These end-of-the year Hollywood compendiums typically focus on the greats, but lets take a look at the films that flopped in 2017 instead — the flameouts, the fiascos, and the financial disasters.
The tweed-coat set wrangle with each other over which cinema merits their plaudits, but I like to root around in the dumpster behind the theater, and there was plenty there this year to root through. My initial cut-down list brought in more than 30 titles.
Paring that down to a mere 20 meant pushing aside normally disqualifying titles — a Sophie’s Choice of sewer cinema. But be confident. Of the following titles dismal quality and/or financial failure is assured.
Writer/director/producer Dax Sheppard was in full control here, and he fumbled. Following the new formula of contemporizing old television shows for the big screen (see “Baywatch”) this farce misfired like a Harley with bad plugs. Dax plays Jon, a former X-Games stunt rider with numerous injuries who cannot shoot a gun, and has a pain-killer addiction. Despite these challenges — and the lowest aptitude scores — he graduates as the oldest patrol recruit ever. This is how the movie begins, to give you an idea of its problems.
This film basically amounts to a wan thriller plot draped on an extended chase routine, where for some reason Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley appear as crime bosses who menace a young couple in Europe. “Collide” set an all time record for the worst second week drop ever, losing -88.5 percent of its audience from an already weak opening. It was released on 2,000+ screens, and it barely managed $2 million. That wouldn’t cover the salaries of the stars before you even begin shooting.
18. The Circle
Quick — pop quiz. What do you know about this film? Nothing, right?
This is a film released on over 3,000 screens, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, yet it’s a film nobody even remembers, let alone went to see. Watson’s character gets a job at the mega-tech corporation owned by Hanks’ character. There’s supposed to be all sorts of supposed intrigue about privacy and internet freedom, but it was actually about as intriguing as your uncle saying, “You HAVE to read my FaceBook post about the President!”
The once comedic darling Amy Schumer found little love in this action farce set in Central America. Her raw and ribald routine with Goldie Hawn failed to land with her audience as they strained to ad-lib for giggles, becoming more painful as a result. Prior to release, Schumer did more than her share of social signaling — battling sexist expectations and joining her uncle Chuck in promoting gun control. Despite that good favor the film was so weak that she was called out for offensive xenophobic representations, not something that takes place if audiences are properly distracted.
One of the draws of this remake about young scientists inducing death for experimentation was the cast of young A-list performers. Ellen Page is the biggest name of this lot (with a Kiefer Sutherland cameo tossed in.) The material from the 1990 film by the same name should have gotten enough focus to carry this remake, but it didn’t. It left everyone wondering this concept was brought back from the dead.
A weak attempt by Paramount to revive the franchise that was once a vibrant horror enterprise; it has been 12 years since the last film. The studio surely thought that time away meant there was a new generation that could be scared anew. They didn’t think of updating the technology, however, so there is still a murderous VHS tape in this age of digital streaming. Below 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, as the film failed even by the lowered standards of horror, and with a release in the weak January schedule it found no interest.
14. The Snowman
A complete tire fire of a film set in the blizzardly heart of the Scandinavian winter. Michael Fassbender is an expert detective pursuing a serial killer leaving snowman calling cards. There were numerous problems with the translation, the first leading to his name — Harry Hole. (You read that correctly). There were built-in plot holes since they opted to base the script on the character in the seventh novel of a best-selling crime series. Director Tomas Anderson actually he said he wasn’t able to film the entire script, because he ran out of time. “When we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing,” he said. So you are excused for not understanding what the hell is going on.
George Clooney directed Matt Damon using a script by the usually high-grade Coen Brothers in this drama. But this was a screenplay they discarded over a decade back. Clooney grafted an entirely new storyline onto their work, then went ham-fisted with his social commentary. With all the names attached, the studio pushed a heavy promotional campaign, but the returns probably did not even cover the advertising. It opened dismally in the number 9 position and barely earned $5 million before it disappeared.
12. The Book Of Henry
Director Colin Trevorrow earned his Hollywood cred with the monstrous success of “Jurassic World,” and was awarded the chance at a personal boutique picture. This inept tale of an overly smart kid who ran his household went off the rails in terms of logic. The main character dying by the midpoint was just one of the numerous errors. Trevorrow later lost his job directing “Star Wars Episode IX,” and while it was only rumored it was due to this disaster, it would totally make sense if it were.
Trying to follow the contemporary formula of taking an older television property and developing a comedic self-mocking sensibility should have worked here. The original show was basically begging for a spoof treatment. But the self-referential commentary was reduced to merely having some question why lifeguards are solving crimes, and The Rock was reduced to mocking Zac Efron by calling him boy-band names throughout the WHOLE film. Not funny, not compelling, and, despite the overseas affection for the show, not internationally successful.
10. Ghost In The Shell
More Hollywood whitewashing is at play as Scarlett Johansson appeared in this Japanese manga adaptation. The futuristic story of a modified soldier battling a new version of cyber-terrorism while fighting to regain her own life was a convoluted mess that drew little interest. Earning back roughly only a third of its sizable budget, it was all poorly plotted cyber-punk porn.
9. The Mummy
Universal had big plans in rebooting this enterprise. Tom Cruise was brought in not only to draw ticket buyers, but also to help launch what the studio was calling its “Dark Universe,” a series of movies based on the classic monster films from its vaults. But Cruise was given wide control, and the movie became a bloated CGI mess. While it’s possible the studio broke even globally, Universal is now rethinking the entire enterprise, and the already slated “Bride of Frankenstein” is being reconsidered.
8. Monster Trucks
The following is a true story. A studio is in the market to create a new film franchise. An executive at Paramount asks his 4-year-old for an idea for a movie. The tyke hatches an idea about monster trucks that have actual monsters inside of them. The studio invests One Hundred and Fifty MILLION DOLLARS on this idea! Surprisingly, this all went wrong. The parent company, Viacom, was so certain of the movie’s bleak prospects that it absorbed a $100 million charge off against its stock — four months before it was even released.
7. The Emoji Movie
Bad idea setting a movie around the “Meh” character and then delivering a product that provokes that very reaction. Comprehensively creative sloth is at play here, and it fails to give the kids its targeted towards a memorable experience. The emojis are anthropomorphized and they exist in a universe inside a phone and … and … I just can’t go any further. There is an animated crap emoji, voiced by Patrick Stewart. You need not know any more than that. The film briefly held the record for lowest debut for a 4,000 screen release.
6. The Great Wall
The typical Hollywood sprawling historical set piece in Asia with a Caucasian American in the lead. Matt Damon’s tough year kicked off in February with this $150 million epic that ended up drawing $45 million. While the international numbers were far better, the sprawling visuals did little to hide the weak script, and ultimately the film was a significant loss for Universal.
5. Blade Runner 2049
A sequel that was 35 years in the making meant many question if it would be on par with the original sci-fi classic. Someone should have questioned throwing so much money at a questionable enterprise. Not only was the material a challenge, with audiences divided, but the run time was nearly three hours, which cuts your amount of theater showings roughly in half. After the studio scaled back expectations it opened with a weak $31 million debut, 40 percent below projections. With a $150 million budget, the film became one of many expensive money-losing ventures for Warner Bros.
This had to be one of the most enjoyable bad films of the year. Gerard Butler seems incapable of making a wise script decision any longer (seriously, look through his recent resume) and this one is yet another laughably poor outing. The United Nations operates a satellite web over the planet to control the weather in the film. Amazingly, things go awry. Everything from corrupted science, leaden dialogue, and hilarious plot holes abound. The opening weekend was so low it wouldn’t cover the cost of the reshoots that were ordered to fix some of the problems, and in the end it grossed only one quarter of its bloated $125 million budget. This really is a must-see fiasco.
3. The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature
The original attempt at animated animal antics was a middling success. Open Road Films took a chance here at a sequel, and then made a number of miscalculations. The first film found some interest during the January dumping-ground amid very weak competition, but the studio hoped for more interest in August. Then, when so many titles foundered this summer, the distributor pounced; a saturation release was called for since there was little competition and few choices for children. The result: the paltry $8 million debut set the new record for the worst opening of a movie on 4,000 screens.
2. King Arthur
Not too sure who was calling for another retread of this tale, but Warner Bros. was certain this would be its next franchise — so certain it had three different screen plays to consider. Instead of choosing, however, the studio decided to drop all 3 versions in a Cuisinart, tossed a small fortune at the screenplay slurry, gave Guy Ritchie free reign directing and added some stunt casting with David Beckham. The end result is Warner Bros. may have lost a couple of hundred million on this legend.
1. Valerian And The City Of The Lost Planets
If you can make sense of that title, then applause is due. Nearly $200 million spent on a project Luc Besson has been wanting to do for 20 years, inspired by a French comic series he grew up with. You may need to work harder to find a more obscure source material. The dated material held little interest, and even though it looked gorgeous, it amounted to very little. Multiple European producers and distributors contributed, and on the Monday following the disastrous debut the company EuroCorp — one of the primary financers — suffered more than a -8 percent drop in its stock price as a result.