Of course, there have been some real stinkers this year too.
Overall, it’s been an appalling year for Disney Studios (bar Pixar-Disney’s Toy Story 4, which was quite touching and a fitting new conclusion despite my initial reservations at this sequel)- the shameless cash-grab in remaking the Disney ‘Renaissance’ Era. While their Marvel franchise has been as successful as ever, Star Wars took another nose-dive with The Rise of Skywalker– the thankfully final episode in the sequel trilogy.
These are my worst watches of the year (and yes, I’ve seen Cats and no, I don’t think it is as bad as these – review forthcoming next year)- again, no particular order. They’re all bad.
ALADDIN (Director: Guy Ritchie, Screenplay: John August, based on the 1992 animated film)
Will Smith does his best grappling with Robin Williams’ beloved Genie, but even he can’t rescue this rather lacklustre live-action remake. There are small changes to the script, including giving Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar a ‘not-totally-evil’ motivation and Naomi Scott’s Princess Jasmine an uplifting solo song that feels shipped in from Frozen or Wicked. These don’t make up for the wasted time. It’s garishly designed but well-choreographed, yet doesn’t generate any magic.
My Verdict |★★☆☆☆
MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL (Director: F. Gary Gray, Screenplay: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway)
I actually forgot I’d seen this film- do you remember it coming out? I think the producers have gone around with the memory-device and wiped it. The plot’s entirely forgettable, the action sequences mind-numbing, but the biggest failure of this fourth outing is the lack of chummy chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. With poor characterisation and weak humour, there’s none of the spark that made Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ double-act so memorable.
My Verdict |★☆☆☆☆
THE LION KING (Director: Jon Favreau, Screenplay: Jeff Nathanson, based on the 1994 animated film)
An utterly pointless, misconceived project that fails completely. The decision to put this film into photorealistic CGI drains the animals of all personality, character and charm (at one point, I thought David Attenborough’s narration was going to start: ‘Here, in the Serengeti, the lion sleeps tonight…). It butchered my favourite song (‘Be Prepared’) and left the others as poor imitations of the originals, followed by some uninspiring musical sequences. The only person who must be pleased is James Earl Jones- doing the exact same lines from twenty-five years ago and probably picking up an even bigger cheque. Abysmal.
My Verdict |★☆☆☆☆
STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (Director: JJ Abrams, Screenplay: JJ Abrams, Chris Terrio)
My review is here. An entirely forced, messy finale to a confused, ill-conceived trilogy. The cast try and make the best of it but there’s no getting around the contrivances of the plot. Given time to reflect, the contortions in the storytelling become even more obvious. Ian McDiarmid is deliciously melodramatic as evil Emperor Palpy, but this one really shows Disney Studio’s lack of vision.
My Verdict |★★★☆☆
Happy New Year and I’ll see you at the movies in 2020.
The only movie I saw on that list was the Aladdin remake. It was boring despite a few okay moments here and there. Disney has been more arrogant than usual with all these expensive nostalgia trips.
I’m so happy people have been bashing The Lion King remake. I used to like the original as a kid, but I loathe this movie franchise as an adult. The Lion King is built on plagiarism (Kimba the White Lion and “Mbube” by Solomon Linda which is the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” stole from), cultural appropriation by trademarking the “Hakuna Matata” phrase, and with all the racist implications with the hyenas. Shame on them!
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Thanks for the post! I thought they’d hit rock-bottom with ‘Aladdin’ (which I agree had its moments, but pales in comparison) but then saw ‘The Lion King’. What a waste of time and money.
Yes, it’s interesting when our views change on films we used to love and appreciate as kids (as they should we grow older). I’ve also been aware of the Kimba rip-off but not the ‘Mbube’ reference nor ‘Hakuna Matata’ copyright (!) you made. I’ll have to look into it more- as for the hyenas, I think Disney tried to ‘address this’ in the 2019 version but it goes nowhere. We should understand to that Disney and racism are expected, however ‘sensitive’ their production approach is attempting to be now (ie. asking more than one person from the depicted part of the intended place/group- difference between pre-production on Pocahontas vs Moana) – I mean look at the Orientalist fantasies in ‘Aladdin’!
Please do check out my good films of 2019 though- there has been some brilliant stuff this year.
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No problem, James! This remake thing has been getting out of control. I know all major studios are guilty of this, but Disney certainly hasn’t been helping at all.
Same here. I used to like The Lion King until I became an adult. That’s good how you know about the Kimba issue. There’s no way Disney didn’t know about that anime. As far as “Mbube” is concerned, I would strongly recommend the Netflix documentary The Lion’s Share which is about the history of the song, how it got ripped off, how Solomon Linda died penniless, and how his daughters tried to sue the licensing company and Disney since that company made $15 million in royalties of their father’s song from the first movie.
Here’s some info about the trademark issue and why it’s a really bad thing: https://www.change.org/p/the-walt-disney-company-get-disney-to-reverse-their-trademark-of-hakuna-matata?signed=true
I’m not surprised about the 2019 version. Just because you have more black people in that version, it doesn’t give Disney a free pass. Don’t even get me started about how the elephant graveyard eerily mirrors actual genocides like the Congolese Genocide, Namibian Genocide (especially the Shark Island Concentration Camp), or even the atrocities against Native Americans. It annoys me how people give Disney a free pass with all of these things. Good points about Moana, Pocahontas, and Aladdin, by the way.
Will do. Also, thanks for following my main blog!
Totally agree. Fortunately, I’m in a position to go and see a variety of cinema beyond the mainstream blockbusters (and Netflix/Amazon/NowTV give you more options) but if you’re just hitting the multiplexes, it’s been remakes, rehashes or revisions for the past few years. Disney is the worst at this.
Thanks for the link- I’ll check this out and the Netflix documentary you mentioned.
I’d recommend Lindsay Ellis’ essays on Disney, especially as part of contemporary ‘woke’ culture as a corporate rebranding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xU1ffHa47YY but there’s plenty of information and insight on her previous videos (that’s where I got the info on Moana/Pocahontas too).
No problem- thanks for the follow as well!
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Sure thing. I watch a lot of obscure movies, international films, documentaries, and short films. Netflix has certainly helped a bit. I’ve definitely noticed that about the multiplexes. Interestingly enough, I have my own review blog called Iridium Eye if you want to check that out. http://iridiumeye.wordpress.com.
No problem. This was certainly important to know.
Okay. It’s been a really long time since I saw anything from Lindsay “Don’t call me Nostalgia Chick” Ellis. I’m a bit hesitant since I wasn’t a fan of her defending the hyenas in the original movie about how they aren’t racist according to her, but I might check it out.
Cool. Glad we can follow each other’s blogs and to have good discussions.