The 10 Most Disappointing Films That Could Have Been Masterpieces

There is no greater sense of feeling shattered for filmgoers than highly anticipating seeing a movie that you think looks wonderful and the expectation of it being fulfilling viewing turning out to not be that great. Whether it was because the trailer was manipulative and edited well, or the film was based on great source material, a movie not living up to its hype is annoying, especially when it had the potential to be amazing.

Many movies have big budgets and talented people involved in making them. Naturally, you could assume the combination of these factors would ensure a great movie, but somewhere along the way, some films simply fell flat and did not connect with audiences. Some were so disappointing that filmgoers get angry merely thinking about them.

These movies are a case of them being so close yet so far from being brilliant, which in a way makes them more frustrating to watch than completely bad movies, making one wonder what could have been.

10. Congo (Frank Marshall, 1995)

Congo

In the aftermath of the blockbuster film Jurassic Park, author Michael Crichton became a household name and a name Hollywood wanted to cash in on. As such, one of the many adaptations of a Crichton novel was the 1995 film Congo, which was meant to be a big blockbuster like Jurassic Park, but it has been mostly forgotten since.

Any Crichton adaptation made after Jurassic Park was going to be compared to it, but this particular adaptation should have worked is because, like Jurassic Park, Congo had the chance to give audiences a great sense of adventure and awe, but it ended up just being silly. It could have been a combination of Jurassic Park and Planet Of The Apes, two adventure films that are still highly regarded.

Many people complained that the apes in the film were obviously actors in costumes, whereas Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs were more realistic looking CGI effects. But another big problem was its mostly unremarkable characters and plot, major factors in why Congo was a disappointment.

9. The Spirit (Frank Miller, 2008)

The-Spirit

Sin City was a very popular and CGI heavy crime film that was bloody and gritty. The film’s look was very unique and wow audiences. It is no surprise that Hollywood wanted to replicate this success again by adapting another gritty graphic novel called The Spirit, with Sin City’s Frank Miller directing. In theory, this should have been a great adaptation. Perhaps Miller is not as capable of bringing out the drama on film as he is in graphic novels.

The look of The Spirit is much the same as Sin City, being presented in black and white while CGI made all the action look real and the characters become larger than life. However, the final film simply did not have the same, ahem, spirit as Sin City, and certainly none of its grittiness and sense of urban decay in society. What should have been a grand film ended up being lacklustre and forgettable viewing.

8. The Village (M. Night Shyamalan, 2004)

The-Village

In the early 2000s, long before his name became a punchline for bad movies, M. Night Shyamalan was a very popular filmmaker with big hits such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs under his belt. So Shyamalan’s fourth film The Village was going to attract a lot of attention; unfortunately for him, it attracted the wrong kind of attention, with bad reviews and audiences simply not being engaged in the story.

By this point in M. Night Shyamalan’s career, audiences expected there to be a twist at the end of the story, and many predicted what the twist in The Village was before even watching the film. The plot had great potential, but there was a lack of tension and engagement in the story. All the cast involved were accused of overacting, and Shyamalan’s reputation took a hit too.

7. Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)

Prometheus

Alien is one of the most beloved science fiction films ever made, and launched the career of its director Ridley Scott. Over 30 years after making the film, Scott decided to go back to his roots and film Prometheus. This film is a prequel to Alien that Ridley Scott claimed was not a direct prequel to Alien, but more of a stand alone film, which confused audiences.

Despite intending to tell its own story, Prometheus could not shake off its connection to the Alien saga, and many fans were disappointed, especially as Scott was involved. Audiences were expecting another violent sci-fi horror film, but were instead given a pondering mystery about how life in the universe was created. The film has grand visuals throughout, but the boring plot did not interest anyone.

6. Planet Of The Apes (Tim Burton, 2001)
Charleton-Heston-in-Tim-Burton_s-Planet-of-the-Apes

The original Planet Of The Apes is highly regarded as one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, and Tim Burton is an acclaimed director known for his films’ fantastic visuals. Despite both being considered great, the story of the blockbuster film and this director’s strange style were going to clash.

There was a lot of anticipation for this film upon its release in 2001. Rather than having any Burton-esque visuals, audiences were given a generic looking action film that could have been made by the likes of Michael Bay. Besides the lack of Burton’s flair, the original film’s fans felt this remake was unnecessary and was simply not in the same league as the Charlton Heston film.

This could have been a worthy remake of a classic film, with a great cast and epic landscapes in the background. What audiences ended up with is an oddity that caused another launch of the series a decade later.

5. Dune (David Lynch, 1984)

DI-Dune-1
In the wake of the original Star Wars trilogy doing big business in cinemas across the world, Hollywood were looking for other science fiction sagas it could make a profit from. The Dino de Laurentiis Corporation brought the rights to Frank Herbert’s beloved science fiction novel Dune. The novel’s plot had all the right elements to become a blockbuster, with an epic story, fantastic visuals, captivating music and a lot of space travel and aliens.

While the studio wanted a sure fire hit that would fill theatres, the film’s director David Lynch was more interested in creating grotesque yet mesmerising visuals with both the editing and the film’s sets and creatures. While the visuals look great, the studio and Lynch clashed a lot, and the meeting of these two different ideals did not work well together. This adaptation of the beloved sci-fi novel was meant to be the next Star Wars, but it was too weird and confusing to ever achieve that status.

While the main plot is the story of a chosen one to lead the way to a better future, the films many subplots with its characters and the political turmoil of the universe was too much to be contained in one film. The novel’s fans were very disappointed with the film leaving out so much of the book’s plot, and also its generally poor storytelling. Dune is David Lynch’s only attempt at an epic action film of any sort, and after making it he made more personal films that became movie classics.

4. The Sicilian (Michael Cimino, 1987)

The-Sicilian

Although many claimed the megaflop Heaven’s Gate was the film that ruined Michael Cimino’s career as a director, it was actually his poor work with The Sicilian and the legal problems that happened behind the scenes that sealed his fate as a Hollywood cautionary tale.

In theory, a film that was created by the author of The Godfather and the director of The Deer Hunter should have been a masterpiece, combining the intricate criminal underworld of the former and the grand visuals and epic scope of the latter. Unfortunately, the end result is a very boring film with a plodding story line.

The film completely omits any reference to the Corleone family from the novel, as it was a spin-off of The Godfather novel, although this was done for legal reasons as well. With a great cast including Christopher Lambert, Terrance Stamp, Joss Ackland, and John Turturro, their performances were hindered by the poor material they had to work with. While The Sicilian has the beautiful cinematography that is expected in a Cimino film, it does not excuse the bland plot.

3. Batman & Robin (Joel Schumacher, 1997)

Batman-Robin-1997
Batman has always been a popular character with the general public and a big money maker for Warner Bros. However, the Batman saga made in the late 20th century was not without its setbacks. Director Joel Schumacher’s previous Batman film, Batman Forever, triumphed at the box office and was considered a return to form for the series after many were put off by the darkness of Batman Returns. But Batman & Robin went into overtly family friendly territory to make it appeal as much to kids as possible.

The film is considered so bad that most Batman fans have an involuntary reaction of pure disgust when Batman & Robin is mentioned. Schumacher has since commented the studio wanted him to make the movie “toyetic”, meaning all the different costumes the characters wore could be made into toys to make profit from. The studio was clearly more interested in making money than creating a great film and follow up in this beloved series.

The dark gothic city in Tim Burton’s Batman films was replaced with a sleek futuristic city lit with neon lights, something right out of a comic book as Schumacher intended. The visuals in the film are great and really offer an unique version of Gotham City. However, the very cheesy story line and horrible dialogue, especially Mr Freeze’s frequent ice puns, frustrated moviegoers and offended dedicated Batman fans. The camp factor is through the roof, and many fans were offended by including nipples on Batman’s and Robin’s costumes.

Despite its faults, Batman & Robin had a great cast, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Uma Thurman, Chris O’Donnell, and Alicia Silverstone, making it a shame these great actors could not make the film work.

Schumacher had previously made darker but still entertaining films, namely The Lost Boys and Falling Down, and this style could have worked with Batman & Robin rather than the silliness audiences endured. This film ended the Batman series of the 1980s and 1990s, giving rise to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (so some good came out of it after all).

2. Alexander (Oliver Stone, 2004)

Colin-Farrell-Alexander-The-Great
Oliver Stone is one of the most controversial film directors to work in Hollywood, often making films about controversial people and subject matter. So people were intrigued when he wanted to make a film about Alexander The Great, a story unlike anything he had done before. Many wished he hadn’t pursued it after seeing the end result.

While Stone is an Oscar winning director for his previous work, he instead received many Razzie nominations for his work on Alexander (although he did not “win” any of them). While the visuals, cinematography and depiction of the old world were both stunning and grim at the same time, they were not enough to distract audiences from the film’s faults.

Many felt the film was far too long and not having enough action to justify its running time, and its over the top acting and inaccurate accents from all its A-list cast was draining to watch for that long. Many criticised Colin Farrell’s performance and his blond wig too, saying his depiction of the historical figure and his hairdo were unconvincing.

While other epic movies made in the early 2000s such as Troy and The Lord Of The Rings were big on action, Alexander was more about Alexander’s struggle to rule and lead his kingdom at such a young age, while also dealing with family problems and his sexuality. The film hindered Stone’s career, and made very little money back at the box office.

1. Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace (George Lucas, 1999)

Star-Wars-Episode-I-–-The-Phantom-Menace-1999

If there is a film series that really divides movie buffs, it is Star Wars, particular how the original trilogy is adored while the prequel trilogy is hated. But the main culprit is definitely the first prequel, The Phantom Menace. The prequels had a lot of live up to compared to the original Star Wars trilogy, especially as 16 years had passed since Return Of The Jedi was released. From the first film, it became clear it would not live up to the original trilogy’s legacy.

People had been wanted to see the original story of this beloved saga for years, and to see how characters came to be who they are, especially Anakin Skywalker. All this anticipation was ruined by the goofy story and characters, especially the notoriously annoying Jar Jar Binks and young Anakin Skywalker.

All of the performances in The Phantom Menace are as lifeless as some of the CGI, despite the actors being more than competent in other films. Perhaps George Lucas is to blame for these wooden performances.

The film used too much CGI for its scenery and its non-human characters, making it look like the actors are not really part of the environment their characters are supposed to be in. This is another point of comparison to the original trilogy, which used real locations and puppets and animatronics to design lifelike creatures that wowed audiences.

While The Phantom Menace had a huge budget and made a killing at the box office, its success may have been more because of the original trilogy’s reputation than the film they ended up seeing. The Phantom Menace has since become synonymous with disappointing films and a sore point on a beloved saga.

Originally published here at tasteofcinema.com on Tuesday 12 April 2016

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