Every year has its share of flops and misfires, but 2022’s worst films were less misguided pieces of auteur filmmaking (though there were certainly instances of that) and more studio algorithms passing as entertainment. It’s not that big budget filmmaking hit a new low this year – Top Gun: Maverick and Everything Everywhere All at Once and others reinvigorated the theater experience week after week! – but too many felt hollow and formulaic. Plenty of films passed muster as being merely forgettable, but nevertheless, here are the five worst films I saw in 2022.
It makes sense on paper. Dwayne Johnson as the titular antihero feels like the perfect casting for the foundation of a new comic book franchise, and rest assured, there will be more Black Adam movies, whether we like it or not. In a less than memorable year for superhero movies – including subpar entries from the MCU, Morbius (which I refuse to see), and the animated DC League of Super Pets, which Johnson also stars in – Black Adam ranks as the worst because it only sort of passes the smell test to masquerade as a movie. Rather, it feels like one barely comprehensible over-saturated action sequence after another with only the thinnest narrative thread holding it all together. Johnson doesn’t act so much as he glowers at everyone, lamenting that the world isn’t really worth saving. At no point did I get attached to any of the characters, super or otherwise, with Pierce Brosnan escaping relatively unscathed. It’s nothing new to compare comic book films to roller coasters, enjoying the ride while you’re on it and forgetting it immediately after. One time a friend got a fragment of metal stuck in his eye while riding a roller coaster when we were in middle school, and that’s the kind of ride that Black Adam feels like.
Yes, Ana de Armas gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Marilyn Monroe. Yes, Chayse Irvin’s cinematography creates some beautiful imagery, though the random switches from monochrome to color still baffle me. But any positives to say about Blonde are drowned out by director Andrew Dominik’s increasingly bizarre and, in some cases, offensive, interpretation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel. A semi-fictionalized account of Marilyn Monroe’s life could easily bear fruit as entertainment, but Dominik makes so many left-field creative decisions that derail any kind of statement he tries to make about Monroe’s mostly exploited existence. For almost three hours, we’re made to witness one horrendous act of cruelty perpetrated onto Monroe, while Dominik gives her the thinnest, laziest shading of hope for the future (daddy issues, basically) and hardly reveals any new information that wasn’t public knowledge before. There was a point before I saw Blonde where I got my hopes up that Dominik could make a decent statement about fame in America as he did in his previous films, but those hopes were dashed quickly and frequently once I pressed play. Marilyn Monroe deserved better in her life, and she deserves better than this.
Jurassic World: Dominion
To paraphrase Dr. Evil: “All I wanted was a movie with freaking dinosaurs eating people!” Instead, what Colin Trevorrow and the braintrust at Universal put together was an overlong slog about locusts featuring the occasional dinosaur. As regrettable as the previous installment in the Jurassic World franchise was, its stinger teased an intriguing premise of a world where humans and dinosaurs coexisted across the globe. In Dominion, Trevorrow boils this concept down to a sizzle reel in the first few minutes of the film and uses the remaining 2.5 hours to tease a handful of dinosaur attacks (which, to be clear, happen in every other Jurassic movie) and dumb character decisions. Stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard continue to be blank slates of characters with zero chemistry together, and Trevorrow brings back Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum for no discernable reason besides an enticing poster image. I try to be an optimist, even with bad films, so the only bright side to Dominion is that it will likely be the end of this misbegotten franchise.
Hey kids, want to go to the magical Land of Luck? When you’re there, you can spend time with talking cats, rabbits, leprechauns, dragons, unicorns, and all kinds of magical creatures. Unfortunately, none of them are interesting and the celebrities that voice them don’t seem all that interested either. But while you’re there, you can learn all about the arbitrary rules of how luck works! You love rules, don’t you? Because if not, you’re probably not going to have much fun, so you might as well buckle in for almost two hours of rules and nonsensical set pieces! At least while you’re there, you can check out all the marvelous sights and bright colors (that don’t look at all like something from Monsters, Inc. or Dr. Seuss, why would you suggest that?), but whatever you do, do NOT pay attention to how anyone’s mouths move. Anyway, did I mention the movie was made by
John Lasseter the creative visionary behind Toy Story and Cars?
If you want a window into the creative vapidity that is Disney today, simply compare Robert Zemeckis’s version of Pinocchio with Guillermo del Toro’s. Turns out the umpteenth time isn’t the charm, as the Mouse House’s empty cash grab of live-action remakes continues to fail to justify its own existence. Nothing is gained from seeing real people (in this case, poor old Tom Hanks) interact with badly rendered floating tennis balls, and the computer imagery – once Zemeckis’s stock and trade – at times looks like it wasn’t finished before the final print. I’d like to give Zemeckis the benefit of the doubt, but hardly anything aside from a few ill-advised modern jokes and a wall full of branded cuckoo clocks that made me want to throw my iPad across the room has been added to Pinocchio’s story. I would look on the bright side and say that this version of Pinocchio will come and go from the public consciousness, but it will live right alongside (and, let’s face it, the algorithm will promote it above) the original film on Disney+ forever.