Have you ever wondered how such an amazing premise for a film turns into one of the biggest flops in the cinema? For example, the third Men In Black film, although not as big a disaster as the critics made it out to be, should have been a lot better. Now with the fifth Die Hard movie looming in the near future, I felt it was time to look back at certain movies that seemed so incredible, when we first heard about them. And the painful reality was some of the biggest disappointments in modern cinema. If you have any more examples (or maybe you think I am being too harsh on the examples below), please leave a comment below.
3 – TOMB RAIDER 1 & 2
Anyone that reads this blog regularly will know I am pretty obsessed with anything Tomb Raider related (1 month to go, guys! 1 month to go!). So in theory, the movies should have been mind-blowing. Even summing up the plot makes the films sound great. In the first one, Lara races around some beautiful locations (Cambodia, Iceland), with some brilliant action sequences. It even features some brilliant British actors, like Iain Glen and Daniel Craig. In the second, the action is raised up a notch, with the addition of Gerard Butler and more adept villains. On paper, it sounds like a pretty decent movie.
In reality, they are fairly dull. Angelina Jolie is not to fault: she is exactly what I want from Lara Croft, right down to her perfect English accent. She instantly got rid of all doubts people had about an American playing a national British hero. However, the lead role is not enough to save the story, when the story is fairly predictable, full of weak characters. The action sequences are so choreographed, they lost all impact. Even at the young age I was, I completely predicted everything that happened to Daniel Craig’s character, and the twist ending in ‘Cradle of Life’ should have blown audiences away, but we were left, watching it, surprisingly unbothered.
What went wrong? Part of me thinks that it lacked a director’s touch and the screenwriters gave in the first draft, not caring to polish their vague ideas up. The characters needed more power and ‘Cradle of Life’ made the painful mistake of having half of the film take place in the city, until it didn’t even feel like we were watching Tomb Raider anymore. A lot more could have been done to make this a far more enjoyable film.
Basically, the treasured icon of British gaming needed a better step into the cinema. Although, Angelina Jolie was perfect for the role and the opening scene in ‘Cradle of Life’ where Lara punches a Great White Shark in the face still remains one of my favourite cinema moments for no reason whatsoever.
2 – FANTASTIC FOUR
Fantastic Four is simple fun, bringing four fan-favourite superheroes to the big screen and just having a good time. Sadly that’s all that the audience get from the movie: a good time. It is so routine, that it is barely worth watching, when having a superhero marathon. Even back then, before we had Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon changing the face of superhero movies, audiences were used to bigger stories. Spiderman and X-Men (admittedly, Whedon had a hand in the first X-Men’s script), both focused on a teenage awkwardness, quickly cementing themselves as beloved favourites. Fantastic Four never quite makes it to that level.
I understand the thinking behind it. It is kind of refreshing to have a hero movie that doesn’t get too dark. It’s the same reason Avengers Assemble did so well: sure, the Dark Knight movies are amazing, but they kind of forget what makes a superhero movie so cool. However, Avengers managed to get the right balance: sure, the heroes had witty banter and time for good old-fashioned fun, but at the same time, Loki was preparing the end of the world and Phil Coulson’s death scene killed the mood pretty quick. Fantastic Four never gets that: even in the final fight scenes, it feels like it is still in the ‘let’s show out what these guys can do’ phase.
The trick here is to keep the fun of the heroes, but bring in the darkness from elsewhere. The worst thing about this movie for me is Doctor Doom. He is arguably the most feared Marvel villain and in this film, he is little more than a snobby ex-boyfriend with a grudge. If his character was improved and kept very dark, the film would have felt a bit more complete.
1 – GI JOE: RISE OF THE COBRA
This movie should be awesome: this thought circles around my head right up to the closing scenes. The plot is based on the Hasbro toy range, bringing their stories and characters to the big screen and having fun with them. The film is packed full of daring chase scenes, awesome characters and some pretty cool suits. Yet for some reason none of them really make a strong impact on the audience.
It is so frustrating. The stakes are raised pretty high (the Eiffel tower being disintegrated, the base being compromised), and I just watched, not caring. It is the same thing with the Lara Croft example brought above: we should be loving what we are watching, but it just feels hollow . Maybe it is to do with some of the worst leading roles ever given out. Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans are the worst two actors to give the job of bringing emotion into the movie. The girls of the film (Rachel Nichols and Sienna Miller), fall back on cliches. Even Dennis Quaid feels too laidback for his own good. Also, Christopher Ecclestone doesn’t really convince as the lead villain (something that has me worried for the next Thor movie). Not that all of the actors are bad, but the good performances are given by secondary characters. Arnold Vosloo is at his best and GI Joe boasts an early, yet phenomenal performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
It’s not just the performances of the characters, but the continuous back stories. Director Sommers keeps jumping to lengthy flashbacks, giving us just enough information on the characters to raise questions. However, with the minimal character development and the way relationships are just defined on the spot (there has to be a connection between Nichols and Wayans – their characters just instantly conjured up chemistry), I feel like there is a whole universe I am not privy to. I kind of feel left out. And for that reason, GI Joe just seemed a little empty to me.
Don’t think I will even bother watching the sequel. Well, not unless they can get someone awesome like Bruce Willis into it, but are the odds of that?