With an ever-expanding toolbox of visual trickery modern cinema has the ability to captivate audiences quickly with stunning looking films. The ubiquitous nature of CG, both the tidal wave of imagery and the more subtle enhancements, has given rise to a reliance on these tools and can leave us with a hollow film, orbiting an utterly redundant narrative populated with thinly fleshed-out characters.

Visuals are obviously a defining part of cinema and they matter a great deal – there’s probably an article waiting to be written here about visually bad films which are good films – but today  HeyUGuys have decided to bring out the films, So Far This Century, that are visually impressive or beautiful but are ultimately bad films.



Visually, Joseph Kosinski has created an impressive world thanks to film mostly on location in Iceland and a clinical and sterile approach he’s taken to represent the future, not counting the HAL reminiscent red bulb in the patrol droids. Even the visual effects are impressively gorgeous and sleek but that’s where the film’s good moments end.

The beautiful cinematography encapsulate a strained story with characters so quiet and pointless that really they are about as emotive as their robot counterparts. It’s not really that bad of a film, maybe it came too late as we’ve already had Duncan Jones’ Moon – even though the graphic novel was written before but remained unpublished. It’s a shame that this visually interesting world be only a scratch on the surface of a bigger story and characters who could give more.

 Tron Legacy

TRON: Legacy

Again we return to the work of Joseph Kosinski who clearly has a good eye for all things visual but his characters, narratives and dialogue suffer from his focus on looks alone. His stylised approach to filmmaking means he has beautiful CGI, accompanied by a fitting and gorgeous soundtrack, enveloping a story too cliché ridden to be anything other than average.

This mediocrity is a curse for Kosinski who has now twice created gorgeous artificial worlds but failed to deliver on a story. Both story suffer greatly from predictability and a cringing script. When Garret Hedlund says “this I can do!” about the TRON bikes, it has the audience wriggling uncomfortably in their seat. This lack of engagement in a story is why he needs a co-writer; one who can help him find a deeper story with fully realised characters and much better dialogue within these beautiful worlds.


Max Payne

It seems that everyone hates this film and there are many good reasons to do so. It took the story of the successful game franchise, the names, the origins of the character then threw everything else away to be left with a far less successful narrative. The writers completely disregarded the noted narrative from the game, with a well written character arc and interesting back story, and focused instead on a drug no one cares about.

There are some action scenes which are tolerable but the rest of the film falls utterly flat. It even misuses Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and Olga Kurylenko who are all capable of better things but suffer the indignity of the dialogue and dull story. The only special element of the film and that is the out-there aesthetic. Dark and ambitious cinematography help this become a much more memorable piece than it deserves, it managed to generate a great grungy atmosphere that the story never delivers on. There needs to be a successful videogame film soon – one that doesn’t rewrite the story but instead uses the best elements of it and tightens it.

Avatar 2


Once the 3D hoola calmed down it appeared that James Cameron had delivered a very pretty version of a very old story.  Creating a vast green planet, unspoiled by the rules of mankind, Avatar delivers great visuals from the Na’vi while the humans mine for the worst MacGuffin ever: Unobtainium. It’s lengthier than the story has to offer because it shows off this planet that has been created and will be explored in the ever-expanding number of  sequels.

Unfortunately, the thin narrative and standard story arc leaves this to be an arse-numbing, headache-inducing piece (thanks to wearing the 3D glasses for too long), with its saving grace only that it is eye-achingly beautiful; lush landscapes inhabited by an array of animals rendered in beautiful, detailed CGI. Everything about the visuals makes it hard to believe that it’s already four years old and will serve those looking for a visual fill but there’s not else to be offered by this celebrated outing.

 The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

A lavish misreading of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic has this eccentric retelling of the tale capture the razzle dazzle of the moment but none of the meaning. Baz Luhrmann can direct visuals and make everything look over the top but what he’s left with is a hollow shell of a far deeper book.

It has, thankfully, tried to capture the magic of the lyricism that the novel relies on by having the words fly on screen but then that’s countered by an awkward use of 3D; everything is crass, meaningless and completely unmemorable. It’s a shame because Baz has managed to capture the magic of the party scenes and made the film luxurious and extravagant but leaving little else to enjoy. Thanks to this dizzying, intoxicating reliance on the surface gleam it leaves nothing else behind except the memory of bright colours bouncing to a soundtrack of a different era that somehow mixes well.

 Prometheus David


Years after the mythology of Alien withered away, giving way to a number of less than impressive sequels, Alien vs Predator entered the cinematic canon and then, somehow, got an even worse sequel. Then something odd happened.: Ridley Scott was at the helm of  a new film called Prometheus which wasn’t directly an Alien prequel but “shares some DNA” with the universe. Now, everyone got stupidly giddy, the casting news wasn’t helping the buzz either because every actor or actress joining made everyone more and more excited.

Then something even odder happened: we got a two hour film where a lot is set up but very little actually happened. Few of the characters engaged on any level, their actions ultimately had no consequences. This may have been a disappointment narratively but it did boast impressive visuals. Michael Fassbender’s David walking in a holographic globe is one of the best looking scenes of 2012. Its saving grace is this gorgeous attention to detail on all of the sets and the CGI that manage to rescue it from being a complete and utter disappointment. Still, with an extended cut answering a few of the holes, a sequel to answer the questions we desire and a back of the mind thought to watch it again and pick up on new things, it’s not entirely a disaster.


Evil Dead

This may be an odd addition as it’s not particularly good looking visually but rather the effects are superbly impressive; gore wise it’ll satiate the most hungry of gore hounds, twitching for flesh and blood. It’s a shame that everything else in the film kind of falls to the wayside, making way to attack the characters in as brutal fashion as possible.

Characters are uncharismatic, annoying and empty props ready for torture. R-rated trailers of Evil Dead really did show the power of the gore and were utterly terrifying but it’s a shame that the terror didn’t transfer past a two minute mark. The awkward narrative and irritating characters don’t fill you with a sense of accomplishment when you die but just an expected feeling because of the dull predictability. It does look good. It’s a good looking horror film with gallons of blood gushing constantly but it’s a shame that nothing else happens, matters or is even interesting. Deaths are boring when you aren’t attached – much like the limbs it so lovingly chops off

  Public Enemies

Public Enemies

As the lengthy running time progresses there’s a realisation that this isn’t a slow burner but just slow. Mann’s film barely contains enough drama to really entertain, and takes the infamous gangster John Dillinger and hands the character over to Johnny Depp who then struggles to humanise his character. His opposite, Christian Bale, is a little more enjoyable with a tad more depth but John Dillinger is the reason for the film and there’s nothing remotely interesting happening to him. Only the stylish shots of Michael Mann who can capture scenes in a picturesque manner as he recreates the period.

Costuming, sets, cinematography and the interesting colour grading reign supreme in making this a good looking film which has detailed scenes establish an atmosphere which is then ruined by paper thin characters being given an almighty weight of humanity; a weight that they can’t bear to pull along in its patient manner. Patient usually insinuates careful hands deliberately pacing it this way in a positive manner but in this, it’s a much more pejorative term. Patiently producing nothing. An entertainment vacuum.