2017 has been a fantastic year for film. The superhero genre has had an especially excellent 12 months, with Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok all proving to be quality movies that became hits at the box office. This was also the year where a female-driven action film directed by a woman topped the summer box office.
Still, the year has not been without its disappointments. We’ve seen quite a few outright terrible movies in 2017, such as The Emoji Movie and Geostorm. But those always seemed destined to fail. What’s worse is when a movie has the potential for greatness and succeeds in many ways but ends up falling short.
Here are some of those movies released in 2017 that did not quite meet our expectations.
15. War for the Planet of the Apes
Unlike some other movies on this list, War for the Planet of the Apes is actually a good film. But it deserves a mention due to the immense gap between how masterful it could have been and how passable it ended up being. After two strong Apes installments, fans hoped for the war to end all wars in this trilogy-ending epic. What they got was basically a prison break movie with two brief battle sequences.
The middle section that involves the apes being locked up goes on for way too long and slows the movie to a crawl after a sensational opening act. This plan to break out isn’t that interesting to watch. And there are a few downright baffling moments, such as when Nova casually sneaks into camp completely undetected. The end is anticlimactic, and while that seems intentional, it doesn’t change the fact that we leave the theater still craving something more.
War for the Planet of the Apes is bolstered by emotionally resonant character moments and a solid opening hour. But after wasting a bit too much time in the middle and not quite sticking the landing, it ends up being inferior to both Rise and Dawn. For the final film in a trilogy to be the weakest entry is a big problem.
Next: Another good 2017 sequel that should have blown us away.
14. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is another 2017 film that is enjoyable, but not as spectacular as it could have been were it not for a few key decisions. The fatal flaw is how the movie handles the Colin Firth storyline. Everyone knows that Harry will end up back in action. Yet the film spends an excruciating amount of time on an uninteresting amnesia plot as characters repeatedly try and fail to jog his memory. In a film that is already far too long at 141 minutes, such a cliche storyline being stretched out for so long is inexcusable.
Plus, Matthew Vaughn kills off at least two key characters unnecessarily and fails to imbue their deaths with much emotional resonance. One of these deaths takes place during the downfall of the Kingsman organization at the beginning, something that should register as much more of a monumental, game-changing plot point than it does. Another happens near the end, and a protagonist’s death that is meant to feel important and consequential is actually fairly unearned and a bit rushed.
Still, this is a fun sequel with thrilling action sequences, solid humor, and great characters. But at a lean two hours and with one more pass at the script, it could have been one of the year’s best blockbusters.
Next: This psychological thriller did not end up adding up to as much as it should have.
13. It Comes at Night
A24 has distributed some of the best low-budget films of the decade so far, from Ex Machina to Moonlight and The Witch. So when it was announced that they would be distributing a psychological thriller called It Comes at Night, horror fans were elated.
But for as interesting as the trailers made it look, It Comes at Night ends up being a fairly routine zombie film dressed up as something more substantial. We follow a family that lives in the woods in a world where some sort of disease has spread. They soon come across another family and have to decide whether to trust them.
The setup is intriguing enough, but it doesn’t go anywhere that hasn’t been explored in countless movies of this kind in the past. The only real hook is that the film shies away from showing much or answering our questions. But even this is not something entirely new to the zombie/infection subgenre. The performances are exceptional and the film is beautiful looking, but by the end, we’re left wondering what the point was.
Next: This blockbuster from one of the most popular directors working today is not his finest work.
After four films in a row that approached three hours in length, Christopher Nolan decided to scale back and simplify things with Dunkirk. But he may have scaled back a little too far. In this war movie, we learn virtually nothing about even a single character and therefore have little to latch on to. The experience is not dissimilar to being dropped into an actual World War II battle with no context and no sense of who anyone involved is.
To some degree, this is the point, and Nolan is a smart enough filmmaker to know what he’s doing. He clearly wanted to make a war film where the characters all feel like nameless, faceless soldiers just struggling to survive. Nolan ultimately has crafted a movie that is undeniably impressive on a technical level and one worth paying to see on the biggest IMAX screen possible.
But having more compelling protagonists would have made some of the key sequences much more intense. Even just another 10 minutes of character development would have been a huge help. In the completed version, we feel like we’re watching little more than a technical exercise or an attempt to recreate history rather than any sort of an engaging story.
Next: This reboot of a beloved children’s show took itself a bit too seriously.
11. Power Rangers
With the rise of superhero action blockbusters, now seemed like the ideal time to bring Power Rangers back to the big screen. The TV show is delightfully goofy and can be enjoyed on a campy level. But the 2017 adaptation takes the story a bit too seriously and draws out a boring origin for too long. Really, the audience doesn’t end up having any fun at all until the last 15 minutes or so.
The character development of all of the Rangers is fairly rote. And the vast majority of the dialogue is cringe-worthy, not in a campy way but more in that way where the movie is aspiring to something greater but is falling flat on its face. Besides, we have seen basically everything in here before in better superhero films like Chronicle.
By the time we get to the final battle, the movie settles into the tone it should have been utilizing in the first place. But by then, it’s a little too late.
Next: This movie’s shocking twist ending did not make up for its pacing and issues with character development.
With Split, we have a movie where some of its issues make more sense after we learn the twist, but that does not make those issues suddenly vanish. The most notable problem is the pacing. Theoretically, the film is about Casey Cook and her predicament of being kidnapped by a man with multiple personality disorder. Yet any sense of drama or suspense to these kidnapping scenes is lessened by the fact that we spend a weird amount of time with the kidnapper himself, Kevin, and later with his psychiatrist. Ultimately, Casey becomes a supporting player in what should be her story.
In the final scene, we realize why that is. The movie has essentially been pulling a trick on us. But that same effect could have been accomplished without harming the pacing of the rest of the film so severely. Split is also dragged down by some characteristically terrible M. Night Shyamalan dialogue. The tone is all over the place, too, shifting from straight-up horror into dark comedy in a few scenes that are just painfully awkward and unfunny.
By the end, it becomes a bit of a tease for a sequel that is being developed for 2019, and that could be much better. But as an individual movie, M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t knock Split out of the park.
Next: This horror sequel brought back a beloved franchise but failed to do anything interesting with it.
The Ring is among the great horror films ever made, and there existed a lot of potential to bring back Samara on screen in a truly interesting, modern way. We did not get that with Rings.
One would think that this reboot would play around with the way that technology has changed since The Ring came out. But other than having the videotape being digitized, it doesn’t, really. There’s one cool concept about a professor thinking the tape is the key to discovering life after death. That plot point is quickly abandoned, though.
After a first act that’s all over the place — with three separate opening sequences — the movie finally settles into repeating basically the same beats as The Ring, but less effectively, and without any sort of an interesting twist. The scares are mainly cheap fake-outs; at one point, there’s even a smash cut to someone opening an umbrella.
It’s not until the very last scene that the film launches into motion a storyline that probably should have been the focus of this whole movie. Presumably, that’s to set up a sequel, one that could be more compelling but that will likely never come.
Next: This spy thriller emphasized style over substance and ended up being only okay.
8. Atomic Blonde
Atomic Blonde marketed itself as a high-speed action movie with a kickass female lead. But instead, it’s more of a low-key spy thriller, one that emphasizes style over substance. Almost every single scene has some sort of popular 1980s song playing, and director David Leitch clearly spent more time constructing a particular aesthetic and mood than writer Kurt Johnstad spent ironing out a memorable story.
Indeed, the plot of Atomic Blonde is quite convoluted for most of its running time, with characters whose motivations we don’t fully understand, only for it to finally arrive in a place that wasn’t worth the effort of getting to. It’s filled with spy cliches, centered around a cool and collected agent who avoids human connection because of their line of work but who inevitably ends up falling for someone. Where have we seen that before?
The action is solid, but it’s really just one key sequence near the end that’s worthwhile. And that scene would be just as effective out of context on YouTube rather than inside an otherwise average film. While we might get some superficial pleasures out of Atomic Blonde while we’re watching it, we’re left wanting more.
Next: One of the most successful horror franchises of all times returns for its worst entry yet.
When the Saw series wrapped up with Saw 3D in 2010, there was always an expectation that it would come back one day. But it was assumed that this would happen when there emerged a clear reason to revive the series, with some fresh idea for a revitalization having been conjured up.
But really, there is no compelling idea at the heart of Jigsaw. The eighth installment brings very little new to the franchise, centering itself around two of the most predictable twists in recent film history. That’s a big problem for a series that relies so heavily on surprising us.
None of the traps are particularly creative, and with at least one, the movie doesn’t even make the logistics of the trap clear enough. Characters behave in baffling ways, especially the characters of Logan and Eleanor. And although the ending sets up another installment, it hits such a flat note that we are left begging for some sort of reboot or retcon.
Jigsaw could have been the Star Wars: The Force Awakens of the series. Instead, it’s the franchise’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
Next: One of the great modern directors produces one of his weaker films, one that sparked a fair bit of controversy.
Darren Aronofsky has directed some of the most brilliant films of the past 20 years, from Requiem for a Dream to The Wrestler and Black Swan. But his latest movie, mother!, is among his least successful efforts.
It’s clear from the outset that the film is not going to be literal or realistic; it’s obviously working on an allegorical level. But allegories generally involve a meaning being layered on top of a more literal plot that also makes sense on its own. The second half of mother! goes so ridiculously off-the-rails that it only makes sense on this allegorical level.
None of the characters’ actions are logical except to the degree that they represent a broader idea. In case you didn’t get the allegory in the first half, Aronofsky relentlessly beats it into your head in the second half in a way that is as far from subtle as humanly possible (and if you still didn’t get it, he’s happy to explain the point in literally dozens upon dozens of interviews).
The first hour of mother! is quite absorbing, and had the second half built upon that in a more natural way, it could have been one of the year’s best films. In reality, it’s among the most disappointing.
Next: This science fiction film was one of the summer’s biggest box office bombs.
5. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Heading into 2017, it seemed that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets could end up being a legitimately groundbreaking science-fiction movie that fans were still talking about for years to come. In that respect, it disappointed audiences. Though the film is packed with unique ideas, it was criticized for its laugh-out-loud dialogue and flat performances by the two leads. In a bizarre casting decision, the main character is supposed to be a seasoned man who’s seen it all, yet he’s played by Dane DeHaan, who could easily pass for a college kid.
In spite of the flaws, some viewers did come away enjoying Valerian for the spectacular visuals and world-building. But even those who liked it on that level had to wonder whether it could have been so much more with a better script and different lead actors.
At the box office, audiences were not receptive to Valerian. It only grossed $40 million domestically on a budget of $177 million. However, it did make back some of its money overseas, which tends to be the case with visually rich films that are dragged down by the script.
Next: This latest installment in a beloved science-fiction franchise started to take the series in the wrong direction.
4. Alien: Covenant
After the lukewarm reception to Prometheus, Ridley Scott seemed unsure of whether to make a proper follow-up to that 2011 film or to make a more traditional sequel to Alien instead. He ended up sort of doing both with Alien: Covenant and neither turned out that well.
The film begins as a traditional Alien movie, only to shift gears into a Prometheus sequel when the crew of the Covenant makes their way to the Engineer planet. Then, it shifts back to being a proper Alien movie in the third act.
The Alien elements fall flat and are not nearly as thrilling as anything in the original two movies or even anything in Prometheus. The Prometheus section gets bogged down in an unnecessary explanation about the origins of the Xenomorphs and weird scenes consisting of nothing but Michael Fassbender playing the flute to himself. Plus, it brushes aside the most interesting characters created by Prometheus, the Engineers, in favor of giving us generic Xenomorph action for the fifth time.
Covenant isn’t terrible, but as the next chapter in the Alien series, it was a disappointment. By starting to provide way too much backstory to something that was best left mysterious, Scott is taking the series in the wrong direction.
Next: This Stephen King adaptation left fans of the book series feeling betrayed.
3. The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower is one of the most beloved creations by Stephen King, a series of eight fantasy novels collectively totaling over 4,000 words. An adaptation had been in the works for years, but it finally hit theaters in 2017. The result left King fans everywhere with a sense of profound betrayal and disappointment and non-fans wondering why this is a popular book series.
In an interesting choice, the movie did not attempt to adapt any of the novels directly. Instead, it’s more of a sequel to the final entry into the series. But for a film intended to introduce audiences to such a rich universe, the end product is only 95 minutes long. That ends up being not nearly enough screen time, as too much of that is wasted on Jake Chambers’ normal New York City life, and by the time we get into what’s unique about the Dark Tower universe, it’s rushed and never makes much of an impact.
This feels like a hurried summary of the kind of thing people like about The Dark Tower, but one that never puts any of the work into fully executing those ideas. And because the budget was relatively low, none of it looks as grand as it should.
Next: This movie that was intended to launch a franchise turned into one of the biggest disasters of 2017.
2. The Mummy
Universal had quite a bit invested in The Mummy. Before the film opened, the studio announced that this was not just going to be one movie. This was to be the introduction into a whole series of interconnected monster films in the style of Marvel Studios. Future films would include Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, and possibly Angelina Jolie.
But Universal got too ahead of themselves. They seemed to forget that all strong franchises start with one film, which audiences like so much that they’re organically interested in seeing more. With The Mummy, half the movie existed only to set up things to come; it even opens with a “Dark Universe” logo before the average person even knows what the “Dark Universe” is. This world-building dragged down the actual movie quite a bit. But even outside of that, the film was misguided in so many other ways, with Universal attempting to turn what should be a horror film into a blockbuster with world-ending stakes comparable to The Avengers. And because a Marvel movie was clearly what they were going for, it also features plenty of jokes and quippy dialogue, but they all fall flat.
The Mummy was a colossal disappointment for Universal, only grossing $80 million in the U.S. on a $125 million budget. Now, the Dark Universe itself looks like it won’t happen. If the rest of the movies were going to be anything like this, that’s a mercy.
Next: This comic book film is easily 2017’s biggest disappointment.
1. Justice League
Justice League is a complete nothingburger of a movie. At least Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice had a vision behind it, as horrible as that vision was. But this team-up film feels frantically assembled by a committee of studio executives desperately chasing what they think audiences want but failing spectacularly to create anything memorable or worthwhile.
It’s much lighter than its predecessors, which would have been fine had that always been the plan. But Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon at the last minute after Zack Snyder was already deep into work on his own version. Whedon and Snyder are two men with two drastically different styles, and haphazardly throwing them both together with last-minute reshoots creates for a deeply confused final product.
The villain is completely forgettable, many of the jokes are duds, and the CGI is often embarrassingly poor due to some scenes being shot just a few months before the film opened. While the movie featuring all of the characters coming together should clearly perform better than all of the franchise’s previous entries, Justice League was a box office catastrophe, opening with just $93 million. That’s $73 million less than the opening weekend of Batman v. Superman.
It’s also about as much money as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 made in its opening weekend, and that was a movie that was such a disaster that Sony canceled the third film and entered negotiations with Marvel. Let’s hope Justice League forces DC to self-examine in the same way.
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