Many months ago I posted a list of the top 8 most ridiculous moments in science fiction and fantasy film in the 21st century. It turned out to be the most popular post in the history of this blog, to my surprise, and inspired me to pursue further the plan I had already set up in my mind. What was that plan? To go backwards through time, decade by decade, picking out the most ridiculous moments in science fiction and fantasy film for each of those decades, as far back as I can reasonably go. So, here we are, with another list (slightly larger, of course) set one decade earlier than the last, and likely just as controversial.
Note: the fact that two Dennis Hopper’s movies appear on this list is not a coincidence.
10. The Midichlorians — Star Wars, Episode One: The Phantom Menace
If the original movies never existed, I wouldn’t have a problem with Midichlorians. They’re not a terribly stupid concept by themselves, but when your entire fanbase is familiar with the more mystical and magical world you created twenty years before, you can’t really expect them to take a half-assed scientific attempt to explain the Force seriously. The Force is the result of little alien microbes in all living things? Well, fantastic. Sounds like a disease to me, the side effects of which include turning the occasional man or woman into a raging genocidal lunatic. Wonderful. Where’s my shot of antibiotics?
9. Matthew Broderick — Godzilla
When I first saw the American reboot of Godzilla, I have to admit that I was quite pleased. You’ve got to give me a break, though; I was 14, naive, and clearly without taste. That said, the one thing that completely destroyed the Godzilla movie wasn’t the story, per se, but the casting, and none more obvious that Broderick. Don’t get me wrong, I love Broderick. He has acting chops outside of the comedy genre, but taking the role of Dr. Tatopoulos was a horrible idea (and the folks that cast him should have known better). He’s not the only problem; the whole film is dragged down by its cast, despite the fact that, visually, the damned thing is gorgeous. And if you don’t believe me, ask yourself this: was Godzilla (1998) supposed to be a serious movie with a handful of cute lines, or a comedic farce meant to toy with a series of Japanese movies that only look funny to us today because they are absolutely ridiculous by modern standards?
8. Why So Serious? — Super Mario Bros. (the Movie)
Trying to list all the things that were wrong with this movie would take days, but probably the most important for fans and film people is the tone. The makers of the film took a mostly cute, mostly silly video game and tried to turn it into some sort of bizarre not-quite-futuristic dystopian cheese-fest stocked with a Dennis Hopper playing an evolved dinosaur with a really bizarre hairdo, mindless slightly-alien goons serving a megalomaniacal government, strange cars that run on some sort of alternate power source, rocket boots, bad music, and bad acting. The problem is that fans were left wondering why the film was so dark, particularly since it’s based on a video game that is, by all accounts, practically G-rated by 1950s standards.
7. Vanilla “Go Ninja” Ice — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze
Okay, so apparently someone in the early 90s thought it would be a good idea to get Vanilla Ice to write a song for the second TMNT movie. Instead of having the resulting tune play over the end credits, the filmmakers decided to have Ice put on a mock concert, part of which consisted of a mock “improvisation” of “Go Ninja.” You know, because everyone buys a perfectly improvised, perfectly choreographed “live” rendition from the guy whose only major hit contains the lyrics “Cut like a razor blade so fast other DJs say damn / If my rhyme was a drug I’d sell it by the gram.” Right…
We’ve heard the story before. What started as an attempt to tell a two-parter involving Hicks devolved into a ridiculous festival of deus ex machina in the form of killing off characters to avoid having to actually tell their stories. The worst part of all of this is that, looking back and knowing what could have been, we are left with a film that feels like a less-terrifying remake of the original Alien, without all of the emotional and societal depth, action, and visual effects established with Alien and amplified ten-fold in Aliens. When James Cameron tells you that killing off a whole bunch of important characters at the start of a film is “a slap in the face,” maybe you should listen…
(Of course, it gets worse. Since Alien 3 is technically “canon,” its lazy story affected the films that followed it, which were, to say the least, not nearly up to the standard of the first two Alien movies.)
5. Waterworld — Waterworld
When I first saw this movie I was naive and enjoyed it. Looking back, I think I might have been on crack, because I now have no idea how it didn’t earn a Razzie for worst picture in 1996. There are too many things wrong with this movie. Costner drinks filtered pee and has gills, the Earth is somehow covered almost entirely with water (never mind that such a thing isn’t technically possible, unless all the landmasses magically sink), a little girl has a map or whatever tattooed to her body, and Dennis Hopper runs an aquatic version of a Mad Max biker gang. It sounds remotely interesting when you put it like that, but then you see the movie and realize that someone was smoking something crazy when they picked the cast…
4. Deep Space Nine (Season One) — Deep Space Nine
Yes, I know that the later seasons of this show got physical, but I couldn’t get through the first season, let along the first couple of episodes. Why? Because I failed to see the point of the entire ordeal. Why would I want to watch a drama set on a space station with a slimy bartender, some guy who talks funny, and a bunch of other less-than-interesting characters? It’s almost as if the filmmakers asked themselves “how can we make this really lame and really freaking boring?” My problem with Deep Space Nine is that the show took itself so damned seriously from the start, but with too few dramatic plot points to make that worthwhile. Nothing interesting actually happens. Millions of dollars wasted on what amounts to an absurdly long conversation between an alien bartender and his alien customers. The whole thing felt like it should have been a comedy a la Red Dwarf or Doctor Who. At least then I might have ignored the lackluster plot and the relatively boring scenarios. To think someone actually spent money on this…
(If only my mind had done this to the dialogue when I first watched DS9. Then I might have enjoyed it…)
3. The Death of the Professor — Sliders
You may or may not know this, but John Rhys-Davies’ character, Professor Arturo, wasn’t killed for a good reason. In fact, the character’s death has pretty much been confirmed as a personal vendetta against the actor’s criticism of the quality of the storytelling in the second season (which, by the way, Davies was right about–this coming from a huge fan of the series). Now, to be fair to the folks who fired Davies, the man was a bit of a jerk, sometimes for good reason, and sometimes not. That said, the fact that they conspired to have his character killed just to get him off the show (he had a full season contract) is pretty much the moment all of us remember as the official “fall from grace” for Sliders. Why? Because Arturo (arrogant, but cautious and collected) was the logical scientific counter to Quinn (young, brash, and somewhat naive). To put it bluntly: removing Arturo destroyed the cohesion of the group, and no amount of alternates could ever fix that. Everything went downhill fast, not just for the quality of the writing, but also for the cast too…and it shows. Killing the professor is almost like killing Han Solo, and if Harrison Ford had had his way, we’d all live in a crazy dystopian future run by zombie apes, which sounds cool when you read it, but probably isn’t so great when you actually have to live there…
2. Bat Nipples — Batman and Robin
One question: why? Seriously. Why? Do Batman’s bat nipples make him more aerodynamic? Do they pop out like the femme bots from Austin Powers and shoot bullets? Does a long thread of spider-like silk shoot out of them, thus providing Batman with a powerful string by which to tie people up or swing from buildings? I want to know the logic behind this, because I don’t think we’ve ever received an explanation. And I bet I’m not the only one who wants to know.
1. Shaquille O’Neal — Kazaam, Steel, and so on…
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I will save you the trouble of discovering just how awful Shaquille O’Neal was in the 1990s by way of actually watching them by providing you with these detailed and hilarious critiques of one of the worst films ever made–Kazaam.
I rest my case.
And there you have it. Feel free to leave your hateful comments below.