Published on January 9th, 2014 | by Dan Gvozden11
10 Movies of 2013 That I Just Didn’t “Get”
The critical community is filled with voices of all makes and models. Be it Dana Stevens, A.O. Scott, or Armond White; there is an opinion for every personality. That’s why a service like Rotten Tomatoes, flaws and all, can be a great way to get a general consensus on what critics thought of a film overall.
Oftentimes, I will check out these diagnostics after I’ve completed my review of a film only to be surprised that I was on the opposite side of popular opinion. Here is a list of ten films that received strong praise (these are ranked by Rotten Tomatoes score) that for some reason or another I just didn’t get:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (89%)
Sure this film was good to look at with some decent action, but at the end of the day I still think that the series is complete and utter nonsense. The narrative allows for no consistency in character, tone, or plotting and ends up a convoluted mess. Every moment confuses the viewer, as they are left scrambling for what the consequences will be and what each character’s motivations are. When asked why any of the scripts developments are occurring, the answer almost always is: Because.
Read my review here.
Frozen is a film that feels both underdeveloped and overdeveloped at the same time. I never felt like any of the elements ever fit together in any cohesive way and yet still felt like it hit every single familiar beat that Disney films have been hitting since Walt put his own head on ice. Why does Elsa have ice powers? Why are there trolls that are obsessed with makeovers living in the forest? Why should I care about a random snowman whose inclusion in the film is solely to sell plush toys? What is up with the screenwriters’ obsessions with windows and doors? I don’t know how to answer any of these questions, all I know is that Frozen is a narrative mess that also thinks it is way more clever than it actually is.
Computer Chess (86%)
I get it; this film is trying stylistically to be a time capsule of bad video work from the late 80’s while employing non-actors to pull of “realistic” mumblecore performances. In that manner the film is a complete success, yet it is totally boring to watch, poorly acted, and visually ugly. As accurate as the director’s vision might be, that alone doesn’t make the film fun to watch. What’s more, the film features a multitude of subplots that never really contribute to the film as a whole. Characters appear and disappear to never be seen again. I’m not asking for every minor character to matter to the film’s core plot, I’m just asking that a film only waste so much of my time on things that aren’t essential.
This is the End (83%)
When are we going to stop accepting a series of skits as acceptable entertainment? I remember when a film like Ghostbusters dared to be funny and to tell a story competently. Sure, This is the End has some surprise commentary on Hollywood culture, but what do I care when there are no believable character interactions or motivations? I worry that studios have forgotten that comedy comes from tragedy and I only feel tragedy when I care about something. I clearly don’t care about a bunch of actors competing onscreen to say the next dumbest thing. It is hard to say that a film is unfunny, comedy is so subjective, but This is the End and those of its kind (Stepbrothers for example) just don’t work for me.
The Place Beyond the Pines (82%)
The Place Beyond the Pines so wants to be an epic. You can feel it reaching out, grasping for ideas and purpose. Yet, just because it looks like an epic, is as long as an epic, and deals in themes that seem epic, doesn’t mean that the film is an epic. After an intriguing but also inconsistent introduction, the film turns to less interesting storylines that are full of dramatic coincidence and contrivances that all lead to a big dumb ending that says practically nothing. I would instruct director Derek Cianfrance to figure out what his core story is next time and just focus on that. This film never needed three entirely separate plots to give it meaning.
Read my review here.
Prisoners might be the silliest film of the year. Just like The Place Beyond the Pines, it is beautifully shot and features a few solid performances, though I don’t consider Hugh Jackman’s to be one of them. The film is immediately overwrought with dramatic pretense and characters weave in and out of the film with no narrative purpose. Prisoners quickly expands beyond its core premise, questioning our interrogation techniques, and introduces multiple additional suspects, conspiracies, and psychopaths that are straight out of a pulpy comic. After awhile, all of the screaming, maze etchings, and snakes begin to get comical and just a bit silly. Pretty visuals cannot cover up Prisoners’s overwritten and nonsensical script.
Read my review here.
Iron Man Three (78%)
Iron Man Three does too much of everything, including undoing all the things that made Tony Stark an interesting film character. The rules of his suit and personality are completely undone by the addition of his remote powered suits; suits whose powers are never fully explained and are inconsistently utilized. Just the first half of the movie introduces the concepts of mind-controlled robots, fire-breaking soldiers, the Mandarin, AIM, Extremis, Iron Patriot, and the fact that Tony is suffering from PTSD. All of these additions are introduced before the writers can properly lay the groundwork for their best ideas to take root.
Read my review here.
Pacific Rim (72%)
I know that Pacific Rim is supposed to be just a film about robots punching monsters, but outside of that sense of scale nothing else works here. At best Pacific Rim feels like a video game script from ten years ago, except that I didn’t get to play the game. Worst of all are the performances of the actors. There isn’t a single honest moment in the film and without honesty why should I care whether these people win or lose a fight? If I wanted to see two things hit each other and not feel anything I’d slam my head up against the wall. At least that way it’d be because I’d dulled my nervous system with a concussion.
I cannot think of a greater disappointment in the world of film in 2013 than Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium. The trailers sold the film as a science fiction take on the 99% movement with body horror, big action, and incredible visuals. What we got instead was an incoherent mess with some of the most intellectually insulting moments of the year, with a final shot that had me furious enough to stand up to leave before the film ended. That’s not even to mention the performances from Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley that are, in my opinion, the worst of the year. I know this film isn’t loved, but how in the world is it agreed on by 69% of the critic community as being acceptable.
Listen to my discussion of the film here.
Ender’s Game (61%)
Ender’s Game sacrifices everything that makes movies enjoyable to watch. It feels like it was directed by the SparkNotes summary of the book and a stopwatch. Scenes race by with no emotional resonance or moments for its audience to even determine how they feel about what is going on onscreen. When the big reveal comes at the end it means nothing and has absolutely no effect or meaning unless you’ve read the book. Are we supposed to care about an alien force that we’ve never seen or seen the consequences of? This film will also remind you of why Harrison Ford should have retired years ago and why I am so terrified of his probable inclusion in the new Star Wars films.
What films do you think were massively overrated this year? What’d I miss in these films that everyone is so positive about?