1. Meek’s Cutoff – I’m sure there’s something fundamentally flawed in looking forward to a mumblecore Western, but coming off Wendy & Lucy, it seemed like director Kelly Reichardt possessed the ability to elevate no budget realism beyond its current state of obscurity. Maybe she was even going to sort of ruin it by making something so good and so different without spending much more money than usual and everyone would spend years trying to catch up. These were lofty expectations. But they were possibilities. And maybe the worst part of Meek’s Cutoff is that you have to wait until the last possible moment to find out they will never be realized.
2. Super 8 – We wanted too much.
We wanted something new. We wanted something old. We wanted something smart. We wanted something simple. We wanted to be satisfied both as children and as adults and for some reason, we really believed we would get everything we wanted. What really makes Super 8 so disappointing though, is not that it couldn’t deliver on these things it seemed to imply that it would, but that for a dazzling forty-five minutes or so, it did.
3. Rango – I was willing to blame the bombastic folly of Pirates 3 on a franchise spinning out of anyone’s control. Gore Verbinski was so good before that mess, it seemed only logical that he would return to such form once out from under it. And the way this trailer looked, just visually, that seemed to bear out. But the nonsense was all there again (albeit tempered by the fact that it was taking place in a cartoon world.) There are pieces of Rango that are incredible and should not be ignored, but too often it leans toward esoteric references rather than the story it doesn’t seem very dedicated to telling.
4. Thor – As a comic book character, Thor was never terribly interesting. Placing a God among men, even super men, seemed like an unnecessary tipping of the already tipped scales. So the strange part about Thor the movie, is that the character of Thor isn’t what failed them. In fact, they far surpassed any expectation in that realm, thanks largely to the performance of Chris Hemsworth. But then to fail so miserably at almost everything else seems all the more baffling.
5. Cowboys & Aliens – If we were not mired in this stifling and sickening climate of remakes and sequels, this would have stood out as the cloying studio marketing construct that it always was. But we are in that climate. And as such, Cowboys & Aliens seemed like a beacon of blockbuster originality. Add our newest and oldest working movie stars to the recipe and even if you somehow staved off the expectations, there just did not appear to be a way in which this could go as wrong as it did. What’s maybe even more surprising is that it wasn’t Harrison Ford that derailed it.
Rampart – All this movie had to do was not call its protagonist the most corrupt cop we’d ever seen in its advertising. Then it could have been shrugged off as an inept attempt to update a story that didn’t need updating.
The Artist – You made a silent movie in 2011? That sounds interesting. What’s it about? Oh, a silent movie star. OK. Seems a little lazy, don’t you– Oh, but you have a dog that does typical dog tricks? Well, that sounds like an Oscar then.
Drive – Did you win your staring contest with Ryan Gosling? I did not.
The Thing – This one is entirely my own fault. I should not have thought a movie waffling between remake and prequel could be good. Never mind one inherently overshadowed by its two classic predecessors. (But it was a pretty good trailer.)
Unknown – Maybe Taken raised our collective expectations for a genre we’d all but written off. I don’t think we will be making that collective mistake again.