2015 is coming to a close, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens being the last major blockbuster to hit before we say so long and start looking toward Oscar season AKA the annual reminder of all the great films we ignored throughout the year in favor of more popular fare. This year has been fantastic for film as a whole, with an eclectic mix of acclaimed blockbusters (Mad Max: Fury Road), riveting dramas (Sicario), and awards-bait that totally deserves the accolades (Spotlight). Like every year though, 2015 also saw its share of promising, highly-anticipated films that failed to live up to their potential. While none of the following films are necessarily bad, each one of them didn’t quite deliver on their promise and for that reason, they stand as the most disappointing movies of the year.
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron
In hindsight, it seems fairly ridiculous to have expected Joss Whedon to make lightning strike twice with his follow-up to 2012’s enormously successful, nearly perfect superhero team-up movie The Avengers. Whedon accomplished the seemingly impossible with that film and tried to outdo himself with Age of Ultron. While the Avengers sequel is yet another solid entry in Marvel’s continually rock-solid Cinematic Universe, it commits the cardinal filmmaking sin of cramming way too many ideas and characters into a limited run time.
Age of Ultron outdoes its predecessor in terms of action and showstopping displays of superheroics, but it doesn’t leave enough time for the character-building and in-fighting that was such an integral part of the first film. To be fair, Whedon’s hands were more tied than ever by Marvel higher-ups this time out, so it’s unfair to lay all the blame at his feet, but Age of Ultron still stands as one of the first real creaks in the armor that Marvel has spent years assembling and could be a sign of more disappointments to come.
9. Ted 2
Comedy sequels are all too common but rarely are they a good idea. Sure, there have been a few franchises that have made comedic gold strike twice (most recently with the Jump Street films) but for whatever reason, it’s hard to achieve repeat success in the comedy genre. The original Ted surprised many when it revealed itself to be something a bit deeper than just Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy transplanted to a movie about a talking teddy bear (although MacFarlane really could have tried harder to not make the title character’s voice identical to Peter Griffin’s). Alas, Ted 2 squanders whatever goodwill MacFarlane earned with the original, as the novelty of seeing a foul-mouthed stuffed bear get high with Mark Wahlberg wears off pretty quickly once it gets going. Surprisingly, there’s actually some decent gay marriage rights allegory hiding underneath all the scatological drivel; it’s just a shame that the rest of the movie has to be endured before Ted 2 actually says anything meaningful about it.
8. The Good Dinosaur
Considering Pixar released one of the best films of the summer with the wildly imaginative and emotionally-dense Inside Out, it’s a shame that they trended downward toward the end of the year with The Good Dinosaur. An argument if there ever was one that Pixar should only release one film a year, The Good Dinosaur is not a bad movie by any stretch, but it is a bad Pixar movie. The film’s troubled production was much-publicized prior to release and unfortunately, it shows in the final product.
While the studio’s dinosaur romp is a visual marvel, it falls short in a number of areas that Pixar typically excels at: The main character Arlo, while initially cute and charming, quickly develops into a bland character that just can’t compete with Pixar’s more memorable protagonists. The film’s biggest problem though is that it just feels overly familiar, which is not a label typically attached to Pixar films. While The Good Dinosaur is definitely still worth watching, it finds itself in the unfortunate position of being one of Pixar’s lesser films.
Tomorrowland has to be one of the most unfortunate films of the year. Here’s a production that had a big studio behind it (Disney), a well-known leading man (George Clooney) and a director known for making some of the greatest animated films of the last couple decades (Brad Bird). That kind of combination should have led to great things, yet Tomorrowland turned out to be dead on arrival. A poor marketing campaign didn’t really help matters, but when the film itself is so mind-numingly boring, no amount of advertising dollars could have saved this movie from being instantly forgotten about. While Tomorrowland scores points for a somewhat inventive core concept and some interesting cultural themes, it’s a wildly inconsistent ride that never capitalizes on its potential. Plus, Clooney is totally miscast as an old grump with a chip on his shoulder, which just makes Tomorrowland that much harder to put up with.
6. Jupiter Ascending
With each passing year, it’s looking more and more like The Matrix was a one time fluke for the Wachowskis, who have yet to make anything else that even comes close in the sixteen years since that film’s release. Early previews for Jupiter Ascending didn’t make it out to be the second coming of The Matrix by any stretch of the imagination, but they at least suggested a film that was a return to the big budget, cerebral science-fiction that the pair pulled off so well with that seminal film. Sadly, it was not meant to be. Instead, Jupiter Ascending turned out to be one of the worst, most unintentionally funny films of the year.
Everything from Channing Tatum’s uninteresting dog-human hybrid, Mila Kunis’ weak female lead, and Eddie Redmayne’s bizarre screaming/mumbling performance (seriously, this man won an Oscar last year?) all amounted to a huge waste of time and budget for all those involved. Although, there is something to be said for a film that’s “so bad it’s good,” a club that Jupiter Ascending already belongs to judging by its emerging cult status.
5. Jurassic World
While it’s inexplicably become the third highest grossing film of all time, that doesn’t mean that Jurassic World is a worthy successor to Spielberg’s 1993 original. Jurassic World tries much too hard to recapture the spirit and imagination of that film, but quickly reveals itself to be just another unintelligent monster movie. Make no mistake: this is a highly entertaining film and brings some pretty cool dinosaur action to the table, but it’s just another dumb summer movie that tries too hard to be something more. Chris Pratt proves himself a charismatic lead, but his character comes off as more of a poor man’s Indiana Jones rather than an actual person and the supporting cast doesn’t fare much better. When the dinosaurs have more personality than your human leads, it’s probably best to give the script another look over.
4. Terminator Genisys
After the debacle that was 2009’s Terminator Salvation, many fans of the series had hoped that Terminator Genisys would be the . . . well, salvation, that the franchise needed to get itself back on track. There was reason to hope too: series star Arnold Schwarzenegger was back in the title role, Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke was on board as lead butt-kicking heroine Sarah Connor, and even James Cameron, the godfather of the entire franchise, gave the film his blessing and claimed that it was a return to form. We should have known to stay away just based on that awful title, as Terminator Genisys proved to be yet another dud in a franchise whose last legitimately good film came out when the first Bush was still in office. A poorly-written story, bland characters, and some surprisingly shoddy special effects (this from a series that helped pioneer modern CGI) all add up to what should really be the final death knell for this long in the tooth sci-fi series.
Spectre should have been the best entry in the Bond franchise since 2006’s Casino Royale. Skyfall was a good but flawed entry in the franchise, yet surely returning director Sam Mendes was fully aware of this and was ready to knock it out of the park with his sophomore effort? Evidently not. Spectre may very well be the most disappointing Bond film ever, as it squanders so much of the goodwill built up by the previous Daniel Craig era films. You know there’s a problem when the best “Bond” film of the year is the latest Mission Impossible. SPECTRE, the title criminal organization, turns out to be uninteresting and poorly realized when they should be a riveting addition to this incarnation of 007.
Worse still, Spectre simply feels like a betrayal of the sensibilities of the newer Bond films, middling about in between classic Bond misogyny and modern action film tropes and never quite knowing where to plant its flag. Whether or not Craig is returning for a fifth entry or not, EON productions really needs to get back to the drawing board before then and figure out what to do with this franchise going forward. They got things so right with Casino Royale; it’s a shame to see James Bond fall so far in such a short time.
2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
The Hunger Games and its sequel Catching Fire are much more complex and enjoyable than their young adult label would suggest, easily being two of the smarter and sophisticated science fiction films of the last few years. Many were wary of the decision to split the final book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, Mockingjay, into two films, as the book was already the weakest of the three and its deficiencies would likely only be magnified by such a move. It turns out that’s exactly what happened, as Mockingjay Part 2 is not only the worst film in the Hunger Games series, it’s also a deeply unsatisfying conclusion to a once great film franchise. Jennifer Lawrence’s protagonist Katniss Everdeen is sidelined for most of the film and is simply told about way more exciting things that happen to other characters. If you’re looking for a film that plods lazily toward its finale and completely squanders one of the best female heroes in modern storytelling, Mockingjay Part 2 fits the bill completely.
1. Fantastic Four
Considering the overall uptick in quality in the superhero movie genre in recent years and the fact there have already been multiple films in the franchise to date, you would think this year’s Fantastic Four reboot would have at least been somewhat competently made. Instead, we got an absolutel trainwreck of a movie that not only mishandles pretty much every aspect of Marvel’s “First Family,” but is just plain boring and unimaginative. The worst part is that it had all the right pieces too: a young cast of emerging talent — including Michael B. Jordon, who gives a sensational performance in one of 2015’s best films, Creed — as well as a young director who showed so much promise with the 2012 Indie superhero flick, Chronicle.
Unfortuantely, it now looks like Josh Trank will have a hard time getting any quality directing work in Hollywood, at least for the next few years, and when all is said and done, the rebooted Fantastic Four franchise is dead in the water before it even got off the ground. Hopefully Marvel does the right thing and gets the rights back before Fox ruins it some more.