5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
This could have been something special. It should have been something special. Bringing together the two most iconic superheroes of all time to face off in a showdown of epic and spine-tingling proportions was a mouth-watering prospect for the fans.
Instead, they were treated to over two and half hours of sluggish, muddled and murky plotting which ultimately culminates in one of the most unintentionally meme-worthy lines in modern blockbuster cinema (you know the line). This isn’t to say that it’s all bad though.
The cast does well with what they’re given for the most part (yes, even Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor) and some of the cinematography is inspired as seen in the opening scene which is arguably where the film peaks.
But for squandering such an iconic story, so brilliantly told in Frank Miller’s graphic novel ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, means BvS let down the fans. For a film requiring subtlety in the exploration of its themes of unchecked power, fear, and paranoia- Zack Snyder was a poor choice at the helm- For whatever one thinks of Snyder’s body of work, subtlety is not exactly a strength of his.
Now a film that perhaps looks out of place amongst all these huge tentpoles but a film that nevertheless delivered just as disappointing results to its fans. From the trailers, this appeared to be a slight departure for Alexander Payne due to its high concept sci-fi plot; the movie’s characters given the opportunity to shrink down in size in promise of a better life and to escape climate change and overpopulation.
The cast led by Matt Damon is well thought out and deliver some decent performances particularly Hong Chau who Damon becomes involved with in the shrunk down community. Looking past these positive elements however, and unusually for Payne, the picture fails to capitalise on its willing cast and intriguing premise. Also, uncharacteristically for a Payne film I must say, ‘Downsizing’ is just plain boring for large periods.
Any political message the film attempts to espouse is lost in the messy and contrived third act which raises more questions than it answers. It is a shame as this had the potential to join Payne’s long list of esteemed works. Instead it goes down as a missed opportunity. Payne known for his quirky, well-written and thoughtful dramedies had a rare misstep here.
3. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Anyone ask for a Han Solo origin story? Well Disney gave us one regardless and it ended up being pretty much what we expected. Of course, one cannot discuss this movie without acknowledging the controversial decision that was made regarding the original directors. Initially, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller- the writer-directors of ’21 Jump Street’, ’22 Jump Street’ and ‘The Lego Movie’- were signed on to script and direct a Han Solo standalone film. This was an exciting choice and was popular among fans as it promised a Star Wars romp unlike any we had seen before.
Unfortunately this wasn’t to be the case as Lord and Miller were offed apparently due to creative differences, every studios favorite excuse for parting ways with creatives. Ron Howard was brought on to the project as an experienced custodian tasked with restoring the picture to something resembling classic Star Wars (it was reported Lord and Miller’s version was akin to Ace Ventura in comedic style). And that he did but to create nothing more than a mellow reiteration of the original trilogy.
Given the daunting task of following up Harrison Ford’s iconic portrayal, Alden Ehrenreich does an admirable job and by the end of the movie you do believe he is Han Solo. The issue is he is confined within a cookie-cutter script and a plot that features none of the uniqueness that was in the pipeline when Lord and Miller were on board. The milquetoast nature of the movie is summed up perfectly by its depiction of the famed Kessel Run-you know the thing which Han Solo claims the Millennium Falcon made in less than twelve par secs in ‘A New Hope’- which fails to satisfy the imagination.
2. Justice League
Another hugely disappointing movie in the DCEU cannon, the travails of Justice League are well documented from its troubled production to its box office failings to its poster boy status for what happens when a picture is made by committee. ‘Justice League’ was originally directed by Zack Snyder but due to a family tragedy he was taken off the project and replaced by Joss Whedon. No one truly knows how much of the production was completed when the director switch was made but one can assume it was a substantial amount given Snyder retained his sole director credit.
It is abundantly clear to anyone who has seen films directed by the two that they have very distinct styles and tones which would suggest incompatibility. This dichotomy is predominantly the problem with ‘Justice League’; the dark self-seriousness of Snyder combined with the crass attempts at comedy of Whedon gives the film a hodgepodge sensibility to go along with its threadbare plot and hollow characterisations.
Given Snyder’s preceding work in the DCEU, fans shouldn’t have expected much from this iteration of the famous superhero team but there was renewed optimism in this cinematic universe due to what Patty Jenkins achieved with ‘Wonder Woman’ which hit screens mere months before this. Unfortunately, ‘Justice League’ did not capitalise on this new faith and instead brought back the kind of vitriolic reactions which ‘Batman v Superman’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ were met with.
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Likely a controversial feature on this list, ‘Last Jedi’ seemed to divide critics and fans almost exactly down the middle. Critics lavished praise on the Rian Johnson directed eight instalment in the Skywalker saga for its daring departure from franchise norms. Its hard to ignore the achievements, particularly the technical ones, present in this movie from the gorgeous cinematography to the sumptuous production design. Despite these pleasing aesthetics however, it proved divisive to say the least for its narrative choices.
Birthed largely from a seeming obsession with forgetting the past, Johnson makes some fundamental changes to the original trilogy characters featured in the film. Luke Skywalker somehow goes from a stoic, Superman-like figure in ‘Return of the Jedi’ to an aloof recluse with murderous thoughts alluding to nepoticide. Princess Leia seemingly becomes Mary Poppins at one point which enables her to escape a perilous situation. These bizarre creative choices scream of attempts to throw twists at the fans for the sheer sake of it.
Although Johnson deserves some credit at least for valiantly attempting to inject new life into a decades old franchise, his film comes off as contrarian and his efforts to shock as transparent. Johnson’s previous films such as ‘Brick’ and ‘Looper’ and his upcoming picture ‘Knives Out’ suggest he is better suited to plying his trade with original films that do not have built in expectations from fans. To be fair to Johnson, Disney should have known that hiring him would result in something vastly different from what fans have come to expect from this quintessential franchise.