We are halfway through 2023, and it’s been a great year for cinema. The one-two-punch of Barbie and Oppenheimer did wonders for the box office, reminding audiences of the magic of cinema and bringing them back to the movie theaters in floods. Still, not everything has been perfect. For every Barbenheimer, there’s a Shazam! Fury of the Gods.
These films aren’t necessarily bad, but they are disappointing. Whether because of their lazy plots, uninspired choices, questionable acting, or a combination of all these factors, these movies didn’t live up to audiences’ lofty expectations. And it’s a shame because some had everything they needed to go all the way, but alas, they ended up being bitter disappointments.
The long-awaited Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was supposed to be a major event. After all, it introduced the Multiverse Saga’s Big Bad, Kang, and prominently featured the Quantum Realm, which had been teased since at least 2015. But the film made more of a fizzle than a bang, confirming the MCU is in dire need of help.
Ant-Man and the Wasp wasted a promising cast in a lazy story with awful visual effects, clumsy dialogue, uninspired action, and infantile humor. The film turned off many lifelong MCU fans and ended its most underwhelming trilogy on an uninspired final note. This year is proving to be a turning point for the MCU, and Quantumania‘s disappointment will surely play a large role in the universe’s eventual fall from grace.
You People tells the story of Ezra and Amira, an interracial and interreligious couple dealing with culture clashes, modern romance, and each other’s families. The film boasts an impressive cast, including Jonah Hill, Lauren London, David Duchovny, Nia Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Eddie Murphy.
Despite an intriguing premise and a cast of A-list comedians, You People is neither funny nor clever enough to stand out from Netflix’s weekly releases. The film’s social commentary also falls flat, as do Hill and Murphy’s surprisingly subdued performances; rather than letting the two famous comedians let loose, director Kenya Barris restrains them, to the film’s ultimate detriment.
The first Shazam! came out in 2019 to tepid box office results ,but an enthusiastic critical reception. The sequel, 2023’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods, performed similarly commercially, but without critical support. Zachary Levi returns as the superhero Shazam, who, along with his extended family, must face the Daughters of Atlas.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is perhaps the most disappointing film of the year. Following a genuinely sweet and inspiring first film, director David F. Sanberg had everything necessary to deliver another enchanting adventure. However, the misguided sequel sacrificed heart for a bombastic, lazy adventure that wasted a talented cast and a promising setup. Fury of the Gods also has the most jarring, shameless instance of product placement in recent memory, contributing to its mediocre reception.
Ana de Armas and Chris Evans reteamed for a third time in Dexter Fletcher’s action rom-com Ghosted. The plot centers on Cole, a shy man who falls head over heels for the beautiful, but mysterious Sadie. Chasing her to London, he realizes she is a CIA operative, and their second encounter becomes an international adventure with potentially world-ending stakes.
Ghosted has two charming and popular leads — one of whom had just received an Oscar nomination — an appealing premise, and a promising director. Imagine our disappointment with the result, an uninspired and boring excuse for a rom-com that lacks romance, thrills, and comedy. Evans is arguably miscast, and de Armas looks uninterested from the get-go. Apple TV+ has several great movies worth the audience’s time, but unfortunately, Ghosted isn’t among them.
The long-running Fast and Furious franchise may have finally overstayed its welcome. The Vin Diesel-led series premiered its tenth(!) film this year, Fast X, to a lukewarm critical and commercial reception. The plot follows Dom and his family facing the dangerously unstable Dante Reyes, played by a scrunchie-wearing, scenery-chewing, scene-stealing Jason Momoa.
Fast X is more of the same. Unlike other long-running franchises like Mission: Impossible, the Fast Saga refuses to grow or experiment outside its comfort zone. Thus, Fast X is repetitive and uninspired, finally making audiences wonder, “Why are we still here?” Momoa is incredible in the role and a truly brilliant, chaotic creation; he’s by far the best villain in the Fast Saga. Alas, not even he can save Fast X from mediocrity.
Harrison Ford reprised the role of Indiana Jones for one last time in James Mangold’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Phoebe Waller-Bridge and perennial bad guy Mads Mikkelsen join him in a plot that sees Indy and his goddaughter, Helena (Bridge), trying to recover the powerful dial of destiny before a former Nazi scientist beats them to it.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is an adequate film, but an underwhelming sendoff for one of the most iconic characters in American cinema. The film opened to average reviews and underperformed at the box office, especially considering its astronomical $300 million budget. Indiana Jones is a beloved franchise, but its fourth and fifth entries prove that it might have been an excellent product of its time, rather than a decade-spanning cinematic event.
The last addition to the 2023 Hall of Shame is Disney’s Haunted Mansion. The second adaptation of the popular theme park attraction, Haunted Mansion stars an ensemble including LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, and Jamie Lee Curtis. The plot follows a single mother who summons a group of esoteric specialists to help exorcise the many ghosts plaguing her new home.
Haunted Mansion is not outright awful; it’s too boring to be bad, which is worse. The film squanders a talented cast and an intriguing-enough premise in a series of sequences that are too lazy to be funny and too silly to be scary. Haunted Mansion is the latest in a long line of Disney disappointments that suggest the Mouse House needs a quality intervention sooner rather than later.