Updated: October 23, 2010
Let's talk about the most overrated movies in the history of modern cinema. This is not about bad movies. This is about bad movies that have escaped the radar of society and lodged themselves high in the charts, mainly because many people think, wrongly, being somehow persuaded, coerced or fooled, that they are good.
Going through every single bad-good flick would be impossible, so I will limit myself to the select few titles that really mess up the balance. We will debunk the myth and hype and rage and popularity of several high-ranked, almost cult-movies. We will unravel the almost taboo status they have gained over the years and look at the naked truth of mediocrity and meaninglessness. After reading this article, you will be enlightened. Follow me.
One liner: A deterioration of a mental patient.
It's a sad story really. There's this schizophrenic guy, who starts losing it approx. 20 minutes into the movie. His condition spirals ever downwards until he unceremoniously kills himself at the end. The problem is, there's no punchline. The message of the movie does not really exist. Now, the hardcore Fight Club fans among will argue back and say: the movie is cool because 1) life's futility is shown in its fullest, with people fighting for the sake of fighting, abandoning the modern principles and going back to raw, primal instincts, the pure, simple and friendly joy of clobbering someone's brains to a pulp 2) it's all happening in his head.
Let me refute point a. First, there's no subliminal message in the idea, because there's no idea. The fighting concept fills the vacuum that crashes in after the first 20 minutes of the movie. It's a coverup for the fact that there's little else to enjoy. The IKEA stuff was a nice touch. Norton and Pitt are great actors, but even they don't have the talent to make Fight Club a good movie. The strained, forced attempt at Psychology 101 is even more evident when Tyler's dual personality goes about spilling acid or whatever on his own hand. Read between the lines, a mental patients hurts himself, how un-typical. Then, you get sixty seconds of sizzling skin and a collegesque speech on pain and whatnot. Wow, that's deep. Can I have a refund, please?
Second, it's all happening inside his head. Yes, that's the idea - schizophrenia. Tyler only needed intake a few pills of chlorpromazine every day and the problem would have been solved. Besides, it's been done before many times, with style and grace. Dual personality is not an excuse to go wild with the camera and confuse the audience. Like being inside the narrator's head and not knowing what's happening for real and what's not.
Ask anyone who's liked Fight Club when it was they saw it. You'll realize they were just kids back then. Perhaps you can sell this movie to teenagers or people who don't really understand how real life works, those who wish to shag the system or rebel against the authority, but for anyone with a tad more social awareness, Fight Club goes down as a mediocre and pointless attempt on unraveling the core existential question that concern any urbanite. And that would be the fact they live, work and die like robots.
It's not the vast emptiness of modern existence. Modern existence is just fine. Perhaps it's just the vast emptiness inside you. Get a hobby. It's that simple. Or quit your unsatisfying day job. On the Dedoimedo reality adjusted scale of fair judgment and cinematographic excellence, Fight Club gets 3/10.
The Matrix (the entire trilogy really)
One liner: 36 questions and root terminal
Don't get me wrong, The Matrix was a very cool movie when it came out. It had lots of novel ideas and cool stuff, although bullet time is not one of them. Keanu Reeves, despite his monotone repertoire of facial expressions, was an excellent choice for the programming error he portrayed. Morpheus was okay too, but Samuel L. Jackson would have been a better candidate. Trinity was not as hot as many of you may think, I'm afraid.
But it all stops being fun once Neo meets the Prophet. From that moment on, it's one rhetoric question after another. It almost feels like the opening song in Monty Python's Meaning of Life. Why are we here? What's our fate? Is there Heaven or Hell? Do we reincarnate? And so forth. A very good action movies becomes a strangled lesson on existence, seen through the eyes of a computer geek. The hacking scene was great, good job. But that doesn't make a great movie.
Now, if they had stopped at the first part, the Matrix could have gone down as a superb work. But then, they spoiled everything with two sequels. Part 2 tells you all you need to know about computer science. Part 3 is a mix of Mad Max allegories and semi-biblical references. There's too much false reality within real reality within false reality. The general idea is to confuse the audience so they feel The Matrix could happen, if you, of course, ignore the basic laws of thermodynamics.
The Matrix was ok, but it was bland. And strained. And too long. There was no need for the reload, remix and revolutions. A single movie would have sufficed. The way it ends, though, it gives you a pretty good idea why most code developers are unhappy people. On the Dedoimedo scale, the first movie gets 6/10. Sequels: 0/10.
One liner: I'm confused.
If anyone can tell me what the movie is all about, I'll send him a donation. I'm confused. Perhaps that was the entire premise of the movie. Confusion. But then, all of Tarantino's movies are like that. Fairly pointless.
Tarantino has a very straightforward approach to cinema. Find an oil tanker, fill it with blood, then spend about an hour and a half pouring gore onto the audience, so they don't notice the trivial details like quality, continuity, or plot. Pulp Fiction also happens to be formulaic. The four segments thingie is later repeated in the Four Rooms movie, with the last scene reserved for the director himself, unsuccessfully I must add. And we know John can dance. We've seen him do that in Saturday Night Fever and Grease, back to back. While Travolta has a sort of an annoying, punch-me-in-the-face charm that works well for villains, Uma was not a good choice. She was way too skinny back then. Now, they did have good chemistry. They did get back in Be Cool, which is a far more successful, far more sophisticated production, plus the dance scene makes more sense there, plus Uma looks way better ten years later, as she has plumped a bit and can now contest in the major league.
You must give credit to Tarantino, though. He makes fairly unique movies. He's raw, brutal and uncharacteristic. He's consistent and true to his own vision of what cinema ought to be. He even has a decent camera presence. His act in Desperado almost makes you like him. But that's about it. He fails at making that last step, the transition from smearing entrails over the lens to a closure. His movies are incomplete, even though they read THE END somewhere.
Back to Pulp Fiction, it's pointless. Decent dialogue here and there, but nothing more than that. Again, without almost divine worship and too lavish praise by shocked audience, it could have been an okay action sequence to watch when there's nothing better to do. The way it is, it's a confusion movie that begs the question: What for? Dedoimedo grades Pulp Fiction at 3/10.
Natural Born Killers
One liner: Reality TV started here.
Do you know what's worse than a Tarantino movie? An Oliver stone movie, based on a story by Tarantino. If you've ever watched Oliver's movies, you will realize he makes fairly dark, morbid productions, some of which can actually be enjoyed. Now, take something sinister and blend it with a prophetic vision of Web 2.0 sensationalism, you get Natural Born Killers. Plus the predictable lack of cohesion and meaning that you may expect from Tarantino.
Natural Born Killers kicks off nicely and you may almost think it's a message about our world and media and violence and whatever. But then, Nirvana never happens and you're left watching a pair of fairly average actors best suited for comedies trying to act tough. As always, the lack of quality is compensated for with gore. Forget the garbled message of pseudo-cultural post-millennium loss of direction, integrity and something else you may find spelled out in a fortune cookie. It's only an excuse. Because if it were about social impact, then you would not have movies like Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill.
This movie is nothing but extravaganza. It tries to be brutal - and that's about it. However, brutality is not linearly proportional to the quantity of blood spilled. Far from it. Nothing is left to imagination. You're a puppet watching the film roll, take it or leave it. If you have a weak stomach or lack personality, you may get convinced.
The only credit this movie gets is for the fact it did somehow predict the Youtube generation. But only barely. The media has always liked ugly and controversial, since it boosts the ratings. The live element of it all is what makes it different. So kudos for technology, minus million points for bad execution. On a scale of 1 to 10, Natural Born Killers get 1/10.
One liner: I'm blue, if I was green I would die.
Avatar is a stunning 3D experience, they say. So? How does that make it a good movie?
If you forget the really cool rendering and whatnot that make Pandora and its blue people feel almost real, you're left with a fairly standard cartoon-like movie that has a computer-game plot. Alien world, a Marine, go figure, who fights the tough moral choice of being the killing machine he has always trained for or the noble knight savior as he falls in love for the foreign girl. The world is in danger, threatened by multi-billion futuristic evil corporations led by a heartless marketing mogul, aided by a grizzled old psychopath, who also happens to be a Marine. As you may have guessed, the old Marine and the young Marine are arch-enemies. We all cheer for the young lad who's in love, aww, sweet kid. But if you think about it, it's the young Marine who's the bad guy, because he disobeys orders, thinking he has the right to answer inter-galactic questions on morality that hundreds and thousands of other people, including scientists, military advisers and people with money have somehow all failed to grasp. Throw in a couple of geeks for good measure and you're all set.
So we have a C-grade sci-fi movie, with supreme 3D effects. Now, the movie is all about technology. It's a proof of concept, a demonstration of the awesome computing powers used to create it. Good. I like the idea. But many Avatar fans completely ignore everything else and equate the CPU cycles with movie quality. That's not how it's supposed to be.
Underneath the breath-taking veil of effects, you have a shallow plot, which stretches about an hour too long, the reason being, approx. half the movie is deliberately made to showcase the 3D stuff. You simply know this or that scene is there only because someone felt like flaunting his latest vector algorithms. It feels strained. I can understand the excitement, but it could have been more subtle. Because if you watch the movie of a normal TV screen without the 3D helmet or whatever, you're bored. You really don't need the extra-long panoramic shots showing you the strange world of Pandora, which looks much like Sub-tropical Africa. Or Perhaps New Zealand. For a moment there, you wonder if you're watching Lord of the Rings again or a documentary on British invasion of Zululand.
Avatar is a nice visual display, but you won't ever watch it twice. Its storyline is unremarkable and there's no emotional involvement. For a sci-fi movie, neither of these is a must, but even so, there's no connection to the characters, no sense of thrill. It's not an adventure, it's an expo. Avatar gets 5/10.
Star Wars (the entire trilogy, both trilogies in fact)
One liner: (Episodes IV-VI, the original three movies): Too many furry things.
One liner: (Episodes I-III, the last three): Money trains leaves in five.
I like George Lucas. He has directed some pretty decent movies in his career. Too bad Star Wars is not one of them. Oh, wait, let me elaborate. Star Wars is the kind of movies you must never watch twice. If you've seen it as a kid and liked it, let it be. Do not be tempted to fire up the old VCR or a brand-new DVD and watch any one of the original three movies ever again. Like Top Secret, like Caddyshack, Star Wars belongs in late 70s and early 80s.
What's going to happen is the following: You will expect the fabulous, revolutionary excitement that you felt back then. Instead, you will be forced to watch a trilogy that is two movies two long and a thousand effects too cheap. Not Lucas' fault, by all means, for he truly was a visionary for his time. Star Wars did shatter all known boundaries of cinematography, but like Avatar's 3D stuff, the technology does not make up for actual acting. Forget the light sabers and Darth Vader's breathing mask, focus on the plot.
A New Hope is a bit disjointed. You kind of get to know the heroes, but only barely. Harrison Ford probably saves the movie. Mark Hamil is the ugliest main character ever portrayed, kind of an aesthetic anti-hero, which is not a bad idea, but he lacks the coolness to make up for his homely features. End result, a petulant boy that spoils everything. And there are way, way too many puppets. A foreign planet does not have to look like a gypsy market after a nuclear strike.
The Empire Strikes Back was fairly decent, although a bit contrived. Everyone loves Yoda, but to be fair, he's not that funny. The reverse speech gets kind of annoying after ten seconds or so. But the movie has a decent plot, it runs well, there's good chemistry between actors. The number of plush toys has been reduced by two thirds.
Return of the Jedi can be summed thusly: Princess Leia in her golden bikini, another Death Star gets destroyed, robots get pwned by midgets with stones and spears who would look much better served on a plate. Completely unnecessary for all practical purposes.
Now, the second trilogy, or rather, the first three movies. Oh boy. The Phantom Menace was 70% nostalgia, 30% CGI effects, 0% everything else. People, including myself, watched this, because they remembered the original trilogy. But then, twenty years have passed. And that's about it. The magic is gone. Attack of the Clones felt like a colonoscopy. Revenge of the Sith, well, I skipped to the last ten minutes. Okay.
For all practical and moral purposes, Star Wars is the first three movies. The new stuff is plain rubbish. And if you liked the movies as a kid or a youngster or whatever, don't watch them ever again. Keep that sweet memory locked and don't repeat the mistake I did. Original movies: 5/10, 7/10, 3/10, average: 6.5/10. New movies: 2/10, 1/10, 0/10, average: 1/10.
And there you go. Now, you know your way around cinema. Some of you will despise me for this article, but the truth had to be said. The things is, the movies would not draw my attention slash ire if not for the totally skewed, illogical adoration by the audience. Well, feel free to mail me and vent your anger. I promise not to delete emails without reading them.
You must admit I'm totally sophisticated and objective. Finally, if you really want to watch movies by some really great directors, I recommend you try anything by William Goldman or Emir Kusturica. Now, that's quality.