When it comes to movies, nothing hurts more than watching a great idea being terribly executed. Wasted potential is bound to happen in a creative field like moviemaking, but the curse of wondering what could have been is something that makes a bad movie even worse. From bad direction and a failure to understand an idea’s potential, to terrible writing that drive a clever thought straight into a wall, here are 10 terrible movies that unfortunately wasted excellent ideas:
10 47 Ronin (2013)
The concept: A fictionalized version of the famous Japanese “Ak? Vendetta” story about a group of 47 masterless samurai who go on a dark quest to avenge the death of their master. But there is a twist — instead of a classic samurai film, the story is reimagined with a fantasy spin that includes witches, giants and dragons, all based on very old Japanese folklore.
How it was wasted: For a movie that was sold as “Zack Sneider’s ‘300’ but in Japan”, you would think that “47 Ronin” understood that all it had to do was deliver cool characters and stylized action scenes to work. Unfortunately, with a director mainly known for making EDM music videos at the helm, the film turned out to be an empty drag with very little to show for. Despite some interesting visuals, the samurai story everyone wanted to see became secondary to forced relationships between characters the movie cannot get you to care about. Even the ever-so-lovable Keanu Reeves couldn’t save the disastrous “47 Ronin”, and it became one of the biggest box-office bombs of the decade.
9 Red Riding Hood (2011)
The concept: The classic story of the Red Riding Hood, but reimagined as a who-done-it murder mystery, in which the murderer we are trying to unmask is the notorious wolf (in this case, a werewolf) who hides as a normal habitant of the village during the day. Added to that is a stellar cast, including Amanda Seyfried as the titular character and Oscar-winning Gary Oldman as an eccentric witch hunter. Sounds like fun, right? What could possibly go wrong?
How it was wasted: First off, handing off a concept like this to the director of “Twilight” was probably not the best idea to begin with. Catherine Hardwicke turned what could’ve been a bloody horror/mystery reinvention of a classic fairytale into an incredibly boring teen romance with a supernatural twist that takes itself way too seriously. As a result, despite some competent performances (and the very strange fact that this movie was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio), “Red Riding Hood” was absolutely destroyed by critics and audiences upon release. And (naturally) the possible sequel that was set up at the end of the movie never arrived.
8 The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
The concept: A high-concept space thriller about a crew of astronauts who try to use a particle accelerator to provide Earth with infinite energy, and accidentally end up opening portals to parallel universes. The film reveals itself to be a secret prequel explaining why (and how) the events of 2008’s “Cloverfield” and 2016’s “10 Cloverfield Lane” took place.
How it was wasted: Despite a clever Super Bowl marketing campaign that nobody saw coming, “The Cloverfield Paradox” was a terrible misstep that completely failed at its promise to make the Cloverfield world come full circle. The film is full of unnecessary storylines and incoherent twists that actually create a substantial amount of plot holes within the story of the first two films, rather than making it all come together. Beyond it’s appealing aesthetics, “The Cloverfield Paradox” is a bland movie that makes less and less sense the more you think about it, even if it was meant to close an otherwise brilliant trilogy.
7 Gemini Man (2019)
The concept: Henry, an extremely dangerous assassin in his fifties, finds himself being chased by another, more vicious mercenary, who turns out to be a younger version of himself. Realizing he has been cloned, Henry goes on a quest to discover the origins of his double, while trying to escape him. Simply put, it is a movie about an older Will Smith fighting a younger Will Smith in a crazy ride of classic Hollywood action. How could anyone mess this up?
How it was wasted: “Gemini Man” is famous in the movie industry for having spent 22 years in development hell. In fact, previous versions of the film had most of the biggest actors in Hollywood attached to it — Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington and even Clint Eastwood were once considered to play the main role. But, alas, it is Will Smith who dawned the role of Henry Brogan, and it was a complete disaster.
“Gemini Man” was cursed with one of the worst written scripts this past decade has seen in major action blockbusters, and upon release, it quickly became clear that, beyond the exciting idea of having a CGI young Will Smith on screen, the movie didn’t really know what to with its own story, and couldn’t bring itself to justify being anything more than a 10 minute short film. It embarrassingly became 2019’s biggest box office failure, losing Paramount Pictures over $75 million in the process.
6 Tomorrowland (2015)
The concept: A sci-fi epic about a former inventor and a clever teenage girl who find themselves going on a crazy adventure, as they attempt to solve the enigma of Tomorrowland, a mysterious futuristic world that exists in an alternate dimension. Add George Clooney, Hugh Laurie and Britt Robertson as the main cast, and you get crazy hype for your movie.
How it was wasted: While “Tomorrowland” does a great job at building the mystery that forms its incredibly innovative core concept, it takes a brutal turn towards the third act that wastes all of the potential it has to offer. The movie suddenly decides to be “conscious” and throws away its excellent buildup and world building to hammer in a preachy message to the audience, a cheap trick that turned off critics and made the movie a disappointment for everyone. Ultimately, “Tomorrowland” lost Disney $140 million, and it completely disappeared from the world’s consciousness.
5 R.I.P.D. (2013)
The concept: A morally deviant police officer is betrayed by his partner over some stolen gold and dies in a coverup murder. In the afterlife, he is forced to join an ancient warrior of the Far West as the new agent of a special department of law enforcement that tracks down vacant souls who refuse to move on to the other side.
How it was wasted: Nothing about “R.I.P.D.” works. The movie is a completely incoherent mess with awful writing that only uses its interesting concept to make itself a lazy “Men In Black” ripoff, without any of the charm or swagger. While selling itself as an action comedy, it fails to be fun, and it definitely fails to be funny. Even the actors who starred in the movie admitted to being utterly disappointed by the finished product, and it is no surprise that “R.I.P.D.” became one of the biggest box office flops in cinema history.
4 Project Power (2020)
The concept: Located in the streets of New Orleans, a teenage drug dealer and a local cop team up with an ex-soldier to take down a group of people responsible for the creation and distribution of an extremely dangerous pill that gives its users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes.
How it was wasted: While having one of the most exciting concepts pitched for a movie in recent memory, “Project Power” ruins itself by overblowing the story with an impossible number of subplots. The director didn’t seem to know if he wanted the movie to be an action comedy or a poignant drama, and as a result, he attempted to do both at the same time. Despite incredible actions scenes and stellar performances by Jamie Foxx, Dominique Fishback and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the movie’s failure to keep a focus on the main plot rendered everything else completely useless.
3 The Mummy (2017)
The concept: When a reboot of the Brendan Fraser 1999 “The Mummy” movie was announced in 2015, people were skeptical. But, when it was added that the movie would be a starting point for a cinematic universe starring all of the classic horror characters (the Bride of Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man etc), and when it was later revealed that Russell Crowe had joined the cast to bring to life a new incarnation of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, the excitement went through the roof.
How it was wasted: “The Mummy” is now known for being one the most embarrassing failures in cinema history. Not only did the movie bomb at the box office, spectacularly losing $95 million, but Universal’s so-called Dark Universe that had been promoted for an entire year ended up being silently cancelled after only one film. Because, for some reason, Universal executives thought it was a good idea to reunite all of the greatest horror characters in classic cinema…to make an action-comedy franchise. What a wasted opportunity.
2 Legion (2010)
The concept: When the staff of an old roadside diner is attacked by demonic creatures, they learn that an army of angels sent by God was sent down on Earth to destroy humanity. Their only ally in their final stand is the archangel Michael, who came to protect a pregnant woman, as he believes her unborn child is Mankind’s last hope. Or, the short pitch: scary angels with guns.
How it was wasted: Despite a crazy idea that could’ve made for an epic and unique supernatural action-thriller, “Legion” only ends up running its amazing premise into the ground with a pretentious and melodramatic series of never-ending speeches to express feelings and (mostly) pointless exposition. The inherently monotonous and repetitive action sequences all lead to the most obvious ending possible, which renders this brilliant concept wasted to the fullest extant possible.
A sequel TV series to “Legion”, titled “Dominion”, premiered on SyFy in 2014, but was cancelled after 2 seasons due to rapidly declining ratings, effectively ending the franchise for good.
1 The Great Wall (2016)
The concept: In ancient China, a group of European mercenaries who find themselves imprisoned inside of the Great Wall of China, discover that a secret army has been defending the monument from its original threat — a mysterious race of alien beasts that crashed on Earth with a meteor and attack the wall every sixty years. In other words, a fantasy epic that offers an alternate vision of the mysterious history behind one of the biggest man-made wonders.
How it was wasted: A movie with this cool of an idea had no right to be as bad as “The Great Wall” ended up being. Unfortunately a wonky script and subpar direction, paired with a lazy “white man savior” storyline, made the film surprisingly boring, even at the peak of its action madness. And with one of the worst marketing campaigns we have seen in the last decade, “The Great Wall” crashed and burned at the box-office, putting studios $75 million in the hole.