpion king.
So now on to the 2017 remake which was intended to launch Universal’s ‘Dark Universe’- A cinematic universe comprising the classic movie monsters of the 30’s. Starring Tom Cruise in the title role, it was clear from the trailers this version was meant to be taken more seriously than its predecessor as a horror film rather than a camp adventure romp. However, this proved difficult to achieve given Cruise’s unintentionally hilarious over-the-top screech when falling out of the plane as seen in the trailer and Russell Crowe’s attempt at a cockney accent in the role of Dr Jekyl/Mr Hyde.
A major road block in this movie is the reality that the Mummy as a villain fails to be threatening with the script turning Sophia Boutella’s character into more of a secondary love interest than a worthy foe. This is all the more baffling due to the seemingly horror focused approach of the film. In a convoluted pretzel kind of way, it doubles back on its own seriousness and displays the fun campiness that fans wanted thanks to Cruise looking clueless the whole runtime and Crowe delivering an impromptu comedic turn. If only the film-makers recognised the potential to extend this to the whole movie.
6. Rambo: Last Blood
An entry from this year, ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ plays more like an angry obituary of a franchise that once had something meaningful to say than a last hoorah for one of Hollywood’s most iconic action heroes. Instead of a thoughtful rumination on the PTSD suffered by a jaded Vietnam war veteran like we saw in ‘First Blood’, ‘Last Blood’ resorts to gratuitous, veering on cartoonish violence to try to hide the fact that it is an empty remnant of a once great action series.
Even Stallone seems disinterested here, phoning in the type of performance we have seen from him countless times in other similar movies. If a script is the most important part of a film then ‘Last Blood’ was doomed to fail. With little to no effort to dig deeper into Rambo’s issues and offensive stereotypical characterisations of the Mexican characters in the film, it is one of the worst screenplays of the year.
It is a great shame that Stallone doesn’t seem to value this franchise enough to evolve it and make sure it keeps up with the times like he has done with the Rocky franchise- An evolution that has given us two very good movies with ‘Creed’ and ‘Creed 2’. If ‘Last Blood’ is an indication of what we are going to see in Rambo movies from now on (if they are to continue) then hopefully this really is the final instalment.