The Biggest Disappointments In Movies And TV Of The Year
As much as we all want to celebrate the best movies and TV shows, every year has its fair share of major disappointments. These aren't necessarily the worst films and shows that we watched in 2017, but the ones that we had the highest hopes for and yet failed to deliver. Shows that had enjoyed previously great seasons, adaptations we've waited years to see, movies that were sold with thrilling, and completely unrepresentative trailers--they're all here. Let's take a look.
Iron Fist and The Defenders
Marvel had one of its best ever years in terms of the big screen, with a trio of standout movies in the shape of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok. Unfortunately, much of the studio's TV output was less successful. Hopes were high for the trio of shows made by Netflix, but things got off to a bad start in March with Iron Fist. Boring, badly-written, with flat fight sequences that had none of the brutal style of Daredevil or Luke Cage, Iron Fist proved that the edgier, grittier style of Marvel's Netflix output doesn't automatically guarantee a good series.
Sadly, The Defenders, released a few months later, wasn't that much better. The show brought Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist together, but what was clearly designed to be the small-screen version of The Avengers actually had more in common with this year's woeful Justice League. On the plus side, at eight episodes, it was a bit more focused than some of Netflix's flabbier Marvel shows. But it still felt drawn out, taking way too long to get the team together and then finding every excuse to keep them apart. Sigourney Weaver's villain was disappointingly dull, and Krysten Ritter's Jessica Jones remains a far more interesting character than any of her male companions. There were some stand-out action scenes, and the interplay between the four heroes was good when it happened. But as far as wasted opportunities go, this was one of the year's biggest.
As mediocre as most of Netflix's Marvel offerings were in 2017, they were classics compared to Inhumans. Originally planned as a movie, hopes were high for this series. Showrunner Scott Buck (who was also to blame for Iron Fist) made bold claims about its scale and ambition, and the simultaneous IMAX theater release suggested something truly spectacular. But Inhumans wasn't just disappointing. It was diabolical. What should have been a gripping saga of the warring factions of a mysterious superhero race, packed with intrigue, was instead a plodding endurance test marked by bad acting, bargain basement production values, and dodgy effects. And worst of all, it took itself so seriously. Marvel's movies have proved that no matter how serious the underlying story is, there is always room for some superhero silliness, to enhance rather than undercut the drama. But the only laughs Inhumans evoked were those of derision. Don't expect a second season.
The Mummy was supposed to be the launching pad for a new shared universe of classic monster movies. The Dark Universe was Universal's attempt to jump on the MCU/DCEU bandwagon, mining their deep catalogue of classic monster properties. Unfortunately, the mediocre box office and tepid audience response for this first entry seems to have killed the idea before it really got started. The Mummy doesn't work on any level. As a Tom Cruise vehicle, it gives the Cruiser little to do, expect run away and look scared/bemused. There are no scares, few thrills, and director Alex Kurtzman brings very little style or personality to proceedings. Even worse are the attempts to shoehorn the Dark Universe concept into the storyline at every opportunity, largely via Russell Crowe, who plays Dr Jekyll and delivers a career-worst performance.
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell was one of the key anime movies to break through to a western audience in the 1990s, so it was unsurprisingly that Hollywood would attempt to remake this much-loved cyberpunk classic. It was equally unsurprising that they wouldn't do a very good job. The film certainly captured some of the original's dazzling visual style, while director Rupert Sanders--at times--creates a strange, brooding dystopian atmosphere. But the movie ultimately fails to either deal with the questions of identity and humanity that made the original such a classic or deliver enough spectacular sci-fi action to appeal to audiences who didn't know the source material. And while Scarlett Johansson's performance as cyber-cop Major was strong, the whitewashing controversy that dogged the movie ever since she was announced in the role was hard to ignore.
Ridley Scott's Prometheus, the quasi-prequel to the Alien franchise, was a box office hit, but it proved to be an extremely divisive movie amongst fans of the Alien series. Scott returned for Alien: Covenant, which was technically a follow-up, but that also aligned itself much closer to the original movies. So moviegoers got face-huggers, chest (and back) bursters, sinister androids, gore, screams, and general alien mayhem. Unfortunately, while individual scenes were effective, none of it felt at all fresh, and the film still had a habit of lapsing into the cod-philosophising of Prometheus. A talented cast do their best, but the characters are flat and often badly written. Worst of all, the movie attempts to give the Alien an origin story, misunderstanding that the creature's mystery was what made it so scary in the first place.
Where to start with Justice League? Rushed into production by DC to generate excitement about its cinematic universe, it lost director Zack Snyder soon after principal photography was completed. Avengers director Joss Whedon was brought on to write and direct the extensive reshoots, in an attempt to lighten the tone and bring it more into line with the much-loved Wonder Woman than the reviled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. What resulted was a chaotic mess of competing styles and tone, with hurried VFX (particular Henry Cavill's much-publicised 'tache cover-up), haphazard pacing, and often incoherent storytelling. Ben Affleck looks bored, Jason Momoa's Aquaman is reimagined as a ludicrous surf-bro, and Cyborg… well, who knows why he's there? Only Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) and Ezra Miller (The Flash) comes out of the movie with their dignity just about intact.
The Flash Season 3
In general, DC have actually had more success on TV than in theatres over the past couple of years, with the slate of shows made by The CW filled with the humor, energy, and fun missing from many of its movies. Unfortunately, that all came crashing to a stop with the third season of The Flash. Too many characters, too many subplots, a time-travelling storyline even more convoluted that Season 2, and a distinct lack of a joy made for a decidedly tiresome 23 episodes. To be fair, none of the shows in The CW's Arrowverse were that great this year, but given how good we know The Flash can be, this was still a let-down. Luckily, lessons seemed to have been learned behind the scenes, and so far, Season 4 is proving a much more enjoyable experience.
The main problem with the Cold War action thriller Atomic Blonde wasn't that it was a mediocre movie--there are dozens of mediocre films released every year. It's that the premise and trailer promised so much more. It's directed by David Leitch, who co-directed the 2015's action favourite John Wick, and whose next movie is the much-anticipated Deadpool 2. It starred Charlize Theron, whose performance as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the decade's most iconic action roles. And the trailer suggested an over-the-top mix of gripping spy thrills and spectacular action that the actual movie largely failed to deliver. What action there was was good, but the whole thing was an empty, over-stylised, largely forgettable experience that really just reminded us of better movies.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Fifth Element director Luc Besson's return to lavish, big budget sci-fi was a real audience splitter. While many critics and viewers felt that the acting, dialogue, and storyline left a lot to be desired, the film was an undeniable visual marvel, with eye-popping action sequences and dazzling shots packed with a never-ending cavalcade of aliens, vehicles and strange worlds. Which makes it all more frustrating that the movie was let down elsewhere. For a film that's supposed to center on the great intergalactic love story between Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and Lauraline (Cara Delevingne) the central couple exhibit zero chemistry and are forced to utter some of the worst "romantic" dialogue this side of Attack of the Clones. And at 135 minutes, even the crazy visuals ultimately become numbing, as the flimsy plot keeps on going and going and going.
Game of Thrones Season 7
By most standards, this was still a good season of Game of Thrones. Few shows make it to a seventh season without a dip in quality, and HBO's flagship series has remained remarkably consistent over the past decade. But it was hard to escape the feeling that much of the storytelling was ill-served by the need to wrap it all up in what is, essentially, a handful of episodes. There was a lot of spectacle, with some of the best large-scale action the show has yet delivered. But on a storytelling level, things sometimes felt rushed, contrived, with geographical and logistical impossibilities skipped over in order to have certain things happen and characters end up in certain places. It is understandable that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss might want to increase the pace as the show nears its conclusion, but let's hope Season 8 remembers that fans are here for the careful, controlled storytelling as much as for the dragons and battles.