I would like to make something clear right off the bat: I mean absolutely no disrespect to any person who might call themselves a fan of the movies below and even celebrate the fact that many found them impressive and satisfying. However, I — as well as many other moviegoers and critics alike — unfortunately, found them to be lackluster and disappointing, especially when you consider the potential they had to be something really great based on their otherwise unique and amusing concepts. So, please bear with me as I explain why I feel the following films could be considered a missed opportunity.
In Time (2011)
This sci-fi thriller from writer and director Andrew Niccol is set in a future in which people stop aging past 25, but can only continue to live if they have enough time, which has, literally, been adopted as society’s only currency. With a concept like that, In Time could have been one of Justin Timberlake’s best movies, but, the execution is widely seen as just a bland, cliche-ridden mess.
I was on board for 65 based on the idea of seeing Academy Award nominee Adam Driver pitted against dinosaurs alone. Yet, somehow, writers and directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods — then best known for writing the gripping A Quiet Place — ended up putting out a sci-fi thriller that many critics, moviegoers, and myself found quite dull.
I really admire what director Alexander Payne and his co-writer, Jim Taylor, were going for with Downsizing — a Matt Damon-led satire set in a world in which shrinking to 5 inches tall proves to be a revolutionary economic solution. Yet, I found the humor weak (if not absent, to be honest) and, if it were me, I would have stuck with one social issue to comment on instead of jamming multiple into one story.
Hayden Christensen plays a man who can instantly teleport to wherever he pleases, but must contend with a secret society determined to eliminate his kind. The mere concept behind director Doug Liman’s Jumper should constitute a winner, but critics felt that low-stakes action, aimless plot twists, and two-dimensional characters led the story nowhere.
Movies about a friendly A.I. are nothing new, but Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie seemed to be going in an interesting direction by giving the titular robot (voiced by Sharlto Copley) a refreshing human quality and partnering him up with a pair of criminals (played by South African hip-hop duo Die Antwoord) hoping to use him for their bidding. Unfortunately, I felt the story quickly dismantled itself into a misguided mess with irritating attempts at humor and cartoonish antagonists played by Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver.
For anyone who has not seen Passengers — in which two commercial interplanetary travelers wake up way too soon — I am afraid I must give away a major plot point hidden in the marketing to explain why I and many others were put off by it. The romantic appeal of this outer space love story is ruined when Chris Pratt’s lonely protagonist intentionally and selfishly wakes up Jennifer Lawrence’s character, a role the actor even admitted Adele warned her against accepting.
When I first learned about Bright, a modern-day police drama set in a storybook fantasy world from director David Ayer and writer Max Landis, I was immediately under its spell. Sadly, it broke when I watched the Will Smith and Joel Edgerton-led Netflix original that I thought was ruined by stunted and nonsensical world-building, tired cop movie cliches, weak dialogue, and an irritatingly on-the-nose social allegory.
The Wedding Ringer (2015)
Kevin Hart’s character in The Wedding Ringer makes a living posing as the best man for grooms-to-be, which I found to be a very amusing idea. Unfortunately, I thought it was wasted by generic plot conventions, uninspired humor, and a bafflingly heavy-handed execution of an already weak plot twist near the end.
Some might believe that Hancock is one of Will Smith’s best movies — or even one of the best superhero movies not inspired by a comic book — based on its fun “degenerate Superman” concept. The promising idea impressed the action-comedy’s toughest critics, too, before the story evolved into a hokey melodrama, resulting in an uneven misstep overall in their eyes.
In Transcendence, Johnny Depp plays a tech inventor who uploads his consciousness into his groundbreaking software at the brink of death. However, many believe that the film, directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister, does not really bother to make a unique or substantial comment on man’s relationship with machines like Black Mirror and other better movies would soon after.
The Percy Jackson Movies (2010-2013)
This big-screen franchise based on Rick Riordan’s young adult fantasy series never even reached completion because fans were unhappy with the unnecessary changes from the source material and critics found them simply derivative and disengaging. At least Percy Jackson and the Olympians got a second chance as a Disney+ original series years later.
There are those who have their reasons to call Waterworld awesome, including its brilliantly conceived concept of a dystopian Earth where land no longer exists. The rest of the world feels that the commercially unsuccessful adventure is watered down by Kevin Costner’s dull protagonist and over-the-top silliness throughout that ruins its earnest intentions.
I actually have something good to say about Old, inspired by the French graphic novel Sandcastle, which follows vacationers trapped on a beach that causes rapid aging. It might have surpassed The Happening as the ultimate example of an M. Night Shyamalan movie that makes seemingly unintentional comedy out of otherwise horrifying circumstances with unconvincing character motivations and even less believable dialogue.
Sucker Punch (2011)
According to most critics, the problem with Sucker Punch, starring Emily Browning as an institutionalized young woman dreaming of an escape, is not necessarily a poor execution of its plot. They feel Zack Snyder’s otherwise visually stunning, action-packed, female-driven steampunk fantasy lacks anything that could discernibly be called a “plot” and characters that offer much more than their surface value.
The Dark Tower (2017)
One of author Stephen King’s most beloved efforts is The Dark Tower, an eight-part series consisting of eight novels, a short story, and a children’s book following a gunslinger’s quest to reach the eponymous landmark in a bizarre alternate reality. Director Nicola Arcel’s 95-minute film adaptation, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, was meant to be an introduction to a companion TV show that never happened, due to critics’ belief that it was rushed and bland and fans feeling it bore little to no resemblance to the source material.
The Meg (2018)
A movie in which one of the largest aquatic predators in history — a megalodon — wreaking havoc in modern-day waters should have easily earned itself a spot among the best shark movies of all time. However, even people like me who found some enjoyment in director Jon Turtletaub’s The Meg, starring Jason Statham, agree that this thriller about such a big beast feels a little too small.
The Invention Of Lying (2009)
Star Ricky Gervais, who also co-writes and directs with Matthew Robinson, struck gold by envisioning a world in which human beings have not developed the ability to be dishonest. Yet, The Invention of Lying seems more concerned with its mean-spirited satirization — if not full-blown condemnation — of the concept of religious faith that is not as bold as it aspires to be and, quite frankly, I did not find it very funny.
One of Alan Moore’s most acclaimed comic book series is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which groups legendary literary figures like Jekyll/Hyde, the Invisible Man, and Dracula’s Bride together. The film adaptation is believed to be what drove Sir Sean Connery, who stars as Alan Quartermain, into retirement after his numerous on-set conflicts with director Stephen Norrington and personal attempt to save the picture in the editing room.
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
The plot of Repo! The Genetic Opera, set in a dystopian future in which transplanted organs are violently taken away from customers who miss payments, is so unique and thought-provoking, it’s no surprise it was stolen just two years later by Repo Men. I could get behind making it a musical, too, but felt the actors couldn’t carry a note and the narrative lacked any real weight, resulting in the one film from Darren Lynn Bousman (director of multiple Saw movies) that makes me squirm the most, personally.
The Age Of Adaline (2015)
Blake Lively does give a wonderful performance in the title role of The Age of Adaline, which follows a woman’s struggles to blend in over the course of several decades after mysteriously becoming immortal. That’s the best thing I can say about it, personally, as I feel the story is unfairly relegated to a hokey romantic drama that relies far too heavily on voice-over narration in even the most unnecessary moments.
Director Chris Columbus’ Pixels could have been a really fun sci-fi flick in which ordinary people with extraordinary video game skills are tasked with defending Earth from aliens made to look like classic 8-bit characters. Unfortunately, most moviegoers and critics alike feel it is one of Adam Sandler’s weakest films, mainly due to its consistently hollow attempts at humor.
Mortal Engines (2018)
Peter Jackson co-wrote and produced this adaptation of Phillip Reeve’s young adult novel set in a dystopian London that has been rebuilt into one large machine running out of resources. The otherwise visually spectacular Mortal Engines proved to be a critical and commercial disappointment, however, with many believing it felt too reminiscent of other and, arguably, better post-apocalyptic thrillers of the past.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Moviegoers and critics alike do applaud the spectacular world Lana and Lily Wachowski created for Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis as a woman who discovers she is intergalactic royalty. However, they also feel that the performances are either too reserved or too outlandish, the story choices teeter between bizarre and baffling, and the otherwise inventive world-building is better suited for a TV show than a feature-length runtime.
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Putting Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in an ’80s-style popcorn flick is a great idea, but fans and critics alike feel that Wonder Woman 1984 is one of the weaker DCEU entries, if not just a dip in quality from its hit 2017 predecessor. The sequel’s detractors cite overly ridiculous action sequences, awkward and broken dialogue, and the already needless return of Chris Pine’s late character, Steve Trevor, in an unnecessarily creepy way: possessing the body of a random person.
Vincenzo Natali co-writes and directs this sci-fi/horror flick starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as genetic engineers who make a breakthrough in DNA splicing that proves to have groundbreaking, but disastrous, consequences. As far as I am concerned, Splice’s intriguing nature vs. nurture commentary was ruined by one particular scene that is so revoltingly off-putting, that I cannot bear to describe it. Anyone who has seen it probably has a clue, though.
Children Of The Corn (1984)
Weak acting, weaker pacing, and special effects that were cheesy even in the ‘80s make this horror film about a town overrun with murderous children a cult classic that does not live up to its reputation, in my eyes. However, I would say I prefer this adaptation of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn over its sequels and more recent remakes from 2009 and 2020.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
Peter Jackson’s adaptation of author Alice Sebold’s young adult fantasy thriller features great performances by Saoirse Ronan as a murdered teen protagonist and an Oscar-nominated Stanley Tucci as her killer. Those who do not care for The Lovely Bones feel that even those admirable qualities are bogged down by the film’s egregious preoccupation with its CGI-heavy depiction of purgatory.
Formula 51 (2001)
Samuel L. Jackson stars as a skilled chemist looking to score big by selling his valuable product to mobsters in Formula 51, a comedy that was regarded as a weak attempt to replicate Guy Ritchie’s style upon release.
Blood Quantum (2020)
“Bad” is truly an overstatement for how I feel about Blood Quantum, which follows indigenous Canadians immune to a virus that kills and reanimates victims through biting. However, I do find it largely unsatisfying how a film that boasts one of the most refreshingly unique concepts for a zombie movie I have ever heard suffers from a narrative that resorts to all-too-familiar cliches in the subgenre.
Following the success of District 9, Neill Blomkamp made a second attempt at a socially conscious sci-fi thriller with Elysium, in which Matt Damon plays one of many impoverished Earthlings longing for an artificial planet where the wealthy live free of health concerns. The on-the-nose political commentary is not the issue, or, at least as much as the generic action movie conventions, surface-level characters, and Jodie Foster’s lazy antagonistic performance are.
The Purge (2013)
The Purge cleverly imagines a future in which all crime is legal for one night of the year, but critics feel that it does not utilize its concept to its full potential. As a result, the Blumhouse hit is just another unremarkable home invasion thriller, which spawned a franchise that still has rarely explored the potential of its concept beyond the belief that the world is full of sociopaths.
Ridley Scott’s space travel epic, Prometheus, rides high on glorious visuals and moments of intense horror, but low in imagination and brains in just about every facet. Not to mention, attempting to offer some origin for the Alien franchises’ flagship creature, the Xenomorph, is, arguably, unnecessary enough already
I am a firm believer in the phrase, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.” Thus, these are the few examples of movies I would actually love to see earn a remake with the hope that they could be reimagined into something that reaches their full potential.