Biggest Disappointments of 2017

You know what the trouble is when you look forward to something? Inevitably, it just might let you down, and then something you could’ve shrugged off otherwise becomes a bitter disappointment. So while we at Speculative Chic love celebrating our favorites (seriously, have you been reading our My Favorite Things column?), we also think it’s important to talk about those things that simply didn’t measure up to our expectations. Our annual disappointments column serves as both a criticism as well as plain old venting, so come take a look at what our Speculative Chic writers were disappointed with, and then please, share your own in the comments!


Casey: Remember when IT came out, and I thought it was great? I still think that it’s a fantastic movie, but it is, sadly, home to my biggest disappointment from 2017. It’s not the movie itself. IT is a fine piece of storytelling, and all of the actors did a great job. The writers nicely brought the story forward into the eighties from its original setting in the fifties. It was completely terrifying in moments, but that’s completely appropriate for a horror film.

Image Credit Warner Bros.

No, my problem was the treatment of Beverly Marsh. That, my friends, was my biggest disappointment from the entire year. I’m a little surprised. When I sat down to think about the things that didn’t live up to my expectations, a few other things came to mind. The Dark Tower movie, for one, but I can forgive that due to the nature of the story. Somebody made a mistake in thinking that making the film into a sequel for the books would work with an uninitiated audience. You may have noticed that the only two of us who saw it in time for the Sound Off! both had experience with the novels. I found the film to be confusing at times, and I know how the series ends (even if I haven’t read all of the books just yet — I am terrible about spoiling myself on things).

But back to Beverly. This article (beware of spoilers) puts many of my complicated thoughts about Beverly’s portrayal into words that are much more eloquent than I can manage. This quote particularly stands out to me:

There’s no two ways about it, the film’s final act relegates Bev to the role of damsel in distress, taken hostage by the big bad and held captive in his lair until the cavalry comes riding in, literally saving her with Ben’s true love’s kiss. The kiss itself is cringey and too romanticized, missing a beat in the conversation about consent. The choices make sense, but only because they are easy.

The filmmakers missed a huge opportunity with Beverly here. She was the bravest of the Losers, but her story was reduced to that of the Token Female. Of course she was ogled by adults and even her own friends. Of course she was abused at home. Of course she is subjected to gossip and hatefulness regarding her virtue (or rumored lack thereof). She deserved much better than to be reduced to The Girl. I can only hope that the next film redeems her character and lets the adult version of the character shine in the way that she should.


Merrin: In the weeks leading up to the release of the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast, I purchased what ended up being a total of five tickets to see this movie. Two of these showings were on the same day. I will challenge anyone to find one person more excited than I was about watching dancing tea kettles singing about being their guest. I’d already watched the live-action Cinderella roughly a trillion times, so I knew what I was getting into, I knew they weren’t doing a lot to change the script or the story. I thought I was completely prepared, and since Beauty and the Beast was a particular favorite of mine as a child, I couldn’t picture how this could go wrong.

I had so much I was looking forward to. When the Beast finally turned back into the Prince (. . . spoilers?), and he and Belle kissed for the first time, I wanted that same swooshing feeling in my chest. I wanted to see on a real, live, actual face the desperation Belle felt when she left the Beast to return to her ailing father. I wanted to be transported, the way I was when I watched Cinderella.

And while large parts of it lived up to the hype that I’d completely made up in my own brain, somewhat larger parts did not. And hold onto your britches because I’m about to tell you that the weakest link in that movie (for me) is its star, Emma Watson.

Look, I love her. She’s a great ambassador for women, she’s smart, she’s funny, and she looked the part of Belle but she just . . . . didn’t do it for me. It’s not even the singing, because I think she did fine. Plus, as you know, autotune covers a multitude of sins. It was everything else. The scene in particular that really disappointed me was Belle seeing her father in the mirror and leaving the Beast. I wanted to understand, looking at her face, that she didn’t really want to leave him, that she already knew she felt something for him, but that her father needed her. I’m not sure exactly what emotion Emma Watson was attempting to convey in that scene, but she mostly just looked incredibly angry to me.

I think she does a lot of things well. She never disappointed me as Hermione. But she couldn’t sell being in love to me, and it kind of soured the rest of the movie. The worst part? Zero swooshes at the kiss, though part of that was that I burst out laughing at how Dan Stevens looked in his wig.


Nicole: Ever since I saw the manga Tokyo Ghoul appear on the shelves at work (you know, bookstore and all), I wanted to read it. It sounded really interesting, and I hadn’t read any manga in quite some time. I waited until several volumes were out before diving in, eventually catching up to where the series began to slip into the teens. Then I noticed we hadn’t received anymore after #14. Everything I read was leading up to a massive battle, and I was worried that the series had, inexplicably, ended at #14.

And it did just that.

I didn’t understand. I still don’t. I have no idea what went on across the world in Japan with the manga’s creator and publisher and everything else that goes into creating a manga. The series itself started off normally enough, following Kaneki, a regular student who ends up attacked by a ghoul (ghouls eat humans in this world). The ghoul is killed, and Kenki is severely injured to the point that the doctor working on him transplants the ghoul’s organs into him. He survives, but now he’s half ghoul, and we’re following Kaneki as he learns about his ghoul powers, what it means to eat people, and whether or not the relationship between ghouls and humans can ever be bridged.

Except the series suddenly goes from 0-60 about midway through, and not long after that we’re treated to a massive battle between various ghouls and the CCG (Commission of Counter Ghoul, a federal agency devoted to stopping/killing ghouls). However, there are a lot of things going on — so much so that there was no way it could all be wrapped up in the last volume. Heck, they couldn’t be wrapped up in the last two volumes. As it was, the series ended and readers were left with a disappointing taste in their mouths. There were too many questions, and no clear indication that they were ever going to be answered. There was talk in the community about how Sui Ishida, the creator of Tokyo Ghoul, noted that this was not the end, but that was years ago and from readers who tackle the manga before it’s even in stores.

As of right now all we’re left with is Tokyo Ghoul: Re, but it’s a series of light novels rather than the manga. Will it fix the weird mess that was volume 14? Hard to say given that right now only the first light novel is available, though you can pre-order up to 5 and the Tokyo Ghoul wiki lists up to 14. Still, it’s disappointing that everything ended the way it did, only to lead into this next series. I read manga because, well, it’s manga. I want the awesome illustrations to go long with my story. Transforming it into light novels takes away that experience.

So will I keep going? Hard to say. The fact that it’s not a manga is a let-down, so I don’t know. Right now I just know I’m disappointed.


Michael: I’m gonna spoil The Circle, but you shouldn’t watch it, so feel free to keep reading. I love the cast and the concept is intriguing, but the movie does a lousy job of making whatever point it’s trying to communicate. There’s one good scene that raises worthwhile questions about a) the relationship between truth and transparency, and b) the tension between those things and privacy. But the rest of the film is a mess.

It’s not the thriller that Marketing wanted viewers to think it is. Emma Watson is never in any physical danger and the only stakes are that if she leaves her job then she also loses the health insurance that’s finally helping her dad with his MS. That’s okay, though. It puts her in an interesting quandary and that’s enough. Should she stay with an employer with a ridiculous lack of boundaries and apparently no HR department? The movie could have explored that more fully, and I wouldn’t have missed the lack of fights and chases. But it’s not really about that, either.

I can’t tell if Watson is ever skeptical about the Circle’s participation policies. I assumed that she was and that her “yeah, yeah, no problem” attitude towards them was simply an attempt not to make waves in her cool, new job. But she never really puts up a fight and she’s just a bad evening and a pep talk from Tom Hanks away from completely buying what the Circle is selling.

She calls watching videos of other people’s experiences “a basic human right” and says that it’s selfish not to post experiences online for everyone to see. She hasn’t just drunk Hanks’ Kool-Aid; she’s swallowed the pitcher itself and the entire soft drink aisle. I kept expecting that at some point she would reveal that she was faking cooperation, but that moment never came.

There’s of course a confrontation between Watson and Hanks by the end, but there are two huge problems with it. First, the movie never reveals what it is exactly that Hanks is doing wrong. He’s full of terrible, harmful ideas, but there’s no explicit indication that he’s actually planning to use his collected data for evil purposes. The potential is certainly there and I wanted to see him stopped, but his final unmasking is nothing more than a revelation that he has secrets just like everyone else. Nor does the movie care about telling what those are. So the climactic showdown between him and Watson doesn’t have any punch, because it’s never clear what would happen if Hanks won.

The second problem is that Watson’s ideas are now just as harmful as Hanks’. She still believes in total transparency; her problem with Hanks is just that he wants to be exempt from it. So I’m not exactly rooting for her, either.

It’s not wrong that the movie ends with no clear answers. What I don’t like is how it phrases the question. It presents two, horrible solutions and asks which is preferable. There’s some discussion that can be had around that, but it would be so much richer if the film took its dilemma seriously and offered reasonable perspectives for viewers to contemplate.


J.L. Gribble: When I took a scriptwriting class in college, I learned that an integral part of films was the spectacle. This is especially true for movies set in the speculative fiction genre. This year, I also learned that spectacle should not be the only aspect of a film, or the entire thing falls flat.

I had such high hopes for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. You can read my full review as part of a Speculative Chic Sound Off! post, so I won’t rehash my problems with the plot and characters, but with the distance of time, my feelings haven’t mellowed. My husband was so excited for this movie, because he is a huge Luc Besson fan and the original comic was part of the inspiration for the first Star Wars trilogy. So, I was especially bummed that Valerian didn’t live up to my expectations based on his anticipation.

Ironically, this is the sort of movie that I would happily see a sequel for, though I doubt we will get one based on how much money the studio probably lost on it. I think it’s the type of story that does have potential once it breaks new ground, as opposed to rehashing a storyline that was appropriate (or at least less problematic to its audience) to the era in which the comic was originally released.

For now, I’m left to ignore the majority of the movie in favor of compulsively showing my friends some of the most brilliant and stunning few minutes of film-making I’ve ever seen. I’m happy to pretend that the entire movie is about humanity making it to the stars and finding fellowship, and ignoring Valerian and Laureline altogether.


Ronya: As a lifelong King fan, I eagerly awaited the film premiere of The Dark Tower (I wasn’t the only one), but alas! It was not the film I wanted it to be. Now, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the book series, mostly due to certain inexplicable events portrayed in it, but I found it enthralling nonetheless. I knew The Dark Tower in whatever form would be a difficult adaptation. I think the people in charge did a good job of letting fans get a look at the post-apocalyptic world of Gilead, and I can’t imagine anyone other than Idris Elba portraying the Gunslinger. But whereas the book The Dark Tower (inspired by Robert Browning’s 1855 poem “Child Roland to the Dark Tower Came”) is very much a slow western that introduces fantastical elements developed over the course of an eight-book series, the film did not linger long on settings or development, because it tried to jam the story and action of all the books into one film (while touting itself as a sequel to the books. What?). Ninety minutes, in fact. The writing was stilted; for example, the connection between Jake and the Gunslinger as fatherless sons felt shoehorned. Jake got a better ending in the film than he does in the book series, but overall the film has very little personality. It came off as a portal fantasy story rather than the sprawling epic that ties together the universe. And why-oh-why must we cast Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, who didn’t portray him so much as deliver a parody (complete with bumbling minions; hey Fran Kranz, I saw you there, and you could do better than this film). It felt like McConaughey was just filling the time between acting gigs. Jamey Sheridan did a far better job in the 90s The Stand miniseries. (For fans of the books, Cinema Blend has a nice rundown of the major differences between the series and the film.) I know this wasn’t perfect, but I definitely expected something more.


Nancy: Here’s the problem with superheroes ending up with non-powered love interests. Since superheroes are, by definition, extraordinary, their love interests, in order to be compatible, need to be extraordinary in their own way. So Clark Kent’s Lois Lane can’t just be a run of the mill reporter, she has to be a feisty, top-ranking, award-winning reporter. The TV version of Oliver Queen can’t just fall in love with any old hacker. No, Felicity Smoak has to be one of the the best hackers in the world. Relationships between superheroes and non-superheroes can work out, but all too often writers end up taking the lazy route, by turning these non-powered (usually female) love interests into damsels in distress. And while there is something moving about seeing the hero sweep in to save the woman he loves, that gets old, fast.

Apparently the writers behind The Flash didn’t get the memo.

During the season’s three mid-season finale, Barry Allen finds himself time-traveling to the future, only to see the love of his life, Iris West, skewered by the supervillain Savitar. It is a terrifying moment, calling back to the murders of his own parents. Barry desperately wants to keep this from happening. And I feel like that story line could have been okay, had it not been drawn out for fourteen episodes.

Photo from Arrowverse Wiki

In doing so, Iris West is put in damsel in distress mode for five months, cheapening a character who is plenty extraordinary herself, albeit not always in an obvious way. Over the years we have seen Iris display true emotional strength, picking herself up after the tragic the loss of her fiance, Eddie Thawn, forgiving her mother for abandoning her as a child, and accepting her long-lost brother, Wally, into her family with opens arms, just as she accepted the orphaned Barry Allen as a child. To see such a big-hearted, brave, and driven individual consigned to this role for more than half of a season was just too much. And the writers weren’t exactly kind to her in other ways. Partway through season three, Barry proposes to Iris because he thought that it would protect her. When he realizes his mistake, he pretty much breaks up with her. Yes, he comes back with his tail between his legs the following week, but it was just a dick move all around.

Fortunately, the series has made a much better use of Iris West in season four, making her a more active member of the team and giving her and Barry more room to explore their relationship over the course of their engagement. This feels like a step in the right direction for the character of Iris West, a journey I hope the writers will continue to follow throughout the rest of season four.


Kelly: When it comes to movies, I am more of a “wait until it comes out on HBO” than a “see it in the theaters” person, so I did not actually see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which came out in 2016, until this summer. I loved Ransom Riggs’ book series and wondering how they would translate to film since much of the books’ unique charm came from the bizarre, vintage photographs that Riggs found at flea markets and yard sales. I did have high hopes since Tim Burton was directing and he seemed like the perfect person to bring these books to life.

The film begins following the plot of the first book. Jake (Asa Butterfield) grew up on his grandfather Abe’s outlandish stories. After Abe’s violent and unexpected death, Jake insists on traveling to the orphanage in Wales where his grandfather spent his childhood. Jake learns that Nazi bombers destroyed the house, but when he visits the ruins, he finds the children still alive and well. He finds out that he, his grandfather, and the children are all peculiars and that most peculiars live in time loops to hide from the monsters who want to kill them. Jake, like his grandfather before him, is a special type of peculiar who can see the monsters. The start of the movie, when Jake meets the children and is drawn to Emma (Ella Purnell), the girl who is lighter than air, is enchanting. I loved the scene where Emma uses her abilities to allow her and Jake to explore a sunken ship. My disappointment came in when they try to cram three books’ worth of adventures into an hour-and-a-half long movie. Ransom has written some amazing characters, but you barely get to know any of the peculiar children other than Emma. The romance between Jake and Emma feels incredibly rushed. It’s hard to buy an undying love between two people who have basically just met. Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as the villain is cartoonish and over the top, making him more silly than scary. I also think that the plot of the movie would be extremely confusing to someone who hadn’t read the books. There were four The Hunger Games movies, eight Harry Potter, and even The Twilight Saga got five. It’s a real shame that this wonderful series did not get enough films to tell the whole story properly.


Shara: I had to think about this one for a while. Last year’s pick was so easy, because it was seared in my memory via rage. This year, I looked back at all of the entertainment I consumed, and I realized I did have something that stuck out in a frustrating way.

The treatment of Colleen Wing in Iron Fist.

Now, you might say that Iron Fist as a whole was a massive disappointment, and it was. Different parts of the show were interesting and even good in their own right, but as a whole, the show was a mess, which is no surprise, given the rumors I heard that production had been rushed (why, Netflix, why?). But what stood out as particularly egregious was Colleen Wing’s storyline.

When we first meet Colleen, she’s an independent woman with her own studio and has no problem telling Danny how it is. She’s an amazing fighter and laughably better than Danny. I didn’t even mind the inevitable love story (in theory; in practice it was a bit clumsy; the idea that Danny would be good at what he’s doing for his first time is hysterical — talk about male wish-fulfillment!). What I minded was the reveal (spoiler alert!) that Colleen was actually part of The Hand, and more to the point, she’d been brainwashed into thinking it was a good organization.

On paper, this could’ve been a fantastic conflict. In practice, as with most things relating to Iron Fist, it was terrible. Danny Rand is a kid in an adult’s body, prone to temper tantrums that would even make a toddler say, “Dude, slow your roll.” You can imagine his reaction to Colleen’s involvement is overblown at best. Perhaps I would’ve bought it if the script had been better written, if Finn Jones was a better actor. But I didn’t, and I couldn’t, because up until the reveal, Colleen was the absolute best thing about Iron Fist. It’s almost like the writers realized she was too awesome and decided to knock her down a few pegs, for fear of her upstaging whitebread boy Danny Rand.

Whatever the reason, Colleen’s character has been reduced to serving the rather boring male hero, and she hasn’t recovered since (nope, not even in The Defenders). Here’s hoping that the next time we see her, she’s written to her full potential (maybe even the next Iron Fist!), rather than get refrigerated for the sake of motivating Danny. I don’t have a lot of faith, though, so you may see me come back in 2019 to complain about this some more!

10 Comments

  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier December 28, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    So maybe in 2018 we don’t sacrifice the integrity of our female characters as an excuse to get our male characters riled up? Maybe?

    Reply
  • Lane Robins December 28, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Those all seem like really disappointing things, though I’m still reserving judgment on Valerian. Was it as good as I hoped? Not at all. But it also took me a couple watches to really embrace the Fifth Element, so I will have to watch it a couple more times before I decide if Dane deHaan sinks the movie or not.

    I didn’t get around to writing up my disappointment mostly because I could never figure out how to word it. Just… Thor: Ragnarok was too funny. And I know Taika Watiti was making a deliberate cultural choice to find the humor by undercutting the hero, but… I had a hard time with that in places.

    Reply
    • Shara White December 28, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      I agree: the humor was too forced in some places. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie overall, but there were definitely some areas where they were trying WAY too hard to be funny. I think I mentioned it in my Sound Off too!

      Reply
    • Nicole Taft December 28, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      I’m thinking I need to go into Valerian with the mindset of “enjoy it like you would Fifth Element” because movie is totally absurd and I love it.

      Reply
  • Shara White December 28, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    It’s a shame about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children…. the only reason I wanted to watch that one was for Eva Green, who I miss having on my tv since Penny Dreadful ended, but I am sorry to hear they tried to cram waaay too much into one film. Definitely not fair, considering how much time was given to other properties.

    Reply
  • Nicole Taft December 28, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    I had no idea they’d shoved ALL three novels into Miss P’s. I thought it was just the first book/movie thing they were doing and somehow screwed it all up. Now that I know it’s worse than that, I think I’ll stay far away and watch more rewarding things…

    Reply
    • Kelly McCarty December 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      It was so disappointing because the beginning of the movie was spot-on and it would have been a great movie if they’d just kept following the plot of the books.

      Reply
  • Kelly McCarty December 30, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    I’m not surprised by The Dark Tower because even though it looked cool, I didn’t see how they could possible jam an eight book series into one film and Matthew McConaughey was epically wrong for the role of The Man in Black. I am disappointed to hear about Beauty and the Beast, because even though I haven’t seen it yet, I thought it would be good. I’m wondering if Emma Watson is going to be like Jodie Foster, a great actress but not that great in romantic roles.

    Reply
    • Shara White December 30, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      I rather enjoyed Beauty and the Beast, but I imagine Emma Watson didn’t work for everyone in the role. You’ll have to let us know what you think if you ever get to watch it.

      Reply

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