Expectations are a devil, aren’t they? As moviegoers, we should be trained and privy to how a movie can disappoint us, no matter how much we want it to be good. Whether it’s a new entry to a famed franchise, or a new film from an acclaimed filmmaker, I found myself disappointed from more films in 2018 than previous years. In any event, though, here’s some films that could have been so much, much more.
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Moment of Cringe: Charlie Day given way more material than anyone asked for; the “TROLLOLOL” song plays as a way to calm one of the characters; the terrible YouTube ads featuring a stupidly mixed Tupac song.
I didn’t even love Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 original, but it delivered in being an overtop, adrenaline pumping epic that’s fluent in spectacle. Uprising, however, from the very first frame, loses any and all sense of adventure that the original had. I wanted to root for this film, since I never even thought a sequel to Pacific Rim would be in the cards, but with a terrible script, huge disregard for returning characters, and a lack of ingenuity, Pacific Rim: Uprising truly makes you wish Idris Elba never canceled the Apocalypse in the first place.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Moment of Cringe: Having an Imperial Officer name Han “Solo”, as if we needed that explanation.
While Solo has grown on me through repeat viewings, it’s still impossible to think of what the film could’ve been if all of those directorial conflicts were avoided. Ron Howard directs a fairly well made film in the span of six months, which is nothing to short change. However, knowing that Phil Lord and Chris Miller were originally slated to bring Han Solo back to his former glory, Solo feels like a missed opportunity, a competently done film that nobody asked for in the first place. At least we know Han speaks Wookie, I guess.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Moment of Cringe: Chris Pratt running away from a meteor shower; Bryce Dallas Howard bringing the most unqualified people possible to the island, “Oh you’re a computer guy? Help me man the Jurassic World security system!”; The New Dinosaur follows laser pointers; the guy with a dinosaur tooth fetish; the use of Jeff Goldblum.
I’ve never considered myself to be much of a Jurassic Park fan. The films were oddly absent throughout my childhood, and I’d only seen the original the day before I saw the first Jurassic World. Though Fallen Kingdom is helmed by JA Bayona, giving the film a darker, more horror-twist to the increasingly stale series, any sliver of innovation on his part is floundered and essentially invalidated by the horrendous screenplay. The idea of destroying Isla Nublar is an admittedly ballsy one, and the same could be said for having the film take place in a large mansion, but any potential this change of pace is floundered from a lack of focus for the passage of events and the delusion that we actually care about these characters.
Moment of Cringe: Nothing, really. Just underwhelming.
Apart from the showstealing Live Aid performance and Rami Malek’s incredible transformation as Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody barely scratches the surface in regards to its subject. Strip away the music and the amazing lead performance, and you get a by the numbers biopic that isn’t interested in giving a compelling narrative so much as it wants to remind you of Queen’s iconic discography by just playing Under Pressure in the background. Rhapsody is also notable for its well documented directorial troubles, culminating in a film that is oddly timid to take any real chances, something Freddie Mercury encouraged on the daily.
Moment of Cringe: Just about everything.
The character of Venom is my favorite Spider-Man villain, so the idea of a Venom movie WITHOUT Spider-Man was odd to say the very least. Apart from Tom Hardy’s performance as Eddie Brock and even voicing Venom, the film is just stale. Venom feels like a film stuck in time, feeling like it’d be better suited to be released in the early 2000’s than in the current highs of the superhero genre. The character of Eddie Brock is nobody to root for, but the movie insists upon it, completely missing the mark as to what made the character great. Oh, and Woody Harrelson’s wig is atrocious.
Welcome to Marwen
Moment of Cringe: Zemeckis doing a self parody
Robert Zemeckis is one of the most innovative and prolific filmmakers in history, constantly pushing the boundaries of what a movie can show and be. The man has always flirted with technology, delivering all time classics such as Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and Forrest Gump. His latest, Welcome to Marwen, is a misfire from almost every direction. While the concept of blending animation and live action is certainly clever, especially when taking into account the real life subject, the execution is somewhat unsettling. The predominant theme is trauma, as we follow Mark Hogancamp’s struggle with everyday life after suffering a vicious assault. The idea of incorporating Hogancamp’s use of dolls into the story sounds profound and tailormade to the kind of emotion Zemeckis is known for, but Welcome to Marwen has no idea of what it wants to be: an action blockbuster? A romance? A comedy? A PTSD drama? The end result is a sad, disappointing mess.
Moment of Cringe: Existing
I really don’t know who to blame for this film being such a letdown. I don’t know if Shane Black is to blame, or 20th Century Fox for ordering extensive reshoots, or God himself for allowing this movie to be made. The 1987 original Predator is an action/horror masterpiece, being a masterclass in suspense filmmaking while containing quite possibly the most masculine and testosterone fueled cast of brawny men in history. It’s a classic in every sense of the word, and I have always found myself waiting for a new entry to live up to the quality of the original. I held out hope for The Predator because of Shane Black, a filmmaker known to deliver layered, thoughtful and subversive comedies (Iron Man 3 is way better than you remember). Hell, Black was in the original film, playing the vulgar Hawkins. The miscalculation of The Predator is so large and monumental that a simple journal entry can’t do it justice. This is the epitome of what’s wrong with the filmmaking industry: cash grabs done with the wrong people, both in front of the camera and behind it. There is not a single moment of ingenuity or innovation that justifies its existence, than being a hollow, sad shell of a franchise that once had potential. The Predator is, as Arnold said “one ugly motherf***er”.