This formula spares a movie like, say, “Fifty Shades Freed” from inclusion, because honestly, the shock would have been if it wasn’t bad.
So as opposed to the worst, what were the most disappointing movies and TV shows of 2018? Here’s one critic’s by-no-means comprehensive list of the projects that evoked those dreaded thoughts of time spent watching that you’ll never get back — where possible, grouping the culprits.
“The Cloverfield Paradox”: Netflix dropped this bomb as a surprise on Super Bowl night, but only after watching did it become clear why Paramount, the studio behind it, decidedly to cut its losses by opting not to unleash this muddled sci-fi exercise on theaters.
“The Happytime Murders”: Melissa McCarthy and a lot of foul-mouthed puppets — from director Brian Henson, the son of Muppets mastermind Jim Henson — looked a whole lot better on paper, or maybe felt, than the movie did on screen, yielding an ostentatious comedy flop on most every level.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “Venom,” “The Predator”: Big dumb blockbusters are sometimes unfairly maligned, but even in that context, they’re rarely bigger or dumber than these three — consisting of a pair of high-profile sequels and an extension of the Spider-Man universe that largely squandered proven concepts and talent.
“Life Itself”: “This is Us” creator Dan Fogelman sought to migrate his “We’re all connected” formula to the big screen, in the process birthing a cloying movie that provoked far more irritation than tears.
“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”: Disney took two stabs at establishing big youth-oriented fantasy-adventures built around teenage girls (the other being the nearly equally disappointing “A Wrinkle in Time”), and although they weren’t terrible exactly, taken together, they felt like over-inflated Hallmark movies and conspicuous wastes of time.
“Vox Lux”: Natalie Portman’s toxic rock star was supposed to be grating, but so was the movie. And while some critics were wowed by its style, it was hard to get past the pretentious excess (beginning with the event that sets the plot in motion) and muddled message.
“Camping”: The producers of “Girls” tapped a good cast, led by Jennifer Garner, for an HBO adaptation of a British hit that provided little incentive to come indoors.
“Heathers”: Paramount Network’s adaptation of the 30-year-old dark comedy yielded a nasty series that was utterly tone-deaf, turning kids from historically bullied groups into the bullies.
“Nightflyers,” “Altered Carbon,” “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams”: All three of these sci-fi series came with intriguing literary pedigrees — based, in order, on a novella by “Game of Thrones” scribe George R.R. Martin, Richard K. Morgan’s novel, and the prolific Dick’s short stories. Alas, all fell well short in the execution, yielding dark but muddled drama.
“The Romanoffs”: Matthew Weiner look the creative latitude that “Mad Men” brought him and turned that into a self-indulgent, globetrotting anthology, with each episode loosely related to the ill-fated Russian royal family. Did the show make a case for watching? Nyet.
“The X-Files”: The previous season ended on an awkward cliffhanger, but the latest engagement went downhill from there — providing a signal that the key truth that’s out there is that this once-great franchise is well past its expiration date.