For this week's Criticwire Survey over at Indiewire, Matt Singer polled writers on what fall release is their most anticipated. Many of us at Movies.com participated, and I had to go with the latest Resident Evil sequel, because it's the one movie I can trust will be exactly what I expect it to be, neither great nor awful. Sure, I might later love Looper, Lincoln and Life of Pi, but I also might be disappointed by them. That is, if I even allow myself to be optimistic. And they don't call me "the film cynic" for nothing.
Like everyone else, I've been burned a lot by getting too excited about big hype releases. The Phantom Menace, certain adaptations of favorite novels and comics, Attack of the Clones, sequels to beloved films, Revenge of the Sith. Did I mention the Star Wars prequels? Surprisingly, in a list published at Total Film of the 50 Most Disappointing Movies of All Time, none of those Star Wars movies takes the top slot. Instead, the crown went to another George Lucas production: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
But The Phantom Menace is right behind it. The others don't place, probably because after the initial prequel our expectations plummeted. Understandably, the first two slots on the list were taken by films that came with a very long wait, and that will always contribute somewhat to disappointment. Fourth place is not too different: The Godfather Part III. And I'd include in that reasoning Eyes Wide Shut, Superman Returns and the one 2012 selection, Prometheus (also the winner in last week's discussion post on Most Disappointing Summer Movie of 2012).
Rounding out the top 10 are mainly sequels and a reboot, though strangely Sucker Punch of all things places as high as number seven. Was anyone really that psyched about that one? There are others in the chosen 50 that I find surprising, but it's a British list and they get excited about different stuff (like The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse). An American site's list might have featured W. and "second viewing of American Beauty 10 years later."
Otherwise, yes, of course we're going to be disappointed by a ton of sequels and comic book movies and sequels to comic book movies. Thanks to the way Hollywood hypes things, with some blame going to Comic-Con attendees and even a lot of movie sites, we do go overboard on some of these. Did we really need to be so disappointed by The Hangover II?
Still, while some titles on Total Film's list are decent movies when it comes down to it, the biggest blame for disappointment goes to the filmmakers. Although no Star Wars movie could ever have met expectations entirely, a really quality Star Wars movie wouldn't have caused millions of voices to suddenly cry out in terror and never ever be silent about it for the rest of their lives.
Personally, my biggest disappiontment, greater than Phantom Menace, Congo, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, X-Men, The Brothers Grimm and everyone else's disappointment with Prometheus is, hands down, Breakfast of Champions. But I never should have thought anyone could make my favorite book into a movie, let alone a good one.
What are the most disappointing movies of all time? Here some responses received so far via Twitter:
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join the next discussion.