Fantasy films have been one of cinema’s greatest genres for the creative mind to exhaust its imagination. The 2010’s didn’t see a great plethora of contributions to fantasy the way it did science-fiction, especially when compared with the decade before it, which gave us The Lord of the Rings trilogy, several Harry Potter films, as well as a series of quirky one-offs like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
The last decade seemed to wane in quality where fantasy was concerned, with Peter Jackson releasing his divisive Hobbit trilogy and Mortal Engines. There were also two more contributions to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, each slightly more lackluster than the last. Whether the fantasy genre as a whole didn’t produce anything standout, or it featured characters that simply failed to connect with audiences, or both, here are 10 of the worst new fantasy characters of the decade, ranked.
10 HESTER SHAW (MORTAL ENGINES)
Peter Jackson’s next fantasy adventure promised another round of grandiose spectacle, but Mortal Engines failed to capture the wonder and excitement of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Perhaps because its premise involved a dystopian future, where cities have become ginormous vehicles roaming the barren landscape for resources.
There are a few loan characters that spring up with appeal, Tom Natsworthy, which The Umbrella Academy’s flamboyant Robert Sheehan infuses with his usual quirkiness, and Hugo Weaving, a veteran genre actor only too suited for scene-stealing villainy, but then there’s the main heroine herself, Hester Shaw, who is so cryptic for the sake of being mysterious, and so tragically underutilized, that no one cares whether or not she lives or dies, or saves the day.
9 HENRY TURNER (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES)
For anyone who thought that Orlando Bloom was a simpering pup as callow blacksmith Will Turner in the original Pirates of the Caribbean, it should come as no surprise that his son Henry Turner is no different in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
The fifth film in the franchise makes everything about the ordinarily rollicking adventure series feel tired, showcased best in Johnny Depp’s phoned in performance as Cap’n Jack Sparrow searching for the Trident of Poseidon. But Brenton Thwaites demonstrates exactly why the part of the dewy-faced lover was better in the hands of Bloom; it takes screen presence more than a pleasing countenance to keep from becoming a terrible stereotype.
8 BLACKBEARD (PAN)
There have been several attempts to ignite love for James Joyce’s Peter Pan, and few have come close to fan-favorite films like Disney’s animated version or even Spielberg’s ’90s cult classic Hook. The ’00s already had a dismal Peter Pan film which was only saved by Jason Isaacs as Captain Hook. So it only makes sense that the 2015 version would chuck Pan’s iconic nemesis and feature Blackbeard. Right?
Except this time Blackbeard is played by a very steampunk-meets-goth Hugh Jackman, who attempts to be as flamboyant as Robert De Niro’s pirate captain in Stardust and fails miserably. Add to that a very Caucasian Tiger Lily with Rooney Mara, and you can see why this Pan origin film failed to fly.
7 FABIOUS (YOUR HIGHNESS)
There’s a surprising amount of talent stuffed into Your Highness, the raucous comedy that answered the question of what happens when you combine The Princess Bride with Cheech & Chong Up In Smoke. Danny McBride and James Franco star as brothers Thadious and Fabious, the former dim-witted and lazy, the latter dashing and determined.
They’re trying to save a young maiden from being impregnated with a dragon by an evil warlock (a hilarious Justin Theroux), aided by warrior babe Natalie Portman. James Franco’s Fabious proves that even in magnificent costumes with big-budget special effects around him, he can’t stop being a version of Saul Silver. Everyone else at least attempts a character.
6 NIMUE THE BLOOD QUEEN (HELLBOY)
We hate to put Milla Jovovich on this list, as she’s a veteran of genre films with the Resident Evil franchise, but her appearance in the 2019 version of Hellboy was some of her least appealing work. The tragic nature of the performance comes down to her approach and the material she had to work with.
The film was David Harbour’s (Stranger Things) starring vehicle, but didn’t test well with audiences when its trailer was first released, and the film itself is a narrative soup of ideas and concepts. Harbour brings a thoughtfulness to the brutish antihero, a demon raised by humans, but Jovovich brings no such depth to Nimue the Blood Queen. She’s a shrieking, two-dimensional villain that remains a banal archetype throughout the entire film.
5 AZOG (THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY)
Tolkien fans weren’t sure that The Hobbit needed to be a trilogy of films, especially considering the brevity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book concerning Bilbo Baggins and his journey to the Misty Mountains. It became immediately apparent it probably didn’t with characters like Azog added for filler.
Azog the Defiler, “King of the Orcs” and claimer of the Mines of Moria, was mentioned in passing in the story, and already killed by Thorin Oakenshield’s cousin. That he appears in the film at all with such a significant part, rendered in CGI that’s more amateur than what was used in The Lord of the Rings trilogy ten years prior, is a sign that even great directors like Peter Jackson need to curtail their creative genius.
4 SNOW WHITE (SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN)
Snow White and the Huntsman attempted to turn the Brothers Grimm story into something more substantial than a damsel in distress fairytale. However, just because Snow didn’t need the kiss of a prince to wake her from a death-like sleep, didn’t mean she didn’t need a man at all. The prince was simply swapped for The Huntsman sent to kill her by the Evil Queen.
Charlize Theron portrays Queen Ravenna with a juicy amount of wickedness, and Chris Hemsworth is suitably gruff and charming for a rogue, but Kristen Stewart as Snow White is such a prominent mistake that it pollutes the good portions of the film. She was cast due to her large fanbase, not due to her ability to make Snow White more of a complex character than in the original story. She was wisely removed from the sequel.
3 OZ (OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL)
The part of the Great and Powerful Oz was originally intended for someone with more charismatic screen presence. Both Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr. were courted for the role, but in their absence, the part went to James Franco, who had the mighty task of shaping the origins of the famous character.
Oscar Diggs begins the film as a con-artist and magician who’s part of a traveling circus. When a tornado strikes, he’s sent in a hot air balloon to the Land of Oz, where he gets caught up in all the shenanigans happening at the Emerald City. His performance lacks the energy and infectious sense of wonder necessary for the role, and he spends the entire time leering at every available witch that appears in the film, from Glinda to Theodora.
2 LAURELINE (VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS)
A veritable buffet of sci-fi fantasy glitz and somehow, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets managed to feel monotonous and dull. Packed with stars and full of CGI spectacle, it should have been a success by consumer standards, but perhaps characters with names that sound like dental hygiene drugs prevented that.
Cara Delevingne looks and sounds like she would be an enigmatic ball of charisma in any movie she’s in, but as in Suicide Squad, she simply doesn’t imbue Laureline, a tough celestial soldier, with either. Instead, her and her beau Valerian attempt to engage in pithy banter while lampooning through a movie that looks like a rave in space.
1 TAURIEL (THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG)
For better or worse, J. R. R. Tolkien didn’t put any women in his Fellowship, and he didn’t put any women in his cohort of dwarves (and one hobbit) that made the perilous journey to reclaim the Misty Mountain treasure trove from Smaug. Peter Jackson took it upon himself to correct this, and while concocting his cinematic adaptation of The Hobbit, created Tauriel.
She was played with gusto by Lost’s Evangeline Lilly, a Silvan elf and captain of the guard who patrolled the borders of Mirkwood and caught the eye of its prince, Legolas Greenleaf. However, she didn’t have much to do over the course of three films except be the love interest, and her very presence reminded viewers that she (like so much of the films) was filler.
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