The Films of 2018 That Disappointed Me
While yesterday was about the films that exceeded expectations, today’s about the ones that… didn’t meet them.
Some years it’s easier to go, “Well those were way better than expected.” This year’s more about, “Wow, that was just not that good, was it?” This whole year feels like a relative disappointment.
As I said yesterday, the only criterion for a film to make this list is that it did not meet the expectations I had for it, either back in January or just before I saw it.
Here are the disappointing films of 2018:
2018’s first disappointment, chronologically. This came out end of February and was one of the first ten or so movies I saw this year (because I only started watching stuff right at that time it came out). And by the time I saw it (like ten days after it came out), everyone I know had seen it and was telling me, “Oh it’s really good, it’s really good.” Which made sense. This is a writer I love (Sunshine is one of the most underrated films of the past fifteen years) and he made Ex Machina, which was amazing, and was also one of those movies, that came out and we all went, “Go see this, it’s great, it’s great.” So I was ready. And then I saw it, and… I wasn’t interested. Kinda bored. It looked cheap, effects-wise. Maybe the effects mixed with that Netflix look (or whatever it is) made me turned off. The story is impenetrable. Nothing is explained, I didn’t really care, it felt overly complicated for the sake of being overly complicated. One of those movies that makes you think more is going on than actually is. And I just didn’t care. Plus, that third act with the AIM Gimp and that weird bear that makes sex noises before that… it just wasn’t for me. I was very, very disappointed with this. I know a lot of people loved this, but I didn’t. And this, to me, is a major step back for Garland as a director.
2. Bad Times at the El Royale
Well… it started off nice. The first 35 or so minutes of this were really engaging. The characters seemed interesting, the actors are all cool… I was in. The premise is amazing. Then there’s that long shot of Hamm walking down the hallway in the oner, and… it just loses steam after that. It feels like someone was knitting a sweater and then the thread just frayed at the end. The writing is what let this down. It just devolved into a not-particularly interesting movie. And it’s the kind of thing where, the director is the writer, who was just nominated for an Oscar for his writing, and I don’t think anyone could have told him it needed work. I don’t know… this had a lot of promise, and sure looked good… but didn’t fully work out in the end. (And I’m saying that having liked it more than most people did. Those reviews were not kind.)
I had really high hopes for this one. The story is a fascinating one, the cast is great, and the director makes interesting movies. And it was just… okay. Kinda boring. Doesn’t really tell you anything interesting or go into any real detail. Just kind of shows you how it all played out. Nothing particularly engaging. This was one of the early definite disappointments for me. I expected really great things and just got fine.
4. The Girl in the Spider’s Web
I knew this wouldn’t be as good as the first one. We all knew that. But there was a certain extra level of let down here than even I was expecting. It was fine, but that was it. Just fine. I hate to say it, but David Fincher elevates mediocre material. Seeing this without him shows me how mediocre this whole thing is. They originally had Steve Zaillian write a sequel script, but that was for the Fincher version. Here, they have another thing entirely, based on a book published after the author’s death. It just… feels like another American action movie. Set pieces at the moments you expect there to be, snappy camera work. It just feels like another thing. It doesn’t feel like it’s own thing. The other one felt like an elevated piece of drama. Even the original first one felt that way. The sequel just feels like they made it a generic action movie.
Well this is gonna be a bit of a recurring theme… disappointing sequels. This one wasn’t so disappointing. Because it’s definitely the best Halloween movie since H20. (This is basically H40.) But I had such expectations for this to be great by the way they set this one up and developed it, and even going in, I thought this could be a great Halloween movie. And… it’s fine. It spends way too much time on set up. The journalists are pointless, and serve only as early murders, essentially. Jamie Lee Curtis gets way too much set up, and not even great set up. The family gets too much set up, only to be thrown out at the earliest possible moment. The movie is half boring set up and half just indiscriminate killing. It’s just death after death after death, and most of them get the requisite three minutes of set up to make us kinda care. I don’t know. I get what they were going for here, but there was a better movie here they didn’t get to. I enjoyed it, but they missed a really great opportunity.
6. The Happytime Murders
The premise for this was/is amazing. The trailer for this was funny. The movie — didn’t work. The balance was always going to be raunchy puppet humor and telling a real story. And, in this case, you’re stuck in no man’s land. The detective story isn’t that interesting on the screen, and the puppet raunch is only kinda there (while also being very there). So you’re left either wanting them to just go full raunch and fuck it all, or you just want them to focus on the story, but also have the story be better than it is. No matter how you slice it, this is a disappointment. The casting left a lot to be desired (for me, but that’s a personal thing), and I just feel like this is a movie that could have really worked well, and instead it just kind of missed the mark. Which is being way nicer than most people have been to this (but to be honest, I liked it more than a lot of people did, despite being disappointed with it).
7. Incredibles 2
I need to couch this one by saying — I’m not the biggest fan of the first movie. It’s good and I like it, it’s just not my favorite Pixar movie. Pixar’s released 20 movies now (this is #20). I’d say the first one is like… 10-11-12 for me? Something like that? I can say for sure there are 9 I’d put ahead of it without blinking. After that, it’s in the conversation for next up. So know that. That said, this is still a disappointing sequel to me. A Pixar sequel will always be a little bit of a disappointment to me because they hit a home run 80% of the time they release an original film. But that aside… I don’t necessarily get the love of this franchise (within a franchise), but I’m not against it. I just am not on that train, is all. But this… people hailed this as a masterpiece. I saw it as Zootopia 2, with superheroes. Like, they did more stuff with the characters remember, but basically the plot of this movie is a one-dimensional, “cell phones are bad and we’re too dependent on them.” There didn’t seem to be anything deep here. It’s fun, but feels like a hollow sequel, like the rest of them. Pixar is better than this.
8. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
I guess ultimately I wasn’t disappointed. Because I know what sequels like this are. And this didn’t really fall below where I expected it to be from a pure numbers standpoint. But man… the first one was fun. Didn’t hold up in hindsight, but it was fun. This one… jesus. What happened to this franchise? This one literally (because… trailer) fell off a cliff. My god. This should have disappointed everyone. This is by far the worst Jurassic Park movie. This franchise has standards. And even if the majority of them are just okay, this one is barely watchable. It’s just a fucking mess on like, every level.
9. The Little Stranger
I think this one’s more an entry of “directors with great track records who didn’t quite live up to expectations but didn’t shit the bed either.” I almost had Hold the Dark here, too. That was Jeremy Saulnier, who, after Blue Ruin and Green Book, made a decent movie, but not a movie on par with those other ones. So it’s disappointing, but it’s not an outright disaster. Similar to Little Stranger. That’s Lenny Abrahamson, who did Frank and Room as his last two, both of which I really liked a lot. This one is a gothic drama of sorts that doesn’t really add up to much of anything, and just was very disappointing based on what he could have done with all his clout from recent successes. I’m sure I can think of a few more that also fit here, but those are the two that really stood out to me as being visible disappointments.
10. Mary, Queen of Scots
I hate that this is here. I hate it so much. I wanted this to be great so badly. I love those 60s royalty dramas. Becket, A Man for All Seasons, Lion in Winter, Anne of the Thousand Days. Even, to a much lesser extent, the 1971 Mary, Queen of Scots. I really wanted this to be a part of those movies. But it just wasn’t. Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie… I expected great performances, gorgeous sets, gorgeous costume, and an engaging movie. And it’s just… okay. There’s only one scene between the two of them, and it comes too late, and then they leave out an entire movie between that scene and the ending, which arguably would have been more interesting than this movie was. Honestly, it should have been focused around the last bit. Give me scenes of them having discussions while Mary is imprisoned. THAT’S the drama. Or, at the very least, two interactions, with scheming and things in between. Maybe the key with those other ones is that they were plays first? And the dialogue was sharp? This way, it’s all visual and costumes and they just sort of put scenes for film. I feel like if someone made one of these movies and wrote just 10-12 page dialogue scenes at a time, that would really make one of these work again. That’s the key. Let the actors act. This movie doesn’t do that. And it’s a shame, because I was ready to love this movie.
11. On the Basis of Sex
Our second late entry. I actually watched this right after Mary, Queen of Scots. This wasn’t disappointing from a necessarily quality standpoint. I got exactly what I thought I was getting out of this. A biopic from a director who hasn’t made a movie people saw since 2000 and has done nothing but TV since then. That’s what Denial was last year. You can only expect so much out of it no matter who the biopic is about. And on that level, this is exactly what I was expecting. HOWEVER… this is a biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsburg released the same year as a documentary about her. And the documentary came out first. And I, not really knowing a lot about her personal life before this, only a bit about her history on some cases and as a Supreme Court justice, was blown away by what I learned in that documentary about her early life and career. So, when I got to this movie, I wanted to see certain things. So when I got a by the numbers (for the most part) biopic that was solid enough, but very safe… I was disappointed. Because you could make a whole movie about just her experience in college and law school. I won’t go into all that, because you should just see RBG. It’s an incredible documentary about this woman. I’m disappointed because it had so much to use, and just went totally by the numbers. Some of the scenes they dramatized just felt completely generic, even though good actors were performing them. And while I like anything once it went into a courtroom, this movie doesn’t go near half the interesting things it could, and that’s before you get into the stuff in the documentary. It really boils it down into a very simplistic kinda story for something that really could have been so much more. So I’m disappointed in this, even if the movie turned out about how I would have expected it to.
12. Operation Finale
This one might only be for me. But I love the Eichmann story, and I think it’s so fascinating and was so excited that it was not only gonna be turned into a movie, but had this cast. And yet… it’s just not there. It’s slow, nothing really happens, and it doesn’t get into anything of note. It doesn’t even really tell you who Eichmann is, outside of dossier speak. It’s more about the mission than anything, and even that doesn’t end up being that interesting. They took a weird angle on this, and it could have been so much better. Think about it — here’s a guy who was the architect of the Final Solution. He was someone who was so focused on efficiently committing genocide, that when the regime fell and everyone fled, he was mad. Why? Because he was upset he didn’t kill more. And he goes to Argentina and lives undetected for years until his son ends up dating a Jewish girl. And then there’s this whole secret mission to get him captured, and they put him on trial… it’s a whole thing. This movie sort of goes there, but by the time you meet Eichmann, he’s just a dude. There was so much more that could have been done here.
13. The Predator
I think this goes on all of our lists. How could this have missed? Shane Black making Predator? Kind of a weird move, but how could it fail? Man… this is how. Jesus. It just doesn’t really work. It’s kinda fun, but also… it just feels like a mess. I’m not gonna shit on the movie, but I will say… no matter what you think of when you think “Shane Black Predator” — this is a disappointment compared to that.
14. Ralph Breaks the Internet
This might be the most disappointing… well, Mary Queen of Scots, just because I wanted to love that. This I knew wouldn’t be as good as the first one. But the way in which this one was worse than the first one… it really hurt. The drop off between the first one and the second one is so steep, not even the musical number in this one could turn me around. I’m so disappointed in this. To the point where it hurts. I’m not sure how much this movie is even out there yet. I don’t even know what the reaction to this is. I’m guessing, “Oh, it’s a totally fun, totally fine sequel.” Yeah, I didn’t feel that way. I’m beyond disappointed in this. And I’m still processing my feelings toward this one, but trust me, it goes beyond simple disappointment.
The only reason this had expectations is because Tom Hardy agreed to be in a superhero movie. Otherwise, this would have been exactly what I expected it to be, and it would be business as usual. “Oh, another shitty one? Makes sense.” There’s a reason Aquaman isn’t here. But Tom Hardy in something — now there are expectations. Because he has standards. And he creates standards. The worst part is? You know they catered to his demands. That is, he clearly wanted a more character-based, mature movie that actually tried to be good. You know how I know? They said there was like two and a half hours of character stuff Hardy did that’s not even in the movie. This is the equivalent of dating someone, saying all the nice things, and then once you sleep with them, completely ignoring them and acting like an asshole. They let him do interesting things and then didn’t use them. Which could be fine if the movie wasn’t such an obvious disaster. They cut so much out of this movie that even the plot doesn’t track. This is a salvage job of a movie. And again, if this had anyone other than Tom Hardy, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. But it does, and they even shot stuff that must clearly be better than what’s on screen (and if not, it’s even worse). And it still turned out like this. Goddamn shame.
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