And so with the good must also come the not-so-good. Yes, it is time once again to look at some movies that just didn’t quite hit the mark and I think 2022 had a pretty decent crop of movies that needed some improvement. We’re still coming out of the Pandemic, by which I mean most everyone is completely ignoring the ongoing Pandemic, and so a lot of films got caught in the lurch which might have been a contributing factor in these films not living up to their potential, though whether there’s a reasonable excuse or not, it’s still worth pointing out what was done poorly and how they could have been just a little bit better! Let’s get started!!
Crimes of the Future
While I’ve always felt that this yearly list is not just a Worst of the Year list in disguise, it’s still probably worth stretching my conception of what can be talked about here which is why I’m including a movie I actually genuinely liked but cannot deny is heavily flawed. David Cronenberg’s bizarre snapshot into the lives of pretentious body-horror art snobs is a unique take on his contribution to filmmaking, though knowing if it’s sincere, a send-up, or his deepest dreads brought to life is a question I don’t feel qualified to answer; at least not until he hires me to be his therapist. There are definitely the bones of a great movie in here and I can appreciate a lot of what he’s trying to say, but it feels like they just didn’t finish filming it and had to cobble it all together in the editing room. Perhaps the issue is that it’s trying to be in two worlds as it wants to be a meditative and immersive look into a disturbing future that in some ways reflects our own culture while at the same time weaving a narrative of rebellion, political maneuvering, and the curious motives our of enigmatic protagonist. The former ends up being undercut by too many scenes of exposition and narrative maintenance while the latter feels underdeveloped and missing some very important story beats despite the exposition trying to fill in the gaps. Perhaps a rewatch will clarify more of the narrative which would in turn provide the structure and momentum to carry us through the gaps between its more bizarre moments, but even with it feeling like an incomplete work it still ends up being an utterly unique beast that’s far more interesting than something more straightforward and less imaginative.
It’s hardly a surprise that the Nu-Halloween franchise has shown up again on one of these lists, and while it is fair to say that this is a vast improvement over the abysmal Halloween Kills, it’s still a lackluster end to the franchise which only ever knows how to start a series of films but never how to finish them. It all goes back to the Faustian Bargain Carpenter and Hill made to do that first sequel and begin this cycle. Halloween begat the lesser Halloween 2, Part four was okay but then the Thorn Trilogy ran itself into the ground, and while H20 was fun for what it was, they couldn’t just let it be and made Resurrections which is arguably still the worst one, though Halloween Kills gave it a run for its money. Still, I do admire at least part of this movie for doing something completely different with the character of Corey Cunningham which is the kind of thing you want to see when a horror series is in full-on tailspin mode, but the film lacked the courage of its convictions and gave us the same Myers and Laurie nonsense tacked on at the very end. It should have either been a bold new direction for the series or a final love letter to the fans, and the indecisiveness just left us with lackluster versions of both. I wouldn’t go so far as to say to never make another Halloween movie again, but my advice is to make each one its own unique entry instead of always angling for an ongoing series. The simplicity of the setup calls for a simplicity in execution, and while everyone didn’t appreciate what Rob Zombie was trying to do with the series, I’d take a dozen more reboots like that than any of the direct sequels in this very tired and played-out series.
I once read a review of Lucky Number Slevin that described the plot as someone trying to tell you a joke while laughing uncontrollably at how funny they believe it to be. I wish I remember where I read that because it’s a great way to describe the kind of smug pseudo-intellectual messaging in this film which aims for Peter Greenaway’s classy excesses but lands somewhere closer to Joker’s tired tirades. Heck, say what you will about The Hunt, it at least knew to throw in some decent gore and a few crude jokes to go with its obnoxious social commentary. Its targets are broad and its messaging got about as far as Eat The Rich before running out of steam, and yet it’s just so darn proud of itself for its faux-revolutionary stance that doesn’t actually commit to anything and at best falls into the tired centrist trap; the answer not being on either side of the extreme but somewhere in the middle. The movie needed to either stick to the courage of its convictions or focus more on the actual plotting and characters if it wanted to work, but with such a lackluster message that they are obsessed with conveying, it can’t help but disappoint on every other level. By the end I was just annoyed by the sheer pointlessness of it all; a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing but satisfaction at its attempt to convey class consciousness to the masses. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather just grab some takeout and rewatch Ready or Not.
While Wonder Woman 1984 was a jumbled mess, my negativity is tempered as it was put in a very difficult position and was getting pulled in a hundred different directions as Warner Bros tried to figure out what it was going to do with its DC franchise going forward. Still, they’ve had two years to figure this out and at this point, I’m feeling much less forgiving about it. While Marvel continues to make this cinematic universe business look easy, DC is still frantically tying up loose ends and throwing out new ideas that just don’t fit together; like a lavish stage production that the director is still putting together as the audience fills the theater. Is this movie canon? What’s still canon? Was Superman showing up in Man of Steel still considered a big deal now that superheroes are just kind of around and have been for decades? Who even knows anymore? This movie certainly doesn’t as it rummages through stacks of DC comics looking for anything they can put on the poster. It’s not enough that we establish Black Adam in this movie; we also need the B-Team Justice League with a handful of fan favorites to over-egg the pudding. They aren’t even bad additions in a vacuum with Pierce Brosnan, in particular, being one of the few highlights of the movie, but we’re still just moving too fast and the nuances are getting lost in the shuffle. Still, even if we put aside the DCEU stuff that’s bloating this screenplay, it’s just not a particularly well-put-together film in its own right and feels like they were cobbling it together up until the last minute. Dwayne Johnson has a shocking lack of charisma in this role which calls for grandiosity, something he should be familiar with given his run as the People’s Champion, but instead he’s regressed back to a gruff macho whisper which makes him sound bored most of the time. I didn’t expect Johnson to still be making Scorpion King movies this late into his career, but here we are with a taciturn one-note badass that feels even more outdated than the use of a Kanye West song for a big action scene. DC is still trying to catch up to Marvel after all this time and we’re still getting movies that maybe would have been considered decent in a pre-Avengers world. It has some okay action scenes, a game cast that’s trying to make this work, and at least a hint of comedic self-awareness, but there’s just no excuse for a movie this dull to be carrying so much weight for a studio that’s imploding in real-time. Maybe James Gunn can finally wrangle something great out of this mess and I’d be more than willing to give Johnson another shot in this role, but not even Doctor Fate can convince me that this wasn’t a disaster.
With the good Stephen King adaptations inevitably come the bad ones, and while some of the post-IT movies have been underwhelming, none of them have reminded me of the dark ages of King adaptations like this second attempt at bringing this particular book to the screen. Well, I guess it’s the third attempt if you count the sci-fi mini-series, but you didn’t even know that one existed, did you? Since I haven’t read the book I couldn’t say whether the film faithfully adapts it and to what degree the dialogue is taken from the source material, but I think what we’ve learned from the better King adaptations is that they work best when the source material is more of a starting point. Then again, the most notable thing about this movie is how all over the place the execution is which calls to mind a young ambitious filmmaker working out his new ideas on the studio’s dime, so perhaps the issue is less how devoted the filmmakers were to the book than a lack of ambition to elevate the material outside of the visuals. Looking ahead it’s clear that we are far from over this surge in King adaptations and frankly I’m not too impressed with what’s coming next as it feels like we’ve already gone through the A material and are scraping over what’s left, but perhaps trying to adapt less obvious stories will provide better starting points for filmmakers to prove their chops than letting them loose on a half-hearted remake.
It’s Morbing Time indeed. Is it even worth getting upset at a movie like this? Whereas Black Adam may have passed muster as a mid-tier X-Men movie, this is about on par with an Underworld knockoff with the same overly slick and sterile environments, characters with more pathos than common sense, and a focus on action that theoretically should keep the pace up but just doesn’t have enough muscle behind it to be more than a momentary distraction between tedious dialogue scenes. Yes, the 2022 version of I, Frankenstein is as bad as you’ve been told and frankly I’m not sure where to even begin to turn this into a good idea. I guess the most obvious target is the shameless Marvel plugs with what has to be the worst post-credits scene in the history of post-credits scenes, but Sony is clearly desperate to stick as close to the MCU as Disney will allow them, and frankly, there’s more than enough wrong here that we don’t need to focus on the embarrassing world-building. If there’s one thing that the movie has going for it it’s the relationship between our lead vampire and Matt Smith with the latter doing everything he can to bring some life to this dreary nonsense. A better movie would have chucked a lot of the tedious plotting to instead focus on that, but instead, they have to explain to the audience what a vampire is like we don’t already know, and so there’s not enough push and pull between them before things get serious in the third act. Other than that, there’s just nothing to distinguish this from the far superior Venom films, yes both of them, and Sony needs to pump the breaks on this whole Spider-Villain-Verse thing before we get something even worse. It’s not a bad idea as there are a lot of interesting characters in Spider-Man’s rouges gallery, but trying to fast track their way to a comic book universe is the same pitfall that Warner Bros threw themselves into and are still struggling to claw themselves out of. Maybe that’s the lesson from all of this. Jumping on the bandwagon is rarely a good idea, whether it’s shared comic book universes, burgeoning class resentment politics, or even popular book adaptations. Trying to reverse engineer your way into a good idea never works out the way you want it to, and a lot of movies in 2022 proved it yet again.
And that will do it for this list which means we can finally put 2022 behind us! Agree with my choices? Disagree with what I had to say? Let me know in the comments below!