You’ll see a lot of 2017 lists that talk about the worst films of the year. That always feels like an easy target. What’s harder to parse through are films we actually thought might be good but turn out to be a big disappointment.
Here are the unlucky thirteen films that didn’t live up to our expectations.
13. Justice League
The big DC crossover takes the bottom spot because I actually didn’t think it was terrible, but that’s clearly not the case for a lot of other folks. The DC Extended Universe didn’t have the big win it wanted in terms of box office or critical appraisal, and it’s led to a lot of scuttlebutt about where the future of this superhero universe is going to go.
No matter what you thought of Justice League, it’s obvious that it was a disappointment when you look at the big picture. Hopefully, the next outing in the DC Extended Universe will right the ship.
12. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Ang Lee promised to deliver a poignant adaptation of a touching and difficult novel by Ben Fountain. Lee had a solid cast and what seemed like a no-brainer awards contender. What went wrong?
Firstly, the film was shot and sometimes projected at 120 frames per second which simply didn’t jive with the visual language of the film. Also, for a novel that avoided melodrama. the film adaptation delved deep into saccharine territory that felt like a betrayal of the subject matter. It’s not a terrible movie but it’s a bummer considering that it could have ended up being a touchstone picture in displaying the real struggles of returning veterans and the falseness of nationalistic heroism.
11. Live by Night
2017 was a bad year for Ben Affleck. Before Justice League, there was this gangster epic that should have been a winner. Unfortunately, it ended up feeling incredibly clichéd and didn’t deliver the usual panache that Affleck’s previous directorial efforts have delivered.
Like a lot of flicks on this list, Live by Night isn’t bad but it’s unfortunately rote. Affleck doesn’t do a whole lot with the typical ‘rise to power” crime story, and the fetishistic direction actually loses its allure after about a half hour. Maybe Affleck needs to go take a nap in the Batcave for a few months?
10. Fifty Shades Darker
Maybe you didn’t have high hopes for this sequel, but I sure did! It was entertaining for what it was, but it dropped the ball when it came to delivering a thriller component to a franchise centered around wish fulfillment and naughty sensuality.
And it did nothing to build anticipation for the third and final chapter in the Fifty Shades saga. If you need a delightfully trashy erotic thriller from 2017, check out Unforgettable instead. This flick? It’s about as exhilarating as the color grey itself.
9. The Belko Experiment
Though this flick did deliver on a very simple premise — Battle Royale in the workplace — it delivered it with such simplicity that it fell short of its expectations. That has a lot to do with the caliber of people behind the camera. James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) provided the screenplay and Greg McLean (Wolf Creek and the underappreciated Rogue) handled the direction.
With those two on board, The Belko Experiment should have transcended its straightforward concept. Instead, it’s shockingly by-the-numbers with very little to recommend. Even horror-hounds won’t get much satisfaction out of this. It’s a bare-bones and banal little bit of bloodletting.
8. The Circle
This one had so much potential. A killer cast featuring Emma Watson, John Boyega, and Tom Hanks. Source material from the excellent Dave Eggers. And the premise sounds like something right out of a Black Mirror episode. So, how did it go wrong?
The drama feels inert, the movie’s commentary overshadows its characters, and there is very little to recommend in terms of compelling filmmaking. As a screed against modern technology and the dissolution of privacy, it’s on-the-nose. But, as a story you actually want to watch? It’s a brick of a flick.
7. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie had a chance to take the King Arthur legend and give it his particular brand of over-the-top action cheese. In a way, he did exactly that. The problem has more to do with the world of the film. It’s just not that interesting.
Sure, there are cool flourishes like interdimensional demon elephants and squid witches, but that kind of fantasy flair is far too fleeting. Most of the film is a slog, trudging through a story that’s unsurprising at every turn. It might make a few metalheads happy, but it’s an otherwise limp reason to take another swing at King Arthur.
6. The Book of Henry
Of all the films on this list, The Book of Henry is probably the one that garnered the widest derision from critics and audiences. Our own Chris Tilly actually enjoyed the film, but it’s tough to deny how much this disappointed a lot of fans for various reasons.
Director Colin Trevorrow was hot off the success of Jurassic World and was lined up to direct Star Wars: Episode IX. Too bad that this film was so universally panned because it probably cost him the Star Wars gig. Maybe this one will get reappraisal years from now, but it’s definitely a big loser for the time being.
5. The Great Wall
The Great Wall didn’t look so great but it had one superb weapon in its arsenal: legendary director Zhang Yimou. And while he does bring visual flair to the story, he can’t salvage a script and actors that fall flat at every turn.
The hope was that Yimou would find a way to elevate the material or produce the kind of spectacle that made you forgive all the other faults the film had. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and The Great Wall ended up feeling like a pale imitation of Yimou’s greater works. Oh, and Matt Damon proved he’s not quite the versatile action hero that the Bourne movies told us he was.
4. Power Rangers
Yet again, I must confess that I didn’t hate Power Rangers but it’s important to look at the full scope of its impact. Or, lack thereof if we’re being brutally honest. Power Rangers is a disappointment because it didn’t jumpstart a new cinematic franchise for the well-worn superhero team.
Maybe that has to do with the strange tonal clash of the film or the lackluster redesign of the universe, but no matter the reason, it’s clear that the Power Rangers probably aren’t going to be returning to the big screen anytime soon. This movie is to blame.
3. Ghost in the Shell
Oh boy, where to start with Ghost in the Shell? Though it wasn’t a trainwreck (read Kim Taylor-Foster’s review), it definitely didn’t blaze a trail for more anime adaptations. That’s unfortunate as the aesthetic of the film was surprisingly faithful to the original film and manga.
But, there are all the sticky racial issues that the plot of the film dredged up. And at the end of the day, Ghost in the Shell was all presentation and very little substance. This one disappoints because it had a lot of good intentions but it missed the mark in some critical areas.
2. The Dark Tower
For fans of Stephen King, 2017 was a milestone. IT conquered the box office and pop culture. Netflix put out two solid adaptations of lesser known King works, Gerald’s Game and 1922. And King’s fantasy magnum opus found it’s way to the big screen in The Dark Tower.
It was this last project that felt the most incredible. And that’s also why it was the most disappointing. It couldn’t find a balance between the material’s inescapable weirdness and a throughline that could hook general audiences. Die-hard fans of The Dark Tower books felt like the story had been butchered while newcomers felt confused and out of the loop.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but The Dark Tower wasn’t an awful movie. But, it was a misguided attempt at bringing King’s fantastical world to the big screen.
1. The Snowman
It’s important to remember that this list isn’t compiling the worst films of 2017. These are all movies that I’d hoped would deliver something enjoyable but failed for one reason or another. Most people wouldn’t expect much out of The Snowman, but I did. It had a fantastic cast, director, and a simple murder mystery plot that seemed impossible to completely fumble.
But fumble it did and spectacularly so. The Snowman is a failure on nearly every level. It’s the first film I’ve reviewed for FANDOM that I gave our lowest possible score. It’s not that The Snowman needed to be a masterpiece. Far from it. It needed to check a few easy boxes and move along. Instead, it’s a litany of poor choices that culminates into the worst film I saw all year. For that reason alone, it ends up being the most disappointing film of 2017.
Agree? Disagree? Feel there were movies that should have been on this list? Let me know!