Having managed to piss off a fair proportion of folks with a sledgehammer approach to critical analysis of the Blockbuster film experience, I figured I would expand on what constitutes a shit film. In the process I will serve up some sacred cows as juicy steaks, so be warned that there will be a fair amount of pain and anguish. Just because you might think something is out of bounds doesn’t mean I’m gonna play nice. My slice ‘n’ dice of the first decade of the “Blockbuster” (as summer ‘event’ films seem to be regarded) follows thus:
Star Wars has a shitty script. Yeah, the first film. Sure, I’m talking about the one which inspired a religion. Yes, I know it is a cultural milestone. Doesn’t change the fact that there are plot holes so large that I could fly the Millennium Falcon through them. Blindfolded. With one hand tied behind my back. It doesn’t mean the film itself is worthless – it is brilliant in several regards, foremost of which is the appropriation of Lensman’s light-based weaponry. George Lucas ain’t no writer, as he has proven with the 1990s trilogy. It was also the 1990s films which showed up the fact that he ain’t much of a director either, but that is neither here nor there.
Superman. Do you need me to explain why a musical interlude in the middle of a superhero film is a bad idea? The rest of the film is fine, but Margot Kidder singing? I would rather listen to Danny Boyle explain (for the millionth time) how Slumdog Millionaire is meant to be a ‘feelgood’ film.
Jaws 2. Two words: shit floats.
The year that gave us Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and Alien also puked up Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in which nothing much happened. The film is so slow that I felt my fingernails grow as I was watching. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the hideous costumes, abysmal acting (“The Shat” really earned his nickname with this film) and pornographic indulgence of the special effects were too much to bear.
If anyone has the balls to defend Xanadu I’ll be amazed. Popeye was a mistake writ large, while The Empire Strikes Back didn’t so much end, as abruptly stop with the main characters looking out of a window. I thought there would have been a final scene filmed for Empire, but nobody else seems to notice the lack of emotional closure for the characters. Too busy imagining what a better director would have done with the material maybe…
Superman II introduces arbritary powers for the main villains, ups the comedy and lowers the tone of the franchise – sowing the seeds for Quest For Peace, while The Cannonball Run manages to squander the talents of a host of brilliant actors.
Rocky III signals the beginning of loud, obnoxious films which have no significant point to them, other than giving the viewer a headache and nausia. Star Trek II continues to plunder the Star Trek corpse, as Poltergeist shows that horror films don’t need to be scary… Wait. Uh… Yeah, that’s the whole point of horror movies. Add Poltergeist to the shit list as well.
Not exactly a stellar year for good movies – Blue Thunder, Psycho 2, Superman III and Trading Places… The third Star Wars film seemed to be a good bet for entertaining space opera, but the best Return Of The Jedi could muster were fucking annoying Ewoks running around a jungle, Princess Leia reduced to a sexualised stereotypical damsel in distress (after a stronger presence in the second film) and poor comedy moments. It would have been better ending the franchise after the Holiday Specials. At the least, it would have been more merciful.
Star Trek III. Proving that even overweight men get to captain starships isn’t adding realism to SF. Seriously. Fat Kirk? Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom manages to waste time on a romantic subplot which feels tacked-on, because – obviously – Harrison Ford doesn’t need questions raised about Indy’s friendship with a little boy. 1984 also gave us the wonder that is Police Academy, the longest running comedy movie series in which you will find no comedic elements whatsoever. The gags which did work (and were honestly funny) were better when they were filmed years earlier – in films which earned the label ‘comedy’.
The producers of Rambo: First Blood Part II probably thought they were going to get some brains with their brawn, but Stallone (and the funniest accent since Kenneth Williams) is as monotone as he has ever played a character. The Rocky saga reached it’s fourth entry (incredibly, it was worse than Rambo), and had little in the way of deep insight. Raging Bull (released five years earlier) played on the same tropes as Rocky, yet managed to provide the audience with a complex main character rather than a cartoon figure masquerading as a human being. 1985 was also the year in which Cocoon served up stereotypes and character traits instead of real characters.
Just a list: Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee, Raw Deal, The Delta Force, Highlander, Howard The Duck, Maximum Overdrive, Three Amigos… If you can still savour films after sitting through that lot, then you have a better constitution than I. “Wait,” you cry, “What is Highlander doing on the list?” Apart from the accents, the needless pyrotechnics, the cheesy lines, the jarring tonal shifts, the clumsy plot, the poor FX and the historical innacuracies, it is actually quite a good film.
The Untouchables rewrites history, badly, and gives special appearances by the camera operators in-frame… Spaceballs. I don’t need to qualify that with any explanation. Even the Nightmare On Elm Street series had given up anything remotely resembling plot, character or setting in order to make the villain (a fucking child molestor!) into a comedy routine. If Lethal Weapon can be considered a film, then it also goes on the list, but I prefer to think of it as cruel and unusual punishment. Show that shit at Gitmo, and every motherfucker in the joint will be claiming they are Osama bin Laden, just to end the pain…
There you have it. Ten years of film distilled in one easy blog. If I can bear the memories of another ten years of awful films I may continue…