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Sometimes people tend to have strong opinions. Strong opinions that don’t really matter. Take movies, for example. It takes a few bad reviews for a movie to reach a critical point, following which people’s hatred of it spreads like wildfire. But hey, again, movies don’t bloody matter. So maybe taking a step back, waiting a few years and then rewatching movies you thought were bad will make you realize that they’re not all that bad. In fact, they’re pretty good. Here are a few examples.
Equilibrium’s premise is that a high-profile officer in a totalitarian regime realizes how fucked up the regime is. He then goes onto bring down the regime and restore balance (or equilibrium) to the State. Pretty standard stuff right? In the same vein as The Matrix, V for Vendetta, or the OG 1984. It’s all been done before, and so critics panned it.
Why it’s great: Yes, it is completely a mishmash of all those movies that came before it. But guess what? So were all those movies that came before it. 1984 was hardly a novel idea, bearing striking similarities to Yegevny Zamyatin’s 1920s book We. Equilibrium portrays the timeless Orwellian nightmares of censorship, stoicism and propaganda, but does it with Matrix-esque fight sequences that are just goddamned fun to watch. Moreover, the martial arts they use in the film is “Gunkata”, which is basically bullshit speak for using guns to both shoot people and bludgeon them into submission. Brilliant.
Transformers is, well… Transformers. Four films epitomizing over-saturation, lazy writing, offensive stereotypes, blatant patriotism, objectification of women, and excessive CGI use. Also, there’s a fifth one on the way. Director Michael Bay is clearly a closeted teenager given full reign over a $200 million budget.
Why it’s great: Despite the immense ridicule these movies face on the internet, they still make millions of dollars. We still go to see every single Transformers movie, and we probably always will. Why is that? It’s because the over-the-top style of Transformers is something we essentially like. Argumentum ad populum not working for you? That’s fine. We’re not saying like it because everyone likes it. We’re saying it’s actually good. The high-contrast, over-saturated palette, low-angle shots and the raunchy, uncomfortable dialogue is a style that Michael Bay crafted for his films, intentionally or not. It may be indicative of a man-child going crazy with a Hollywood budget, but it’s a man-child with a vision. Moreover, the vision isn’t a bad one – the over-the-top style conveys an excess that satiates the man-child in all of us. That’s why most of his audience consists not of horny teenage boys, but adults, over 40% being women. The last outing also had the most ethnically diverse audience of all highest-grossing films that year. Say what you want, but Bay has an intuitive insight of the human psyche. That’s what lets him give his audience a headache-inducing 45-minute action sequence and still leave them wanting more. That’s what let him sell Will Smith to audiences “like a fizzy drink: in slow motion on a hot day, covered in beads of sweat”, as expressed by professional film critic Robbie Collin. That’s why Steven Spielberg saw potential in him. See, that’s where he excels, his style. Berating him because he doesn’t write believable characters is like giving Aaron Sorkin crap because he doesn’t have good structure, or like saying Irfan Khan is a bad actor because he doesn’t have abs.
3. Batman Forever
Batman Forever is remembered as the first of director Joel Schumacher’s two psycho-erotic Halloween toy commercials, the other one being Batman and Robin. Although, and maybe because, the latter is often seen as one of the worst films ever, its predecessor Batman Forever doesn’t get as much notice. People who do remember it, though, think it’s a waste of time.
Why it’s great: As unconvincing as Nicole Kidman is as Bruce Wayne’s therapist, her character’s dynamic with Wayne and alter-ego Batman portrays a profound identity crisis. Basically, she wants to bone Batman, all the while dating Bruce Wayne. She doesn’t know that the two are the same. This causes Bruce to introspect and realize that he inherently identifies as Bruce Wayne, not Batman. This conflict with himself is reconciled only after she explicitly rejects Batman in favor of Bruce Wayne. Perhaps a story of identity gets buried under all the colors, eroticism and the Jim Carrey shenanigans, but it’s there, most obvious in this scene, when the ordeal gets solved and Val Kilmer walks off creepily smiling at the audience. And then we have this scene reinforcing it. Unfortunately, it never made it to the final cut.
Cars is generally regarded as the first low point for Pixar. All other Pixar films before it had complexity, which Cars lacked. Cars is a simple coming-of-age story of a guy seeking meaning in fame, ultimately finding said meaning in people instead. Except replace all the people with cars so the studio can sell toys.
Why it’s great: Cars was Pixar’s pit-stop. The story involved the protagonist, Lightning McQueen, being pulled into a culture he didn’t ask for, but making the best out of it. Unlike Pixar’s other films, which shows their protagonists fighting adversity, Cars shows its protagonist understanding adversity. Toy Story advocates Woody returning to Andy despite the odds. The Incredibles advocates Bob’s obligation to return to superheroism despite public criticism. But Cars advocates Lightning McQueen not to pursue his dream but to reassess it. In most of the other movies, the adversity opposes the dream; in Cars, the adversity is the dream. This is a valuable lesson, because that’s kind of how the real world works sometimes.
Okay, so Thor wasn’t badly received. But it wasn’t exactly the best thing ever. Quantified evidence includes an average 6.7 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a 57% on Metacritic and most audiences thinking it was pretty okay, nothing innovative.
Why it’s great: Firstly, it’s a heavily Shakespearean tale woven from classic yarns of family dynamics, betrayal, jealousy and hubris. Makes sense, considering it’s directed by renowned Shakespeare director Kenneth Branagh. But what makes Thor really stand out is one thing: restraint. The action was isolated to primarily two locations – Asgard and a small place called Galisteo in New Mexico. Whether this was intentional or due to a budget cap is irrelevant. What matters is the effect. This restraint is part of the reason we got so pumped for the Avengers. Marvel held back on their action just enough to sustain its value, and then released the potential in one fell swoop in the Avengers. This restraint is the reason we were so blown away when the first Avengers trailer showed a giant flying robot maggot. It’s the reason we thought a crappy CGI wormhole looked so awesome. It’s a restraint that never returned to Marvel movies, which is also part of the reason the second Avengers didn’t feel as visually impressive.
6. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
This movie ruined the origin story of one of Marvel’s most beloved characters, consequently crushing the dreams of innumerable fans. It had a boring script, textbook origin, shitty child actors, laughable CGI, weak plot, terrible pacing, terrible pacing, and a pathetic attempt at “reinventing” Deadpool. Oh yeah, that means it ruined two origin stories at once. It was the butt of jokes for years, its only redemption being that it’s probably what drove Fox to make a proper Deadpool film.
Why it’s great: X-Men Origins: Wolverine was kind of redeemable. Not saying it’s great, not by a long shot. But it did get some things right, things that other films don’t. For example, Liev Schreiber’s casting as Sabretooth was on point – a huge step up from the mindless, caveman portrayal of Sabretooth in the original X-Men films. Secondly, his transition to the dark side was fluidly and concisely conveyed in the opening montage, which was an effective character development shortcut. In fact, it was a masterstroke. Now, if only the film built on that development afterwards, Sabretooth would have been an amazing villain. But the movie certainly gets points for setting up the character. This was largely helped by reinventing him as Wolverine’s brother. This brings us to the movie’s biggest redeeming quality – reinvention. Okay, time to commit internet suicide. Reinventing Deadpool wasn’t such a bad idea. There. And not because it’s what led them to do Deadpool properly later. But because it was such an ironic use of a character’s gimmick, with a beautifully set-up twist. The film hints at it when Stryker says that if Wilson “didn’t have that mouth on [him], [he’d] be the perfect soldier” – clear but subtle foreshadowing. The problem is that whenever you reinvent something so fundamental about a character, you can’t expect fans to roll over and accept it. It’s the same reason fans got pissed off when Marvel reinvented the Mandarin. The only difference is that Deadpool was a richer character, thus his failure causing greater disappointment.
So there you have it. Six bad films that are actually good. Just chill, take a seat, and enjoy them because remember, movies don’t really matter. Of course, that’s why we just spent 1530 words writing an article on them.
About the author
A Neuropsychology and Computer Science major who currently seeks to advance neuroprosthetic and machine learning R&D. He also sporadically writes silly things, usually for blogs, online publications and his naively abstruse YouTube channel.
1) Neuroprosthetic R&D in India
2) Eliminating poverty in India
3) AI development