DOH! The 10 most disappointing movies of 2012

Overall, this year in movies was a much-needed improvement over 2011, in terms of both quality and originality. But every year has its disappointments and 2012 was no different. Join me now as I re-visit this past year’s disappointments and relive the frustration of failed expectations, starting with number ten.

10. The Man with the Iron Fists

RZA’s kung-fu flop fails in just every category possible: acting, writing, story, etc. Now, I wasn’t expecting this movie to leave any sort of life-changing, philosophical impact on my life; I just wanted to watch an over-the-top, violent kung-fu movie; seeing is how it’s produced by Quentin Tarantino, I didn’t think that this expectation was, in any way, setting the bar too high. Apparently I was wrong because had I not gotten paid to watch it, I would have left not long into the movie.

The Man with the Iron Fists has Tarantino-esque aspirations, but fails to live up to any of them (after all, who outside of Tarantino can actually pull off a Tarantino flick?). The dialogue is full of unfunny one-liners, there’s never a surprising moment, and this movie is almost completely void of any memorable action sequences. These filmmakers spent too much time trying to deliver on the “witty” part and not enough on the ridiculous action that it so promised.

9. The Cold Light of Day

I have to admit, the only thing I knew about this film going into it was that it starred Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, and the soon-to-be Superman, Henry Cavill. As this film slowly made itself known to me throughout the course of the first act, I found that this was merely a misconception: Bruce Willis dies twenty minutes in, and Weaver spends most of the movie either off screen or spewing some of the worst monologues I have heard in recent time. And that’s saying something, seeing is how Sigourney Weaver has now made a career out of short cameos and monologues.

Backtracking a bit, if you are an action movie (bare with me) and you kill off Bruce Willis, arguably one of the biggest action stars ever, after the first twenty minutes, you better have a solid backup plan. Unfortunately for the audience, The Cold Light of Day‘s backup plan is Henry Cavill. To be fair, I have never seen any other work by Cavill (and I’m beginning to see why), so maybe he isn’t always the most bland, mono-toned actor in the world. This movie fails to be even remotely entertaining, but succeeds in dashing my hopes for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

8. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection

So, why bother even including a Tyler Perry movie in on my list? Well, to be blunt: I am a fan of Perry’s Madea character. I find her to be a fascinating send-up of the stereotypical mold America has fashioned the Black lady: loud, ignorant, pushy; but also wise, caring, and family-oriented. Madea always plays a serious, pivotal role in the films that she appears in, but she always, er, usually makes me laugh and reminds me about those traditional family values we’ve lost track of as a nation. Even the movies that star her, namely “Madea’s something-or-other”, have some worth-while content.

Witness Protection is a different story, however. Where as most of Tyler Perry’s movies revolve and resolve around some family drama, this latest from Perry aspires to be a straight comedy. Unfortunately, this means that the wise, family-oriented Madea is out of the picture and all that remains is the ignorant, loudmouth Madea. Her antics are funny in short bursts, like in other none-Madea-center films, and when they’re balanced with that old soul of her’s. As a main attraction, however, it just does not work; it becomes too much to handle about 20 minutes in and continues on as a shameless, unfunny comedic wreck.

7. Dark Shadows

Just when you thought that popular culture was ready to put the vampire craze behind it, Director Tim Burton and Actor Johnny Depp awaken the tired beast from its slumber with their re-imaging of the cult-status television series, Dark Shadows. Unlike the original drama series, however, this version has a lighter, comedic tone, if only on paper.

The biggest problem with this “Johnny Burton” comedy, is that it never manages to land both feet in bounds in time for the touchdown: it struggles between being goofy and being serious/dark, and before it can establish itself as a viable dark comedy, the end credits roll. There is enough time, however, to waste yours. Disappointing, because these two filmmakers have found a lot of success with mixing the two in the past (see Sleepy Hallow or Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for good examples).

6. Battleship

“You sank my battleship!” Well, maybe not quite. But your wallet definitely took a hit if you paid to see this horrendous, forgive the pun, shipwreck of a movie. Not only did this movie fail to deliver on all the action it promised us in its trailer, but it failed to entertain in even the slightest. I guess this isn’t too surprising when your film stars a model, a pop singer who has never had a serious acting role, and that guy from John Carter.

Again, I was not expecting any profound, life-altering commentary; I was expecting what everyone else was expecting: Liam Neeson shooting missiles at giant, robot aliens. Sadly, Liam Neeson only had a small cameo and the rest of the movie revolves around a few untalented, wannabe actors (almost literally) doing things in montage to a multitude of AC/DC songs. The only credit that can be given to Director Peter Berg here is that he has good taste in music.

5. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

If I’m being totally honest with myself, I love the Crank movies as well as Nicholas Cage; I enjoy his over-the-top performances even when his movies are complete garbage. And after the first Ghost Rider, I can’t say I had high hopes after I heard about a planned sequel. That is until I saw the trailer; it’s probably the most badass movie trailer I have ever seen. Then I saw the movie…

The usual over-the-top performance that I enjoy from Mr. Cage was not there and in its place was a darker, more serious performance than this attempt at a grindhouse action flick needed. The only way I can describe it is: If Cage was a grape in the first Ghost Rider movie: not necessary for survival, but still a treat, then he was a raisen in this sequel: dried up and left a bad taste in my mouth. Not only was Cage less enjoyable, but this qualifies as one of (if not) the most boring action movies I have ever seen. Crank directors + Nicholas Cage= one of the biggest disappointments this year.

4. Playing for Keeps

I had the privilege of screening this movie at my theater. Yes, I got paid to watch this movie and yet, after the first twenty minutes, I could not bare sitting in the theater any longer. Playing for Keeps is supposed to be some type of hybrid between romantic comedy and a sports redemption flick. Unfortunately, it isn’t funny… at all. Not even a little. It’s not even they type of bad that is funny.

This is thanks in part to the horrible, horrible characters. I’m not talking just horribly written characters, but most of the characters in this story are horrible people, especially the women, who all seem to only want one thing from Gerard Butler’s character, and it ain’t a demonstration of his soccer skills… at least not demonstrations out on the field. All these talented actors should be disappointed in their collective agreement to star in this movie.

3. Taken 2

By the time the first Taken solidified itself as a cult classic, the internet was already abuzz with rumors and speculation of a second movie (naturally). Liam Neeson was now an action, but as the years passed, talk of a second Taken slowly quieted. That is, until Unknown reignited the conversation. Suddenly, people were once again interested in a Taken sequel. One year later, everybody got what they were waiting for… Or not.

OK, so what was it about the original Taken that made it such a big hit? Lots of ass-kicking on Liam’s end and lots of bad guys getting what they deserve; for all intents and purposes, it’s the perfect action movie. So how do you top the perfect action movie? You don’t. You simply give the audience more of what they want. Unfortunately for the audience, Taken 2 doesn’t even do that. Or maybe it does? I couldn’t tell because the action sequences are so choppy. It was even difficult to pay attention to because it gave me a headache 40 minutes in. Now that I think about it, the best part of this movie was ripped straight off of the Drive soundtrack. Here’s hoping that Taken 3 is a step up.

2. Prometheus

Prometheus marks Director Ridley Scott’s first science fiction movie since Blade Runner back in 1982 and serves as a quasi-prequel to the sci-fi/horror classic Alien. To be sure, Prometheus has a lot going for it: gorgeous visual effects, breath-taking cinematography, and a high-profile cast made up of talents such as Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender as David, and even Noomi Rapace, the original girl with the dragon tattoo. So far, it’s easy to understand why this movie was one of the most anticipated movies in all of geek-dom.

However, the sad truth is: if something seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that not even the writers know exactly what is going on here. All the credit in the world to Scott, because he manages to keep the flow going, almost covering up the giant plot holes and unanswered questions; such as: “If the Engineers’ DNA is a 100% identical to ours, why don’t we look alike?” or “How exactly does that black, goo stuff work?” Instead of expanding the universe with these questions, as Prometheus should have done and as we all wanted it to, the writers gloss over the juicy details in order to move the story forward. Hopefully Prometheus 2 will have answers to these conundrums.

1. The Dark Knight Rises

This may seem like blasphemy, but hear me out. Christopher Nolan’s final ‘Batman’ movie earns the most disappointing slot on my list because it’s a sloppy conclusion to arguably one of the greatest trilogies ever put to film; the content does not live up to the two previously established explorations of superhero-dom. As the title would lead you to believe, The Dark Knight Rises is not about an average citizen rising to the status of hero, as Batman actually stand for. No. Instead, it’s about climbing out of a hole in the ground. Symbolic or not, he does not make a sacrifice himself; he ejects himself from a jet and somehow manages to survive a nuclear blast, only to appear, in the end, on some sort of a permanent vacation with Catwoman. This is not a “fitting” conclusion as most everybody would have you believe.

Bruce Wayne cannot simply walk away from being Batman. This is clearly established in both the previous movies when Rachel talks about Batman being Bruce’s true mask and how there will never be a day where Bruce no longer needs Batman. However, the ending to TDKR suggests otherwise: that Bruce is able to live a life without the sacrifices of being Batman. And why? Only to give Alfred closure.

Alfred spends the entirety of TDKR trying to convince Bruce that there is a life beyond Batman. This theme goes against everything the previous two films have established and Bruce even makes it obvious that there is no such life after he, after almost a decade, suits back up to fight evil. This movie, this trilogy, preaches about the constant necessity of heroes to ward off evil, even if it means getting the hang of it again after a long hiatus.

So Batman defeats Bane. What is he going to do when the next bad guy walks into Gotham? He isn’t going to worry about it because some kid he barely knows has the same spunk that he has? Sure the point of Batman is that he could be anybody and yes there will come a time when Bruce is too old and somebody else must dawn the mask, but Bruce has still got it and I do not think he can just sit back on the beach while some baddie terrorizes the innocent people of Gotham, at least while there is something he can do about it. Because Batman is also about commitment to justice, even among all the sacrifices that go with it and Bruce isn’t committing himself whole-heartedly, as the role of Batman demands, by taking his criminal wife on permanent vacation as the ending alludes to.

At the very least, The Dark Knight Rises is a well-acted, well-shot; albeit, flawed and lazy exercise in the ever-prevalent “let’s-just-make-another-one-because-the-other-movies-made-a-ton-of-money” film making. This is not the conclusion Batman needs, nor is it the one he deserves.

disHonorable mentions

Paranormal Activity 4

That’s My Boy

The Devil Inside

John Carter (though I was not expecting much)

Any sequel to a video game adaptation

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Born and raised in the Great Lakes State of Michigan. I work as a projectionist at the local movie theater and study film/ video at Grand Valley State University.

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  1. Rosanne

    Luckily, I’ve avoided most of these movies this year. The only one I’ve seen is Prometheus, but by the time I watched it my expectations were thoroughly lowered. I amazingly haven’t seen the latest Dark Knight, yet. At this point my expectations are lowered for that one, too, though- so I’m holding out that I’ll be pleasantly surprised!

  2. Amanda Duke

    I share the disappointment for RZA’s Kung Fu flick but Dark Knight Rises taking top stop? How controversial.

    • Jordan David

      Haha yeah, I know. But I was thoroughly disappointed with this movie through and through. I know a lot of people loved it, but if everybody always agreed on the same thing, then we would never improve on anything.

  3. Getter Trumsi

    I agreed up until the first spots. One thing is to go against the masses and state that it might have not been great, sure, compared to the previous ones maybe yes but putting TDKR for instance into the slot of “disappointing movies of 2012” is a bit unfair if you have a movie Battleship in your list. This makes the list in coherent in terms of content, you have sloppy movies and then you have a great movie with comparison to its previous ones so it doesn’t apply to the same “disappointment”.

    • Jordan David

      Disappointment is disappointment. I was looking forward to all the movies on this list, and they all let me down. TDKR just happened to be the movie I was looking forward to the most. It failed to live up to the expectations set by its predecessors, yes, but so did Taken 2 and you don’t seem to have a problem with that one? The movies on this list aren’t in order of quality (from bad to worse, or anything like that),they are in order of how disappointed I was with them, regardless of quality.
      PS: Thank you for your input. I welcome constructive critisism[:

    • Travis Wheeler

      He’s not saying “worst movies of 2012” or anything. He’s saying “most disappointing.” I.e., the gap between expectations and results was large, and in the unfortunate direction. Just because the expectations of the likes of Battleship are lower than TDKR doesn’t mean it can’t be similarly disappointing. Also, if you’re calling TDKR a “great movie” you might want to expand your cinematic horizons.

      • Your final comment seems a little bit unnecessary and not really true and just judgemental. I too find the inclusion of the dark knight rises s bit to crazy 🙂 agree on everything else though…

  4. Amanda Duke

    Why is Tyler Perry so successful financially? Nothing that comes out of this gentleman’s head is entertaining for the eye.

    • Jordan David

      I honestly think that it is mostly a cultural thing because working at a movie theater I can tell you that a lot of people who turn out for his movies love them!

  5. I wouldn’t classify most of these films as disappointing since they looked dreadful from the get go, but I’m totally with you on The Dark Knight Rises. Very unfitting end to the trilogy which left me angry. As for Prometheus. Well, in spite of its many flaws, I love Prometheus. It is one of the year’s most ambitious films, left me thinking and discussing, and it was great to see Ridley return to science-fiction.

    I’d consider adding The Amazing Spider-Man and Men in Black 3 to the list.

    • Jordan David

      Well I try not to judge movies before I see them, otherwise there is no basis for judgement. I looked forward to each of these movies on this list and each of them let me down.
      I would not add The Amazing Spider-Man to this list because it turned out exactly as I knew it would the second they contracted Marc Webb to direct. I like it, although Sam Raimi’s second Spider-Man is still my favorite. And as for MIB3, I was not looking forward to that movie because I did not like the second one at all, so it could not let me down either way.

      • My thing is, the MiB series could have been so awesome and it was disappointing to see them drop the ball yet again.

        • Jordan David

          Well they dropped the ball with MIB2, so I was not expecting anything much better, especially after Josh Brolin said in an pre-release interview: “It’s [the script] better than the second one.”

  6. David Tatlow

    I think with movies like The Dark Knight Rises, it’s inevitable to get your hopes up. I imagine a lot of people were disappointed by The Hobbit because of how brilliant LOTR was.

    I will be doing a list regarding underrated/overlooked films of the year in the next couple of days, and I will be putting Prometheus in there. I think a film that causes such division between movie-goers deserves a level of positive rcognition; I feel the same about Synecdoche New York (my favourite film), and in a negative manner maybe something like Tideland. I don’t count Tideland as a film I necessarily enjoyed, but it does polarise greatly, and I think that’s a mark of an intersting movie at the very least.

    An interesting piece as always though Jordan, a very good topic to tackle.

    • Jordan David

      Well thank you, David! I appreciate the compliment! 😀 As for movies that divide moviegoers, you’re talking to a man who LOVES the movie “Drive.” However, I do not think that dividing the audience is a cause for positive recognition alone. Prometheus only obscurely expands upon the mythology of the universe it’s set in; it explains nothing. This is why it divides the audience and I do not give it props for it.

  7. Brandon Somma

    Man, if you wanted to stir up some chatter with this list, you sure accomplished that aha.

    • Jordan David

      Haha. My intent was not to “stir up chatter”, as you put it. It was merely to share my disappointments of the year, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting it!

  8. Panpan Yang

    Love your title!

  9. Danny Cox

    Well written list! I loved Prometheus, although I had zero expectations going into the theater.

  10. With Taken 2…be careful what you wish for.

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