2017 marks another hard year in a cycle of increasingly difficult and depressing years under everyone’s belts. I sincerely hope everyone reading this made it through the year unscathed. Anyway, while there were a lot of good movies this year, and we’ll be getting to that list soon after, we still had some real stinkers. Once again I’ve come out of the year with some thoughts to get off my chest one last time. As always, I’ll preface by saying these are all my personal opinions based off what I saw in 2017 and what my critical film analysis skills are as of this moment of writing this piece. I certainly didn’t see every bad movie in 2017, (in fact I tried my best to stay away from most of the really bad ones,) and your subjective enjoyment of any of these movies doesn’t have to be impacted in any way by my thoughts on the matter. Now let’s get started!
Ghost in the Shell
Considered on its own purely technical merits, Ghost in the Shell (2017) is a pretty good movie. The CGI is all solid, there’s a lot of great set design and admirable practical effects at work, the cast is all game to one degree or another, and Rupert Sanders has proven he can be a really solid director regardless of story material. However as an adaptation, and more importantly as its own unique story within that adaptation, Ghost in the Shell (2017) is a mess from start to finish. It’s a patchwork adaptation job borrowing pieces indiscriminately from its previous source material while never figuring out how to make them all fit in its own puzzle. It trades in the bold themes and ideas from its namesake source, themes and ideas that inspired a generation of sci-fi storytellers, for a tired, cliche, generic plot ripped straight from every other sci-fi movie you’ve seen in for the past decade. And worst of all, it goes out of its way to make the uncomfortable whitewashing controversy that had already marred its production history from the start inexorably tied to the final film in one of the worst third-act plot twists I’ve ever seen. Overall, it’s a mixed, messy bag.
Kingsmen: The Golden Circle
I’ll be honest, I’m going back and forth on this one a little. On the one hand, this movie features some of the most deliriously fun action set-pieces and hilariously goofy humor I saw in theaters all year. On the other hand, it’s a movie that drastically exacerbates the flaws of the original. Not just in terms of problematic tone, story-structure, and cohesive theme, but in how it weirdly doubles down on the the streak of toxic masculinity that was present in the original. Kingsmen: The Golden Circle is an incredible amount of fun in places, but it’s also awkward, unwieldy, inconsistent, at times downright mean-spirited, and has by far the most grossly insensitive and uncomfortable single shot I’ve ever seen in a big-budget studio release. (You’ll know it when you see it.) The Kingsmen series feels like it was always meant to function as a satire of the Roger-Moore/Sean Connery/Pierce Brosnan era of Bond movies, but a big thing about satire and parody is that it’s really hard to not ingest the same flaws of what you’re parodying when you’re not actively considering all of them at once. And it seems here that while there might’ve originally been an idea to satirically explore some of the toxic machismo that permeates Bond movies, it looks like it got severely muddled in execution. I’m hoping this movie and it’s whole problematic strain of toxicity gets explored and analyzed in detail someday, preferably by someone more qualified than me, but for now it just sits around with a bad taste in my mouth. It’s not a movie I can confidently say I dislike, but I’m cautious about recommending it to anyone.
And now, Sam’s Top Five Worst Movies of 2017
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
And now to start of with what I consider to be the most interesting failure of 2017. I’ve heard some people actually really like this movie, and it’s not that hard for me to see why. The idea of Guy Ritchie’s vision of the King Arthur mythos is such a bold idea that how could it not end up as something at least mildly interesting. And let it be said, there are moments in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword that I feel actually achieve the greatness such a bold idea suggests. In particular anytime this movie enters montage, it feels like Guy Ritchie working at the peak of his stylistic form. It’s just a shame the actual movie is such an unwieldy mess as a finished product. It’s far too long, inconsistent focus-wise, visually drab, noticeably edited down from an R to a PG-13, and often poorly framed and staged. It’s a detriment to the film that this was so clearly meant to set up a franchise, because it’s possible if this didn’t that burden on its back, it might’ve been able to become a good movie in its own right. You’ll find that’s a running theme throughout this list, and indeed the running cinematic theme of 2017 in general. ‘Franchising’ killed more than a fare share of movies this year. It all comes from the wrong approach; a misplacement of priorities in creating franchises first, movies second. And I can’t help but think of all the franchises that tried and failed this year, this would’ve been the one I would’ve been most interested to see where it would’ve gone had it succeeded. I guess we’ll never know.
I’m already sick of ragging on Justice League to be perfectly honest. This had easily the worst production history of any film this decade. Everyone involved with the DC Cinematic Universe clearly knew that they were working with a hot pile of garbage, and it’s now entirely plausible that in a few years we’re going to end up having a whole movie whose singular purpose is to explain to audiences that non of the other DCEU movies matter anymore. (Excluding Wonder Woman, probably.) The whole DCEU enterprise has ended up being not just another example of terrible franchise-building but of the worst kind of superhero movies you can make today, and Justice League is the prime embodiment of it. It’s a barely two-hour succession of bad fan-service, shallow characters, weightless plot, and awkward writing totally bereft of anything meaningful to say. But again, since this is frankly the best anyone could manage under the circumstances, I’m less inclined to lose sleep over it. Like last year’s Suicide Squad, I came away from this just sad and sorry for everyone involved. I’ve wanted nothing but for every DC movie to work, and so far only Wonder Woman has broken the mold. I just hope they can pick up the pieces and make something good again, before this all topples in on itself.
Transformers: The Last Knight
How did we even get here? After ten years of some of the worst blockbuster filmmaking ever to hit the screen, the Transformers movies have finally delivered their most mind-breaking entry to date. Every time I start to describe something that actually happened in this movie I sound like I’ve lost my mind. The sheer fact that Paramount decided that this story and this script was the suitable jumping-off point to rekindle the Transformers brand is alternately hilarious and horrifying in equal measure. This movie is nothing but a mash of incomprehensible exposition, mind boggling story decisions, and the signature numbingly stupid, immature writing that’s come to be the one consistent series staple. At least the earlier entries’s collective badness could be attributed to Michael Bay being the totally wrong fit for this property, but it’s become clear that his presence in this franchise hasn’t been the cause so much as one of the pieces of why it might be the worst in Hollywood today. Is Transformers: The Last Knight a new low or a new high for the franchise? It doesn’t seem like the answer is worth the brainpower thinking about this movie takes out of a person. Is there any hope for Transformers in the future? Possibly, but I’m not holding my breath.
The Book of Henry
Hey, speaking of movies that make you ask, “How did we even get here,” let’s take a look at The Book of Henry! The most morally reprehensible movie I saw in theaters this year! I’ve never been one to find the ‘precocious child’ genre of film to be one I could stomach anyway, but The Book of Henry manages to amplify every personal problem I have with the genre to new bounds. What starts off as just another twee, obnoxious, faux-heartwarming movies you’d see on the Hallmark Channel veers wildly into an emotionally manipulative, intellectually offensive, tonally disjointed disaster of cataclysmic proportions. I remember thinking Colin Treverrow’s work on Jurassic World struck the perfect balance between ‘dumb’ and ‘fun;’ but seeing this piece of garbage has made me drastically reconsider my opinions of him as a storyteller and any previous merit I attached to him. The Book of Henry is a movie that makes you dumber for ever thinking it might’ve had anything valuable to offer. It’s an intellectually toxic movie; a film that punishes you for expecting smart decisions or good characterization because it’s too incompetent to supply either. I’m amazed any studio decided to produce such a sickeningly stupid movie, but I’m honestly terrified that anyone took a look at this story and decided it was worth telling. In any other year this would’ve easily taken my worst-of-the-year spot, but 2017 was no ordinary year…
… Because 2017 was also the year that gave us The Mummy; a movie that, no exaggeration, might be emblematic of everything wrong with blockbuster filmmaking in the twenty-first century. Straight from the hands of Alex Kurtzman, the guy responsible for producing the Amazing-Spider-Man movies and arguably the two-worst Transformers, comes a film that literally gets every single thing wrong. It has the same kind of completely wrong-headed approach to franchise-building as said Spider-Man movies and the DCEU, the wasted potential of King Arthur, the stupidity of the Transformers movies, and NON of anything that might make any of those movies interesting to watch. Anything remotely decent or competent, like the performances and the occasional funny moment, echoes hollowly in The Mummy’s infinite depths. Nothing can redeem this movie from the avalanche it’s stacked against itself. It’s a joyless, cynical slog of a movie. Every second of it feels like a studio-note. There’s not a single interesting or original idea this movie has to offer; a cinematic dead-zone. I’m sitting here struggling to find something left to say about it, but I’m left with nothing. Even if this movie hadn’t been responsible for leaving the laughably ill-conceived Dark Universe dead in the water, I’d already call this the biggest waste of my time in 2017. It’s not even worth hate-watching or experiencing for yourself, so please just don’t bother yourself with it.
So that’s my list! Do you agree? Disagree? Have any thoughts? Feel free to share them, and I’ll see you next time.