2018 was a great year for films with a diverse array of talent, both in front of and behind the camera. It also produced some truly excruciating episodes at the cinema. Compiled here are five that stood out as particularly awful, and the inclusions may come as a surprise to a lot of people. The composition of this list was rooted in the notion that “bad is not the absence of good,” which means that these films were miserable to sit through for reasons other than crummy acting or bad craftsmanship.
It was hard to ascertain where exactly “Venom” belonged on this list. It has talented people and a performance from Tom Hardy that is at least superficially interesting. But for most of its running time the film just lies there, completely inert. Its tone is bizarre, juggling the Marvel formula with a darker tone. This leads to moments where Venom bites a man’s head off leading into triumphant superhero music playing only a moment later. It’s a strange movie; that, much like dissecting a frog, is more fascinating in its awfulness like anything else.
#4 – THE MULE
Clint Eastwood has made dozens of excellent movies, and at least two to three perfect ones. None of those films are “The Mule.” Nick Schenck’s underwritten script offers flat characters, underdeveloped themes, and contributes to a film that doesn’t seem to be entirely sure of what it’s trying to say or what it wants to be. The film could be criticized for taking a ‘problematic’ approach to issues such as race and gender that, in this instance, would be entirely justified. The film relates to Eastwood in the same way that 2008’s “Gran Torino” did, but what was great about that movie was its sense of irony. When “The Mule” finished, Eastwood didn’t offer anything as clever as his previous works.
#3 – KIN
Nobody reading this article likely saw this movie and it’s hard to begrudge them. What made “Kin” such a stinker was how the movie didn’t seem to understand how unlikable the older brother character (Jack Reynor, famous for also being the worst part of “Transformers: Age of Extinction”) was. There were several moments littered all throughout the film that conjure up the screenwriters brainstorming: “we need conflict in this scene, so let’s have the older brother do something completely foolish and then they’ll be in trouble.” The minimalist science-fiction aspects are nice at first, but by the time the film ends it is clear that the filmmakers were setting up for a sequel. That sequel will probably never get made.
#2 – READY PLAYER ONE
Going over what’s wrong with this movie, it really just boils down to one element: the writing. This film’s voice is relentlessly obnoxious, it’s hard to tell what someone like Spielberg saw in the movie. Although, the folks at Red Letter Media made the compelling point that “he [Spielberg] could get a gigantic paycheck by directing 15 minutes of footage and the rest is CG.” The film is two hours long going on twenty and is the cinematic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard in what feels like perpetuity, which must be a punishment in one of the circles of hell.
#1 – VICE
Remember: “bad is not the absence of good.” Adam McKay’s follow up to “The Big Short” is perhaps the biggest waste of potential that graced cinemas in 2018. For one, the film is unfocused, going over every aspect of Cheney’s life while at the same time offering nothing new to say. The movie doesn’t settle on what kind of film it wants to be or what story it wants to tell. The acting is uniformly excellent, but McKay’s condescending directorial voice betrays them.