6. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
If this was just about wasted potential, Valerian would easily be on the top of this list. There are five worse movies this year but none of them have a fraction of the visual artistry displayed here by Luc Besson. Valerian has some of the best design I’ve seen in a movie all year and two of the most inventive chase sequences maybe ever. It also features a terrible script that meanders forever over trivial nothing and merrily skips past dense plot without a moment for inspection. I loved watching the action but I never really understood why any of it was going on. Toss on top some of the worst chemistry I’ve ever seen between an on-screen couple (and honestly maybe Dane DeHaan isn’t ready to be a leading man) and this is an unpleasant movie to watch at any volume above mute.
5. American Assassin
I sincerely thought that we were past making movies like American Assassin now that we’re on year 16 of the obviously never ending War on Terror. I assumed we were past movies that seemingly exist solely to demonize and dehumanize brown people on the other side of the world. This is a movie with no nuance or subtext or anything. It’s predictable, dreary, and the worst kind of weighty. It depicts a world in which people are nothing but weapons for the nation as one we should want to be in. It also runs for 15 minutes past any events of consequence happening and expects us to sit and care about literally nothing happening.
4. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
If you’ve ever seen those posts where someone feeds a computer a bunch of data about one topic or another and then the computer spits back an attempt at making original things of the same set, you could understand how they probably wrote the script for xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. It’s trying to be every successful action movie of the last ten years all at once. It has a multi-cultural cast, numerous exotic locations that all happen to be filled with parties full of white people, and a bunch of supporting and cameo roles given to people intended to draw in audience in foreign markets. There’s nothing holding the movie together so it’s easily the most boring movie I’ve ever seen that also features trying to use an airplane to hit falling satellites. Movies are more than the sum of their parts and XXx: The Return of Xander Cage is a great lesson in that.
3. The Mummy
I long for the days when studios would just make movies with the idea that they could make an obscene amount of money from them. Now it seems like they don’t want hundreds of millions of dollars unless they know it directly leads them to the next 100 million. There were fine ideas in The Mummy about a woman who would not be cast aside and wanted to seize absolute power to punish her family. That character doesn’t get to exist on screen because we need develop Tom Cruise to be the hero of the Dark Universe and we need time for Dr Jekyll and for the people who hunt monsters. It is needless and exhausting. The Mummy might not be an objectively terrible movie but it is so impossibly frustrating it needs to be recognized here.
2. Ghost in the Shell
Just to get it out of the way: this movie would make it on to this list just because it’s racist and tone deaf. Deciding, in 2017, that it’s a good idea to make a movie based on an iconic Japanese manga/film/media empire and cast almost exclusively white people is astonishing. It’s an irredeemable failure solely from looking at the poster. Then it’s not even a good movie. They threw out all the stories they presumably licensed the material for and instead gave us a milquetoast cyberpunk paint-by-number. When the studio found out the Blade Runner sequel would be released in the same calendar year they should have shelved the project until we all forgot what could be done.
1. Transformers: The Last Knight
I suppose I should have some respect for Michael Bay as an auteur at this point. He can’t possibly be hurting for money. Nothing would stop him from getting lazy and putting out shorter films to try and goose his grosses by squeezing in another showing. Bay is going to make these monstrous, incomprehensible, films and they’re going to be exactly as he wants them to be and as long as he pleases. It would be charitable at this point to call these movies pointless. There’s definitely a point: People who know things are idiots and people who shoot things are awesome. They’re never going to stop with these; we should all just adjust our lives to accommodate them.