With half the year behind us, we recently looked at the Ten Best Films of 2012 So Far, and as I wrote in that article, it has been an incredibly strong year for film. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some outright creative failures as well, and while I don’t feel there have been enough awful films to fill another top-ten list, there’s plenty for a Top Five.
So today, we’re looking at the Five Worst Films of 2012 So Far, and trust me when I say this is a list loaded with bad. Each one of these movies hurt me, battered my soul and chipped away at my spirit until I felt like never returning to a theatre again. They are that awful, and if you’re one of those people who thinks watching bad movies is fun, don’t seek out these. They’re not ‘funny’ bad. They’re offensively bad, and I despise them with every fiber of my being.
So without further ado, let’s kick off the countdown of crap with the Top Five Worst Films of 2012 So Far…
5. John Carter
I resent the idea some have recently suggested that critics like me dismissed John Carter creatively because it bombed financially. I saw John Carter at an early screening a week before it opened. There was no possible way for box-office data to influence my criticism, and even if there were, I believe myself an intelligent enough person to separate commerce from art when forming opinions.
And in my honest, unfiltered opinion, I believe John Carter is a train-wreck of a movie. The script is a disastrous hodge-podge of unnecessarily complex exposition and inept character development, the acting is largely horrendous (especially from lead Taylor Kitsch), and tonally, it’s all over the place without any clear sense of voice.
Director Andrew Stanton seems unsure whether he’s making a serious sci-fi drama or a lighthearted pulp adventure, so he’s seemingly elected to do both, and the choice doesn’t succeed. It’s impossible to take long conversations about Martian marital succession plans seriously when the next cut will take us to the title character jumping around canyons like a super Mario brother. The tone never gels, the story is too convoluted to be interesting, and I never felt even remotely invested in the characters.
John Carter is a bad, bad movie. I personally believe that is part of the reason why it bombed at the box-office. That it set new records for financial failure has nothing to do with my opinion of the film. I simply did not like nor respond to it on any level, and while it’s certainly not as bad as the next four movies on this countdown, it’s absolutely one of the biggest creative misfires of 2012.
4. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
You know what I love about fishing? Subtlety.
It is a quiet sport, one based on patience and discipline; it requires both a nuance of craft and a stillness of mind, which is precisely why fishing is such an attractive activity to many. With a rod in one’s hand, in a boat or in waders, where else can one find such mental peace and clarity?
Not in Lasse Hallström’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, for starters. A story about a real-life effort to introduce salmon fishing to the harsh conditions of the Yemen river, the film claims to have a love and understanding of fishing, but it is an impostor, for it has not a subtle bone in its spectacularly stupid body. Every plot point is loudly telegraphed, every character trait shouted at the camera, every message or theme delivered in monologue, every second of music obvious and manipulative, every piece of development outlined with small, easily digestible phrases, and so on and so on.
Combined with flat characters, terrible comedic interludes, and a number of plot contrivances so ill-advised they border on morally reprehensible, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen displays startlingly naked contempt for the audience’s intellect. The film fishes not with grace and precision, but with dynamite, and the results are proportionally disastrous. To their credit, Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt are both quite good in the lead roles, but that’s the film’s sole redeeming quality. Like a salmon scared away by a group of loud, drunken buffoons, it’s best to keep swimming until one finds something better.
3. Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos
Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist is one of my absolute favorite stories of all time, an endlessly imaginative and wickedly smart work of epic fiction that I could never recommend highly enough.
But The Sacred Star of Milos, the latest film based on the anime adaptation, is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad train-wreck, a giant middle finger to devoted fans of Arakawa’s work and one of the more thoroughly painful cinematic experiences in recent memory.
The film has many problems – for starters, the animation is atrociously lazy on every possible level – but the film’s core issue is that it is, in essence, one-hundred uninterrupted minutes of exposition. Of characters explaining, in excruciatingly precise detail, every single minute facet of the story, most of it entirely irrelevant. When they aren’t going over the plot, they dive into backstory, exploring the history behind the narrative. When they aren’t doing this, the characters inexplicably decide to relate everything they are feeling, describing every emotion or thought as though it is worthy of Shakespearean scholarship. Even in the midst of a big-action set piece, the characters will still find time for long, droning exposition, and it is absolutely dreadful to watch.
Even with all this exposition, the plot still makes precious little sense. To say The Sacred Star of Milos is riddled with plot holes would be an insult both to plots and to holes. The ‘story,’ such as it is, involves three nations, a town, and a great big valley, but figuring out where all the characters fit in, who they work for, or what they’re trying to accomplish is a fool’s errand, because what may be true one minute could be entirely false once the next plot contrivance arrives.
The new characters, of which there are many, are wildly inconsistent, and the old characters we know and love are barely featured. In the last act, the film’s last vestiges of coherency are torn asunder by a number of twists that make so little sense it’s a wonder they don’t rupture tears in the space-time continuum.
I have never before seen a movie that was both largely incomprehensible and fetishistically devoted to clarifying its own story. Usually, it’s one or the other. With Milos, it’s both, and at the very least, you have to give the movie props for establishing a brand new level of anime awfulness.
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