It’s hard to believe we’re already well over halfway through 2017. When it comes to movies, the first half of any year is generally heavy on blockbusters, comedies, and films that studios like to dump in the early winter months, with more “serious” dramas and other Oscar-bait usually saved until the fall. So far, 2017 has been quite the treat at the cinema, with surprise hits like Get Out and Logan early in the year, and a string of excellent comic book movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming proving that the genre hasn’t quite run out of gas. Of course, like any other year, there were also a number of films that, for whatever reason, failed to live up to expectation. That isn’t to say that these movies are necessarily bad, but it’s doubtful that we’ll be seeing any of the following 10 disappointments appear on a list of the year’s best films when all is said and done.
Taking old TV shows and rebooting them into feature-length movies shouldn’t work but considering 21 Jump Street and its sequel are two of the best comedies made in the last five years, Baywatch easily could have turned out better. After all, it not only had natural charisma machine Dwayne Johnson as the lead, but Zac Effron as his co-star, who has been having a surprisingly good comedic run as of late with the Neighbors films. Unfortunately, while Seth Gordon’s Baywatch does its best to ape the structure and tone of Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s irreverent Jump Street films, it is nowhere near as funny and never strikes the right balance between spoofing its genre tropes and actually exhibiting those same tropes unironically.
If Baywatch had doubled down on being on spoofing its source material (because let’s be real, Baywatch isn’t a series that deserves much in the way of reverence) instead of just falling back on dick, boob, and fart jokes, we may well have had one of 2017’s best comedies on our hands rather than a forgettable film that largely wastes the talents of all involved.
9. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
It’s a stretch to say that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword looked like anything special but given director Guy Ritchie’s track record, it really could and should have been better than it is. Ritchie excels at making fun action movies and King Arthur looked like it would fit the bill nicely, with Ritchie applying his brash, kinetic filmmaking style to one of the oldest stories in Western culture. And if you just watched the first ten minutes or so — which features gigantic elephants laying waste to a castle — you’d think Ritchie had pulled it off.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Legend of the Sword to fall back on monotonous hero’s journey tropes, with Charlie Hunham’s Arthur being perhaps one of the most frustratingly reluctant heroes to grace the screen in some time. Throw in flat dialog, boring characters, and a story that doesn’t even involve Merlin — Ritchie allegedly was saving him for a sequel, which will likely never happen now — by the time Arthur picks up Excalibur and actually starts using it, you’ll long since have stopped caring.
8. The Great Wall
The Great Wall is a film truly made for the blockbuster market as it exists in 2017, when how a film performs in foreign markets is almost (if not more so) important as how it performs domestically. With a diverse cast of both Western and Eastern actors including Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, Tian Jing, and Pedro Pascal, Yimou Zhang’s film feels designed by committee to maximize overseas profits, as it’s all spectacle and zero substance. This might have been acceptable if The Great Wall embraced its bonkers premise and filled its running time with outrageous scene after outrageous scene but other than a few inspired sequences, such as a battalion of hot-air balloonists, the film is surprisingly dull and unremarkable for long stretches.
An unusually poor performance from Matt Damon and low review scores were enough to earn a tepid box office response in North America but fortunately for Universal, foreign markets seemed to eat up The Great Wall, as the film earned more than 86% of its money overseas. If there’s a sequel, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the producers ditch the Western connections altogether and make The Great Wall 2 a fully Chinese-made production.
7. Alien: Covenant
Five years after releasing the divisive Prometheus, Ridley Scott returned this year with Alien: Covenant, a sequel that attempts to fix some of the problems people had with the former film. It definitely succeeds in some respects, as certain plot elements help fill in some of the gaps in Scott’s previous film and in terms of structure, Covenant takes its cues from the original Alien and goes back to its horror roots. It’s too bad then that it feels like Scott learned the wrong lessons from Prometheus as, perhaps paradoxically, Covenant is at its best when it directly references the events of that film and and its focus philosophical questions surrounding mankind’s origins.
This is still a film where people routinely make stupid decisions that lead to their deaths and outside of the stuff involving Michael Fassbender’s two android characters David and Walter (the film would be SO much worse off if Fassbender wasn’t involved), Alien: Covenant covers too much familiar ground to stand out as one of the Alien franchise’s best outings. It’s not a bad film by any stretch, but it’s also one that probably doesn’t need to exist either.
6. The Fate of the Furious
The late Paul Walker wasn’t a great actor in the technical sense but like many of his co-stars, he found his niche in the Fast & Furious franchise and was an integral member of its ensemble cast. Say what you will about the relative cinematic value of the Fast films but Walker’s send-off at the end of Furious 7 was pitch perfect and would have made for a great finish line for the franchise. Of course, Universal wasn’t about to let one of its biggest moneymakers call it quits just because one of its main cast members unexpectedly died, which leads us to The Fate of the Furious.
In some ways, Fate is a bold step forward for the franchise; not as significant leap as Fast Five was, mind you, but it’s still pretty ballsy to take franchise hero Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and turn him against his “family” he adores so much. While the film is book-ended by thrilling action set pieces, the intervening time is surprisingly light on character drama for having such a heavy premise. The film is also quite mean-spirited toward certain characters, in particular Elsa Pataky’s Elena. This is also the eighth installment and even with the injection of new blood like Charlize Theron’s villain Cipher, this fuel-soaked series is starting to get rusty and it’s becoming increasingly clear that we may never see a sequel that tops Fast Five.
5. War Machine
Netflix and Brad Pitt are both typically reliable sources for good entertainment, so seeing them team up for a big budget war movie should have yielded great results. Throw in director David Michôd, who has a pretty impressive track record as both a screenwriter and filmmaker, and War Machine could have been something special for Netflix to tout alongside the Academy Award-nominated Beasts of No Nation. It’s a shock then to find that War Machine is a film with an identity crisis, which makes it a frustrating viewing experience.
Michôd can’t decide whether he wants his film to be a serious war drama or satire, meaning that the tone is all over the place. This extends to Pitt’s performance as well, which plays like his Lt. Aldo Raine character from Inglorious Basterds, only with more scenery chewing. Even the presence of prestigious actors Ben Kingsley and Tilda Swinton aren’t enough to elevate War Machine above the level of mediocrity.
4. All Eyez On Me
After the excellent Straight Outta Compton a couple years ago, it’s fair to have expected a biopic based on late rapper Tupac Shakur to be of similar quality, especially given its subject’s legacy. However, outside of an excellent lead performance given by Demetrius Shipp Jr., director Benny Boom’s All Eyez On Me might be one of the worst biopics of a famous artist to be made in the last decade, if not ever.
The biggest problem with the film is that it attempts to cover every important detail of Tupac’s life without delving into any of the smaller details that contributed to this man becoming such a revered icon. Boom’s film feels like it has nothing to say about its subject other than celebrating his legacy at every possible turn and is about as surface-skimming as you can get in a biopic (which is saying something given its 140 minute runtime).
3. The Book of Henry
The main problem with The Book of Henry is not that it’s a bad movie — which it very much is — but that it hammers home the fact that Colin Trevorrow has no business being allowed anywhere near Star Wars Episode IX, least of all in the director’s chair. There are no shortage of films centered around precocious children, but The Book of Henry’s title protagonist — an 11-year-old genius boy played by Jaeden Lieberher — is so smugly unlikable that even if the rest of the film worked, Henry would probably still drag the whole endeavor down.
Unfortunately, not much really works here. The tone is all over the map, switching from whimsical to terrifying at the drop of a hat and the film absolutely wastes the talents of Naomi Watts as Henry’s idiot mother who is constantly talked down to by her young son. Between this and Jurassic World — a decent, but unremarkable blockbuster — it’s difficult to see what Disney and Lucasfilm see in Trevorrow as a filmmaker that convince them to let him direct a Episode IX. Our only hope now is if Trevorrow gets canned or has some hidden talent he’s been saving to unleash on the Star Wars universe.
2. Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell was never going to live up to expectations, as the film was engulfed in controversy and negativity right from the get-go. The 1995 anime feature is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the genre and Scarlett Johansson’s casting was (rightly) met with accusations of whitewashing by those who would have preferred an Asian actress in the lead role. Setting those issues aside for a moment, director Rupert Sanders’ adaptation is surprisingly watchable, containing a number of inspired visuals and stylish action sequences.
The problem is that a story as complex as Ghost in the Shell arguably demands more than cool visuals and action, and in terms of weighty philosophical questions, Sanders’ film has nothing on the original. It’s a perfectly competent blockbuster and one made to appeal to a wide audience but if you’re a fan of the anime or just films that you think, Ghost in the Shell is a frustratingly empty viewing experience.
1. The Mummy
Positioned as the launching pad for Universal’s Dark Universe, a shared cinematic universe that includes the likes of Dracula, Frankensten, and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (the latter of whom is played by Russell Crowe here), The Mummy is so bad that it feels more like a franchise killer than a proper introduction. It’s a shame too because Universal really could have had something here. The Mummy movies from the late ’90s/early 2000s weren’t cinematic masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination, but they were campy fun and felt like a more supernatural-themed alternative to Indiana Jones.
Alex Kurtzman’s Mummy reboot could have just aped that tone and style, thrown in Tom Cruise — who is generally a reliable, likable leading man — and made something decent. Instead, The Mummy is boring, charmless, and spends way too much time trying to introduce monsters for upcoming films that it feels more like an advertisement for franchise-building than a standalone movie (to be fair, the Marvel movies also do this but to a much lesser extent). If The Mummy is indicative of the quality of future installments in the Dark Universe, Universal should just scrap the whole thing now before they embarrass themselves any further.