With 2013 officially brought to a close, I can now look ahead to the year 2014....
…But not without a couple side stops along the way. In light of the end of the year, I decided to take this time to look back on the year, creating a new feature where I celebrate the best and the worst the year had to offer. To start it off, I present to you the top five worst movies of the year.
I’ve said that 2013 was a fantastic year for movies, but that doesn’t mean we still didn’t get some disastrous titles along the way: After Earth, Diana, Texas Chainsaw 3D… just to name a few. However, I would like to note that I haven’t gotten around to some of these reportedly terrible titles, so this is only relegated to what bad offerings I did end up seeing. Titles that I had hopes for despite their bad reception, or titles I watched because I guess I just felt like I needed to be punished.
First of all, I want to give out some dishonorable mentions before we move on. Barely missing out is Only God Forgives, Nicolas Winding Refn’s take on Dante’s The Divine Comedy, that ends up being a half-baked, garish, discordant purgatory all its own because of its sloppy direction, whether or not that was the intention being irrelevant. How I Live Now starring Saoirse Ronan would have been my worst of the year had it not been for the survival elements in the second half. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was an obnoxious, unfunny letdown from its highly enjoyable original. The Way, Way Back gets my vote for 2013’s most overrated, a downright unpleasant mixture of uncomfortable comedy and tacky drama lifted mainly by Sam Rockwell. M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth also gets a mention for its stupid, illogical script, and uninteresting performances. I’d also like to give a shout out to those awful voiceovers from Walking with Dinosaurs. Even though the movie itself isn’t bad, those terrible vocal performances bring it all to a screeching halt.
Anyway, let’s get to the real top five.
One thing that can be said about 2013 that nobody can deny, no matter how hard they try, is how weak a year in animated features it has been. I meant it when I said Frozen was the one glimmer of hope to this dull year in animation, because otherwise we’d be stuck with potential Oscar winner Despicable Me 2. In a year that has seen annoying talking dinosaurs and time traveling turkeys, the worst that I saw was the direct-to-DVD turned theatrical release called Disney’s Planes. Purely conceived as little more than a marketing gimmick to sell more toys in the Cars merchandise, Planes comes with neither the heart nor comedy of those films. Even Cars 2 had more passion in its making than this hunk of junk did. The animation reeks of being generic, boasting no creativity with the character designs, and doing no justice to the beautiful locales present in the film. The archetype characters are all written unimpressively, so hollow that they might as well have been ciphers, which is an unfortunate waste of the potentially funny voiceovers. The action holds zero suspense, and any of the film’s feel-good moments are wholly unearned. It’s a film that begs for more creativity, but I will admit that the only reason it’s on here is because I refuse to give Free Birds or Justin and the Knights of Valor the time of day.
The Lone Ranger
What. Happened? Gore Verbinski is a great director, as films like The Curse of the Black Pearl and Rango can attest. So when his latest film The Lone Ranger was released, I had high hopes for solid popcorn entertainment, stubbornly so as the negative reception started pouring in. Next time, more credence is due, because The Lone Ranger is as big a train wreck as they say. Lacking any consistent tone, the dramatic and comedic aspects clash together awkwardly. Oddly enough, it’s too silly to be taken seriously, yet too unpleasant to have any actual fun with. One minute we get quirky antics with Tonto rescuing John Reid from the villains, the next, we’re treated to Army men gunning down Comanche’s in droves. EASE us into these elements! Don't jump into them sporadically!
Verbinski simply can’t wrangle any of these elements together, with a cast that feels as if it wanders aimlessly about (including a chemistry free Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer), and a two-and-a-half hour running time (including an agonizing second act) that long over stays its welcome. This movie was clearly trying to be a revisionist tale in the vein of The Mask of Zorro, but falls very short of that accomplishment, having neither the modernization to please new fans, or the same spirit that made longtime devotees adore it before. The one saving grace is the climactic train sequence, which is where the movie finally knows what it wants to be, but by that point, it’s already too late to save this mess.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Nicolas Winding Refn should be thankful that this movie exists, and that I willingly watched it. Otherwise, Only God Forgives would have fit comfortably on here. Despite the richly deserved success of films like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, the young adult adaptation craze is more miss than hit at the moment, and The Mortal Instruments isn’t making things any better. Clearly influenced (I can’t quite call it plagiarism) from the likes of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, The Mortal Instruments feels more like a bad direct-to-DVD imitation than a legitimate theatrical release. The fantasy genre is one that usually allows for designers to go crazy with their imaginations and create dazzling worlds, but the film looks utterly cheap, with distractingly horrible visuals, and downright ugly production design. One element you also notice is the terrible editing. This movie is a slog. As the first hour of this movie had concluded, I just wanted to go to sleep, because this is so hypnotically boring. Uninteresting characters do not help this, with neither their personalities nor their paths being engaging. Lastly, I do hate to be so harsh to Lily Collins, who is very beautiful and charming, and I’m sure is FAR more talented than the movie she’s in, but she really needs to pick better roles.
One of the biggest controversies of 2013 came from Orson Scott Card, an author who made very boneheaded statements of gay marriage, leading to a subsequent boycott of the film adaptation of his young adult novel Ender’s Game. Look, I get it. Card is ignorant, he’s reprehensible, and his statements are completely idiotic (and that’s putting it nicely), but let’s not forget what the purpose of film criticism is. It’s putting aside your personal bias for an individual, and judging the PRODUCT – NOT the person.
It just so happened to be that, even if Card were the most lovable man in the world, the film based on his book would still have been a catastrophe, so in a way, I'm kind of glad for the boycott. Clearly attempting to make commentary on fascism, the indoctrination of children into military and the violent nature that comes of it, the film moves at relentless light speed, hurling exposition at the audience in a way that no one can keep up. The aforementioned themes feel considerably downplayed because of this, and the timeline of the movie is incredibly problematic. In what must have been only a few weeks within the film, Ender goes from a cadet to military admiral. So I ask… LOGIC?
Even with that aside, it wouldn’t have done anything to propel Ender’s character. Director Gavin Hood and actor Asa Butterfield establish little more than a cold connection with the character. Apparently, possessing incredible intelligence means having no personality at all, and the supporting cast sadly has no personalities to speak of either. Even the action and visuals are subpar, holding little to no suspense whatsoever, especially with how repetitive they are. This would have been my worst of the year if not for one other movie.
One thing that you’ll notice immediately of my top three worst of choices is that they are all young adult book adaptations (I can only imagine what I might have thought of Beautiful Creatures had I seen it). This gives you insight into how I feel the trend is being misused, and nowhere is this more highlighted than in Andrew Niccol’s The Host, the adaptation of the novel by Stephanie Meyer. This was the very first film I saw in 2013. I hated it, and over time, my immense hatred for it has only grown.
First thing you’ll notice is the terrible writing. Despite the potentially interesting world that’s been set up, the film decides to focus on the least interesting people inhabiting said world. The Souls that invade Earth are peacekeepers, but their reasons and motivations of this are severely underdeveloped, trying to grab attention away from the dull human characters. Yet again, we have to put up with another Stephanie Meyer love triangle (more like a square this time), as one girl named Melanie is in love with a man, while the soul possessing her, Wanda, is in love with another. This set up is overly complicated, superfluous, and note-for-note Twilight that it brings the film to a stop. Then again, what it is stopping really? The conflict in the film is wholly unsatisfying and far too convenient, leading to characters that hardly seem to learn anything of their trials. You could argue that this was more to blame on the source material, but as Catching Fire proved, a truly great filmmaker will overcome the flaws of the source material to create something far more fantastic. Niccol just doesn’t get the job done.
The one glimmer of hope is Saoirse Ronan, but even she can’t keep this mess afloat on her own as she’s also straddled with inconsistent material. One of the most annoying elements of the film is that her characters, Wanda and Melanie, have a telepathic bond that seems to liken them to a bickering married couple. I imagine this was played for laughs, but backfires drastically, and any laughs that are felt in the film are completely unintentional. This awful voiceover does a disservice to Ronan’s incredible talents, and when Melanie finally shuts up, it’s where Ronan tends to shine the brightest.
By far the element that infuriated me the most was the ending. Without giving much away, after toying around with the idea of a strong emotional pay off, they opt for nothing short of the most irritating cop out, further cementing the fact that no one in this movie has to sacrifice anything. On top of that, the way it all comes to be is pretty disturbing in a perverted way. This is everything that a good movie is not, and is one I’m too furious at to forget easily. With any luck, the upcoming adaptation of Divergent will wash away the sour aftertaste these three terrible movies left.
And there you have my top five worst movies of the year. However, I’m not done with 2013 quite yet. Now that we’ve got all negativity out of the way, I now intend to gear up for the positivity of next week, where I’ll announce my top ten best of the year. Hope you’ll tune in for that…