2012 The Year In Film: 10 Disappointments

As it has been our tradition for the last few years, before unveiling our favourite films of 2012, we’ll venture briefly into the dark side for a quick recap of those which disappointed us the most.

Last year’s hall of shame should feature such cinematic horrors as ‘The Devil Inside’; ‘This Means War’; ‘That’s My Boy’; ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’; ‘The Watch’; ‘Battleship’ or ‘The Lucky One’. Those who were brave enough to watch any of them are still telling frightening stories.

For our money the worst film of the year, probably of many years, was Noel Clarke and his mates’ take on the wedding comedy subgenre in ‘The Knot’. Deeply unfunny; clumsily told and cliché ridden it was by far the most painful experience to be had in a theatre near you during the last twelve months. Not a good year for wedding related films, following it closely another so-called comedy, ‘A Few Best Men’, saw a bunch of British lads at their grossest embarking on a trip to Australia for one of the friends’ nuptial ceremony. Its standout moment was Olivia Newton-John snorting coke. Hilarious! Plan B debuted as a director with his multidisciplinary latest proyect ‘Ill Manors’ and kept on trying to become an actor in the ill-fated remake of ‘The Sweeney’; both better forgotten.

But we didn’t expect much of any of the aforementioned titles, so no harm done. In more reputable waters, the latest works from Stephen Frears ‘Lay The Favourite’; Fernando Meirelles ‘360’, Zhang Yimou ‘The Flowers Of Evil’ and Tim Burton’s non animated project of the year ‘Dark Shadows’ all tanked creatively and in the box office, but managed to remain bubbling under the list of our biggest disappointments, which goes as follows:

10- Avengers Assemble (Joss Whedon)

The year’s biggest success story, Marvel universe’s adaptation to the big screen has also created a lucrative film superbrand, nearly redefining Hollywood’s star system in the process. During recent years we’ve been introduced to some of its characters and Avengers brought a few more. With TV’s golden boy Joss Whedon in charge the joint effort seemed bulletproof, yet turned out to be much less than the sum of its parts amounting to little else than a character presentation followed by a glorified CGI feast. Some of the new heroes (Hulk, Hawkeye) didn’t cause a good first impression, despite getting such fine actors as Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner respectively; but maybe because some of its predecessors, namely ‘Thor’ and ‘Iron Man’, were far superior thanks to a less bombastic narrative, the Avengers left a rather dull aftertaste.

9-John Carter (Andrew Stanton)

After the enormous success of Pixar’s classic ‘Wall-E’, Andrew Stanton was given the green light for this mega budget attempt at bringing back the sci-fi epic saga to the multiplex, which ended up in one of the biggest flops of 2012. The reasons were widely analysed. Was it the lack of stars? Taylor Kitsch didn’t really seem to have made an impact within the general public, despite such big claims to fame as this one or ‘Battlefield’. Or was it the title and marketing campaign, shortened from ‘John Carter from Mars’ not revealing clearly enough its space-bound nature? More likely the reason was the film was a monumental bore of interplanetary proportions; their expensive sets and plots leaving a dejá-vu feeling, underlined by plenty of similarities with many other classics of its genre.

8-To Rome With Love (Woody Allen)

With everyone convinced good old Woody was back on track, after ‘Midnight In Paris’ became is most popular film for ages; this follow-up, carrying on the travelling ways that characterise his late career, saw him leaving the city of light and setting up camp in the Italian capital for a film intertwining four different stories, pretending to be a reflection on Rome’s way of life and cultural heritage but never transcending the realm of the cheapest stereotype. Counting with the usual cast to die for, which this time was sadly misused, from the half-baked morality tale of overnight celebrity starring Roberto Benigni, to the impossible love triangle formed by Greta Gerwig; Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg or the criminal waste of Alan Baldwin’s comic chops, no role seems to have been grazed with the director usual wit and wisdom. According to Allen’s recent ups and down pattern, next one should be fine.

7-Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley)

One of the most awaited sophomore works of the year and also one of the bitterest disappointments, actress turned director Sarah Polley showed an impressive eye for drama with the moving ‘Away From Her’, its ambitious follow-up portraying the disintegration of a middle-class couple’s relationship, played by the impossibly paired Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, when after an existential crisis the arrival of a seductive neighbour, artist and rickshaw driver (ayayay!) opens the door for her to unleash repressed sexuality and emotions. This attempt at showing the ups and downs of a love relationship underpinned by women’s empowerment issues should have been enough to deliver an interesting drama, but its characters hardly rang true; the portrait of the couple’s intimacy is, to say the least, quirky and the mysterious artist who triggers the change in Williams role looked more like a faux feminist magazine’s fantasy than anything plausible in the real world.

6-Hyde Park On Hudson (Roger Mitchell)

It had Oscar bait written all over. Bill Murray playing an American president, Laura Linney one of his mistresses and in the backdrop a UK royal visit to the US, all wrapped up in a comic dress by the hand of romantic comedy master Roger Mitchell. But neither the glance at Roosevelt’s rather peculiar private life, nor the cultural clash experienced by the British monarchs in the States are actually exploited to good effect, both depicted with a rather fluffy light touch instead, lacking of substance and preventing the potential interest of the storyline to surface. Altogether resulting in one of the rather few misfires of the current awards season.

5-Ted (Seth McFarlane)

Another of the biggest hits of the year saw ‘Family Guy’ mastermind McFarlane acquiring royalty status in Hollywood and being invited to conduce this year’s Oscars ceremony on the strength of this rather stupid tale of the friendship between a man who refuses to grow up and his childhood companion, a swearing, foul-mouthed teddy bear. All jokes based on the cuddly toy being alive and its granted sweet nature clashing with a really rowdy and immature teen-like personality. Cheap toilet humour abounds in another example of mainstream Hollywood’s ongoing infantilization of its audiences process.

4-Savages (Oliver Stone)

The news of Oliver Stone’s coming back with a drug-related thriller raised our hopes for his long awaited return to form, soon to discover ‘Savages’ was probably his worst film in a downward career that already counts with a number of rather lacklustre efforts. At moments felt like a return to the ultra-violent hollowness of ‘Natural Born Killers’ but devoid of its dazzling technical form; sadistic violence; an impossibly predictable storyline about two petty drug dealers with a business gone wrong and a catalogue of wooden acting headed by Taylor Kitsch (again!) and Aaron Johnson who’s also not having the best of years -his performance in Anna Karenina would deserve to steal the surname of his co-star. Neither John Travolta totally miscast as a corrupt FBI agent, nor the appearances of Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek could repair it.

3-Prometheus (Ridley Scott)

When Ridley Scott announced a prequel from the already over-exploited ‘Alien’ franchise many thought it could only be the last cynical attempt at milking a rather aged cow. Then, the first trailers arrived, followed by a clever internet campaign; the cast headed by Michael Fassbender’s android was no short of appeal, so we were finally converted; which only made the end experience even more heart-breaking when Prometheus turned out to be a confused and rather clumsy melting pot of disconnected ideas shaping a not very thrilling affair. Far scarier was the posterior announcement of Scott doing the same with Blade Runner, which given the current result really filled the hearts of cinemagoers with terror.

2-Les Miserables (Tom Hooper)

For fans of the musical genre this has been the cinematic event of the year, for everyone else three of the longest hours they have ever had to endure. To the dubious nature of the original material, turning Victor Hugo’s post-revolution literary classic into fluffy bourgeois entertainment, you have to add director Tom Hooper’s other debatable choices such as the all singing live for a more realistic impression, which lead poor Russell Crowe to struggle with his part, or a constant use of close-ups allowing its very well chosen cast to shine, but leaving a suffocating in your face stress that came in the way of enjoying or even following the rather ropey narrative. Hathaway; Jackman; Redmayne; etc. gave the best of themselves, but even their fine performances against the odds couldn’t counterbalance the cheesy songs and faux undertones that impregnated this flawed larger than life opus.

1-The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson)

Production problems; litigations between directors and studio; Peter Jackson replaced by Guillermo Del Toro just to later be reinstated. The saga of delivering another of Tolkien’s masterpieces to the big screen after the historical success of ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ should probably be the subject of its own film, which no doubt will be more interesting that this rather poor adaptation. May have been the costs going to the roof what prompted the decision of turning the original two-parter into a trilogy. With the novel being far shorter than its predecessor, it all shows how unnecessarily extended the final result has been. Its stupefying succession of battles are affected by an unsurprisingly familiar taste that fails to excite; plus everything from singing dwarves to an interminable introduction of new and old characters and situations contributed to make of the first instalment of The Hobbit little more that a yawn inducing exercise all the way to the Middle earth.