Welcome to Top 5 Tuesday, a column that celebrates Coke Zero, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, and tagless boxers. Each week we'll be listing off the Top 5 persons, places, things, or ideas of our own choosing. This week, in celebration of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, TMP brings you: "The Top 5 Movies to Ruin a Great Franchise."
5. X-Men: The Last Stand
Okay, first of all, it's called "X3." Let's get that straight out of the gate. The movie preceding you is called "X2" (Bryan Singer's redacted the whole "X-Men United" thing, openly mocking the studio's unilateral decision to tack that to the "X2" title like a deranged 4-year-old playing pin the tail on the $400 million franchise). "X-Men: The Last Stand" is a name devoid of any meaning whatsoever, being indicative of neither plot nor tone. Anyways, that's the least of the sins this film committed. I mean, you know your action movie's in trouble when the best thing about it is Frazier (and truly, he was the best thing about the movie).
Let's start with the Dark Phoenix plot, arguably the most popular X-Men plot ever told. I disagree with Ratner and Co.'s decision to drop their britches on this holy relic of comic book lore and take a poop on it. They turned the Dark Phoenix character into a shambling, mindless, green zombie. Why? Well, because zombies were big that year. Hey! Idiots! Zombies are big every year, but Chris Nolan didn't make Jim Gordon into one!
How about the Brotherhood of Mutants. See those guys with over there with the tattoos? Yeah, they're the bad guys. Why? Well, because they have tattoos. And piercings! No truer form of malevolence has ever manifested itself than tattoos and piercings. C'mon, Ratner, we're not 3-year-olds (my poop comment to the contrary). You don't have to make "team bad guys" a bunch of tattooed, pierced punks who love to cause chaos and destruction just 'cause they can (or maybe it's because of the tattoos and piercings? I dont' know). How about some motivation? Maybe some, I don't know? Characterization?
Obviously, I could go on for some time. Bottom line: this movie is one to be loathed and despised and very nearly killed any good will the X-Men film franchise had garnered. That was only exacerbated with the subsequent release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
4. The Matrix Sequels
A good way to tell if a movie has killed a franchise is when your enjoyment of the previous films is damaged by the subsequent film. Back in 2000, you could openly, unabashadly shout from the rooftops "I love the Matrix!" After The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions, such things are no longer shouted from rooftops in polite society. One must clarify: "I love the Matrix, but I just can't get behind those sequels!" in one's rooftop shouting.
See, the Wachowskis became so enamored with what The Matrix had become in the post-release zeitgeist that they tried to emulate that in the sequels rather than build on the what The Matrix actually was. So, instead of another great action film with enough depth thrown in that the audience was able to keep thinking about it after the lights came back up, we got the Matrix sequels. These movies tried so hard to top everything in the original that they became completely alienated from it.
You liked that part when Neo fought Smith? Well, here's Neo fighting a million poorly animated CG Smith imitations! You like a little philosophy with your action? Where here's about a dozen stiflingly tedious exposition scenes to punctuate each action sequence. And, what the heck, let's also school the audience on the philosophies of utilitarianism, deontology, nihilism, and we'll throw in a lot of Hindu and Judeo-Christian references for good measure.
Whereas X-Men: The Last Stand merely killed the good will of the franchise, the Matrix sequels killed the franchise dead. Pour one out.
3. Jurassic Park 3
Jurassic Park 3 answered the question that millions of moviegoers were wondering: how lame can dinosaurs really be? Turns out, pretty lame indeed. Let's see, we've got a Spinosaurus (yup, that's it's real name; it's on account of the spine) who's supposed to be bigger and badder than a T-Rex, except for that we've never ever seen him before. He's fun because he likes to swallow people's cell phones so you can know where he is at all times. Just call him. Nothing fills me with more bone-rattling terror than a giant dinosaur with a big ol' sail on its back romping toward me while a Lady Gaga ringtone echoes from his stomach out through his mouth. Absolutely terrifying.
What else we got? Oh yeah, there's those Velociraptors with feathers growing out of their heads. Those are pretty sweet. Also, what's notable about those dinosaurs is that they're the only ones who can be defeated with diplomacy. Remember the end of the movie? Dr. Alan Grant blows into a rock carved by a computer laser to communicate with the raptors that there should be no war between our two peoples? The raptors form a caucus, and with a quorum of voters decide to adopt this treaty? That was pretty cool ... right? Nothing like mixing a little C-SPAN in my dinosaur movie.
Oh yeah, then there were all of those Pteranodons that tried to kill everyone. Definitely a problem when your herbivore Pteranodons are more deadly then your Velociraptors. Maybe Dr. Grant could have tried to sing to them to get them off his back? That was probably in a deleted scene.
2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Oh, Lucas. Lucas, Lucas, Lucas. Man. See, he had to wait 25 years to do a fourth Indiana Jones movie because he just hadn't found the right story yet. Boy, I'm glad we waited. I mean, the proof's in the pudding. You can't just rush a scene where a guy hides in a refrigerator to survive a nuclear holocaust. Those kinds of things take immeasurable amounts of time and finesse. Or, how about that time where they cast the kid from "Even Stevens" and had him swing from vines in a jungle faster than a speeding automobile? Genius. Pure genius.
What I love about the movie is that the very opening shot is illustrative of the entire film. We open on a gopher in a hole. Not just any gopher though. This is a special gopher: it's a CG gopher. See, they probably could have found a gopher and put him in a hole. After all, it's my impression (and correct me if I'm wrong) that gophers feel pretty comfortable in holes. Like, I don't think it would have been bending the laws of mother nature too severely to try to put a gopher in a hole and film it. I know, I know. Gophers are hard to train, right? But, here's the thing: It's in a hole. Like it would be if you never even found a gopher. I bet while Lucas and Spielberg were overlooking the animation of the CG gopher in a hole, right that second there were hundreds of thousands of gophers in holes just waiting to be filmed. But, no. Had to go with the CG. That filming philosophy was carried on throughout the entire rest of the film.
Maybe we should send Lucas to the space between spaces. I hear the treasure there is knowledge.
1. The Star Wars Prequels
Hold it right there! Stop your partisan-infused defense or criticism of the Prequels! I don't want to hear it. I'm more of a Prequels apologist than most, but I just don't want to hear it. From an absolutely objective point of view, there's very little merit to an argument against the proposition that the Star Wars Prequels ruined a great franchise. I don't care how you feel about the Prequels, that's just the way it is.
Fact of the matter is this: in a time before the Star Wars Prequels, Star Wars had virtually no serious detractors. There were people who may not have "gotten it," or people who hated Ewoks, but it was generally agreed that the Star Wars Trilogy was a landmark in cinema history. Nothing like it had ever succeeded on the level that Star Wars did. It revolutionized the special effects side of the industry, introduced the concept of "Expanded Universes" which could allow movies to live on for decades in novels and comic books, and cemented the importance of licensing a successful franchise. Star Wars fans were united in a love so strong it could survive an Sarlacc Pit.
Now look at us. Squabbling over whether Han should have shot first. Comparing the idea of the Clone Wars hinted at in A New Hope with the reality of the Clone Wars explored in Attack of the Clones. The release of The Phantom Menace was like the attack on Fort Sumter: it plunged a once-united people into a grueling, destructive Civil War that has left the union forever changed. Like Catholics and Protestants, the Star Wars-loving people have broken off into such fierce factions of Prequel-detractors and Prequel-apologists that they've forgotten the love that bound them in the first place.
I assert this position to you, my brothers and sisters: Regardless of your feelings about the quality of the Prequels, the world is a darker place with them in it.