The Worst of 2022

We’ve presented The Best of 2022 in our previous post; now, it’s PSA time πŸ˜‰

Fortunately for you, it’s going to be a much shorter post. There’s no need to wallow in misery of the disappointments and unfortunate choices, or to taste the lingering, unpleasant rot of bad books, movies and TV series more than strictly necessary. And also, this past year was marked by careful deliberation and lucky strikes on our part, thus rendering the list of the bad and worse rather short.

Ola: Let’s start traditionally, with books. My biggest bookish disapointment of 2022 was, in a way, something to be expected: Joe Abercrombie’s The Wisdom of Crowds (2021) did not constitute a sudden dip in quality, a remarkable pivot in writing skill or storytelling panache; on the contrary, this was a culmination of a long and winding way to perdition through the sins of authorial hubris and sloth. This was the moment of parting ways between me and Abercrombie, and although I’m certain he and his fanbase won’t notice my absence, it does bear some significance for me – a confirmation of a long-held suspicion that grimdark is in its essence as juvenile and simplistic as whatever it rages against.

My next disappointing read came from Netgalley and could serve as the illustration of the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Gideon Defoe’s An Atlas of Extinct Countries (2021) promised a fun romp through history and geography, but emphatically did not deliver. Avoid this like a plague. Ooops, these days this saying kind of acquired additional meanings ;).

The title I want to mention belongs to the manga category. One of them is Tite Kubo’s Bleach, a long-time fan-favourite which proved so traumatically bad that I renamed it to Bleh. If you want to see the worst in manga, you don’t need to look any further. Try Bleh, or One Punch Man, and you’ll realize manga also has its tropes, weaknesses, and shameful pandering to the lowest instincts of teenage boys. To be fair, there were also some pretty weak volumes of Naruto along the way, but I am willing to overlook their weaknesses because they are followed by some truly great ones. That’s the thing about manga – it lasts for hundreds of volumes, and inevitably some of these will be fillers, but for the titles I read and love the overall quality remains astonishingly high.

And lastly, one re-read. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Even the wonderful narration of Stephen Fry couldn’t help this rotten egg of a book. Oh, the teenage angst! As I mentioned in my GR review,

“It’s way too long, boring and terribly angsty, and for me it’s simply the worst part of the whole series. I had a hard time going through the entire book, because Harry’s angry special snowflakiness just grated on my nerves so much. Also, the glaring logical holes that this time around I couldn’t overlook even when I tried.

It was a re-read, and sadly looks like none of HP books can entirely live up to the first encounter – the first time around this one got 6/10 stars ;)”

Piotrek: I had some strong candidates to my “Best of 2022” lists. “Worst of…” lists aren’t as full. I was cautious in my selection, and most of the things I did not particularly like where kind of good, just not my thing.

Two things I rated quite low were R.A. Salvatore’s “The Legend of Drizzt” and a Polish biography of Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The second one is easy to judge – a hastily put together and published in March, to quickly cash in on his sudden popularity, but devoid of any deeper analysis, just a bunch of facts you can find anywhere and totally hagiographic. I admire the guy, but I expect more from book authors.

Salvatore… I read several D&D books in elementary school and revisited a few in my 30-ties, basically all were disappointments. I’ve listened to a few interviews with Salvatore and he’s a perfectly nice guy, full of anecdotes about the industry… so, I’d rather listen to him speak that read his books. I feel a bit guilty now.

The other thing that wasn’t a travesty, but that I enjoyed far less than I thought I would, was K.J. Parker’s series, or at least two first volumes I’ve read. Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City was ok, not brilliant, a bit too trying to be funny, more anachronistic than I like… I gave it 7/10 for originality. How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It I think just cashes in on what readers like about the first one by giving us more of the same, even more exaggerated and, for me, it was just too much. Did not try the third one.

Ola: I quite enjoyed Sixteen Ways…, but not enough to read the sequel. I’d agree it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s pretty solid. The fact that it merits a mention on our The Worst of… list means you’ve had a really great reading year!

Piotrek: Sixteen Ways… isn’t really part of the list, but the sequel is.

Two comments on Ola’s choices. When it comes to Order of Phoenix I remember liking it a lot, when I read it looong time ago. Now my 9yo niece is reading it for the first time, so I’m very curious about her opinion. I don’t feel a strong urge to re-read HP, and I read a lot of fanfics some years ago, so I’m no longer sure what is actually canon… but reading such a harsh opinion seems like a heresy to me.

“Bleach” is quite old and I read it years and years ago, perhaps close to 15. One of the first serious epic mangas I read. And I quite liked the first archs, enough to read a lot of this never-ending saga, long past it stopped making any sense. It’s a great illustration of all the traps many manga authors fall into – often due to pressure from publishers, no doubt.

Ola: Now, for the visual media. Disney rules in this category for me, as all three TV series on my The Worst of 2022 list were produced by the House of Mouse. The inglorious first place should probably go to Obi-Wan Kenobi, a truly horrid -and horribly efficient – effort to destroy everything that was fun and cool about Star Wars. Man, don’t let me start on this. This series is like a Greek tragedy on a meta level: the actors are in constant search of the plot, but their quest is doomed from the start. Their roles are written so badly and cringily that I am almost ready to believe in a high-level Disney conspiracy to kill the Star Wars franchise by any means. The amount of messing up the chronology and logic of events, as well as the psychology and motivations of the protagonists of the original trilogy (notwithstanding the efforts by Lucas himself to botch it all in his second trilogy) is simply staggering. Who said you cannot rewrite the past? Disney certainly proves them wrong :P.

Second place goes to She-Hulk, which I was able to see only one episode of. And believe me, I wish I could erase this experience from my memory completely. I actually needed to make sure it was actually only one episode, for a fraught moment I was certain this lasted for a whole eternity of damnation. The sheer pride this series displays in showing off its stupidity is astounding. Also, the “feminist” angle which suddenly is all about reversing paternalism and not equality is truly mind-boggling in 2022. A revenge fantasy about a powerful green woman who’s better at everything than men. Really? Is this what the producers think women need? Even if there’s an audience for this kind of narrative, Shrek did it better – funnier, and smarter.

Third place goes ex equo to the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher – which I stopped watching after a couple of episodes, as it was too freaking irritating to bear any longer, a truly astounding exercise in being as far from original as possible – in intent, motivation, execution, and the story itself – and to Disney’s Willow, which was so incoherent and illogical, in mood, plot, characters and everything except for nice views, that I am baffled to this day as to the very idea behind this series. I enjoyed the original movie, and have a bit of nostalgia for it, but never considered it a masterpiece requiring any sequels, or prequels, or much thought, really. And yet, the new Disney series really made me think about the way the movie and tv production works these days. It seems you don’t really need a script. Or a plot. Or believeable characters. You just need a vehicle for monetary gains. Spin it right, get some known names attached to your project, and people will pay to watch whatever shows on the screen. Willow isn’t horribly bad per se, like Obi-Wan or She-Hulk, but isn’t good either. It tries to be funny, very hard, but fails. It tries to be wondrous, but only manages to ape more successful shows and movies, stealing everything from everywhere and mangling it all into a haphazard collage of pieces that just don’t fit. A collection of bratty teenagers on a quest could’ve been fun, at least in theory, but not when injected with a lethal dose of Mary-Sue-ness and a suicidally high factor of unlikability of the characters.

Anyway, let’s end this litany of sadness. Last, but not least, is the worst movie of the year. Ta-da!!! I present to you The Matrix: Resurrections. There were so many things wrong with this money-grab ill-disguised as a movie that I finished watching this and was speechless. Not even spluttering, mind you. No, I simply didn’t even want to start talking, because what can you say when there’s simply no redeeming quality in sight? It was a minute of silence for what had started so splendidly back in 1999 as one of the most ambitious and mind-bending SF movies of all time and degenerated into a regurgitated, repetitive, misused, illogical sequence of unrelated scenes devoid of any emotional or intellectual content. Part vanity project, part money-grab, part personal therapy and part “oh, we’re in deep shit but so much money was invested we’d be litigated out of our minds if we don’t finish this hateful, useless trash,” the newest Matrix is a dirge for both the ambition and imagination of the Wachowskis and for an era of original cinematic content.

As I said to Bookstooge in the comments,

Don’t watch Matrix 4, it’s a crash and burn through and through, an absolutely demeaning experience. I was more sad than angry afterwards, kind of guilty of even watching it. It’s like watching a train wreck, or a revered elderly person making a drunken, nasty fool of themselves, you know? An implicit in it is the fact that through observing it you’re somehow being affected, and getting that awful miasma on yourself.

Piotrek:I haven’t seen Kenobi, She-Hulk nor The Witcher, not past the first seasons and that was when it premiered. I find it kind of funny Ola even risked watching all these πŸ˜‰

Ola: What can I say? I’m an intrepid explorer in the name of greater good πŸ˜›

Piotrek: But I really enjoyed Willow. Is it in any way great? No, obviously not. It’s pretty, silly, but enjoyable. My nostalgia for the original movie, I think the first fantasy movie I remember seeing as a kid, definitely made me want to like it, but I also wanted to like Drizzt – and I just couldn’t. This, I did, and I’ll watch the rest when it arrives.

2022 movies… haven’t seen many of them yet, let me think. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was silly, but not in an enjoyable way. I don’t remember much after a few months and this is probably a blessing. The Gray Man, a spy thriller with Gosling and Evans, was a high budget catastrophe with some nice scenes, but an absurdly dumb script. All this money could have been spent so much better.

Altogether, a great year, I just hope I’ll be as good at avoiding bad stuff in 2023 πŸ™‚

48 thoughts on “The Worst of 2022

  1. You two are way too soft, a bunch of blogging pansies as it were. Where’s the blood? Where’s the rage? Where’s the moral outrage against your irreplaceable time wasted, nay, outright pissed on? I say “shaaaaaaame”
    hahahahahaa!

    I could do better myself about not giving so much attention to the bad stuff.

    I must admit, I keep being curious about matrix 4. Not enough to pay anything, but should it ever show up free on Prime I know I’ll watch it.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m usually pissed right after I waste that time and energy πŸ˜› Half a year after, I’m assuming a more philosophical approach – can’t be bothered to waste any more time or energy on that piece of crap πŸ˜€

      That said, don’t do it to yourself, Bookstooge! Don’t watch Matrix 4, it’s a crash and burn through and through, an absolutely demeaning experience. I was more sad than angry afterwards, kind of guilty of even watching it. It’s like watching a train wreck, or a revered elderly person making a drunken, nasty fool of themselves, you know? An implicit in it is the fact that through observing it you’re somehow being affected, and getting that awful miasma on yourself.

      How’s that for the blood? πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 4 people

        1. And I went in high on optimism, really wanting to love it. I’ve heard rumours that it was partly a big “eff you” to Warners by the one Wachowski who made it. Nothing confirmed though. What upset me was it felt like an “eff you” to the characters and the fans as well.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Exactly. I felt it personally, as if someone just came up to my door and pooped on my doormat. Whether it was intentional or an accident, I don’t really care at this point. It was a breach of trust between the authors and their audience for me.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. piotrek

              Well, I disliked movies 2 and 3 so much, I don’t care about the franchise any more… I treat the original Matrix as my only canon one, although Animatrix was quite cool

              Liked by 1 person

  2. First of all, I rarely waste my time on a bad novel. Mostly because I’m not picking up a book that didn’t get at least a 4 stars review from some reviewers I trust. And I’m also not starting to read any series before they’re finished and got overall good reviews from said reviewers. This has me in the comfortable position that I don’t have to waste my energy on ventilating some negative energy born out of a sense that I’ve wasted some of my increasingly becoming crucial time. Not to mention that my schedule allows me only one book a week.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a solid strategy. I used to employ it but found out that I like to shake things up from time to time. It gives me the opportunity to be pleasantly – or unpleasantly – surprised πŸ™‚ And if I can warn others in the process, or get into a fun discussion about demerits of a book or movie, all the better! 😁

      Like

  3. Great post! I also found The Wisdom of Crowds an immense disappointment and it feels like we’re the only ones who feel this way. It’s strange. All the fantasy junkies out there just gobble that shit up. They find it good because it made them feel so bad.

    Obi Wan Kenobi, She-Hulk and Willow I didn’t even consider for watching, this year. I’m not vey good at watching TV shows. I never get through them.

    By the way, what does PSA time mean? Prostate-Specific Antigen? Professional Sports Authenticator?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Re: PSA 🀣
      It’s American acronym for Public Service Announcement; I think I’ve encountered it first when I was living in the US as a teenager. We apply it here mostly as tongue-in-cheek description of the role of this post, which is to warn others about the perils of certain titles 😜

      I have similar trouble with TV shows as you do, but then I can rarely get through a movie in one sitting… So for me TV series is like a movie divided into several parts 😁 I had a so-so year in movies with the exception of titles mentioned in the previous post; I was dismayed by Once Upon a Time in America and neither House of Gucci nor Northman made a favorable impression on me. Morbius was awful, and I didn’t even dare watching the new Marvel output, as it simply couldn’t have been any good at this point.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. And as for the Abercrombie crap, yeah – I am as surprised as you it has such good reviews. As if people didn’t really read it.

      Anyway, thanks, Jeroen! It’s always so much fun talking with you! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    3. LOL I already felt that way halfway through the 2nd book of the First Law series.

      As for Disney: I basically gave up on Star Wars. Tried The Mandalorian a couple of months ago, but gave up after 1 episode – slow, pretentious, boring. Same for Andor.

      Anyhow, great post, I always love these more negative things. They say as much as the positive post, sometimes even more.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Yep. Abercrombie gave me a few moments of reading enjoyment, but that’s about it.

        You should give Mando a second chance πŸ˜‰ First episode is not indicative of the whole. Andor get slightly better after 1st episode too, but for now – nothing to write home about indeed.

        Thanks, Bart! πŸ˜€

        Liked by 2 people

  4. The series about Obi Wan was indeed a huge disappointment, although it was just relieved by the peal of laughter you provoked when you wrote about “actors in constant search of the plot”, which is a perfect definition (epitaph?) for this series. Thankfully Andor went a long way toward reinstating my faith in the franchise.
    As for The Witcher – and from the POV of someone who did not read the books – I was mildly intrigued by the first season and thoroughly bored by the second: I will probably not follow a third one….
    And here’s to hope that for 2023 this post will be far less “crowded”! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Maddalena!
      I’m watching Andor now, and it’s indeed way better, though not on par with The Mandalorian for me. I really want to see live-action admiral Thrawn, though – still have some hopes for Ahsoka!

      Yes, here’s to a better reading and watching year! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

    2. piotrek

      On Star Wars – because we already discussed Witcher on many occasions here – yes, I feel the same. But there’s so much SW now we can simply pick and choose, no one would have time to see it all anyway.

      I had a chance to watch A New Hope with my nieces recently, first time for them, and that was a better experience than any of the new stuff, they were so enchanted πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This was a lot of fun! You started off saying that you didn’t want to name too many of the bad stuff consumed but man, it felt like you’ve both endured some tough stuff nonetheless and had a lot to say about them too hahahaha

    Bleach was a nostalgic reread for me. It got worse as I got further and further into the series and I’m no fan of the final story arc. However, I loved the action scenes, especially the first story arc, and everything is just much more fun to enjoy as an anime. The last story arc just got adapted after a HUGE gap (cancellation) and people are praising it (I haven’t tried it and am not sure I will too).

    I did laugh out loud at She-Hulk’s mention here. I still have to get through that myself. And it’s because I dread what I’ll find that I still haven’t made time for it. The same applies to the last Fantastic Beasts movie.

    I hope 2023 will be a better year for you guys in regards to the bad stuff you land upon! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Lashaan! We just kept our PSA promise, warning you against all that trash πŸ˜€

      I think Bleach is the most misoginist manga I’ve ever encountered. Male teenage wet dream put on paper. Ugh.

      Don’t do it to yourself, Lashaan, don’t watch She-Hulk! I’m worried about your potential mental state afterwards… πŸ˜‰

      Yeah, 2023 is shaping up pretty good for now – I’m just binging on Jujutsu Kaisen! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was lucky with the books I read last year. Part of this is down to careful selections. My main problem was not reading as many as I would have liked. I read a lot of comics and can name my favourite comic as Mark Millar & Matteo Scalera’s ‘King of Spies,’ a four-part mini-series about a retired James Bond-like spy who decides to return to action to take out the “real” villains of the world.

    The worst comic of last year was the first issue of that new Tim Drake Robin series. It was just terrible for so many reasons, mostly for the bad writing and character assassination.

    I’m with Ola on her disappointments in TV & Streaming Series. It’s hard to choose the worst series I watched. It’s between Kenobi, Rings of Power, She-Hulk, S2 of The Witcher, and The Sandman. (Kenobi and Sandman are the only ones I actually finished watching. I gave up on the others.) Kenobi & She-Hulk take a joint first place in the Worst of 2022. The Sandman was the most disappointing for me because of how much I loved the comics growing up. The audiobook Sandman has been fantastic and I’ll stick with that and the comics.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Wakizashi!

      Haven’t watched The Sandman; I’m not overly invested in the comics yet, so maybe it’s a good time to take a peek at the TV series πŸ˜‰. I’m not going to watch Rings of Power at all, I don’t expect anything good from it at this point – and I’m saying this as a person who despised the LOTR movies for their dumbing down of the source material and the general infidelity to Tolkien.

      I’m burned so badly on Disney-MCU output I don’t think I’ll be watching any new series. For Disney-SW I still have hopes for Mando ansd Ahsoka, as I liked the Rebels animated series and I have a soft spot for Thrawn after reading Zahn’s books πŸ˜‰.

      As for comics, I moved entirely to manga for the time being – couldn’t stand the repetitiveness and stupidity of the new Marvel/DC comics. I’m gobbling up Demon Slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen, and having the best time! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

    2. piotrek

      Oh, pity you didn’t like The Sandman… I enjoy the comics, audio adaptation and the TV show, I’m just a dedicated fan πŸ˜‰ A bit conservative, but quite a faithful adaptation I believe…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The main problem for me was how boring it was, how slow-paced. Never mind all the “changes” to characters and story. As a HUGE John Constantine fan, I really disliked Clara from Doctor Who’s interpretation… But good to hear you enjoyed it!

        Liked by 2 people

  7. “grimdark is in its essence as juvenile and simplistic as whatever it rages against”<< I think I'm slowly beginning to think this too the more grimdark I read. I haven't read a lot, but I've liked most of what I read.
    And for a long time Order of the Phoenix was my least liked HP book because of all the angst and how much of it Harry spends misplacing his anger.
    Hoping to try Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City sometime this year.
    I liked Witcher season 2 a lot, but I don't think it's as strong as the first season. And I agree about The Gray Man. I can't even remember what happened in that show. And ditto that Dumbledore movie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. piotrek

      I think I’m taking my Grimdark in smaller doses, so I’m not yet tired, I haven’t even started with Abercrombie’s second trilogy… but I will, one day, to verify these negative opinions πŸ™‚

      Like

    2. Which HP book is your least liked now, Zezee? πŸ˜€

      I enjoyed grimdark, cautiously, until I didn’t. I guess it’s like with everything else – there’s a moment when you’re getting fed up with even the tastiest food if you eat it all the time, because it all tastes the same πŸ˜‰

      Like

      1. I think it’s still Order of the Phoenix, tbh, lol! What frustrates me is that Sirus dies, supposedly because he hates being cooped up in the house, which makes no sense to me when there are things like Polyjuice Potion around.

        Lol, I get what you mean.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, I totally get what you mean about Sirius. It felt like Rowling just went “let’s kill someone important to show how high the stakes are. Lupin? Mr Weasley? Let’s toss a dice! Oooh, sorry, Sirius, you’re dead.” But my enjoyment was totally killed by brattiness of Harry. I. Just. Couldn’t. Stand. It. 🀣🀣🀣

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree that Wisdom of Crowds fell a long way short of Abercrombie’s usual. Most of it was trying to make random aristocrats’ executions feel different than the last bunch. It felt very copy and paste to pad out the word count.

    I also fell out of love with the Legend of Drizzt VERY soon. It felt like it was written in much the way you might read a bed time story. And it was very much read in that way by the audio book narrator😭

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Abercrombie fell in love with his own rendering of the French Revolution; it was rather sad, really. The worst part is that he seems to have figured out that this series is his cash cow; he will keep zombiefying it until his own retirement, I’m afraid.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I tend to agree with Ola about the fact that not everything need a prequel/sequel/do-over and that we have a lot of lacking with scripts and characters. I watched the second season of The Witcher and I was bored by it. A lot! While I have not yet watched Willow (and I am still on the fence with that one) but I am sorry it didn’t work for you! (But glad that Piotrek enjoyed it!)

    Like

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