Review of 2013: Top 10 biggest film disappointments of the year

The Popcorn Muncher's Review of 2013

In amongst the good and the bad of 2013, there have been some that promised much, but then delivered very little. Whilst 2013 perhaps didn’t boast huge franchise culminations like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises last year, it was still a year where a lot of films had a lot to match up to.

Last year, Prometheus – despite being a solid sci-fi epic – received an absolute kicking for not being the Alien reboot so many wanted it to be. This year also had its fair share of enormous disappointments, so here are some of the biggest.


10. The Bling Ring

Poster for 2013 crime drama The Bling Ring

When trailers began to appear for Emma Watson’s first big post-Potter release, anticipation hit fever pitch.

It looked like Sofia Coppola had constructed a stylish crime drama around a gang of youths who burgled celebrities in the Hollywood Hills that actually had something to say about the excesses of celebrity culture and the dangers of obsession.

Ultimately, it didn’t, and the film was every bit as vapid and dull as its range of empty character shells.

Full of lengthy sequences of near nothingness, The Bling Ring never really does anything with its interesting setup.


9. Pain & Gain

Poster for 2013 crime comedy Pain & Gain

It might seem impossible for a Michael Bay film to have had any expectation attached to it, but the trailers for Pain & Gain seemed to genuinely offer something interesting.

Unfortunately, the eventual film was a contemptuous piece of work that hated every single human being on the planet, and went to great lengths to make that misanthropy abundantly clear.

The humour that seemed so promising in the trailer was wrapped in a downright nasty plotline and lazy hatred for anyone different to the bodybuilder ideal of the central trio.

Eventually, despite the lower budget and the arthouse pretensions, this simply became just another slice of hateful Bayhem.


8. Filth

Poster for 2013 dark comedy film Filth

An adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel, starring James McAvoy as a foul-mouthed policeman and Jim Broadbent as a hallucinated psychiatrist. How could it be anything other than brilliant?

It turns out that the way to make Filth a bad film was to produce a half-baked script that isn’t interesting or funny enough to justify its black heart and regularly offensive sense of humour.

James McAvoy puts in a committed, hell-raising performance, but the film still struggles to work as a piece of narrative cinema. In places, it feels more like a depraved late night sketch show.

With Welsh material on the table and a hugely talented British cast, Filth has to go down as an enormous missed opportunity.


7. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Poster for 2013 fantasy sequel The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Last year’s first entry in Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth was a real disappointment. Despite that, a tidal wave of good reviews had me ready to enjoy the sequel The Desolation of Smaug.

Of course, Jackson never learns from his self-indulgence and so The Desolation of Smaug is another bloated three hour fantasy epic with little to justify its colossal size.

Martin Freeman is still great in the title role, but lame sub-plots, including an invented love triangle, plague the narrative and hyper-extend the slimline source material.

Thank god there’s only one more of them to go.


6. Zero Dark Thirty

Poster for 2013 thriller Zero Dark Thirty

Riding Oscar buzz into UK cinemas, Zero Dark Thirty promised to be a taut thriller about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Aside from a strong performance by Jessica Chastain, it failed almost completely.

The final raid on Bin Laden’s hiding place plays out with the same tedium as spectating when someone else plays one of the never-ending Call of Duty video games. It’s not interesting in any way.

Speculation as to whether the film condoned torture techniques dominated its pre-release publicity and pretty much scuppered its Oscar chances, but it should really have been sunk by the fact that it, quite simply, was not a good film.


5. Trance

Poster for 2013 thriller Trance

Danny Boyle was a national treasure after the triumph of the Olympics Opening Ceremony in 2012. This may have helped Trance to a solid critical reaction, despite the fact that it’s a complete mess of a film.

James McAvoy – on this list for the second time – struggles to shine as an amnesiac inside man on an art heist, with Rosario Dawson shouldering many of the labyrinthine narrative’s ridiculous twists.

It doesn’t even manage to work on the level of B-movie giggles because the plot is far too complex for the brain to ever switch off and even the most engaged viewer will struggle to keep up by the end.

From the man who made Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, this is simply far from good enough.


4. Iron Man 3

Poster for 2013 superhero sequel Iron Man 3

This is a controversial choice as Iron Man 3 has appeared on many Best of 2013 lists and is the biggest box office success of the year by a considerable distance.

The Marvel sequel is far from being a bad film, but certainly didn’t match up to the implausibly high standard set by The Avengers.

Shane Black takes the fantastic Iron Man character and tries to turn him into a comedy caricature with every dramatic moment punctuated by a lame joke.

There’s also an unspeakably annoying child sidekick and the brutal disfigurement of an iconic villain.

With great power comes great responsibility, and Shane Black certainly failed to live up to that.


3. The Purge

Poster for 2013 horror film The Purge

The Purge was a failure of execution more than anything else. All of the constituent parts were there to make a solid, interesting horror film based around some real ideas.

Unfortunately, this film is a lot less than the sum of its parts.

The idea of a society where all crime is legal for one day a year poses a number of interesting questions, but none of them are explored in the eventual film. Instead, there’s a lot of running, shooting and bumping into things in the dark.

It falls into the typical Hollywood trap of going for the glamour rather than the intellect and turns an innovative concept into the worst kind of bland, derivative horror movie. Even Ethan Hawke can’t save it.


2. The Counsellor

Poster for 2013 thriller The Counsellor

Boasting an eclectic all-star cast and the directorial talents of Ridley Scott, The Counsellor looked like an immediate win, with awards season success plastered all over it.

Unfortunately, legendary novellist Cormac McCarthy’s skills do not extend to scriptwriting and the film is severely lacking on that front.

The dialogue is pretentious, overly wordy and utterly impenetrable, rendering the film a mess of speechifying criminals and complex, clumsy symbolism.

And Cameron Diaz fucks a car. Why the hell not?


1. Man of Steel

Poster for 2013 superhero reboot Man of Steel

DC had to do something to catch up with Marvel. The obvious thing to do was to unleash the Justice League – its equivalent of The Avengers. To do that, they had to set some ground work, and with Batman dormant for a while, it made sense to start with their other big name: Superman.

Casting Henry Cavill as the lead and the incredible Michael Shannon as General Zod, Man of Steel had an awful lot going for it.

Despite this, under the unsubtle eye of Zack Snyder, the film is boring beyond belief for half of its runtime and then unbearably loud for the other half.

Either the characters are gabbling on about their past in boring platitudes or they’re throwing each other into buildings at unbelievable speeds whilst CGI explosions go off around them.

With Ben Affleck cast as Batman for the 2015 sequel, it seems like the wheels of the Justice League are in motion. Unfortunately, on the strength of Man of Steel, the tyres are flat.


Do you disagree with my selections? Comment below with your most disappointing films of 2013 and check back in the coming week for more of my Review of 2013.

10 thoughts on “Review of 2013: Top 10 biggest film disappointments of the year

  • 29/12/2013 at 13:25

    I actually agree with most of your picks, but not necessarily with Trance and Man of Steel. I didn’t feed on the hype people made out of it, didn’t even watch the trailers, and I guess that’s why I enjoyed them a lot.

    • 29/12/2013 at 17:53

      I don’t think I saw many trailers for Trance, but I just thought it was a complete mess that conflated complexity and intelligence to disastrous effect.

      There was always going to be huge hype around a new Superman movie, so Snyder had to conjure something magnificent. He failed.

  • 29/12/2013 at 13:48

    Have you thought about doing your personal best and worst films?

      • 29/12/2013 at 19:59

        Oh no, I meant your personal best/worst of all time.

        • 29/12/2013 at 20:01

          Oooh, that would be very difficult. I’m not sure I could narrow it all down.

          • 29/12/2013 at 20:17

            No harm in giving it a go. It’d be an interesting feature.

  • 29/12/2013 at 16:35

    Good list although I have to disagree with The Purge and The Hobbit, they were both good, especially the hobbit! But I can see some disappointment in comparison to LOTR! Good post 🙂

    • 29/12/2013 at 17:55

      The Purge was a dim-witted waste of a great concept, and The Hobbit was rambly and boring when it had enough solid material to be a perfectly good 90-120 minute fantasy blockbuster.


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