Creating a new piece of pop culture can be difficult. Every year sees the release of thousands of movies, TV shows and games, so it’s critical that any new piece of media find a way to stand out from the crowd. Every once in a while that happens, and a creator comes up with a new idea that can’t help but be a success and they are showered with money and praise forever.
This isn’t about those times. This is about when a director or game designer gets as far as having a great idea before fumbling it in spectacular fashion. Whether it was poor writing direction or something else entirely, these five ideas are all crying out to be remade by someone who knows what they’re doing.
“Amy”: A Zombie Game Where You’re Already a Zombie
Developed by French studio VictorCell in 2012, players of “Amy” were placed in the shoes of a woman named Lana as she escorted the titular little girl through a zombie infested city. So far, so “Resident Evil 4”. The twist is that Lana is already infected by the zombie virus and players need to carefully manage their level of infection. Amy’s psychic powers, which every little girl in horror is contractually obligated to have, can be used to reverse the process, but there are times when being a zombie is useful. The game features a unique mechanic where a mostly zombified Lana can simply walk past the unleaded without them even noticing, allowing players to solve puzzles and scout ahead unnoticed.
Unfortunately, the game was a mess. Critically panned, “Amy” averaged only 33 percent on Metacritic. The game’s low quality and developer’s baffling decisions prompted IGN’s Colin Moriarty to say, “But the end result — a supremely muddled mess of controller-throwing frustration and piss-poor game design choices — makes Amy not only one of the worst downloadable games I’ve ever played, but easily the worst game I’ve played in recent memory, period.” Meanwhile, The Escapist’s Yahtzee Croshaw derided the game’s numerous bugs and criticized the decision to needlessly tether the player to an NPC with an annoying habit of wandering off.
Ultimately, the game bombed and VectorCell declared bankruptcy in 2013, relegating “Amy” to the scrap bin of the Xbox Live Marketplace.
“Terra Nova”: “Jurassic Park” the Show
“Terra Nova” was a science fiction drama that aired on Fox in fall of 2011. The plot revolved around a family from an ecologically devastated 22nd century relocating to a colony built 85 million years in the past. The “Jurassic Park” comparison is fairly obvious and very deliberate, opening with an action-packed premier full of all the machine gun on dinosaur action a viewer could hope for.
Unfortunately, that’s about were the similarities end as the dinosaurs quickly take a back seat. That in of itself is not totally unreasonable, special effects can get expensive after all. “Battlestar Galactica” succeeds not just because of the show’s impressive special effects, but because of the compelling human drama bridging the gaps between the main action sequences. Unfortunately, “Terra Nova’s” mediocre storytelling wasn’t enough to counteract that deficit, dooming the show to a single season. James Hibbard from Entertainment Weekly performed a thorough autopsy of the show back in 2011, with many of his criticisms stemming from the root cause of weightiness and overly simplistic writing. The major characters are all fairly bland, go through predictable arcs and have no real conflict with anyone other than a group of villains so cartoonishly evil that they wouldn’t have been out of place fighting Captain Planet.
“Gate”: Modern Soldiers Fighting Fantasy Battles
Premiering in 2015 and viewable in the U.S. through the Crunchyroll streaming platform, “Gate” is based around the premise of modern-day Japan being invaded by an army of Roman-inspired soldiers and fantasy monsters. The culture clash between a modern and medieval society seems like ample grounds for interesting drama, and pitting tanks and helicopters against trolls and dragons should make for some truly spectacular battle scenes if nothing else.
The problem with “Gate” is that seems totally uninterested in its own premise. After rampaging around Tokyo for less than ten minutes the invaders are immediately wiped out the instant the Japanese military shows up. There a few seconds of helicopters firing missiles at dragons, a few shots of some orcs getting machine-gunned, then the battle’s over. The first major battle in the fantasy world happens off screen and the remainder of the actual war is resolved in what is essentially a montage. This becomes a trend with almost every threat being eliminated the moment the Japanese Self Defense Force shows up. While that’s funny the first few times, it leaves “Gate ” without any credible threats and the bog standard cast of anime archetypes fail to pick up the slack. It’s actually almost impressive how generic the show starts to feel despite starting with such a unique premise, so at least the creators have that to be proud of.
“The Village”: An Amish Conspiracy Movie
M. Night Shyamalan is arguably one of the least popular directors working today, infamous for putting surprising the audience above basic tenets of good storytelling and common sense. As a result, “The Village’s” notorious twist ending is known to far more people than have actually seen the 2004 psychological horror film. For those unfamiliar with the film, revolves around a little blind girl named Evie who braves the haunted forest around her small village in search of medicine for her sick friend. The twist is that instead of living in the early nineteenth century as the village elders came, the village is actually a cult living in the modern era.
Critics and audiences alike hated the film, questioning the plausibility of the reveal and criticizing its lack of resolution. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert hated the movie, despising the flat characters and saying of the reveal, “To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream.”
“The Village” is a classic example of a movie that didn’t need a twist ending. A suspenseful thriller could have been built out of a little girl around in a haunted forest and the reveal that the monstrous is actually an elaborate hoax isn’t inherently a bad idea. Even the questionable plausibly of the scenario could have been salvaged by a good enough screenwriter, on who acknowledges the difficulty of pulling off such an elaborate illusion and incorporates those ideas into the plot. If the modern day setting had been established earlier on it could have lead nicely into a compelling mystery as the characters begin to pull apart the cracks in the Elder’s facade. Instead, the fallout from this particular bomb is so toxic that no competent artist would touch its remains with a ten-foot pole from behind a lead barricade.
Film-making, animation, and game design are difficult, time-consuming, and expensive processed, so it’s perfectly understandable that not every production is going to set the world on fire. Even great artists will churn out the occasional flop but what makes the media on this list stand out is their spectacular failure to live up to the potential of their own great ideas and as a result, dashed any hopes of a better version of the same concept seeing the light of day. Regardless of what ultimately led to a works failing, the real tragedy is seeing original concepts being relegated to the dustbin while the same tired cliches are trotted out time and again in popular media.