Thursday, December 10, 2009

The 10 Worst Movies of the Decade

The last decade was a great one for movies, save for one disturbing trend: the devotion to franchising pictures. Many Hollywood films are now little more than expensive serials. There are exceptions -- like the Dark Knight -- but the worst movies to foist themselves on the public in the last 10 years were either sequels, remakes, reboots or spin-offs.

Here's what we thought were 10 of the worst. Movies like "Meet the Spartans" are dreck and never pretend to be anything more. We want to look at films that are made with the pretense of being good.
The heart and soul of the Spiderman flicks is the development of Peter Parker from lowly nerd to superhero. In 3, Sam Raimi examines the superhero's ego at the top of his game, but does so in such a silly fashion, it's difficult to see the hero's success transform him into a dick because Parker is really just portrayed as being just a dolt. It's a strategy that's very conducive to Raimi's film-making style, but doesn't really add anything to the character. Making matters worse, Mary Jane is seems whiny throughout the entire movie and for little reason. All the special effects in the world can save a film that's filled with emotionally in-congruent central characters.
Where to begin? I was sooooo ready to blame the prequel catastrophe on Hayden Christensen after making my way through Episodes I-III. He was a pretty boy who kinda looked a little bit like Mark Hammil circa 1980, but who who clearly couldn't act. Then I saw "Shattered Glass" and realized that it was, in fact, George Lucas who didn't have the first idea how to direct this kid.

Episode III should have been one of the darkest movies ever made. The transition from Aniken Skywalker to Darth Vader should have been complete well before the movie ended, yet it isn't even completely over by the time we're given the last frame of the newly reconstructed Vader. Instead of building on the character's mythologies, Lucas demystified them, bringing them down to Earth for the sake of constructing a weak bridge from the story line of Vader to that of Luke Skywalker. Sigh ...
For what is one of the richest stories in the Western canon, the Iliad seems almost impossible to film. Troy made one very good decision: leave the gods out of it. Then it made a very bad mistake: focus on Achilles the bad-ass, not the tragic warrior. The results were a muddled mess that tried to stay true to the original text while completely ignoring the most important emotional aspects from Homer.
Alas! The Curse of Alan Moore continues ...

For a story that is so morally muddled (and done so with aggressive intention) it's amusing to see "V" become a shibboleth among a certain sub-sect of conspiracy-minded folks. It's basically a movie designed to appeal to males ages 14-17: lots of justified rebellion coupled with the suggestion that anyone has a chance of scoring with Natalie Portman. Never mind that in another respect it's a movie about a domestic terrorist who martyrs himself by glorifying another domestic terrorist.

The cherry on top: when V isn't kicking ass, he's an annoying snob. I don't want him to "free my mind" so much as I want him to shut the fuck up.
Everything from the self-important plot wiped completely clean of the subtlety that made the first Matrix so enjoyable to the hideously designed exo-skeleton gun suits worn by the rebel forces in Zion just didn't work. The first film was a splendid blend of postmodern and Eastern philosophy mixed with some revolutionary action sequences, "Revolutions" was just a mess that seemed to tapper off into nothing.
I like to compare this incarnation with the far superior animated BBC version made in 1979. The makers of the 2005 edition were in such a rush to fill the movie with so many special effects that they sacrificed character growth for spectacle. One minute Edmund is a happy-go-lucky member of the family, the next he's Judas. One minute the White Witch is a cunning seductress, the next she's a totalitarian captor. The transition of the youngsters from scared kids to leaders of a mythical army is entirely unbelievable. Tilda Swinton is way over the top as the Witch, almost unthinkable for an actress who is a master if the low-key approach. It's a pity that a 2-D cartoon was able to add more depth to Lewis' creation.
Way too full of itself. Toulour is a weak and vulnerable villain. The plot is far too "meta" and collapses in on itself entirely by the time a pregnant Julia Roberts playing Tess Ocean has to play a pregnant Julia Roberts as part of an elaborate ploy to steal a priceless work of art that they never really needed to steal from the museum in the first place ... Huh? It's as if the entire Ocean's crew landed in Europe an suddenly succumbed to the solipsism that is a side effect of the worse aspects of Continental philosophy.
The most expensive comedy ever made and one without a single memorable joke. The film was so clearly designed to tap into the evangelical movie-goers demographic that in its attempt to be clean and pure not only forgot to bring the funny, but included some of the most provocative imagery of the last decade as if it were no big deal. Really, the sight of "Noah's Ark" rumbling through the National Mall only to "land" on the Capitol Building as if it were the New Ararat ... and nobody finds anything odd about this?
A cop drama with Robert de Niro and Al Pacino -- what could go wrong? Well, just about everything. This movie is so frustrating that I'm just going to outsource all of my pent up aggression for how awful it is to Rotten Tomatoes. For what it's worth, this was the only entirely original film on this list.
There are awful movies that are fun to watch and then there are awful movies that are shot-for-shot examples of how not to make a movie. The plot is derivative. The dialog is atrocious. The acting is a crime against humanity. The cinematography is pedestrian. For a movie that is little more than car porn, one can derive more enjoyment from last month's issue of Car and Driver.

60 Seconds never pretended to be anything more than a popcorn flick, but even by those marginal standards it sucked in phenomenal way. When "Battlefield Earth" was released many people called it the worst blockbuster ever made, but it's a least watchable for kitsch value alone. Not so "Gone in 60 Seconds," which merely sucks hard.


illusory tenant said...

Closest I ever got to any of those was Ocean's 13, so I must be doing something right.

Jb said...

I liked Ocean's 13 -- a vast improvement over 12.

illusory tenant said...

Maudlin's Eleven was the best.

John Foust said...

Always with the Canadians!

capper said...

I don't know if I should be shocked or pleased that my wedding video didn't make the list.

paul said...

i agree v for vendetta terrible