There exist a lot of moving parts that go into telling a story on film, and from the script to the screen, plenty can change; a whole slew of people with conflicting ideas and disparate talents and feuding interests can exercise influence. For any number of reasons, a film featuring clichéd or boring characters, following familiar and uninspired arcs with any number of unsurprising or absurd twists, is the finished product.
Most movies aren’t total train wrecks. Even when a film is mostly bad, it’s likely that there is some talent or interest somewhere, prevailing above the mediocrity. In some cases a talented actor, a really well-written character, or more likely a combination of the two, stand out amid something pedestrian.
And we end up wanting more of that. When a supporting character devours every scene, it can stress how poor the entire film is while making us long for more of that character, either in more scenes or a remade movie with that person as the focus. Like Gal Gadot in Batman v Superman, for instance, which was awful. At least she’s getting her own movie.
Here are some disappointing films that picked the wrong story to tell, missing something pretty great that was just off to the side.
An attempt to make something familiar new, something nostalgic hip, Pan was by most accounts a failure and forgotten pretty fast. While there are some worthy questions as to the portrayal of the indigenous characters, including Tiger Lily, the main issue with the film is its inability to reconcile its opposing tones and characters. Telling the story of a young boy who would grow up to be Peter Pan (Levi Miller), wide-eyed innocent, while also revealing the young life of cavalier and cavorter James Hook (Garrett Hedlun), proved too tough. So commit to one and screw Pan. Hedlund acts a young Indiana Jones as Hook, wild and reckless and flirting with Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara). So just tell his story and keep the wonderful Mara – but give her a new, appropriate character.
Jurassic World (2015)
I don’t care how much money it has made (a lot). I don’t care how many people saw it (a ton). And I don’t care how cool the dinosaurs were (so cool!); Jurassic World was an entertaining and completely empty movie, filled with one-note characters, lazy storytelling, and more than a little bit of casual misogyny. The best character, aside from B.D. Wong twirling his invisible evil mustache as Dr. Henry Wu, was Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire, despite the writers trying their best to force her into a typical reductionist female gender role. The movie is better with her running the park, without the filmmakers trying to couple her up, have her want kids, and make her feel guilty for focusing on her job – which, by the way, seems pretty freaking impressive. Get rid of Chris Pratt*, who wasn’t funny, and let’s focus on that control room, especially with Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus. Aaron Sorkin can write it. (He’s getting better at writing for women, right…?)
*For the record, KHACHILIFE’s Editorial Director, Kate Shelton, highly disagrees.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
A whole slew of action/adventure/thriller films over the years have boasted nefariously delicious villains, ones who are so much fun to watch that they often out-charm the heroes. While Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man is quite winning in each of his several dozen films (at least, that’s the amount it feels like), the mostly lackluster Iron Man 2 was uplifted by another figure. No, not Mickey Rourke’s ridiculously serious Whiplash, but rather Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer, a cheeky industrialist who is pretty offbeat and can surely dance. Rockwell buoys every movie he is in, and with Iron Man 2, which is far too serious for its own good, Rockwell is delightful. We just need more of him. And obviously the movie would be called Hammer Time.
Armageddon (1998) & The Island (2005)
Steve Buscemi tends to be in really interesting films, or at least in generic films playing pretty interesting characters. We’re tossing these two films together because all Michael Bay films are more or less the same. They’re loud, frenetic, gasoline- and machismo-fueled sweaty spectacles with lots of sweeping shots, American flags, and close-ups of leggy, slender young women. With the cheesy Armageddon, Buscemi is Rockhound, an excitable cad who blows money on strippers and parties in preparation for the end of the world. He’s fun to go out with. In The Island – a pretty weird movie, to be sure – Buscemi is a turncoat scientist, and before the film turns into a greasy action adventure spectacle, there are some strange things happening in the lab. There is always one kooky character in what are otherwise pretty awful Bay films (let’s add Stanley Tucci from Transformers 4 and Rebel Wilson from Pain & Gain to this list as well) – let’s follow them.
Love – no, not the explicit, pretentious Gasper Noe drama from last year, but the Netflix show. And yes, it is a TV show and therefore an outlier on our list, but the online streaming giant wants us to view its content as lengthy movies, so that’s what we’re going to do. Especially because this absurd show, with its inconsistent main characters – one of whom has neuroses and issues that in any other format would make him unlikeable – has a lone shining star. While Gus and Mickey conduct their inane courtship, full of misunderstandings and underscored by some idiotic justification of male insecurities, Mickey’s roommate Bertie (Australian actress and comedian Claudia o’Doherty) is hysterical and lively. She lights up every scene and kills her one-liners. Her story, with whatever adventures she embarks upon, is what we really should be exploring. But hey – let’s get some other writers crafting it.