Welcome to the next CHUD List.
We’ve tackled our essentials list and the continued revelation of our Kills List from 2003, and now that we’ve begun the beguine, we must continue. Behold:
The CHUD.com Top 50 Disappointments.
A quick word on the criteria. We could very easily have spent this whole article discussing sequels and prequels and adaptations of television shows and called it a day. Instead, we tried to go a different route. Also, from a master list of over 100, the involved parties (Devin, Jeremy, Micah, Russ, and myself) all killed off a choice for each one we claimed. As a result, we’ll run a big list at the end of this of the ‘ones that got away’. So, here is day one of many where we chronicle the 50 Biggest Disappointments. Two a day, every week day for five weeks. In no particular order:
#46 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992. dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
Disappointment is directly proportional to premise and talent. Francis Ford Coppola’s vision of Dracula has both: a semi-faithful take on the original text which should have worked in spite of a tacked-on love story, and a remarkable set of visual artists who contributed their talent behind the camera. As a design document, the movie is impeccable. Lavish sets, simple but effective use of animation and outstanding costumes all make Dracula one of the most visually stunning fantasies since Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, which was exactly Coppola’s intent.
If only he’d been able to cast the film with automatons. Wait. If he hadn’t cast it with automatons, I mean. Winona Ryder brought the script to Coppola, and since she’d dropped out of Godfather III, he didn’t yet know that she is pathologically driven to avoid two things: paying for Prada and acting. And while I’ve actually come to appreciate the limited abilities of Keanu Reeves, even Coppola must look back at the halcyon production days of 1991 and wonder why he’d succumbed to market forces and cast someone who was literally no more than a pretty face as the straight man in his artistic rebirth.
Anthony Hopkins, meanwhile, has no excuses. The man had acted before, and in the same year as Dracula‘s release, he would prove his abilities in Howard’s End. But cast fresh from his scenery buffet in Silence of the Lambs, the Brit arrived on the soundstage with an appetite big enough to swallow all of Transylvania. When surrounded by the professionally feeble, I’m sure the temptation to go big is powerful, but rarely do we see an actor give in like this. He’s markedly shown up by Tom Waits, who has exactly the demented, gleeful madness that might have made Hopkins palatable.
There are undoubtedly fans of Gary Oldman who are able to look past his co-stars to find a deep, yearning embodiment of Dracula. Objectively, I know that performance is there, but this is one case where the travesty of incapable acting tears down every scene he shares with Ryder, Reeves and even Hopkins. Still, he’s easily the second best screen Dracula, after Frank Langella.
Ironically, what must be seen as an artistic disappointment generated enough filthy lucre to save American Zoetrope, keeping Coppla afloat long enough….to make Jack. -Russ
Travesty Scale (1-10): 6 out of 10
#45 – Ultraviolet (2007. dir. Kurt Wimmer)
It would seem to go without saying that the measure to which Ultraviolet is any sort of disappointment is equivalent to the amount of pleasure one derives from its predecessor, Equilibrium. But even if you were one of the surprisingly (for us humble peeps who first saw and championed the film, anyway) many who rejected the first film, there was little reason to believe that director Kurt Wimmer would take the small amount of geek goodwill he earned with it….and then promptly disappear up his own ass with this Japanese cell-phone commercial of an action movie that doesn’t even satisfy on the most basic of fanboy-ish levels.
The entire debacle is a game of “Up the Ante,” and conceptually, that’s understandable. You like Tetragrammaton Cleric John Preston? Wait until you get a get a load of Vice Arch Cardinal Ferdinand Daxus of the…oh, you get the fucking point. You like a few scenes of Christian Bale using gun kata to take down a room full of targets? How about 50 scenes, stacked right on top of each other, of a chick doing super gun kata to single-handedly take down an army? Unfortunately, Wimmer’s execution of said concepts reflect all the filmmaking skills and maturity of a 9-year old. It seems inconceivable that any sort of rational adult would decide to slather a movie in CGI if he was incapable of providing it at a quality better than a first-generation Playstation game or would shoot an entire film with a Barbara Walters-esque soft focus filter or would stage his climactic fight scene in pitch black darkness save for flaming swords. But these are ideas I could see any child playing around with on a film set or editing suite with glee and pride.
There are still a few spare cries that Ultraviolet was unjustly destroyed by executive meddling when it came time to edit the film. But there’s no amount of extra footage or editing wizardry that could make this mess coherent and/or decent. Its sole virtue is that it doesn’t fail small, but rather exists as a catastrophic mistake for all involved and a dire warning to genre filmmakers that logic, story, and restraint still matter, even when you’re making a film about a hot leather-clad chick who kills shit real good. - Micah
Travesty Scale (1-10): 9 out of 10