Jan 07 2014

The Five Most Disappointing Movies of 2013

Published by at 11:00 am under Editorials,Movies

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2013, as far as movie years go, were an embarrassment… of riches, I mean! So much so, in fact, that I’m still scrambling to catch up enough to feel okay about posting that top fifteen list I keep getting emails about [NOTE: I have gotten no emails about that].

Fortunately, I’m all done watching the crappy movies of the year.

In honor of this milestone, today I’m bringing you the five movies that I feel most personally let down by from the past year. With the caveat that I’m not including Man of Steel because enough already, and I’m not including The Hobbit because I pretty walked into that one with my eyes wide open and also just wrote an article about it that everybody loved.

Ahem. Here are five movies from 2013 that are just a regular embarrassment.

Elysium

Matt Damon;Jose Pablo Cantillo

You know, I remember enjoying this movie while I was watching it in the theatre. Now, though, I’m hard pressed to remember anything from it, save a couple of cool action beats. I don’t think I’m alone, as Elysium didn’t set the world on fire, and certainly not to the same degree as District 9. I remember a couple of common complaints — Jodie Foster’s accent, a general sense of “preachiness” — but my own main issue was the movie just took itself too damn seriously.

This is a flick that desperately wants to be a fun, nasty satire like Robocop, but betrays that by shoehorning in unearned emotions about three times too often. Like, take Sharlto Copley’s character. He’s a joy to watch in the role of maniac manhunter Kruger, but he feels completely incongruous with the sequence of somber flashbacks to Max’s childhood.

I haven’t lost faith… I still be that Blomkamp’s a fella to watch. His first two major features showcase a lot of raw filmmaking talent. He just needs to get a firmer grasp on his tone and intent, and he’ll be golden.

Frozen

frozen

A bit of context: I think Tangled is a surprisingly engaging movie. Shallow, a bit, but a lot of fun. Now, I realize that a lot of people also liked this movie. I just don’t understand why.* While there’s nothing damningly, horribly wrong with it, it’s one of those common family movies saddled with a pervasive “paint-by-numbers” feel. Things just… happen, not because the story demands it or because it enlightens the themes of the story, but because they’re simply supposed to.

SPOILER ALERT for the following paragraph.

For instance, Anna’s character gets hit in with a magic ice spell when she was a child. Later, she takes another shot of ice magic to the chest. At the climax of the movie, she freezes solid. So we have an ice/winter motif going on. And yet… this doesn’t really comment on any aspect of her character. She’s not particularly chilly, or inaccessible, or anything like that. You could make a CASE that her sister Elsa is remote — though in truth she’s really not — but her problems come FROM having magic powers, as opposed to being an actual part of her makeup.

This sounds like nitpicking, but contrast that approach with the one in Beauty and the Beast, where every single character affected by the witch’s magic is affected in a way that highlights their personalities. Not just the Beast himself — which, duh — but Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and even that creepy talking wardrobe.

And that doesn’t even get into Frozen underused villains, cheap twists (about the underused villains), fun-but-pointless comedy relief… the list goes on. Add in some semi-memorable songs and you’ve hit every box on Disney’s current checklist. Sure, their latest is apparently likable enough, but a lack of focus means its charms melt from the mind and heart far too quickly.

Star Trek Into Darkness

startrek

“I wonder if I’ll be able to find a picture that illustrates how shallow and sensatio — oh, perfect!”

Even though RottenTomatoes isn’t a flawless yardstick to judge movies by, it still blows my mind that this movie managed a higher score on there than The Wolf of Wall Street. Star Trek Into Darkness is a total sham of a movie; a high-speed VFX extravaganza hiding a hollow shell of a story. From the inert, completely reset character arc of James T. Kirk, to the sorely misguided recycling of Kahn, to the… you know what? Forget it.

Look, the first Star Trek was a messy affair, but it managed to work in spite of itself. In 2009, Abrams and his cast imbued the highly-anticipated reboot with a sense of genuine enthusiasm. The story may have been unlikely, but its characters were memorable, fun, and the absolute point of the film. Into Darkness, on the other hand, constantly eschews delving into character stuff in favor of tedious conspiracy-laden plot machinations.

Nobody has clear motives, no actions have consequence. Losing rank, messing up, frickin’ DYING… none of it matters. It’s more than telling that Into Darkness has almost the exact same ending as Star Trek. What, exactly, have we accomplished here? Nothing.

Oz: the Great and Powerful

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

Okay, I don’t think anybody expected this movie to succeed in comparison to the 1939 classic. Nor did anybody really think that the Raimi who made EVIL DEAD and the first two Spider-man movies was back, let alone working at Disney.

I just hoped it wouldn’t be as bad as, you know, that recent Alice in Wonderland debacle.

alice

Guess what my least favorite part of this movie was? Correct.

Sadly, Oz feels like nothing so much as a Raimi-flavored Alice clone. Actually, if you told me that the director of this movie was known for being a big-budget Raimi ripoff artist, I’d believe you. Some of his usual bits of flair (camera tricks, horror iconography) fill in the edges of the frame, but nothing about his sensibilities is truly front-and-center.

Also, the plasticky, CG-saturated aesthetic shared between this movie, Alice, and apparently the upcoming Maleficent needs to die in a fire.

Hopefully this marks the bottom of Raimi’s career. I don’t blame him for this entirely — Oz has all the signs of a movie that’s been micromanaged/focus grouped to death. Not unlike Spider-man 3 in that regard. Still, the reason this movie is on this list, despite the fact that it never really looked good, is that I’m sorely disappointed by what’s become of Sam Raimi. Here’s hoping he gets to do his thing again someday.

Thor: The Dark World

thor

Though Marvel’s been on a bit of a hot streak since the first Iron Man, their run hasn’t been flawless. The Incredible Hulk and (especially) Iron Man 2 are pretty weak. Still, Joss Whedon coming aboard and delivering the goods with The Avengers seemed to indicate that Marvel had this thing figured out. As they moved into Phase 2, Shane Black’s sensational Iron Man 3 only seemed to confirm it.

And then Thor: The Dark World came and ruined the party for everybody. I also want to point out that this is the second movie on this list with “Dark” in the title.

Anyway, as with Frozen, my understanding is that this movie has a decent amount of fans out there. Even more than that movie, I simply don’t know what the appeal is. This is easily the vaguest movie Marvel has put out so far. Things like Thor’s arc, the motives of the villain, the purpose of Jane and her companions are technically included, but rarely defined and never particularly clear. Oh, and the movie desperately wants to be a rolicking comedy but sadly has no idea how to tell a joke.

Also, I like goofy fantasy as much as anybody (well… close, anyway), but the fantasy in The Dark World has no significance. These other realms are presented in the sketchiest forms possible; the texture and color of a well-developed world simply isn’t there. A movie like Attack of the Clones does a far better job of making its locales distinctive than this movie did, and people don’t even like that one.

The one selling point? Loki. And I was even tired of him by the time the credits rolled. Also, who thinks we needed even more examples of that illusion fakeout? Show of hands?

What about you? What movies let you down the hardest in 2013?

FOOTNOTE:

*I suspect it has something to do with the popular voice talent and generally looking cool.





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24 responses so far

  • E. Lee Zimmerman

    Pretty good choices. Haven’t seen all, but the sentiments kinda/sorta mirror what I’ve heard from my film friends.

  • Lucas Tetrault

    I can definitely agree with you on Elysium and Oz … I’ve not seen Frozen because it seemed almost too much like Tangled so I spared myself the movie going cost. I did however like Thor and felt it was an appropriate follow up to the first one. Is it the better “super hero” film of the year, probably not but I don’t think I expected anything superb/better from it.

    Then we come to Star Trek … I love how there is so much hatred for this movie on this site. I still feel that it was a solid film and a good sequel. More often than not I can sympathize with the complaints about it if they are from fans of Star Trek. Yet, for those of us who aren’t Trek people or haven’t seen any original material and just wanted a good movie – it did the job. If anything it was very entertaining and I got my money’s worth from it.

    • E. Lee Zimmerman

      So you blame the site for STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS being so bad? That’s weird.

      As a die-hard Trek enthusiast who’s been watching it since the original aired, I can say that I didn’t “hate” INTO DARKNESS. Yes, I was massively disappointed in it. Yes, I can see plotholes large enough to drive a starship through. But, yes, I’ll concede it was a perfect popcorn film probably on par with the best popcorn films of the summer. I’m glad you feel like you got your money’s worth; I’m still trying to get back my brain cells from it!

      But, again, therein lies the conceit: classic Trek has never been about popcorn movies. JJ’s first one was a much better popcornization of Trek and, to a greater degree, was pretty respectful, as well. INTO DARKNESS? Not so much.

      • Lucas Tetrault

        Blame? I wasn’t blaming anyone. I was just stating how there have been so many complaints about that movie on this particular site and just found it funny. It’s not a bad thing by any means and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. :) Heck there are plenty of other sites out there that praised the movie so it’s all good either way.

        Not sure how I worded my first comment so poorly that you thought I was placing blame, but I apologize if it was taken that way – it was not my intent.

        • E. Lee Zimmerman

          OK, my misread, then. No harm, no foul. It just reads like you (to me) you were criticizing the site for unfairly trashing a movie that many other sites trashed far worse than UnrealityMag did.

  • Avi

    Am I the only one who hated Iron Man 3 more than any other movie this year? It gets so much love when I really found it a completely unimpressive and vapid experience.

    • E. Lee Zimmerman

      I thought it was vastly more entertaining from the first two IRON MAN flicks, which I honestly hated.

      • Avi

        I loved the first two significantly more than the third. Clearly you must be my arch-nemesis.

        • E. Lee Zimmerman

          NEWMAN!

          Yeah, I get that a lot from Marvel fans. Honestly, the first two films in the series were like taking an Ambien for me and my wife. Both of us, however, enjoyed the popcorn quality of the third. Go figure.

          • Avi

            The third one just filled me with plothole and useless character and scene rage! The other ones were dumber which is exactly why they didnt fall apart for me the way the third one did. The third one flew to close to the sun on wings of pastrami.

          • IngridToday

            I remember being fairly entertained by the third Iron Man… until we kept getting Iron Man fake outs (similar to Loki’s illusion -which previously would fade away once someone touched them but now have solid form).
            *spoiler*
            Why did Tony wait until the very end of the film to use this army of robots? Pepper was kidnapped and he was stranded. Why not call the robot army then? Even if they were completely damaged and had to be Fantasia-ed back to together with science magic (which is basically what the movie has done with science) while Tony’s away. He has no way of knowing that they’re ready.
            It just felt like they realized the movie as coming to an end and had to shove in an obligatory over the top explosion/fight that went on way to long and killed a villain no one cared about or will even remember (except for the laughable breathing fire moment).

    • David R

      Though there’s a way in which Shane Black’s voice can be an acquired taste, I think there’s a lot more going on under the hood in that movie than you’re giving it credit for.

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    I enjoyed all of those films. None of them were timeless classics by any
    means, but I definitely wonder what you were expecting going in.
    Perhaps I wasn’t disappointed because I wasn’t expecting much going in
    to any of them. I expected disaster for the most part and was rewarded
    with solid entertainment. Being shallow is fine if that’s what you’re
    aspiring to. Only Elysium was trying to be more than just a good time
    and ironically it wasn’t a good enough time for people to like it much.

    Maybe
    if Thor had spent more of the movie having random panic attacks,
    staring up into the snowing sky, and trading barbs with with a little
    boy you’d have been more into it? Or Malekith could have turned out to
    be just a nerd in cosplay who thought he was LARPING the whole time or
    something. Would you have liked it then?

    • David R

      My main thing with popcorn movies is that they know what they’re trying to do, and do it competently. For one reason or another, I feel all of these failed at doing that. Thor failed to craft a memorable fantasy, Elysium failed to balance its tone, Frozen failed to differentiate itself from any other generic kid’s movie, Star Trek failed to make sense or have any consequences, and Oz failed to show any signs of life from a director who used to be brilliant.

      Re: Thor, I realize you’re being sarcastic, and surely must realize that what works in one movie doesn’t automatically work in another… but seriously, almost anything you could do to Malekith would make him more interesting than the version that’s actually in the movie.

      • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

        Sorry, couldn’t resist. I would have gone with Enchantress and Hela as villains if it were up to me. You’re right that Malekith wasn’t really interesting at all.

        • Joshua Durant

          To me Maelkith wasn’t interesting because he wasn’t the main villain. Knowing the character I was watching Loki from his first scene as if he was the main villain and he was. He is THE classic trickster god.

  • Brian Merritt

    “Also, the plasticky, CG-saturated aesthetic shared between this movie, Alice, and apparently the upcoming Maleficent needs to die in a fire.”

    OH MY GOD THIS.

  • lyleUS

    Frozen is an interesting choice since the majority of people and critics absolutely loved it. I’ll have to watch it to see if you’re analysis is right!

    I would definitely put Iron Man 3 on this list.

    • Martine

      I absolutely agree. And take Frozen off.

  • IngridToday

    “Wolverine”. I recently rented it with low expectations (thanks to the last stand alone movie). I liked it up until the last 20 minutes. Sure the love interest was a doe eyed blank slant and there was a whole lot of plot, it was fun. Until the big bad showed up for no real reason and ruined it.

  • John W

    Man of Steel. Six movies in and we’re still stuck at the origin story. I hope to God that S vs B makes 10 billion at the box office if only so they don’t have to reboot it yet again two years later.

    • Joshua Durant

      Probably not. I don’t know anyone who is going to see it. Instead of trying to be their own franchise they are trying mimic marvel.

  • Martine

    First of all; Ironman 3 was the worst film I have ever seen personally. Moapy and boring. Frozen was great, and you missed the point. Anna was simply a normal mortal that got a hit from Elsa. Why would it change her character. Elsa was the snow queen, not her sister. Her sister was simply a normal girl. That WAS the point. And why is changing the rules a bad thing? In Frozen the totally normal handsome prince was the bad guy. Not because his mother was a evil fairy, but simply he was humanly greedy. The whole point of the film is that evil isn’t born from magic, but from humanity. Incidentally, I disliked Tangled. It was just too typical. Only thing I agree with you on is Elysium, although Oz was a bit longer then needed.

  • Tanuccio

    Sensational Iron man 3… mental note to never again read anything by this author…

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