In the process of making a film, a director has to make a multitude of decisions in order to get the project on the screen. Everything from a major casting choice to a camera angle for a random scene has to be taken into account, since it all comes together to convey various artistic meanings that viewers will interpret while watching the movie. This makes the job extremely tough and challenging since even the smallest thing has the potential to make or break a film.
We’ve already explored some instances where the filmmakers made the necessary moves to “save” their film from turning out horribly, but not every director is so lucky. Throughout Hollywood history, there are plenty of instances where someone makes a bad call along the way, and the entire film falls apart as a result. Here are Screen Rant’s 10 Decisions That Ruined Movies.
A Venomous Force
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is one of the watershed moments of the comic book genre, with 2004’s Spider-Man 2 raising the bar to exciting new heights. With the director seemingly at the top of his game, anticipation was incredibly high for Spider-Man 3. The enthusiasm fans had for the project increased tenfold when it was announced that the iconic villain Venom would be making his cinematic debut in the film, with Topher Grace infamously cast in the role of Eddie Brock.
However, once the movie was actually released, audiences viewed Venom as a wasted opportunity. It was later revealed that Raimi never had any intention of using the character, but Sony, aware of Venom’s marketability, forced the director to include him in the threequel, and the final film suffered as a result of trying to balance too much at once. The Sandman introduction and the culmination of the rich Peter Parker/Harry Osborne dynamic would have been enough to carry this film, so perhaps Sony shouldn’t have tampered with Raimi’s vision.
The Force is Strong With This Kid
Long before Star Wars: The Force Awakens was even a thought in a fan’s mind, the defining cinematic event of a generation was the release of the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace. Taking place 30 years before the events of the original film, George Lucas set out to finish the saga’s core story, showing audiences how Anakin Skywalker succumbed to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader. With visions of a destructive Clone War and a fleshing out of Anakin’s relationship with Obi-Wan in our heads, there was lots of potential for the prequels to deliver.
Of course, the prequel trilogy is viewed as one of the greatest disappointments in films for a plethora of reasons (Jar-Jar Binks, overused CGI, poor dialogue, etc.). But the most destructive nail in Lucas’ coffin was his decision to introduce Anakin as a 9 year-old in The Phantom Menace. Since he was so young, Anakin almost felt like a side player, reliant on the adults for direction. By the time Attack of the Clones rolled around, Anakin was considerably older (and played by a new actor), essentially a new character for the latter two films instead of showing the natural progression fans got with Luke.
This Ending Is Not Legend
The Will Smith vehicle I Am Legend, though somewhat plagued by scientific inaccuracies, is still a compelling bit of sci-fi drama, showing the dedicated Dr. Robert Neville (Smith) as a scientist driven to find a cure for a disease that wiped out humanity (giving rise to the “Darkseekers” that hunt Neville in the film). Though the decision to make the creatures completely digital (instead of prosthetics) was a controversial one, I Am Legend was dragged down by a choice that had far greater implications on its overall narrative: the ending.
In the theatrical cut, Neville learns that he has formulated a cure, and sacrifices himself so Anna (Alice Barga) can take it back to a human colony. Fans of the original novel were displeased with this deviation from the source material and prefer the “alternate” original take (available as a special feature on the DVD), which depicts Neville realizing that the Darkseekers are living individuals with feelings and are not meant to be saved. The whole purpose of the title is to illustrate that Neville is the “legend” (i.e. a “monster” like our Frankenstein or Wolfman) in the Darkseeker community, and because of some test screening reactions, WB decided to usurp that thought-provoking meaning for something more blockbuster-friendly.
Singer Doesn’t Return
Director Bryan Singer is perhaps one of the most important figures in comic book movies, as his first two X-Men films showcased how superheroes could be brought to the big screen in a way that both critics and fans could appreciate. After the huge success of X2: X-Men United (and the tease of the famous Dark Phoenix saga for the threequel), audiences couldn’t wait to see what came next. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Singer opted to not come back for The Last Stand so he could go helm Superman Returns. In came Brett Ratner and a franchise was derailed.
X-Men 3 borrowed from two classic comic storylines (Dark Phoenix and the mutant cure) and wasn’t sure which one to run with and develop. Each one honestly could have carried its own film, and in the case of Phoenix, longtime fans saw it as a colossal missed opportunity. Instead of displaying Jean Grey’s powerful new abilities and what she was truly capable of, Famke Janssen was stuck staring blankly in a red dress without much to do at all. To make matters worse, X2 co-writer Mike Dougherty has stated that Singer’s original concept for the third film was much more in line with the comics and would have made a better film. This decision sent the X-Men series down a dark path and it took Singer’s Days of Future Past to completely save it.
Batman for the Family
Though Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie gave audiences their first taste of superhero movie gold, Tim Burton’s Batman films are just as influential to the genre. Keeping true to the nature of the character, both Batman and Batman Returns were praised for being dark, compelling character stories; and Burton’s artistic sensibilities gave fans many entertaining moments. Even with several other cinematic interpretations of the Caped Crusader available, Michael Keaton’s version still holds a special place in many hearts and the actor remains proud of what he accomplished.
If only WB had stuck with him. After Batman Returns grossed less than its predecessor (due in part to parents’ complaints about the material), the studio decided to shift tones and make Batman a more family-friendly protagonist. Bringing in Joel Schumacher to replace Burton as director, Keaton dropped out shortly after (replaced by Val Kilmer), saying in 2014 that he turned it down because “it sucked.” After seeing the final product, many fans were in agreement with that assessment, as the series was stripped of what had made it so interesting in the past by embracing a campier edge (Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face) and what some considered to be excessive commercialism (in an effort to market the character to children). Schumacher didn’t have a clear vision for what made Bruce Wayne work (missing the captivating duality of the character) and the series reached a point of no return.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Trilogy
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most iconic film series of the new millennium. For several reasons, the movies drew unprecedented critical acclaim (including 11 Oscars for Return of the King) and scored huge box office totals, firmly entrenching the realm of Middle-earth in the zeitgeist. So when the Hobbit film adaptation finally broke out of development hell (to be directed by Jackson), fans everywhere celebrated. However, that quickly turned to cautious optimism when it was announced Jackson would split the single novel into three films.
Originally, the project was going to be two films; one based on the novel, the other a bridge set between the events of Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. But Jackson thought there was enough material for three features. While it does have its supporters, the Hobbit trilogy was largely seen as a big disappointment, since the relatively short novel was spread thin to cover the massive runtimes and forced Lord of the Rings references brought back memories of another maligned prequel trilogy. Jackson didn’t seem to know when to stop, over-indulging the films with CGI-heavy action sequences that were a far cry from the epic battles he did before. A focused, single film would have sufficed, and arguably would have been better (considering Jackson was still able to craft some standout moments).
Iron Man 2? Not Too Fast
Marvel Studios’ Iron Man was a minor miracle – in that it came together as one of 2008’s best films despite not having a finished script when it entered production. After it racked up the box office dollars and critical acclaim (and teased the Avengers Initiative), fans were impatiently waiting for the sequel. As it turns out, so was the studio, and Iron Man 2 became a well-documented rush job in the vein of the first one, only with more shared universe building to do.
We realized shortly after its 2010 release that the film was a weak link in the MCU, as in the early going, they weren’t sure how to balance the Avengers references with a solid standalone character story. A potentially compelling character story for Tony Stark (about a hero whose powers are also killing him) was sacrificed in order to introduce some Avengers material (a larger role for S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Mickey Rourke even accused the studio of diminishing his “complex” villain performance as Ivan Danko into a one-note caricature. With more time to put everything together, Favreau may have been able to catch lightning in a bottle again. As it turns out, it takes a little while to fully develop a film and its story, meaning that Marvel should have been willing to alter their release plans so a more complete film could have been made.
In Brightest Day, and CGI
After years of relying only on Batman and Superman to carry their film output, Warner Bros./DC sought to change things in a big way when they released Green Lantern in 2011. Though it was marketed as WB’s version of Iron Man, it was anything but. Derided by critics, the film struggled to cross the $100 million mark at the domestic box office, becoming one of the most disappointing comic book films in recent memory. The character’s reputation was damaged so greatly, WB is waiting until 2020 to put out another Green Lantern solo outing.
Once a project filled to the brim with promise, poor execution is what sullied the film and dragged it down. There seemed to be an over-reliance on CGI (see: the hero’s costume) with not enough effort put on the substance that would have made it a fun and entertaining ride. Director Martin Campbell (who excels with James Bond, we should mention) seemed out of his element as he tried to tackle the effects-heavy tale, saying that the process was daunting and admitting there was no real vision for the power ring constructs – creating silly action sequences that might have been more interesting with stronger direction and focus. Fingers crossed next time around, the Lantern Corp. gets a better script and the movie they deserve.
Fincher’s Fox’s Alien 3
James Cameron’s Aliens is considered to be one of the greatest sequels of all-time, so one can understand why fans were so excited for the series to continue in Alien 3. Especially once the atmospheric teaser trailer hinted at the xenomorphs coming to Earth to wreck havoc on the humans, anticipation increased exponentially. Unfortunately, the end result was a film that angered many longtime fans of the series (including Cameron) and failed to live up to the promise many believed that it had.
A young David Fincher was tasked with directing Alien 3, a process he hated so much he has now disowned the film. The movie was plagued by constant studio interference, as Fox executives overrode a majority of Fincher’s decisions and essentially assumed creative control over the project. Hindsight is 20/20, but as Fincher proved himself to be a more than capable filmmaker two years later with Se7en (and went on to have one of the most acclaimed careers of his generation), Fox might have been smart to just trust him and assume a “hands-off” approach. Also, before Fincher came on board, the original concept by screenwriter Vincent Ward was trashed – a version that is considered to be one of the best sci-fi films never made. Studio meddling rarely works out and Alien 3 is one of the primary examples.
2 Fast, 0 Diesel
Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto is the face of the Fast and Furious franchise, so it’s easy to forget that he actually sat the second installment (and most of the third) out. In regards to 2 Fast 2 Furious, the hope was for the star to return, but he turned down the offer due to the script not being up to his standards. Instead of revising the screenplay in a way that was suitable for Diesel (allowing him to come back), Universal commissioned a second script in the event of the actor’s departure, which made Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor the only original character in the film.
2 Fast 2 Furious is considered one of the weakest entries in the series, so the argument can be made that Universal should have worked things out with Diesel. With others like Mia and Letty out of the fold, the film felt more episodic than a natural continuation of the characters’ lives. Instead of seeing newfound friends Dom and Brian team up to take down a drug kingpin (which would have made for an entertaining narrative) and furthering developing their relationship, the movie largely suffered because Diesel wasn’t involved. Many critics felt that the sequel was missing whatever charm he brought to the first film, and given how enthusiastically audiences have responded to Dom (including his Tokyo Drift cameo), it would have been wise for Universal to sort things out as opposed to coming up with something new (and loosely connected) on the fly.
Making a film is hard, and every little thing plays a massive role in how a movie turns out. There are screenwriters and directors who are able to string together years of great luck and forge legendary careers, but even Oscar-caliber filmmakers are prone to a bad choice every now and then. Nobody intentionally sets out to make a movie awful, but sometimes it’s just what happens.
As always, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive, so be sure to share some of your picks for decisions that ruined movies in the comments section below.