/Answers: Our Most Profoundly Disappointing Movie Experiences

Every week in /Answers, we answer a new pop culture-related question. In this week's edition, tying in with the general reaction to The Cloverfield Paradox, we ask "What is the most profoundly disappointing movie you have ever seen?"

Jacob Hall: Men in Black II

Everyone remembers the first time they realized a movie could be bad, usually because it's accompanied by some sense of heartbreak. For years, young me thought there were two kinds of movies: movies I loved and then everything else. I didn't realize that a movie could hurt, that it could disappoint, that it could make you feel mental and emotional pain. Until Men in Black II.

Released in 2002 when I was 14 years old, Men in Black II was the movie to beat that year. I had seen the first one four times in theaters. I had watched the VHS tape until it was worn out. I could practically quote the entire movie from beginning to end. In retrospect, it's weird that I was that obsessed with Men in Black (although it is a very fun and very funny movie), but it had everything I wanted in a film. Aliens, gun battles, wacky comedy, astonishing special effects, etc. It was the whole package.

I vividly remember showing up to the theater to see Men in Black II and having to buy tickets for a later showing because so many were already sold out. I vividly remember taking my seat with my family. I vividly remember being pumped when the film began. And then, I vividly remember thinking things were off to a rough start. That it wasn't as funny. That it wasn't as exciting. That it...didn't feel right. The first Men in Black was a comedy, yes, but its world felt realized and lived-in. It felt like a movie with stakes. Its sequel didn't feel right. It felt...empty. Lame. Dull. Stupid. Cheap. Lazy. I remember trying to justify it to myself in the theater. I remember getting angry. And then I remember getting sad.

In a weird way, Men in Black II is one of the most important movies ever made for me. It taught me that movies can disappoint. It began my journey to discover why a movie can be bad. It made me consider the medium of film in a way I never had before. Thanks, Men in Black II. You suck. Truly and wholly. But thank you.

Chris Evangelista: The Cloverfield Paradox

I so very excited for The Cloverfield Paradox. Even before I knew what the dang title was (rumor had it as Cloverfield Station), I was all-aboard the Cloverfield hype train. The first Cloverfield is an excellent film, filled with existential dread. It's about the casual, mindless destruction of everything you know and love, and I still find myself haunted by its bleak-as-fuck ending.

10 Cloverfield Lane came seemingly from nowhere – a surprise trailer appearing a few months before release. Going into the film knowing very little about it, I was completely blown away by how well-written and well-acted the film was. I even love the big twist ending that a lot of people seem to hate.

So I was all-in on future Cloverfield films. I love the idea of the franchise: a series of big, weird, inventive genre pictures that aren't really related, but all exist under the same banner. When word came right before the Super Bowl that the next Cloverfield might drop onto Netflix following the game, I was thrilled. Here was a big, bold, unprecedented move perfectly in line with the mystery box nature of the franchise. Then, when the Super Bowl trailer confirmed that The Cloverfield Paradox would indeed be dropping on Netflix after the big game, I was practically bouncing up and down in my chair. I wanted nothing more than for the Super Bowl to end (spoiler alert: I don't care about sports; not even a little) so I could start streaming The Cloverfield Paradox.

And then I watched it. To be clear, the first 10 or 20 minutes of the film had me hooked. Everything was unfolding nicely. I was ready to be pleasantly surprised. Then slowly and surely, The Cloverfield Paradox proceeded to fall apart. It ended up being a rushed, poorly written, terribly directed sci-fi knock-off. Sure, the cast was great – but so what? A great cast alone can't make a film worthwhile. I still have hopes the franchise will get back on its feet, possibly with the upcoming Overlord. But for now, the Cloverfield name feels tarnished. I almost wish they would just re-release Paradox under its original title, God Particle, and pretend it had nothing to do with the Cloverfield franchise.

Hoai-Tran Bui: The Last Airbender

The Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series was not only one of the best animated series of all time, but one of the best series on TV period. Inspired heavily by East Asian mythology and Japanese anime styles, it could have easily been a messy amalgamation of hamfisted Oriental references and mysticism filtered into a kid-friendly cartoon. Instead, Avatar was one of the most richly realized stories I'd ever seen, and an ardent love letter to Chinese, East Asian, and South Asian cultures.

Avatar follows the story of Aang, a 12-year-old boy who is discovered frozen in ice by two siblings, who soon realize they have found the legendary Avatar, a powerful reincarnated being who can control the four elements of water, earth, fire, and air. And as the world is on the precipice of mass invasion by the dictatorial Fire Nation, Aang reluctantly shoulders the burden of saving the world. It's a simple hero's journey that we've seen time and again, but Avatar stands out thanks to its warm, complex characters and balance of zippy humor with weighty character drama. The character arc of the show's resident villain-turned-antihero, Zuko, remains one of the best redemption arcs I've seen on TV. I can't rave enough about Avatar: The Last Airbender, even 10 years after it left the air. Which is why M. Night Shymalan's The Last Airbender was such a severe disappointment.

Just bringing up the existence of this movie pains me. The Last Airbender was supposed to be the mainstream validation of all animation lovers — proof that even an animated Nickelodeon show could boast one of the best narratives on TV. Instead, we got a butchered, whitewashed version of the epic tale with the only people of color playing its hokey villains. Even the fight scenes, one of the TV show's greatest achievements, were embarrassingly boring. It lacked the rich characters of the animated series, and even its stunning visuals — something an acclaimed director like Shymalan operating on a blockbuster budget could have feasibly pulled off. The Last Airbender looks so dull and lifeless that it seemed impossible that it sprung from something as vibrant and exciting as the TV series.

I don't want to go into the specifics of why it was just so bad. It would traumatize me too much. Instead, I'll just give my highest recommendation to the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series and beg you to wash this movie from your memory.

Vanessa Bogart: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland isn't just a terrible movie, it is a parade of tasteless self-indulgence that marks the end of Tim Burton as we all grew to know and love him. It is on the very short list of movies that made me lean over to my sister and say, "do you wanna leave?" This was fairytale made by the man that gave us Batman, Batman Returns, Mars Attacks!, Beetlejuice, and so many more delightfully weird and unique films. I had every single possible reason to expect this to be spectacular. I mean, the director of Edward Scissorhands was taking a trip down the rabbit hole. It could have been glorious.

I should have listened to my gut after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but instead I wrote that off as just "not being my cup of tea." I should have paid more attention to that little voice in my head during Sweeney Todd that kept saying, "aren't some of these tricks getting little tired?" But still, I trudged on, grasping firmly to the good old days. However, Alice in Wonderland was so blatantly insulting, treating audiences like fish to be distracted by shiny tackle, that I was left heartbroken in the theater surrounded by the excited and applauding preteens that did not know the Tim Burton that I knew.

Matt Donato: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

Listen. I don't proclaim the Paranormal Activity franchise to be perfect, or consistant, or even ratioed towards freshness. Oren Peli's original Paranormal Activity scared me senseless (in theaters), 2 followed suit and The Marked Ones injected a boost of energy. The rest are all "meh" to "snooze", but I'm here to crown The Ghost Dimension my most profound cinematic disappointment. A film tasked with wrapping up one of this generation's most popular horror franchises; a juggernaut of jump scares and nighttime terrorization. Wavering fans like myself had endured plenty and deserved answers. And you know what Gregory Plotkin's movie gave us?

NOTHING. An empty, steaming plate of open-ended bullshit slapped in our face.

The film itself is a horrendous amalgamation of found footage generics and undistinguishable camerawork. Parents believe a dark presence inhabits their home, which is correct because Toby's back in town. We'd so far seen canon witches, time-hopping, monsters – a kitchen sink of satanic vagueness – but maybe 1% assertively plays into a young girl's interaction with Toby. Five writers were required to speed through Paranormal Activity's exposition and wrap the franchise on a wholly throwaway, vindictively unfulfilling final shot of complete dead air. None of them should be forgiven.

I've never been so invested in a film franchise that doesn't even have the gall to attempt hard-earned payoffs. Webs of connective ties snipped and left hanging. A demonic force six films in the making still displayed in cloud form, able to escape any parting glances. Katie's family, hours of pre-build, recycled character mapping...if I could go back in time, I would have stopped after sequel one. Films like Paranormal Activity 4 aren't worth the offensive display of audience disrespect at the end of this interdimensional vortex.

Disappointment, thy touch is cold and unforgiving.

Ben Pearson: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The year was 2008. I was a 23-year-old man in a theater wearing a homemade Indiana Jones costume, looking like a kid whose forgetful parents threw something together for him at the last minute on Halloween. The movie was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I walked in with hope, and walked out totally deflated.

There was no Star Wars: Episode I-level delusion that what I'd seen might have actually been good. I knew it was rotten as the scenes unspooled before my eyes. A nuked fridge. Mutt Williams swinging through the jungle on perfectly placed vines alongside a pack of monkeys. A swarm of CG ants. And aliens...so many aliens.

Growing up, Indiana Jones was my Star Wars. Raiders and Last Crusade are two of my favorite movies of all time. This was the first time we were going to see Indy in action since 1989! I was HYPED. But it was 2008. I was little more than a naive child, one who couldn't foresee that the economy was about to collapse, or that I was capable of feeling such profound disappointment in Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford. Here's hoping they all turn it around in 2020, but I've learned my lesson. I'm going in with low expectations next time.

Ethan Anderton: Spider-Man 3

I can't remember a time when I was so excited to see a movie and ended up completely turning on it in the middle of watching it, knowing this was something that I hated so much that I started laughing at it.

After loving the first two Spider-Man movies Sam Raimi directed, it felt like a no-brainer that Spider-Man 3 would knock it out of the park, especially with the introduction of Venom. Even the casting of Topher Grace as Eddie Brock (and eventually Venom) didn't turn me off because he felt like a great counter to Tobey Maguire's take on Peter Parker. The teaser footage that played Comic-Con preceding the film's release had me pumped beyond belief. Plus, Thomas Haden Church was at the top of his game after a recent comeback on the big screen. What could go wrong? It turns out everything.

Not only is Spider-Man 3 convoluted as hell, it's just plain goofy and dumb. From the way the symbiote turns Peter Parker into a jazz-loving Hot Topic employee to the positively weird turn that James Franco's performance takes after his head injury, there's just so much weirdness in this movie that it feels like Sam Raimi was trying to sabotage it (any many believe he kinda did). Before this movie was over, my friends and I were laughing at this movie, and even though it provided us with endless entertainment afterwards, it was still a massive disappointment.