You and I and all those people out there with a vocal love of film have ruined it for everyone, pimping movies up, falling in love with mediocre films and championing them to near-legendary status. We’ve embraced turkeys, legitimized borderline movies, and elevated modest films in our favorite franchises above and beyond realistic standards. We’ve even embraced the films everyone likes, somehow adding a credibility to them that transcends the mainstream. Sacred cows, little flicks, and everything in between. It’s time we took a look inward and came clean with 25 movies we think need to be taken down a peg or two.
These are our four categories for this list:
These guys have had it too easy. Far too easy. Don’t believe the insane hype.
Good flicks that have gotten too damn big for their britches.
Asshole, you love this film for all the wrong reasons.
WHAT THE FUCK
Something went horribly wrong here, and it’s carried over to the fans, who are blinded by shizer.
Your guide: Jeremy Smith
Its Legacy: Spawned a wildly illogical sci-fi franchise. Entered “CGI”, “morphing” and, thanks to David Foster Wallace, “f/x porn” into the popular lexicon. Firmly established James Cameron as one of the most bankable action directors of his era (following the commercial disappointment of The Abyss), and enabled his tyrannical on-set tendencies. Perilously raised the bar on practical stunt work. Thrust Edward Furlong into sudden stardom, which he did not handle well. Furthered Cameron’s onscreen fetish for butch women. Introduced the inimitable Robert Patrick gait. Transformed Joe Morton into a sex symbol.
Why It’s Here: James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day delivered so ferociously in 1991 that many of us took its greatness as a given. The brisk setup, stunning perception shifts (Schwarzenegger’s a… good terminator?) and, most of all, groundbreaking special effects overwhelmed critical thought the first time through. The ride was all that mattered.
It’s when we hopped back onto the rollercoaster for the second and third go-round that we realized the flaws in the construction: the interminable second act, the senseless time travel conceit, the preachiness, the unearned sentimentality, and, worst of all, the Furlong. As revolutionary as the film was technically, it became a bit of a bore; Cameron’s anti-nuke posturing was a year past its sell-by (damn that glasnost!), while those mindblowing morphing f/x quickly lost their novelty. T2 also blows its wad before it bogs down in the steel mill for a protracted replay of the first film’s finale; once you’ve seen a helicopter fly under an overpass, that liquid metal bullshit looks kinda old hat.
Terminator 2 is certainly more effective than other epochal, post-Star Wars blockbusters (e.g. Batman, Jurassic Park and The Phantom Menace), but Cameron’s persistent moralizing ruins the B-movie fun of it all. Genre pictures may be welcome vessels for smuggled-in subversiveness, but they’ll collapse once you start stuffing them full of anodyne pleas for peace on earth – especially when your film gets off on the T-1000’s penchant for impalement (how’s that milk taste, Xander?). Between John Connor convincing his big cyborg buddy to not kill humans, and Linda Hamilton’s closing voice over (“Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can, too.”), it’s a wonder anyone can take T2 seriously anymore. And don’t get me started on that torpid, 152-minute “Director’s Cut”. A little artistic compromise is a wonderful thing for James Cameron.
A Moment of Piss: John Connor teaches his Terminator slang.
These Ain’t Chopped Liver Alternatives: The Terminator, Aliens, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Testament, The Road Warrior.
Russ Fischer Agrees: What can I say that Beaks hasn’t already hit? There’s no arguing Cameron’s craft, at least in a broad sense. The first act of T2 represents the top of the director’s game; it’s a pure piece of high-octane filmmaking, with supremely clear action and seamless blend of practical and post-production effects. In 1991 it was dazzling, and retains the power to impress today. But as soon as John Connor and the Terminator begin to interact, the movie reveals just how important Cameron was convinced the enterprise could become. The original film was a surprising b-movie blast, and here Cameron tries to elevate that same basic storytelling approach. It had worked in Aliens (and arguably in The Abyss, but since I haven’t seen that film in years, that’s someone else’s argument) but here a pointedy didactic approach turns the film into a real slog. Few directorial stances can break a movie for me, but delivering po-faced life lessons about violence while blowing shit up to entertain the audience is definitely one. The opening draws me right in, then with moralizing and needlessly messy time travel concepts the rest of the movie systematically tunes me out.
Nick Nunziata Disagrees: You guys do realize it’s a Terminator movie, right? Just because there’s nothing going down at the local Tech Noir in the second film doesn’t mean it ain’t good. These are films about time traveling cyborgs that have never been as much about the science fiction and storytelling deftness than they are extremely solid concepts delivered with superior craftsmanship. Edward Furlong is not only an acting albatross, he’s an albatross filled to the rim with semen and radioactive hate pellets and shot into your grandmother’s soft spot but even with him doing his best to make this movie worse than bioterror, it still holds its own as one of the cornerstone action/sci-fi films of all time. I think T2 was overblown in the mid-90’s when there was a dearth of really powerful movies of its kind (unless James Cameron was making them), but after The Matrix hit I think the mantle of overblown sci-fi/actioners was passed along. This film certainly feels a lot smaller now and at times somewhat trite, but in the wake of an overhated [not a real word, I know] sequel and a television show, T2 is almost an antique. A reminder of when CGI was this mysterious new thing and when sequels could be big on their own merits. When a certain Austrian wasn’t a total punchline. This is a very imperfect movie but there’s a very nice bit of nostalgia to it now that renders it at just the right amount of “blown”. Also, this film came out on my birthday and I had IHOP that morning and threw up. I have not thrown up since the release date of this film and since I have not overblown since, nor has it.