While 2010 was a year of ups and downs, I’ll go through some of the movies that I was looking forward to that let me down, and movies that I wasn’t so sure about that turned out to be great. Does this necessarily mean I hated the disappointments with the utmost passion and the surprises are my favorite movies of all time? Most certainly not, although that level of black in white would probably make it more entertaining. But here’s the list anyway.
Disappointment: The Expendables
Every time I get asked why I didn’t like this one, the questioner tries to answer for me “Oh, I know it doesn’t have much of a plot, and that’s probably why you dislike it” and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of why this was such a disappointment. Coming off of directing one of my favorite Rambo movies, I thought that Stallone had finally found a style of gritty, intense action that he would be able to stick with., and carry through the rest of his ventures. Instead, audiences were given sloppy, quickly edited shots of what could have been awesome action scenes. It’s not like they were working with flimsy, inept actors that wouldn‘t even think of trying to do their own stunts, they had an all star cast of iconic action heroes, and although quite a few are aging, that’s just no excuse. I could go on and on about how none of the characters are developed and how you could care less about them, and how the villains weren’t written well, but it’s all been said before. It could’ve been completely forgivable if the action scenes were even mildly entertaining.
Surprise: Scott Pilgrim VS. The World
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Why would you doubt an Edgar Wright directed film?” The trailer didn’t look that appealing to me when I first watched it online, it had Michael Cera as the lead actor, I knew nothing of the Graphic Novels or that they even existed, and it just looked cheesy. After hearing nothing but good things about it I went to theatres and saw it, and then saw it again. I ended up completely loving it. This movie works on so many different levels , and I usually notice something new every time I watch it. It’s in many ways a parody, a video game movie, a comic book movie, a comedy, a martial arts action movie, even the drama scenes work. Scott Pilgrim is one of those rare gems that don’t come around too often, that takes you by surprise. I’m even reading the comic book series now.
Disappointment: Iron Man 2
I went in to this movie trying my hardest to enjoy it despite all of the negative things I had been hearing, but it just didn’t do it for me. The best way to diagnose Iron Man 2 was with the words “Spider Man 3 Syndrome”. They tried to mix too many elements in, and the viewer never really gets a chance to grasp onto one or two conflicts or plots to care about, and follow. He faced himself, had to find a new power source by learning from his father, had relationship problems, was facing the new villain “whiplash”, all while they tried to cram the Avengers pamphlet down our throats. I hate to reference The Dark Knight, but how awful would it be if in the middle of it, two of the members of the Justice League showed up and started discussing with Bruce Wayne that they want him to join up with them. I know, I know, TDK was placed in a more “realistic” crime drama like universe, but to be fair, Iron Man 1 wasn't too out there either. I know I’m going on and on, but I enjoyed the first Iron Man movie a lot, and the second was just a letdown with a few bright spots, like Mickey Rourke.
Surprise: How To Train Your Dragon
Dreamworks has had a few movies I’ve enjoyed (Shrek, Road to El Dorado) but this was the first one I’d deem comparable to Pixar films, and could go toe to toe with most animated movies in general, regardless of what studio produced them. I didn’t have great expectations going in, and it completely floored me. They didn’t necessarily do a lot of things that were new, but everything that was done worked exceptionally well. It was fun to see the direction of the dragon design to be taken in more of a “video-game” style route, where each had it’s own special ability limited amount of attacks, and weaknesses. The characters and the conflict/relationship between Hiccup and his father are fleshed out really well, all of the story elements are there to drive the movie. If Dreamworks keeps working on trying to keep their films at a high level like this, maybe the winner of the “Best Animated Film” category wouldn’t continue to be so predictable.
Disappointment: The A-Team
What could have been ridiculous, over the top action, campy fun turned into a mess like the Expendables. I’m not even sure which one had worse shaky cam editing, it all seems to blend together. While I’m not a huge fan of the older series, I do like it, and it had potential to be an entertaining action flick. Maybe it’s just me nitpicking, but none of these actors worked very well in their roles as attempting to be the original characters. The most painful was Quinton Jackson’s 2 hour long bad Mr.T impression. While it had it’s few funny and entertaining moments, the unfunny and ineptly shot action scenes outweighed them. Again, perfectly capable actors, especially one of the leads, the UFC FIGHTER. Do filmmakers think this is a good way to shoot action scenes? Incomprehensibly? I get that when the director is trying to tell a story from a first person perspective like The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield, he can use it for effect. But why here? Action isn’t effective in a film when you don’t get the full impact of the hits and can’t simply establish in your head what’s even going on. At least they had the kick-ass A-Team theme song in the movie.
Surprise: The Karate Kid
I was one of those people bashing this movie to pieces before it even came out. I’m a fan of the original two Karate Kid movies (No, there were only two) and this one looked awful from the get go. Getting Will Smith’s son to play the role? Making it modern by adding rap music? Thankfully, neither of those things took anything away from the movie, and despite the trailer being horrible, it ended up being pretty decent. Jackie Chan probably delivers his best acting performance to date, mostly in a certain scene towards the end of the film, that is truly moving. Jaden Smith shows that he is Will’s true heir, and you could probably even argue that he’s better than Ralph Macchio. I think the fact that they called it “Karate Kid” pissed people off, because it’s mainly about Kung-Fu. There were even studios flip flopping on whether they wanted to call it “Kung Fu Kid” or “Kung Fu Dream” but since “The Karate Kid” is a well recognized film name and would probably result in more money, they went with that. Is it great and memorable? No. But, it’s honestly much better than you’d expect.
I never saw The Last Airbender, and was so put off by all of the horrid reviews because of how much I loved the animated series, but there is a fairly good chance it would have made it if I saw it. It wouldn’t be fair to put it on the list if I hadn’t even seen it… But there you have it, my list of Surprises and Disappointments of 2010. What were some films that Disappointed or Surprised you this year?