A bit of a change of pace for today’s blog, as my pair of Converse Star Players gives me an excuse to list the sci-fi and fantasy movies I think deserves no stars at all…
Just in case you’re not as nerdy as I am the trainers above are Converse Star Players. Below are Converse All Stars. Below right are Converse One -Stars. Conversely, the films listed at the bottom of the feature deserve no stars at all. In my opinion (and what else is a blog for).
And in case you’re wondering why I own a copy of a film I hate so much… I actually own a couple of the others too! When you work on a magazine like SFX it’s always handy to have films like these to hand for research and to grab screenshots from. Plus, they’re a good laugh for Couch Potato sessions.
And don’t forget, this 365-day charity challenge, in which I’m wearing a different pair of trainers ever day in 2014, is all in aid of the seriously unfunded Alzheimer’s Research UK. Please donate!
10 Eragon (2006)
Director: Stefan Fangmeier
Eragon the movie is onto a loser from the start: it’s based on one of the lamest fantasy novels ever written. If anything, the film improves on the book because it takes a lot less time to sit through to watch it than it does to read it, and you don’t have to put up with Christopher Paolini’s insipid, silly-word-filled prose.
The story is, basically, Star Wars with dragons, and never becomes any less trite than that sounds. It plods its way mechanically through the tropes of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces like it’s ticking off a check list. If you aren’t tipped off by the scene where Eragon returns home to find that his uncle’s been murdered by the imperial boot boys, then the scene with him staring into the sunset will have you wondering where the other sun has gone. And what it doesn’t nick from Star Wars it pilfers from Lord Of The Rings.
The worst thing about it: “I’ve seen things you can’t imagine,” says Jeremy Irons’s Obi-Wan-alike at one point. He’s lying.
9 Aliens Vs Predator Requiem (2007)
Directors: Colin Strause, Greg Strause
One of the worst nightmares to hit the big screen. Not because Requiem is in any way an efficient horror movie, but because this is everything you feared it could have been; trite, silly, cheap and annoying.
Requiem is totally bereft of ideas – good or bad. The only vague element of originality it can boast – an Alien/Predator crossbreed (apparently known as a Predalien, though thankfully that clumsy term never actually makes it into the script) – is a hand-me-down from the cliffhanger of the first movie. Even then, the film doesn’t do anything with the idea: you just get an Alien with dreadlocks killing and salivating, just the same as Aliens always have done. Whoopee-freakin’-doo.
The setting this time is one so beloved of cash-conscious SF: small-town America. When the ship from the end of the first film crash-lands in Cheapsville USA, the Alien/Predator hybrid escapes and starts making babies with the locals in its usual tender, chest-bursting manner. In comes a lone Predator to deal with the problem, trying to cleanse Earth of these new aliens one-by-one without leaving any trace of alien infestation (quite why he’s so ecologically-minded is never made clear – why not just nuke the place and be done with it?)
What follows is a cliché-embracing, entirely plotless film as a dull bunch of characters get picked off one-by-one. Some clunky in-jokes (oooh, he’s called Dallas… oooh, that shot’s just like the one in Alien 3) fail to raise any goodwill and the dialogue rarely rises above functional exposition.
As requiems go, it’s a like flicking fag ash into an open grave.
The worst thing about it: The “twist” ending that’s more likely to induce groans or confusion than raised eyebrows.
8 Rollerball (2002)
Director: John McTiernan
Rollerball as released has clearly been cut to blazes. It’s impossible not to notice characters who clearly had subplots that have ended up on the cutting room floor; or the fact that the action scenes often have no narrative flow or continuity; or the way the plot has holes the size of the Tunguska. Yet nobody has ever clamoured for a director’s cut of Rollerball, because for once, the producers with the scissors did us all a favour; the idea of sitting through even more of this drivel is too hideous to contemplate.
The central, stifling problem is Rollerball itself. In the original film, it looked like a genuinely bad-ass, high adrenaline sport. In the remake it looks small-scale, tame and totally impractical. Sure, people are getting killed by the end, but it comes across more like a piece of WWE theatre as opposed to the cage-fighting version in the ’70s movie. When you make a film about a sport, and you can’t make that sport look exciting, you’re in serious trouble.
Look beyond the sporting scenes all you can see is a landscape of celluloid sludge. The mind boggles at the utter pointlessness of opening scene – with star Chris Klein luging through busy city streets to show what a daredevil he is. But it’s a luge! It looks ridiculous! All that’s missing is a surfer soundtrack. Quite how this scene remained when so much else was cut is incomprehensible.
There’s an attempt at satire but it’s so blunt and naive its laughable. The film attempts to emulate RoboCop’s parody adverts, but never gets beyond annoying random, noisy blipverts. There’s random, gratuitous nudity and unmotivated sex scenes. It often feels less like a movie, and more like a hormonal teenage boy channel-surfing for tits and violence.
The worst thing about it: It got a release.
7 Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
Director: Russell Mulcahy
A sequel so bad that the director walked out of his own premiere then re-released the film twice, retconning out some of the worst decisions. For example: aliens. Out of nowhere the swords-and-sorcery mystery of 1986’s original was replaced by some bullshit backstory about extraterrestrials from the planet Zeist (a rationale Russell Mulcahy erased from his 1995 “Renegade Version”).
The coolest bits about the original Highlander were historical sword battles so for some reason the studio set The Quickening in the future with a confused environmental message about the ozone layer (and some serious dodgy FX). And then Sean Connery’s Juan Ramirez comes back, completely undermining his poignant death at the hands of the Kurgan. Random and pointless.
The worst thing about it: Zeist goons dueling on Back To The Future-inspired hoverboards.
6 Street Fighter (1994)
Director: Steven E de Souza
Poor old Raul Julia – the film is dedicated to his memory (he died shortly after making it) but as an epitaph it’s a bit like having a public toilet dedicated to you.
He plays the villainous General Bison in the film of the Capcom famous beat-’em-up. With dreams of being the evilest military dictator of all time, he and his minions storm the Shadaloo City, and demand a $20 billion ransom, which will go as a downpayment on forming his own dictatorship, Bisonopolis.
Cue Jean-Claude Van Dame and Kylie Minogue as Colonel Guile and Cammy who – with their crack team of soldiers – are sent by the Allied Nations to give Bison a good seeing to. And, um, that’s about it. A plot that makes Victoria Beckham look bloated.
Which wouldn’t be too bad if the vacuum were filled by some decent action. This is, after all, based on a beat-’em-up. But the fights are lame at best, bungled at worst. True martial artists must regard it as the funniest film ever made. Attempts at real humour fall flat, the FX looks like they’ve been half-inched directly from the game and half the Street Fighter characters are reduced to barely more than cameos. Minogue is indescribably unconvincing as an action woman. The score sounds like it was written and recorded in a day.
The worst thing about it: The hairy Hulk version of Blanka.
5 After Earth (2013)
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Main problems with After Earth #1: No one wants to watch a Will Smith sci-fi movie in which Will Smith doesn’t quip. Maybe the guy is laboring under the misconception that this “serious” role will make people look at him in a new light, but playing a frowny Mr Spock isn’t going to win him any new respect. Razzies, maybe…?
Main problems with After Earth #2: It’s terrible.
This trite tale of father and son bonding after crash-landing on an abandoned future Earth overrun by mutant animals is so mindnumbingly predictable you half hope there’ll be a Shyamalan twist that reveals it’s all been some VR training test or something.
Nope. We’re supposed to take this pompous, humourless tosh – with its repetitive action sequences, blandly efficient FX and silly production design – seriously.
You may find yourself rooting for the mutant monsters.
The worst thing about it: The inexplicable prevalance of white drapes on Will Smith’s character’s home planet.
4 Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)
Director: Sidney J Furie
The worst Superman movie ever made, Quest For Peace essentially treats its audience with contempt. This is a film made incredibly cheaply, with rubbish special effects and script, crudely hacked down to a short running time, but shamelessly trading on the Superman name. It pretends it’s a dynamic superhero movie, it even pretends it has some political relevance. But it’s rotten to the core.
And lest we forget, this was a movie that thought we wouldn’t notice it was partly filmed in Milton Keynes!
The worst thing about it: Superman’s toe-curling speech to the UN at the end.
3 Battlefield Earth (2000)
Director: Roger Christian
Breathtakingly dreadful on every level, if Battlefield Earth was supposed to be Travolta’s way of giving Scientology a recruiting drive, he failed miserably. In fact he probably did more to turn L Ron Hubbard’s church into a laughing stock, as people previously unaware of the connection were suddenly going, “the founder of Scientology wrote this tosh?”
To be honest, this is another film on this list hamstrung by the fact that it’s based on dodgy source material – there was no way it could ever have been good in the first place. Hubbard’s sci-fi “epic” was cheesy and old fashioned when it was published in 1982. The film, however, not only embraces the novel’s many faults, it adds in a whole new bunch of its own. Not the least of which is John Travolta starring as a dreadlocked Klingon who’s eaten all the pies, spouting lines that shrivel with embarrassment as soon as they leave his mouth (“While you were still learning how to spell your name, I was being trained to conquer galaxies!”)
It’s set in the year 3000, when Earth has been under the rule of the evil Psychlos for nearly a millennium. But when the Psychlos try to make humans mine for gold in radioactive areas, the downtrodden strike back, using some Harrier jump jets and nuclear bombs they find in a museum… We’re not making this up, honestly. Because museums are always displaying working nuclear bombs with a sell-by date of 1000 years, aren’t they?
Daft plot aside, you also have to endure some hideous production design; lots of tedious horse riding scenes that make the film look like one of those cheap European sword’n’sandal movies of the ’60s; acting so hammy it hurts; a deliriously unashamed overuse of wacky camera angles and slow motion seemingly just to prolong the agony); and threadbare special effects.
The worst thing about it: There’s too much to choose from, but the truly toe-curling thing about the film is when it tries to make the Psychlos funny, with “witty” banter, especially a moment involving a new alien secretary with an impractically long CG tongue. “She’s stupid enough not to be a menace, good-looking enough to be decorative; she gets drunk with economical speed… and has other advantages.”
2 The Happening (2008)
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Ah, The Happening, the movie everybody loves to hate. So why is it so reviled? Ironically, the reason stated time and time again was, “NOTHING HAPPENS!” After a mildly intriguing opening – on an ordinary day, hundreds of people suddenly stop moving for a few moments before committing suicide – it rapidly become a film about people gawping vacantly at vegetation.
The Happening‘s biggest flaw is that there’s no surprise, no twists, no reason to carry on watching. If you’re reasonably movie-savvy you’ll figure out what’s causing the mass suicides in the first scene or two, and if you’re not, then the film tells you within the first half-hour. With the cat out of the bag, the only thing left to sustain it is the protagonists’ quest to reach safety, but any power that may have had is eradicated by wooden performances from the stars. Wahlberg has clearly been taking smell-the-fart acting lessons from Joey Tribbiani.
But most of all, it is just incredibly, mindbogglingly, energy-suckingly dull. And no amount of nicely-shot trees or bizarre gardening accidents can disguise the fact.
The worst thing about it: The lawnmower accident, which generally is met with guffaws of laughter rather than horror.
1 Immortals (2011)
Director: Tarsem Singh
You were expecting 300 meets Clash Of The Titans? Tough luck. You’ve got Meet The Spartans meets a Pet Shop Boys pop video. Though, arguably, Immortals is funnier than Spartans, albeit, unintentionally. You try not laughing when all the warriors start bashing on their shields and the scene threatens to become that “We Will Rock You” moment from A Knight’s Tale.
Corny, camp and contrived, Immortals tries to give the Theseus myth a modern makeover but – despite the latest CG and voguish 3D, slow motion, blood-confetti-ing action scenes – comes across as depressingly old-fashioned instead. The stilted storytelling is more ploddingly episodic than the least memorable Ray Harryhausen mythological road movie. The wimpy gods look like they’ve walked off the set of a Xena: Warrior Princess porn parody; the sets are uniformly stagey and bland (causing a jarring disconnect with the CG at times); the Oracles have been dressed in novelty lampshades; and the Titans appear to be trapped in a giant table football game. The film aims for “striking” but more often looks plain ludicrous. And that’s when it’s not just ripping off Lord Of The Rings – honestly, at one point the film appears to have relocated to Mordor.
The actors try their best (except Rourke, who just growls as usual) but bland direction and pompous dialogue suck the energy out of the performances.
At least there’s the headgear to entertain you: multi-spiked golden crowns, enormous iron bulls, triple-tiered red wedding cakes… it’s a carnival of amusing hats. Mickey Rourke wears one that looks like a sarlacc pit attached to a lobster claw. It’s magnificent.
Immortals doesn’t lack a sense of wonder, though. You spend most of the film wondering why they bothered making it.
The worst thing about it: Changes to the myth are arbitrary at best and banal at worst (the Minotaur is reimagined as some bloke in a spiky mask). You get the feeling they’ve been made more for budgetary reasons than artistic ones.
Current total: £455
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