Top 10 Awesome Concepts Wasted On Mediocre Movies

Credits: Rebecca Brayton Thomas Robinson

Script written by Michael Wynands

These ideas deserved way better movies. From The Purge, to Hancock, to Chappie, the movies failed to capitalize on their cool concepts. WatchMojo ranks the top awesome concepts that were wasted on mediocre movies.

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Script written by Michael Wynands

Top 10 Awesome Concepts That Were Wasted On Mediocre Movies

Oh, the wasted potential! Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Awesome Concepts That Were Wasted On Mediocre Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at films that, at their center, had a rock-solid idea, but which ultimately failed to do that concept justice, be it as a result of poor plotting, bad acting, unnecessary complications, or just generally poor execution across the board. Please note, we will not be including adaptations of high-profile novels, comics, video games, or remakes of popular films and TV shows.

#10: “Morgan” (2016)

This sci-fi horror film didn’t just squander a promising concept, it also failed to capitalize on its strong cast. Kate Mara plays Lee Weathers, an expert called in to evaluate a living science experiment, an organic hybrid A.I. known as “Morgan,” played by talented up-and-comer Anya Taylor-Joy. With Rose Leslie, Michelle Yeoh, and Paul Giamatti in tow, and a basic premise that opens the doors wide open for reflections on the definition of life, personhood, and scientific ethics, it had the makings of something remarkable. Unfortunately, it does very little with all this pote ntial, opting instead to go the route of the superficial sci-fi horror flick. Another “Ex Machina”… it sadly is not.

#9: “Law Abiding Citizen” (2009)

Somewhere out there in the multiverse, there’s a parallel dimension in which “Law Abiding Citizen” was a REALLY great film. Sadly… we’re not living in it. This film pitted Gerard Butler, playing vengeful vigilante Clyde Shelton, against Jamie Foxx’s Assistant DA Nick Rice. When Rice makes a plea deal with the man who killed Shelton’s wife and daughter, which sees the murderer get off light, Shelton takes justice into his own hands. It should be a sober reflection on grief and the justice system, but instead, it loses itself in its own self-seriousness, taking the plot into absurdly unrealistic places while failing to dig deep into the themes at the heart of the story.

#8: “Chappie” (2015)

Director Neill Blomkamp is an ideas man. “District 9,” “Elysium,” and “Chappie” - each boasts a promising premise, but taken as a whole, his filmography has been an exercise in diminishing returns. In 2015’s “Chappie,” a damaged and stolen police robot, newly implanted with an A.I. program, is raised by South African gangsters. Even done right, it was always going to be an odd film, but while this movie has heart, it’s just too clunky to ever come close to its narrative potential. Nonprofessional actors and a willingness to take both the story and the titular Chappie to overly silly places made this potential “E.T. for adults” into a messy misfire.

#7: “Jennifer's Body” (2009)

Every time you think that the horror genre has run out of ideas, a film like “The Cabin in the Woods,” “Get Out,” or “A Quiet Place” comes along to shake things up. In the lead-up to its release in 2009, “Jennifer’s Body” seemed poised to become just such a film - especially with “Juno” scribe Diablo Cody having written the script. A horror comedy with feminist themes, the film held serious promise, aiming to subvert the genre standard of objectified female victims, and investigate the intensity of female friendship, all the while empowering women. Unfortunately, all of that was largely overlooked due to the lack of quality laughs or scares.

#6: “The Purge” (2013)

When the first “Purge” film was released, horror enthusiasts collectively shook their heads in disbelief at the missed opportunity. The yearly purge, a 12-hour period occurring once per year, sees the suspension of all laws, so that people can emotionally cleanse. As a concept, it was fresh, thrilling, and wildly inventive. So what did the film do after getting us all amped up with the premise? Tell a small-scale home invasion story about neighborly envy and revenge. The premise, and its many implications, was used as an excuse to tell a horror story we’ve seen countless times. Thankfully, the franchise has at least partially made up for it in subsequent instalments.

#5: “Hancock” (2008)

“K.I.S.S.” usually stands for “keep it simple, stupid,” but how about “keep it simple, screenwriters?” Hancock made bank at the box office because, hey, there’s no denying that Will Smith action blockbuster star power. But it could have been a far superior film, one that succeeded at the box office AND got solid reviews. A down on his luck, alcoholic superhero with Superman-level powers, Hancock’s story is an interesting and unique one that we hadn't seen on the big screen - with built-in themes of loneliness and the burden of responsibility. Rather than keep it intimate, however, the film vacillates wildly between comedy and drama, complicating the plot with bafflingly unnecessary twists.

#4: “Suburbicon” (2017)

Racially-charged themes require a deft hand, especially when you’re approaching your subject matter from the angle of a dark comedy. In all fairness to George Clooney, who directed the film after having co-written it with the Coen Brothers and George Heslov, one can appreciate what he was trying to do. Heck, we wouldn’t be talking about this film if it wasn’t rife with untapped potential. Somewhere underneath all the mistakes is an insightful investigation of suburban life and priorities, the illusion of the perfect family, and a powerful commentary on racial prejudice. Unfortunately, none of that actually comes through in this film.

#3: “In Time” (2011)

A compelling concept is a prerequisite to any good sci-fi film. Unfortunately, even then, a quality movie is still far from guaranteed. Director and writer Andrew Niccol has done it in the past with films “Gattaca,” and in terms of concepts, we think he had another potential home run here. Unfortunately, it fell apart in execution. Starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, the film explores a world in which the time left in your life is also currency - something that can be earned, used to purchase things or… be stolen. Unfortunately, rather than dive deep into the potential commentary about capitalism, wealth inequality, and access to healthcare, it devolves into a simple futuristic Bonnie and Clyde/ Robin Hood story.

#2: “Waterworld” (1995)

Be honest, don’t you kinda want to see them remake this movie? Okay, maybe not a remake per se, but at least give the premise another go. In terms of post-apocalyptic futures, one in which the polar ice caps have melted and the world is largely covered by water is a premise that hasn’t gotten nearly enough screen time. This is a fascinating concept, and one that remains largely untapped. “Waterworld” was arguably sunk long before anyone saw it due to its much-publicized nightmare of a production, but beyond that, its greatest failure is the rather boring story it chose to tell in this otherwise fascinating world.

#1: “Transcendence” (2014)

Considering the beautiful cinematography he’s done while working on the films of frequent collaborator Christopher Nolan, people were understandably excited to hear that Wally Pfister was trying his hand at directing - especially since his debut film seemed like a thematically rich sci-fi thriller, not dissimilar to “Inception.” In the film, a brilliant researcher in the field of A.I. transcends beyond the physical, uploading his consciousness to a computer, and eventually, the internet. The plot brushes against a number of questions that feel incredibly relevant in our modern age… but fails spectacularly to say anything meaningful - instead telling a superficial story that falls painfully short of its high-concept and far reaching premise.

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