Special Features – The Five Most Disappointing Films of All Time

Anghus Houvouras selects his five most disappointing films of all time… 

With this week’s 3D re-release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, it feels like a good time to look back at some of the biggest disappointments ever to hit cinemas. The films that we waited years for, and the ones that failed to deliver on such lofty expectations. Are they the worst movies ever released? That’s debatable. They are however the most crushing disappointments in the history of cinema…

5. Watchmen

The most critically revered graphic novel ever released was transformed into one of the most reviled adaptations of the 21st century. Director Zack Snyder’s soulless imagining of Alan Moore’s seminal work was plagued by questionable casting (Malin Akerman, Matthew Goode) and cartoonish production design that had the look of dimly lit soundstages.

After nearly two decades in development, the property passed through the hands of directors like Terry Gilliam and Paul Greengrass before Zack Snyder delivered a very literal and uninspired dud, practically smothered by his obsessive compulsive devotion to translating every panel in the most literal way possible.

The Aftermath:

Snyder followed the disappointing Watchmen with the practically unwatchable Sucker Punch. He returns to the comic adaptations with 2013’s Man of Steel, which will no doubt feature time manipulation FX.

4. The Godfather: Part III

A film so disappointing that its existence has been all but expunged from the collective consciousness. The third chapter of the Godfather saga was released to baffled audiences and critics. Never has a cinematic lineage been so sullied. The first two are still considered to be unimpeachable classics… the third is viewed like a failed experiment that is better left forgotten. It’s hard to tell where exactly it all went wrong.

The Aftermath:

Francis Ford Coppola’s career trajectory was derailed and never quite recovered. After The Godfather: Part III, we got Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Jack, The Rainmaker, Youth Without Youth, Tetro, and Twixt. Not exactly the kind of quality you’d expect from the guy who brought us The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather: Part II and Apocalypse Now.

3. Spider-Man 3

The first Spider-Man was a massive hit that launched the rebirth of the comic book movie. The second film was able to build on the success of the first and deliver what many consider to be the best comic book adaptation ever made. Many expected Sam Raimi’s third take on the character to further improve on the formula. Nope. Instead audiences were treated to lazy scriptwriting, a myriad of new and undeveloped characters, and Peter Parker disco dancing. There are very few examples of movies where you can actually feel the creative forces behind a film putting their hands up in the air and throwing in the towel.

It was well documented that Raimi wasn’t thrilled by the studio’s insistence on including Venom as a villain. And none of the cast were good enough actors to convince the audience that they were doing the movie for anything other than a paycheck. The result was a truly terrible movie that ended up killing Raimi’s take on the franchise.

The Aftermath:

Sam Raimi drifted away from big budget blockbusters before taking the on reins for Oz: The Great and Powerful starring James Franco. As for Spider-Man, Sony has handed the franchise over to director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) with a big budget relaunch in The Amazing Spider-Man.

2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

There had been talk of a fourth Indiana Jones film as far back as 1992, but the project never seemed to get off the ground. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg could never quite find the time or the right story to settle on. Eventually the stars aligned and, after countless stalls, the fourth Indiana Jones film was put into production. To reward fans for their patience ,they got a tired story, Shia Labeouf leading an army of monkeys, and an aged Indiana Jones who seemed more likely to yell at kids to get off his lawn than save the world from impending doom.

The film’s only lasting legacy was the creation of a new expression for creative bankruptcy: Nuking the Fridge.

The Aftermath:

Eventually Spielberg admitted to the film’s fatal failings. Apparently neither he nor Lucas were discouraged and are planning a fifth installment. Based on the development time between the third and the fourth installment, I’m guessing this one will star the reanimated corpse of Harrison Ford.

1. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

No film had higher expectations. No film has ever been so disappointing. So soul crushing. Ever since the first Star Wars revealed itself to be ‘Episode 4’, movie fans were hopeful that one day George Lucas would return to a galaxy far far away and tell the story of how Darth Vader came to be. George Lucas had spent almost two decades reinventing how movies are made. From special FX to sound design, no one person has contributed more to the techniques of filmmaking. And yet, with all the tools in the toolbox, he delivered a technically proficient but utterly ridiculous move. There’s so much bad that it’s difficult to find where to start. You don’t even need to go into detail to convey just how heinous this film is. You can merely say ‘WIZARD!’ or the name Jar Jar Binks and film fans will rightfully roll their eyes.

It’s amazing to see a movie that is such a technical marvel and yet feels as though it was assembled by a nine-year-old with attention deficit disorder. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s how bad it is. George Lucas managed to murder the inner child of so many film fans. Critics were generally ambivalent. Deep down they knew it was awful, but no one wanted to cast the first stone. No one wanted to raze and burn a pop culture phenomenon, no matter how well deserved, and to this day it’s difficult to find a review that describes the film as anything other than average.

The Aftermath:

George Lucas made two more Star Wars prequels and continued his foray into computer generated circle jerking. This weekend audiences will get to suffer through the sorrow in 3D.

January 2013 Update: Due to the intense debate raised by this list, Anghus has now written a follow-up article, Return of the Five Most Disappointing Films of All Time.

What’s your most disappointing film of all time? Let us know in the comments below…

Anghus Houvouras

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