2015 isn't over yet, but seeing as how we're in November, I figured we were deep enough into the year to talk about some movie that didn't turn out so hot. We've had a lot of movies this year that felt really terrible in a way where it just felt like being begged the question "it's 2015-- Have we not gotten this down after nearly a century of filmmaking?" And the answer, sometimes, is no.
I'm going to put in here a disclaimer, that I feel shouldn't be necessary, and yet it totally is: these are just my opinions. I'm sure a lot of people disagree with them, and a lot of people agree with them. I'm gonna make my case, and maybe even engage with you on the subject, but no one is obligated to care about what I think, or even read this piece!
Anyway, let's get down to business.
Aloha. 2015 has been a year of some huge strides being made toward acknowledging the structural problems America faces when it comes to respecting POC, and some people just totally not getting the point at all. Aloha is one of those messes. The majority of Hawaii is not white, yet in Cameron Crowe's Hawaii, pretty much the only POC were service people for a cast of white characters-- including Allison Ng, a "quarter-Hawaiian" character portrayed by Emma Stone, of all people. Akin to Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" video, Aloha made the offensive mistake of thinking that POC are invisible, not worth being depicted, and overall ruinous of a white fantasy of playing in an "exotic" land without any of the people who actually live there.
What did we learn: Whitewashing will make people angry. Whitewashing means: a) making something "whiter" in order to make it less "other," thereby reinforcing the "othering" of POC, b) removing influence of POC people from a work (or giving white people credit for it) in order to continue disempowering and undervaluing POC, c) changing things to cast white people in a more favorable light than what actually happened, which erases the real, lived histories of POC.
Jem and The Holograms. Jem and the Holograms is a beloved Hasbro property that a lot of young people today are getting introduced to from either its appearance on Netflix and/or from its new comic book-- but I hope no one is getting introduced to it from this movie. This movie failed for two big reasons: not staying true to it's totally awesome (however dated) source material, and for completely misunderstanding a generation of young people to the point where the entire movie is a condescension to us and those after us. io9 writer Charlie Jane Anders reviewed the movie pretty well in a piece entitled "Jem and the Holograms Fails In A Way That I've Never Seen A Movie Fail Before." Her piece opens "Young people, right? They like young-people shit, like YouTube videos, Instagram selfies and crazy hair. If you hate young people but want to pander to them for some reason—like, if you have loathsome, foul-smelling stepchildren—you can always take them to see Jem and the Holograms."
What did we learn: Don't mess too much with the source material of something already deeply beloved. No one wants to see their fave bastardized by some misguided "new spin." Also, if you're going to make a movie about young people, you might need to actually understand them, and not write a movie about how self-absorbed and fake they are and overlay it with pop music to make it seem empowering.
Pixels. It's an Adam Sandler movie that is incredibly sexist, and rips off the plot of an episode of Futurama. I have no words for how terrible this movie is, but a lot of other people do: E!Online rounded up 23 of the best burns the critics had for this garbage fire.
What did we learn: Stop letting Adam Sandler do stuff. Oh wait, we didn't actually learn that because Netflix penned a 4 movie deal with him, during which his "satire" Ridiculous Six caused cast and crew to leave due to how absolutely offensive it is.
Fantastic 4. This movie is, cinematically, kind of a hard-sell to begin with. The powers and costumes in this franchise are overwhelmingly cartoony, so to have them done with real people is a real obstacle rather than say, using animation. Add onto that "too many cooks in the kitchen" with studios, execs, and creatives fighting over everything, and the story got turned into an incoherent mess that pretty much no one is proud of. Which really sucks considering most of the people involved are pretty talented.
What did we learn: If you're going to do something, commit to it-- commit to a vision, commit to a story. In addition, maybe be more selective about which superhero properties you bring to life.
Pan. I love Peter Pan, and I'm always eager to see new takes on it-- some of them are great (Peter and the Starcatcher) and some of them are terrible. Pan is terrible. One critic says it's so terrible you HAVE to see it because you will never believe how resoundingly awful a film can be. Despite a high budget and a talented cast (featuring the highly questionable use of Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily), this movie is awful. Everyone overacts a spider-web thin plot, with stunning visuals that have pretty much no plot to back it up.
What did we learn: If you are going to make an origin story, it needs to at least make sense. Casting won't make up for a terrible/non-existent plot. Stop casting white people as POC (wow we really have not wrapped our heads around this, have we?) Also stop making characters that are Indiana Jones rip-offs-- it's just lazy.
What movies did you think were terrible this year? What do you hope Hollywood will learn from them?