Friday Question: Movies with Great Ideas, Poor Execution?

TGIF everyone! Certainly glad the weekend is approaching. Well, another week of blah at the cinema, nothing opens this weekend that I really want to see. Seems like aging Hollywood actors dominate the big screen with Stallone starring in Bullet to the Head, and Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Christopher Walken makes up a trio of aging con-men in Stand Up Guys. They all face off against a bunch of young’un zombies in Warm Bodies.

For today’s post, I thought I’d open things up for discussion on a topic that certainly every moviegoer has an opinion on. It’s a subject matter that’s been covered frequently by movie editors and bloggers alike, but it’s always fun to revisit again as there are perhaps as many movies that fit into this ‘great concepts, poor execution’ category than those we consider great or rubbish. I think science fiction films ‘suffer’ the most, though of course it’s not limited to that genre.

InTimePosterA perfect example is In Time. This movie actually came up in a discussion at a happy hour after work the other day. Someone mentioned how fascinating it was to imagine living in a world where time is a currency. The rich can live forever but the rest of the population wish they could “…wake up with more time on my hand than hours in the day.” That’s what Justin Timberlake’s character said in the beginning in the movie.

I really like this concept but the direction just lack a certain finesse that prevent this from becoming a sci-fi classic like say, Minority Report. In my review I said that a capable director like Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott could’ve taken this intriguing oncept to new heights.

I had issues with Timberlake’s casting and I’m convinced that another, more skilled actor would’ve been far more compelling to watch, but I think Andew Niccol’s direction is an even bigger issue. Somehow the whole thing felt like a frivolous action movies where a bunch of good looking young stars simply look cool running around, getting involved in shootouts and car chases without any real sense of danger. It’s a shame as the store could’ve been explored more in-depth and the film could’ve been more thought-provoking.

My pal Ted offered up three more examples:

AugustPosterAugust (2008) – This little seen film about the downfall of dot com boom in late 90s/early 2000s starred Josh Hartnett as the Founder/CEO of a hot tech start-up dot-com company. The film showed how he ran his company to the ground and went from being worth $200mil to basically being broke.

Since I’ve been involved in many tech start-ups, I was excited to see this film. Unfortunately it was poorly-written and directed. Instead of focusing on how he ran his company to the ground, the film only focuses on how big a big of jerk Hartnett’s character was to his friends and family. By the end of the film, I wanted to punch his character in the face. With a concept like this, they should’ve hired a more experienced and talented director/writer instead of some no name director and writer. What this film got wrong, Fincher and Sorkin got right when they made the excellent The Social Network a couple of years later.

EscapeNY_PosterEscape from New York (1981) – I actually thought this was a very good film but I wish it has bigger budget because it’s such a high concept idea that I didn’t think it got executed properly. It’s not the filmmakers’ fault, I mean Carpenter and his crew did their best of what was available to them. There’s been talk about the remake the last few years and I’m actually looking forward to seeing it. With today’s technology and bigger budget, it could be an epic action film that the original wanted to be.

FirefoxPosterFirefox (1982) – This was a rare espionage thriller that Clint Eastwood had made. It’s about a pilot (Eastwood) who was sent to Russia by the CIA to steal an advance jet fighter that the Russian had created. I really like the script; it has everything you want for a spy film, unfortunately I thought Eastwood’s direction was very clunky. It’s probably because he hasn’t done this kind high concept film before and I felt like he’s in over his head. It’s quite a big budget production for its time but the special effects looked awful, again the technology just wasn’t advanced enough for this kind of high concept idea.

I think John Carter is another one that came to mind, though I still think the film isn’t nearly as bad as what the critics made it out to be. But given the significance of the source material that actually inspired such a lucrative franchise like Star Wars, it could’ve been far more memorable. To a smaller extent, the film I saw recently, Puncture, also comes to mind. I mentioned in my review the similarity between that and Michael Mann’s The Insider, both based on a true David vs Goliath story involved in a legal battle. Whilst Mann’s direction was riveting from start to finish, this one just wasn’t nearly as engrossing. Sure you could say that Chris Evans just isn’t Russell Crowe, but while that’s certainly true, the main problem I have is with the style and direction of the Kassen brothers. It happens to be their film debut, so I guess that explains it.

Well, there’s no shortage of such movies and Hollywood keep churning them up, too! In fact, a lot of great concepts from a variety of sources, be that books, graphic novels, what have you, get butchered by poor execution in film adaptations.

So what movies you think have great potential but the intriguing concept is botched by poor execution?