The 10 Most Disappointing Movies of 2021
Art is truly subjective. While one is bound to love something that someone else doesn’t, the vice-versa is also applicable. Artists often tend to make movies that cleverly walk on this said line. While some of their movies completely leave you in awe, others can quite possibly frustrate you. I mean, let’s be honest here. Cinema comes with its own set of expectations. These expectations often come from being allowed to witness something so unique and inspirational that one is bound to look forward to what the said artist makes in the future. 2021, however, witnessed some of the finest voices in the film industry return with movies that were absolutely disappointing.
These films are not the absolute stinkers of 2021 because there’s a whole lot of them that belong below the garbage pile that Brad Pitt told us about in Moneyball. This list here is not a collection of those movies. Reiterating that this is not a worst movies of 2021 list, but a list of movies that did not leave up to the weight of the massive hype that their mere mention called for, once they were announced.
Carax’s cult-like following has surpassed the line of language long back in time. If the reaction and rigorous investigation of his 2012 masterpiece “Holy Motors” are not enough, just check into the first 10 and last 2 minutes (by this I mean the end credit roll) of “Annette” and you will know.
Personally, I come from the same clan that preaches and almost worships the French auteur. However, his latest is sadly a dud.
Not that it doesn’t have the spark of Carax’s maddening beauty. In fact, it illuminates the very spectrum of what cinema could be on multiple occasions. However, since this is traditionally a melodrama (which I suppose is the only reason why this is a musical, or an anti-musical if you must) there’s very little to no space for a Carax flex.
What we get instead, is a heady, but overtly empty can of used goods. A somewhat stale look at fame and the dark abyss it promises when you look below.
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Talking about later career resurgence, one simply can’t forget Paul Verhoeven’s deliciously dark and supremely proactive jolt of revenge in Elle. The Dutch filmmaker who is renowned for his sexually explicit social satires once again dives into the scarlige of what is the norm and how people defy it in “Benedetta.”
However, this horny-nun drama is so eerily familiar that its more audacious campy inclinations fall apart as soon as they are set up. A few key moments of absolute Verheoven-nes aside, nothing here really makes its 131-minute runtime feel worthy of making an effort of sitting through it. While trying to get under the skin, Verhoeven plagues the narrative with uninteresting turns and half-written conflicts; all of which can’t really match the firepower of its leads.
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I stopped expecting anything from MCU movies long back. Not because I grew up or something, but I have gotten so used to their tired formula that I now just go into them and come out unharmed. That cannot be the case with Eternals though. The reason has to be the announcement that Oscar winner Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Nomadland) was at the helm for this project. The fact that the early trailers also showed signs of some kind of unconventional MCU storytelling, further amped up the excitement.
Sadly, what we got in return for the excitement was a dull, self-serious, and super-random collection of vignettes that never really stand up to become a cohesive film about a new set of heroes. Eternals doesn’t just fail to capitalize on its lofty premise that crossed greek mythology with literal God-like creatures, it never manages to make 2+2=4. The execution is messy, the editing is haphazard and the character work is so docile that it is surprising that it was even green-lit for theatrical viewings in the first place.
4. House of Gucci
2021 saw two of Ridley Scott releases. One of them was an expertly mounted Rashomon-esque tale of a woman’s truth in a man’s world, and the other was House of Gucci. Led by a comprehensive ensemble that would make anyone sit up notice, this biographical drama was so far removed from what it should have been, that one couldn’t even enjoy its more campy oddness.
Following the true story of the renowned family behind the rise and eventual fall of the Italian fashion empire, Scott’s film took the point of view of a romance between Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) to take us through a series of bland, badly accented story involving murder, madness, and greed.
The fact that it will probably be nominated for Oscars in spite of some of the most recklessly arranged narrative beats, and laughable performances, makes it one of the most disappointing movies of 2021.
It makes me really mad to put Introduction here because I am a true Hong Sang-soo disciple. However, this is just so gloomy and forgettable that one wouldn’t even remember if it existed in the first place. While that can be said about any Hong Sang-soo movie (as they are basically an extension of one another), Introduction, in particular, is just best left untouched.
The first of the two Hang Sang-Soo movies of 2021, the film follows Youngho (Shin Seokho) and his meandering existence. The path is laid so that he reaches a point of importance. However, that moment of importance is never reached and Introduction just becomes a discursive visit that wants to be about the ‘three hugs’ in the narrative. Full of mundane conversations, which frankly don’t add up unlike most of the Korean filmmaker’s films, Introduction is just 66-minutes long, but its warm fuzzy embrace feels less earned than it should be.
The first of the two Macbeth adaptations on this list is Joji. The third collaboration between India’s best actor and one of the most audacious Malayalam filmmakers Dileesh Pothan, this COVID-era version of greed and madness was languid and tonally haywire.
With Fassil’s dedicated performance being the only saving grace, Joji fails to capture the descent into insanity and murderous delight with the precision that was required out of it. There’s a stark way in which Pothan approaches black comedy, examples of which can be seen in the exceptional Maheshinte Prathikaaram and Thondi Muthalum Driksakshiyum, but here it just doesn’t land, not even for one bit.
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M. Night Shyamalan has always been a hit-or-miss machine, but that doesn’t mean one wouldn’t get excited about his films. Take his latest film ‘Old’ for example. It is a great mixture of a fascinating idea coupled with casting so over-the-top, that only Shyamalan could have thought of it.
But the odd casting is hardly the problem here. The main thing that drowns Shyamalan’s latest is his overreliance on high jinx. It is almost as if he doesn’t really believe in the power of his own idea, or the ripe satire at its center. Instead, he goes to an extent where he has screwed it all up with bad dialogue and an obsession with the infamous ‘wow-ending.’ The saddest part is that Old doesn’t even have a ‘wow-ending.’ It just kinda overstays its interesting welcome, and when its time to put up with the conflict, it drops the ball completely.
8. Prisoners of the Ghostland
When it was announced that Japanese master filmmaker Sion Sono was planning to make his English-language debut with Nicolas Cage in a film that would blend Samurai shenanigans with the American west, it felt like a match made in Gonzo heaven. I mean if there is anyone who can tame Cage’s madness and take full-blown use of his over-the-top B-movie persona, it has to be Sion Sono.
Sadly, Prisoners of the Ghostland is a film that only works on paper. Its world-building and weird, eccentric characters are all interesting for 10 odd minutes, but sustaining the setup with little to no directorial chops for 100+ minutes becomes an arduous task. It thus becomes a taxing and bland exercise in saddled excess, and frankly results in one of the biggest disappointments of 2021.
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9. The Card Counter
In another late-career resurgence, American writer/director Paul Schrader gave us the exceptional character-driven drama First Reformed – a spiritual collapse of a priest post the death of his son. So, it goes without saying that one would expect great things from him with his follow-up.
Casting the excellent Oscar Isaac (who is extraordinary here) only proved to be the icing on the cake. But sadly, The Card Counter did not do anything for me. Revisiting similar themes that Schrader is known for, the film is seen through the eyes of William Tell – an ex-military interrogator turned gambler, living a life of closed seclusion.
His existential angst is penned down in a raggedy, distraction-free chamber of his own – a prison if you may. And his monk-like existence is rigged when two people try to seep through this said isolation.
Now, I get the intentions here, but Schrader’s approach is downright inconsequential. He panders around the narrative with a drowsy tone that doesn’t exactly suit this setting that he has conjured up. There are interludes here that constantly break the rhythm and frankly don’t add up to either its characters or the motifs he is going for. Resulting in one of the most disappointing movies of 2021.
10. The Tragedy of Macbeth
There’s no denying the fact that Joel Coen’s adaptation of the famous Shakespearean tragedy is ambitious. Basically a cross between theater and cinema, the new film witnesses one-half of the Coen duo getting supremely experimental. His Macbeth isn’t just different, it is essentially the most brooding and haunting version of the tale of greed and madness.
However, this gothic retelling, which basically strips the play to its bare essentials never really wakes up. Featuring a commendable turn by Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth feels empty, futile, and unnecessary exercise in excess. Using elements of German expressionism with Bergman’s obsession for close-ups, this forceful tragedy remains extremely passive through and through.