Top 5 Film Disappointments of 2014

1. Every Animated Movie that Wasn't "The LEGO Movie"

It would be difficult to understate the degree to which Phil Lord and Chris Miller surpassed expectations with "The LEGO Movie." Very much like the "Jump Street" franchise, the duo's other successful, profitable project; this film didn't have much reason to exist. Early concerns focused primarily on the fact that this could have been nothing more than a 90 minute commercial for LEGOs, completely devoid of any character and charm. Clearly, that isn't what happened. "The LEGO Movie" is easily the best animated film of the year (and it's not even close), and will undoubtedly end up on several critic's all-encompassing Top Ten lists of the year. It's funny, smart, and fast-paced to the point of exhaustion—basically everything any kid's movie wants to be. And yet, the scourge of other family features this year fell drastically short of the bar Lord and Miller set here.

It is worth noting though, that 2014 did not see the release of a Pixar film. Complications in production and development have delayed the next two projects, which in the end is really fine, because we'll get a Pixar double dip in 2015 with both "Inside Out" and "The Good Dinosaur" slated for wide released in June and November, respectively. Who knows, maybe those two will combine to blow 2014 out of the water? But for now, we're just left to wonder why so many other projects lack the ambition and imagination that made "The LEGO Mov…..sorry, hold on. [cues up "Everything is Awesome" for the 22nd time in a row on YouTube]

2. "Divergent"

Another year, another young adult adaptation that tries and fails to be the next big thing. What's worse is that it boasts so many likeable actors in the cast (Shailene Woody, Miles Teller, Kate Winslet, to name a few), yet can't do anything memorable with the material. With a story that's so very bland from start to finish, it's a curious decision by Summit Entertainment to show no hesitation in moving forward with the sequels. I guess they'll be worth it? But if you were to base those respective films' merits on this one…yeesh.

3. Jim Carrey’s Downward Spiral

For a large part of his career, Jim Carrey swore he would never do a sequel. The only exception to this rule was 1994's hilarious "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls," but he was still fairly young at that time and, let's be honest, if that film had starred anybody other than Carrey it would have been nails-on-chalkboard awful. The actor’s filmography has taken a notable turn downwards in recent years, with truly uninspired performances it stuff like “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” two films that come close to career lows. A return to mid-90’s form with the Farrelly brothers here was most notable because the movie had absolutely no reason to exist. All it managed to do was make a buck and leave concerned moviegoers scratching their heads, wondering if Carrey has completely run out of steam. It’s hard to argue he has, but recent work would tend to suggest it’s the case.

4. "Maleficent"

Boasting a decidedly despicable Angelina Jolie as the title character, “Maleficent” was primed to perform the impossible—re-tell one of Disney’s most iconic stories through the eyes of one of its most evil villains. Unfortunately, it failed. Jolie remained a lone bright spot amid a cast full of questionable decisions and groan-worthy performances, and the film just sort of fell flat. (Just don’t tell that to the special effects crew. I haven’t yet seen the third “Hobbit” installment, but “Maleficent” here has to be one of the most CGI-laden efforts of the calendar year.)

One of the other negatives of the project is that it has apparently ushered in a wave of fairy tale reduxes. This past New Year’s, we got our first real glimpses at “Cinderella,” Disney’s latest live-action remake of a classic tale in what is seemingly an effort to mine just about every once-treasured property for the most money possible. Don’t forget, “Jungle Book” and “The Little Mermaid” are on the way as well. Of course, it’s far too early to tell what may come of the project—if it’s any decent or not—but it certainly faces an uphill battle in appealing to those who may feel these types of projects have already worn out their welcome.

5. DC’s Future Plans

For decades, the battle raged between Marvel and DC, two comic conglomerates with different characters, stories, and fan bases. It was probably a friendly rivalry more often than not, yet that’s all changed within the last couple of years as Marvel has slowly and steadily built the most formative multi-film franchise in history. With every pitch, the ball gets hit out of the park. “Captain America: Winter Soldier” brought a new dimension to a familiar story, while “Guardians of the Galaxy” makes its mark as the studio’s most original and fun film to date. Combine these two most recent successes with the fact that every DC project without “Dark Knight” in the title has bombed spectacularly, and you’ve got a recipe for change—or in this case, a change that mirrors the efforts of Marvel in nearly every way.

It was announced that after the release of 2016’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” that a feature length “Justice League” would follow. The superhero team serves as DC’s carbon copy answer to “The Avengers,” that small little movie that currently sits at no. 3 on the highest grossing films of all-time list. Naturally, films devoted to each of those new characters will arrive in the coming years as well, each boasting their own dark new take on beloved comic book characters. It’s not so much that this particular plan is so seemingly similar; it’s that DC does it at the expense of some iconic characters and the previous progress that was made.

“Man of Steel” was not a very good movie, yet did manage to breathe new life into a once dormant franchise. Instead of taking another shot at it with a sequel (and without the need for all that wholly unnecessary origin story as well), DC decided to shoehorn Batman into the next one, making a Superman sequel that’s suddenly not all that concerned with Superman anymore. These projects, if done right, could absolutely exist on their own. It didn’t have to be part of one massive, multi-universe franchise just because that’s what Marvel has already done. In an era with original ideas are relegated to the sidelines in favor of ones that are just designed to make money, this was a very unfortunate way for the whole situation to unfold. Moviegoers are still going to fill the heck out of those seats, but you just sort of wonder what could have been.

Comments 2
George Prax's picture

Some controversial points here. I like it.

RE #1: I think you'll have a lot of people disagreeing with you, but if we're talking purely disappointment, you're not wrong. People loved How To Train Your Dragon 2 but I don't know if you can argue that it's even nearly as good as the first one, which in and of itself is a disappointment, but there are going to be people who will stick by that franchise tooth and nail. And I liked Big Hero 6 but a couple of months later I admit it's forgettable. So Lego is easily the best animated movie of the year but I don't know if it's the only good one. That said, Boxtrolls is probably going to be nominated for an oscar and that's egregious.

2. Divergent: My favorite thing about that series is how Shailene Woodley isn't even trying to not be J-Law light. She even cut her hair for the sequel. It's just a joke that they thought they could carbon copy Hunger Games. That doesn't mean YA movies can't be appealing. Fault in our Stars did something very different and Maze Runner did a decent job of copying the formula. But Divergent is such a stinking money grab that it's funny.

3. No arguments here, Carrey should have stuck to trying to be a serious actor.

4. Haven't seen Divergent but it did make some money. Angelina's year in general has been pretty bad. Unbroken is so trying to be 12 Years A Slave that it's embarrassing.

5. This one I'm on the fence about, and it's definitely the most controversial. On the one hand, I love everything I hear about DOJ (the plot rumors and casting are all fantastic), but then, like you said, I'm reminded of MOS and I cringe. But Affleck and his writer Chris Terrio are creatively involved and rumors of what Terrio's added to the script make me really hopeful. If they can rein in Snyder and Goyer's bullshit then we could have a potentially great movie on our hands.

What bothers me is what could come after. Honestly very little about the other announced movies makes me excited and it's such a stupid strategy. Marvel keeps us guessing, DC dumps 10 years of release dates on us, and takes the fun and mystery out of it.

Also, the Suicide squad casting is just too over the top. I love David Ayer and I love a lot of the people involved but I'm not sure what Tom Hardy, Will Smith, Jared Leto, etc are all doing together in the same movie, about a group of villains no less. Clearly Warner learned nothing from Sony with Sinister Six.

George Prax's picture

Sinister Six reminded me of my disappointment of the year. The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Honestly I didn't hate it as much as other people and it's an entertaining superhero movie, but stack it up to the 3 other ones that came this year: Winter Soldier, GOTG, DOFP. All three did work to redefine the genre, not to mention the amazing stuff going on on TV (SHIELD, Gotham, Arrow and Flash, the upcoming netflix shows). In comparison, it stinks.

To make matters worse, it pretty much killed Sony's entire stable of Marvel superheroes, to the point where they're actually contemplating Aunt May movies to keep their franchise rights. I think I'll make a post about it but everything that came out of TASM2 is utter disappointment.