1 January 2013

The Most Over-Rated Films of 2012

There were some films I saw in 2012 that the media (and certain portions of Twitter) ecstatically lavished praise on, to my eyes inexplicably so. These are films that I thought were merely pretty good or just flat out didn’t like; I certainly don’t consider them worthy of being called “brilliant” or receiving 4 or 5 stars as they did elsewhere. Below, in alphabetical order, are the films released in the UK in 2012 that I felt were the most over-rated:

The Avengers
I feel like something of a lone dissenting voice in saying that The Avengers is over-rated, but to a degree it was one of the films I was most disappointed by in 2012. Having loved the five preceeding Marvel films that acted as a superb build up to The Avengers I had such high hopes for it, but what we were given was a very average modern action film (read excessively CGI heavy) with some occassionally decent character interactions. It definitely felt like a step back from the excitement of the character driven origin stories of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger etc. As such I didn't find The Avengers particularly satisfying. It's not a bad film, it's just merely good and in my eyes, as the lesser of all the films that came before it, it's certainly not worthy of the mountains of excessive love it received. [Read my full review here]

Coriolanus was evidently not widely seen but it was greatly loved by critics, as well as inevitably garnering BAFTA nominations. It's the archetypal film you'd expect critics to fawn over (much like The Master or Amour, both of which were over-rated too but good enough to not need inclusion here) - excellent British actor turns his hand to directing lesser known Shakespeare play, in original language no less. Admirable but a massive failure unless you were already familiar with the story, because transposing a not entirely clear political story to a strange modern time made it confusing as hell and thoroughly boring. It didn't help that it wasn't particularly well directed either. Ralph Fiennes gets point for trying here but the result was both testing and tedious. [Read my full review here]

The Imposter
This is where I remain at a total loss as to how some films get such immense praise lavished on them. The Imposter is a reasonably interesting documentary that's well assembled, but seems to hinge entirely on the fact that the story it's reporting is pretty incredulous. But after you're over that fact it ends up feeling unsatisfying, much in the way Catfish left the viewer irritated. At least it was wise enough to follow Man On Wire's lead in terms of presentation, but I can't see any reason why its gathered such glowing reviews. Are people really confusing quality with the decision to tell a seemingly unbelievable real life story? I hope not, but either way you should be wary about being fooled by The Imposter. [Read my full review here]

Life of Pi 
The biggest concern about Life of Pi appeared to be that it's story of a boy lost at sea in a row boat with nothing but a man-eating tiger for company was unfilmable. Concerns were justified as the story does not translate well (I've not read the original novel). In filmic form it proves to be a completely arduous journey. The first thirty minutes or so are compelling, and the capsizing of the ship is stunningly dramatic, but from that point onwards the story proves very difficult to stay engaged with as it becomes plain boring and is weighed down by overbearing proselytising about God. This ultimately leads to a conclusion that is entirely frustrating and unsatsifying, making it feel like a wasted journey. Life of Pi's only real strength is visually, as it never looks anything short of stunning with fantastic special effects and the rare appearance of tasteful and effectively used 3D. I clearly didn't see in it what all these people raving about it did.

The Raid
I'll say this from the outset, I did like The Raid (or for some reason The Raid: Redemption if you live in the US), as it is a pretty decent throwback to action / martial arts movies of old, but it has plenty of issues and if you believe what you read then it's supposedly the best action movie for many many years. Except it's not and in 2012 alone Dredd was a better action film. The Raid pays the price of a very poor plotting decision early on in the film, and some of the fights aim for over-the-top epic but end up tiresome and unbelievable. Yes it's more steeped in reality than the fantastical Dredd, but doesn't really benefit from that, ultimately dragging too much. Are we in over-hyped territory simply because a Welshman went to Indonesia to write and direct a throwback martial arts movie? Perhaps. Either way it's a good film that's a long long way away from being one of the years best.

To some, writer / director Ben Wheatley appears to be the greatest thing to happen to British filmmaking in some years. In reality he's a director with a decent visual eye who really struggles to tell an interesting or engaging story. Sightseers works really well visually but it's a thoroughly bland film with highly irritating characters; billed as a comedy it lacks virtually any humour, suffers from very average writing and is a film sitting in the long shadows of a number of far superior American movies with similar plots. The appearance of this film on best of the year lists appears to defy any perceptible logic as this really is one of the most mundane and tedious films I saw in 2012. [Read my full review here]

Young Adult
This is a film entirely marred by a deeply unlikeable lead character. In a sense Charlize Theron does a great job in this role if this is how the character is supposed to be perceived, but her childish petulance and arrogance grates right from the get go making it impossible to actually enjoy watching Young Adult. Whether or not it's a good representation of thirty-something existential crisis, the story is underdeveloped without any sort of decent ending and only Patton Oswalt makes it bearable. Reviews were resoundingly positive for Young Adult yet it's a chore to watch and at its core deeply ungratifying. Disappointing considering the calibre of talent involved. [Read my full review here

Note: also read The Top 10 Films of 2012 and The Worst Films of 2012.

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