Every year it's more of the same. More sequels, remakes, and rehashes. Every year some noble journalist figures out that the movie-going audience is in for more sequels, remakes, and rehashes, and dutifully hypothesizes that Hollywood is more into remaking than making. Yet, every year, what seems to be missing in all of these genius declaratives is The Why.
Why must there be more sequels, remakes, and rehashes?
Why must there be a never ending onslaught of unwatchable cinematic abortions?
The answer is surprisingly simple:
It's your fault.
People not only seem to like bad movies, they LOVE bad movies. Swoon over bad movies. Flock to bad movies like hordes of brain-dead Zombies breaking box office record after box office record (even dubious ones: Yes! The number one R-rated movie to ever open on a Tuesday directly after a mid-term election!!!). We vote with our dollars at cinemas and Best Buy checkout counters. And we have elected to be served a reheated pile of crap. Sequels, remakes, reimaginings, and motion pictures based on board games.
So clap yourself on the back and sit back for the ultimate list of the Top Twelve Most Successful Bad Movies ever made (yes, Twelve; Ten is so passé). These are your Prom Kings and Queens who will hopefully, in a few short years, be long forgotten and fat, all because they peaked too soon and only in the shallowest of terms.
The criteria for this list, it should be noted, must be a single movie or film franchise that has made over $300 Million Dollars & be available on Blu-ray before the end of 2010. All figures are only approximate worldwide theatrical box office gross numbers courtesy of Box Office Mojo. These numbers do no include DVD/Blu-ray, book sales, or any other ancillary means of revenue. There are most certainly movies that are worse than this lot, but they probably didn't make as much money, or they might not be out yet on Blu-ray.
Who would ever want to watch this four hour snooze-fest!?! It may be the most successful film ever made with an unadjusted worldwide box office gross of 400.2 million dollars. In today's money, this film would have made an impossible $1.6 Billion in the U.S. alone. But this movie is horrid!
Just kidding. Really. Calm down.
Having a wee bit of fun with the start of the list and making a small point. Lists are arbitrary and subjective. One man's gold is another man's junk. So sit back, relax, and feel free to hit up the forums with your own list of titanic clunkers.
And now, the REAL LIST…
12. 'Superman Returns' - $391.1 Million
The one good thing you can say for this movie is they got the music and the casting right. But everything is such a cartoony mess where the logic and the rules of its own universe need not apply. Of course Superman can lift an entire subcontinent of kryptonite into space when earlier encounters with much smaller chunks damn near cripple him.
11. 'The Mummy Returns' - $415.9 Million
While the first film isn't necessarily an Oscar winner, it was a fun romp and among the better Indiana Jones ripoffs. It had pacing, humor, and adventure. But here in movie number two, we get a carbon copy retread of the first adventure. But this time, instead of a wall of sand, a wall of…water. Which should be a most exciting and/or terrifying prospect: trapped in a canyon, racing at break-neck speed to avoid a torrent of wet death. But no. This sequence, among many others, is so badly staged, the whole thing falls flat. And, the Scorpion King looked like a cartoon.
10. 'Pearl Harbor' - $449.2 Million
Blame James Cameron for this. 'Titanic' was so well done and made so much money EVERYONE needed their own version of a romance set against a historical tragedy. But Randall Wallace, Michael Bay, and Jerry Bruckheimer's take on the day that will live in infamy is beyond embarrassing. Sure, it looks slick and polished, and there are about 45 minutes of action somewhere in the middle, but the character arcs are hackneyed and the movie is so bloated there are actually two movies stuffed in here. The first about Pearl Harbor itself, and the second one about Dolittle's Raid because the filmmakers didn’t actually have the guts to make a tragedy. So they glossed over a terrible day and then gave it a V for victory. It's a real F-U to all the lives lost on that day.
9. 'Troy' - $497.4 Million
Blame Ridley Scott. With the resurgence of the sword & sandal epic, EVERYONE needed their 'Gladiator'. There were actually a number Troy scripts floating around Hollywood and it’s a real shame that this is what was made. There were better. Here in Wolfgang Petersen's version, we get what is supposed to be a grounded, realistic take on the classic Greek myth. But it's bad all around. No chemistry in the love department. No real sense why everyone is doing what they're doing. And as HDD's Peter M. Bracke wrote in his Blu-ray review, Pitt's accent makes us imagine what it would be like if Jeff Spicoli were to have been cast in 'Gladiator'. The real sin, though, is that despite the authentic realism, that Achilles (yes, as in the heel) is still SPOILER ALERT: killed by an arrow to the heel. END SPOILER. Are you kidding me? It's boring, bloated, and at the end of the day, laughable.
8. 'Quantum of Solace' - $586.1 Million
Are we starting to see a trend yet? Someone makes a really good movie or starts a franchise off with promise, and things go downhill fast. The problem, though, is that most sequels do the business that the first movie should have done. 'QoS' or 'Bond 21' had a everything going for it. A Bond unlike any other we've ever seen before had just been introduced in the fantastic 'Casino Royale'. A Bond who actually fell in love, only to be betrayed, leaving us with a damaged man. Along comes 'Quantum' which fails for many reasons. 1) The title is thematic, but stupid. 2) It pretends to be a revenge story, but Bond's love interest from 'Casino Royale' wasn't actually murdered. She SPOILER ALERT committed suicide, END SPOILER so there's nothing to avenge. 3). The directing style is pretentious and unexciting. Really? Cross-cutting between a horse race which has nothing to do with the plot and our foot chase? Or the opera? Snooze. 4) Kudos for trying to ground the villains with something different, but SPOILER it's about water??? END SPOILER. No one cares.
7. 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' - $786.6 Million
Shia is the only one involved with this movie who had the guts to say it wasn't good, but then again, he let Spielberg play him for a damn monkey in one of the action scenes! Word on the street is that Spielberg feels the same way and said so during private screenings at Dreamworks. This movie is a mess. I can forgive "flying in a fridge," but in the end 'Indiana Jones and the Cyrstal Skull' has too many acts, too much subpar CGI, and of course there's a scene, referenced above, where Indiana Jones' son (surprise!) swings on vines to catch up with a car chase (say what?). And that's not even the most offensive part about that sequence! The filmmakers make it a specific point of saying, we're cutting through this remote jungle with giant saw blades on our trucks (because it's a dense jungle, right?) to make a road. And then when a car, truck, and vine chase breaks out…vehicles now magically race side by side through a jungle that was so dense they needed giant freakin' saw blades to get through it. Come on! And don't even get me started on the anti-climax. And by the way, anyone who says this movie is as good as 'Temple of Doom' needs a head examination.
6. 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' - $804.4 Million
The original 'Alvin' and 'The Squeakquel' are pretty much non-movies. We can forgive kids for not knowing better, or families choosing this for lack of better options during the holiday movie season because the TV series was good. But this franchise is a lame pastiche of recycled jokes and stereotypes where the main characters have a habit of "accidentally" eating their own poop. Har har. But, from a financial perspectives, they've saved more than one fiscal year for parent company Fox, so we're doomed to more. Heaven help us if a similar perfect storm of evil makes 'Yogi Bear' a hit. Readers, we must not let that happen!
5. Spider-Man 3 - $890.9 Million
In the Spider-Man franchise, the second film was terrific, and then we were given this. Too many villains. A nonsensical plot. And a disco dancing montage in the middle of the film. 'Spider-Man 3' suffers from a tired group of ideas, spending more money and adding more characters and villains to make up for lack of inspiration. Another case of having a bottomless budget and no clear vision. It rips off the first two movies and makes some brazen mistakes (Flint Marko was involved with his Uncle's Death how?). It's also a film of too many coincidences (Peter Parker already has spider genes in him, and then an alien meteor attaches itself to him, and then an escaped convict who many have killed his uncle gets turned into the sand man???). Further, Topher Grace may be the least scary human being ever. And can we please have a Spider-Man movie that doesn't involve Mary Jane hanging from something high and dangerous during the film's climax? We know she's not going to die.
4. 'The Chronicles of Narnia' - $1.1647 Billion
'The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe' and 'Prince Caspian' are all spectacle and no heart. The sad part is how fake these look despite their monster budgets. The first movie feels like a low rent 'Lord of the Rings'. There are all the speeches about destiny and doing what's right, but we never get into caring about the world. Why do these kids risk it all for these characters? In the books, it makes sense, but here we never get to know anyone except for the talking beavers and the talking lion so there's little emotional resonance. It feels like a paint-by-the-numbers Epic. Also, the White Witch's little sidekick doesn't seem to be in the same movie. 'Prince Caspian' is worse, and the main reason this film franchise is on the list. It's laughably acted, and the "exciting" climax is set around defending a small bridge and preventing an army from crossing. But when the bridge collapses, the army simply cross the river anyway.
3. 'The Matrix Reloaded' & 'The Matrix Revolutions' - $1.1694 Billion
'The Matrix' was a refreshing blend of action, science fiction, and philosophy. But in the category of "we should have told the filmmakers NO more often" come the second and third films in the franchise. They are an incoherent mess of long speeches and characters no one cares about. Further, now that we know the Matrix isn't real and that Neo is basically God while in it, any time spent there isn't as tense as it could be. Sadly, the film's real world is even less exciting. But despite all of these issue, the second two-thirds of this trilogy have one glaring problem: they're boring. An action movie can fail on almost every level, and still be considered good. But most offensive of all is boredom. It's unforgiveable with this amount of money being spent. Granted, there are parts of these films that work (the car chase is pretty damn exhilarating), but what's meant to be intelligence boils down to emptiness because there's nothing to connect to on an emotional level.
I’m sure many of you thought these were going to be number one on the list. Or perhaps you're frothing mad because you liked the first 'Transformers' and hate to see it included. Sure it's pretty much a given that ROTF isn't even a real movie, and Rob Bricken over at Topless Robot says all that I could ever say about the reasons why (seriously, read what he said, it's amazing). But both of these movies are stinking piles of rubbish. Yes, the special effects and sound design elements are admittedly perfect, but Michael Bay is becoming a terrible action director. Yes, that's right. A terrible action director. He couldn't even direct wrestling for the WWE. And no it's not because the pacing is too fast for us to keep up. He simply doesn't understand simple structural tools involved with character and suspense which are as follows: 1) A Hero we love has an impossible goal, but 2) there is something really dangerous in his way, and in trying to get the impossible goal 3) the hero comes very close to dying, but 4) achieves that goal or 5) fails and is now in a much more dangerous position. It's easy, but Mr. Bay doesn't even bother (he used to do it really well – see 'The Rock' or even 'The Island'). He can't even direct a car chase any more. Or a foot chase. Or a fist fight. Essentially, there are no "set pieces" in the 'Transformers' movies, only spectacle (for a good look at how to direct an action movie, see Tony Scott's 'Unstoppable.' It's an edge-of-your seat nail biter where you feel like at any moment our heroes are going to get crushed, blown up, or fall from a speeding locomotive.) And the rules about when magical Cubes bring things to live and/or kill things don't make any sense. These are horrid, horrid movies, which are apparently made by committee.
1. 'The Twilight Saga' - $1.7937 Billion
To be fair, 'Twilight' isn't the worst movie ever made. It's clunky, poorly cast, and insults all known vampire mythology, but it served its silly, swooning fans well enough. And in many, many ways, the film is actually much better than Stephanie Meyer's poorly written novel. But then came 'New Moon'. 'New Moon' may be the worst movie on this list; it's just a lucky coincidence that this awful franchise has made more money than any other featured here. 'New Moon' was a numbing, I-wanted-to-stab-my-eyes-out cinematic experience. It was a feature length film where nothing happened except whiny crying for over two hours. Nothing. The film's only villain just ran around in the woods and went swimming now and again. And let's talk about the romance. It's bullshit, ladies. Edward will never pick any of you. He's a hundred years old and anyone in high school is literally too dumb for him. But let's say that he did pick you. There's no reason why these two can't be together. None. Romantic dramas work, as John August so eloquently wrote because A) characters we give a shit about are B) kept apart for a credible reason. Romeo & Juliet: our parents hate each other. Here, Bella's Dad seems okay that her daughter goes off a lot with the creepy guy who is never outdoors in direct daylight! 'Eclipse' is admittedly better than 'New Moon', but that really isn't saying much. The werewolf special effects still look like shit, and there could have been so much more done with a vampire / werewolf battle sequence. Thankfully, there are only two of these left and the world can move on. We hope.
So there we have it. The Top Twelve Most Successful Bad Movies (or Franchises). What do you think? What would be on your list? Discuss, share, and argue in the forums below. But remember, they're only movies. Let's keep it civil.