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From Red Notice to Black Widow, the most overrated films of 2021

From bad endings to lacklustre performances, 2021 saw a few film duds even though they had promised much more. 

  • Shreya Paul

  • OTTplay

Last Updated: 04.18 PM, Dec 27, 2021


This year finally saw a beaming ray of hope with fans returning to theatres after a one-year hiatus. With a huge backlog of tentpole projects hitting the big screens, audiences were spoilt for choice. From Marvel bigwigs to indie hidden gems, 2021 was all about the “return of cinema.” Yet, the popcorn-munching crowds were left underwhelmed by few flicks that missed the mark by a mile. Here’s a lowdown on the ones that made big promises but failed to deliver.

Army of the Dead
The film had initially hinged on Dave Bautista’s WWE image and the general badass attitude that he so seamlessly brought on screen, but it instead ended up depicting him as an emaciated shadow of his glorious self in Guardian of the Galaxy. The characters in the film were randomly thrown in together and the audience were expected to get invested in them, without proper context. For example, Geeta’s character (played by Huma Qureshi) was vague and almost underdeveloped, drawing no sympathy from viewers. The film even had gaping plotholes that were never resolved. The use of the “zombie logic” was faulty, especially the bit about the prodigal zombie baby. The added clincher was the fact that the people who hired the crew to break open the safe were completely unaware of its passcode, a fact that not only seemed hilarious in retrospect, but also went down badly with audiences. The character arcs in the film were extreme and did not depict any nuances. They were spectral opposites to each other, either too good or too bad.
Black Widow
Black Widow was billed as Marvel’s vehicle to introduce a single character (that of Yelena Belova) who is somewhat relevant in Phase IV of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Having the narrative handicap of portraying Black Widow as already dead (which happened in Avengers: Endgame), the makers did a poor job of depicting her origin story as well. Both films based on the female superheroes, Captain Marveland Black Widow, were almost consolation films in the MCU, developed under mammoth pressure from fans that needed these characters to also have a backstory. While they did wonders for the Marvel franchise, these projects barely got the same attention as tentpole films like Iron Man or Captain America. More so, these films did very little in highlighting the importance of these characters when regarded on their own.
The ninth installment in The Fast and the Furious series, F9 was criticised by many true fans to be lacking in any sizeable plot. The franchise’s character and stylistic tropes were completely done away with, and it slowly began morphing into other action-adventure series like the Mission Impossiblefranchise or even (I daresay) the James Bond films. The film also included unnecessary subplots and characters, making it seem like director Justin Lin made these changes just to pack the film with as much possible so that viewers would overlook the paper-thin storyline. Worthy of mention is the film’s sequence of launching a car into outer space, a fact that went down very badly with the franchise’s fans, who even compared it to the ludicrousness of an Abbas-Mustan action thriller (where are them scientifically-impossible plot twists at?)
The Woman in the Window
The Amy Adams feature underwent a series of date shifts ever since Fox decided to adapt AJ Finn’s novel. After multiple change of hands, Netflix coming on board hardly had any effect on the film. Following the much-hyped Gone Girlphenomenon, The Woman in the Window was a tentpole project that boasted of a stellar star cast including A-listers like Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, Brian Tyree Henry, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Yet, the performances were underwhelming, and the plot revealed too many details as Easter eggs. The predictability of the events was so in-your-face, someone might actually question if the film was a spoof on murder thrillers. Ham performances aplenty, The Woman in the Window successfully relegated Oldman and Adams to two lesser performers in a particular scene where they are to have a ‘cathartic’ exchange. They huff, puff, scream and shout at each other, making the scene lose out on its empirical value. Shoddy plot points were introduced within the narrative to make it more suspenseful, but the move went largely unnoticed, since the ‘surprise’ elements barely passed muster. The weakest link in the film is undoubtedly the climax, where a simpering Adams makes for a less-than-engaging damsel in distress.
Red Notice
Even though the film had an A-list star cast, most performances fell flat. Gal Gadot, who descended from her mammoth success of Wonder Woman, was a fitting antagonist for most part of the film but failed to create much impact with her colleagues pulling her down. Ryan Reynolds’ slick avatar was another rehash of his precocious, know-it-all persona in Deadpool. Similarly, even though Dwayne Johnson’s outing as John Hartley showed promise of being a new addition to the actor’s repertoire, it ended up becoming another version of “Johnson in the Jungle”. The technical aspects of the film failed too, making the CGI sequences almost impossible to sit through. Many critics even wondered what the $200 million budget was for. Even though the plot takes audiences through a virtual tour of some of the most exotic locales -- a cruise off the Cayman Islands, a jungle in Argentina, a wedding in Cairo and a masquerade ball in Valencia – the one-note colour palette of yellowish red made the film insurmountably boring and unenjoyable. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s hackneyed treatment with the lens (concentrating mainly on wide angle shots) also proved that there was little space for any innovation, making the film lifeless and drab.
Godzilla vs. Kong
The Adam Wingard directorial was one of the few that pitted the two beasts against each other. Billed as a sequel to Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the film was the first to depict the ‘monsters’ in an unsympathetic light. The film’s seemingly altruistic attempt at showcasing global concerns failed miserably, making it a phoney commentary on environmentalism instead. The film was also grossly insensitive and short-sighted in its mission to highlight a world crisis. The physical damage aside, Godzilla vs Kong’s narrative failed to give any meaningful insight into the psychological trauma that such a calamity would have caused. The biggest narrative discrepancy is in terms of Godzilla and Kong’s moral status. Touted as the “good guys,” both have an unrelenting support system that plays alongside the narrative, telling audiences that they ought not to be obliterated. Yet, their actions cause widespread destruction in the universe that the film so painstakingly builds. Plot wise too, the film is unnecessarily stretched and could have done wonders with a tighter hand at the editing table. Even the climactic battle was not enough to redeem the lackluster film.

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