I did not hate most of these — some had quite a bit going for them! — but none quite made the cut for inclusion in the “best of 2015” list.
Avengers: Age of Ultron — An empty spectacle. It seemed like it was almost about something — Tony’s hubris, maybe? — but in the end… nope. I mostly blamed Marvel Studios and their tie-in requirements for other MCU films, but I was also disappointed in Joss Whedon as director. Seems like he could have done at least a little bit better. One thing I don’t blame him for, though, is the whole controversy about Black Widow and infertility which stormed through the internet after the film’s release. This seems to have been fueled largely by people mis-hearing dialogue and/or condensing it in a misleading way (as in this piece on io9.com), getting hopping mad about it, and posting about it on social media. Whedon claimed the vitriol that was dumped on him as a result was not the reason he suddenly quit Twitter, but I don’t fully believe him. One more reason to regret this movie.
Ex Machina — A lot of people were impressed by its “brainy” approach to the subject matter, but as someone who has a lot of familiarity with SF, I could see the plot twists coming a mile away, and my respect for the main characters’ smarts was damaged by their inability to do the same. I mean, what are the odds that this alternate universe that contains Alan Turing, Robert Oppenheimer, and even Star Trek (!) is devoid of cautionary tales about artificial intelligence? I did appreciate Oscar Isaac as an alcoholic mad genius (who really knows how to bust a move), but since he was also a complete asshole, my favorite thing about this film ended up being the cinematography… which seems weird.
Mad Max: Fury Road — George Miller turned it up to 12 in this installment of the franchise, which gave me some amusement — and I really dug the Many Mothers biker gang! But I was maybe the only person to find Furiosa a bit of a limp noodle — as played by Charlize Theron, she just didn’t seem bad-ass to me, and I wondered how she could possibly have become the only female in Immortan Joe’s army. It may seem unfair to criticize a film like this on the basis of realism, but believing in the main character (and no question, Furiosa is the main character, not Max) is kind of important in a tale of righteous rebellion, IMO.
Crimson Peak — This could have been great if del Toro had just juiced it up a little. More secrets, more ghosts, more sex… something. At the very least, someone should have been dumped into one of those vats of bubbling red goo in the basement! Instead it ended up being merely OK.
Mockingjay: Part 2 — Something just felt badly edited and off about this film. It tried to cover too many plot points in too little time and the result was a bunch of boxes checked off rather than a truly engaging experience. In retrospect, I think the only film in the series that was really good — as a piece of cinema — was the second, “Catching Fire”. Too bad, because I really loved the books.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens — I appreciated the relatively diverse casting, but the lack of any originality and the numerous plot holes left me feeling… meh. I suspect you have to be a) someone who loved the original Star Wars or b) completely new to it to really enjoy this. On the plus side, I quite liked some of the related materials and commentary that came out afterward.
Agent Carter & Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — To some extent, I enjoyed both of these, but neither is original or meaningful enough to really stick with me. And it was frankly annoying that a crucial piece of Black Widow’s back story (an exploration of the Red Room) was buried in an episode of a prequel television series.
Game of Thrones, season 5 — The Dorne plot: even more pointless than in the books. And then Myrcella! And Sansa! And Shireen! Argh!!
Elementary, season 3 — Season 3 began very well (“Bella” might be the best Elementary episode ever), but once the Kitty Winter arc ended halfway through, the show just marked time until the end of the season. Disappointing, and season 4 hasn’t been wowing me so far either.
Daredevil & Jessica Jones — Daredevil was decent at first, and I enjoyed Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Wilson Fisk a great deal. But the end was underwhelming, and my most lasting feeling about the show was that its approach to violence was hypocritical. If it’s so important to Matt Murdock that he not resort to killing, he should maybe take more care with his crime fighting methods instead of whacking everyone six ways from Sunday – in a very graphic & thrilling fashion – then leaving their broken, unconscious bodies behind.
Jessica Jones did not have this problem, and overall felt like a more mature piece of storytelling. The theme of sexual trauma and the perpetrators who so often don’t seem to understand what the big deal is has relevance to a lot of people’s lived experience, and feels urgent and meaningful. However, this show also had some big pacing problems in its latter half that kept it off my “best” list. Maybe Marvel should consider shorter seasons?
The Magicians Trilogy — Quite entertaining in a cynical, smart-ass way (it made me laugh out loud a few times), it ended up being a pretty self-involved white boy’s fantasy. The author’s foray into another perspective with Julia’s story in the second book was actually quite interesting and effective… until the end, which concluded with what I will describe only as an overly familiar character-defining moment for a woman in fiction, which was both highly disturbing and disappointing. The third book was inoffensive in comparison and had some cool surreal imagery, but the end felt like more of a reset than a transformative experience.