Yes, that’s right, I’m only starting with these articles on the “unloved soldiers” of my movie collection! This is the second part of a three-part article on movies that, strangely, are unpopular with critics, but still managed to generate a fanbase throughout the years. As I mentioned previously, in the next paragraphs, it will be my great honour to introduce you to some of the ‘bastards’ of my movie collection. Even though I grew up loving these movies, almost all of them were pretty much hated by either the critics, the box office or other big movie fans like myself at their release.
I hope I can give you a reason to take an interest in these movies, or at least consider them for a second look! For this second batch, all of them are pretty well-known, it shouldn’t be a problem finding them.
1. The Island (2005) – Michael Bay
We all know Michael Bay to be a pretty interesting phenomenon. As the director behind five Transformers movie, many believe, like me, that this guy terribly lacks taste and skills to direct good action movies. That may be! However, like everyone, we must grant him at least a few interesting movies nonetheless. The Island is one of them. At the time, back in 2005, the script for this movie was truly original and it made the way for stories like the one we find in the Westworld series. A story involving clones brought to life by rich people to borrow organs from them in case they go ill, that takes creativity. Of all the Michael Bay movies, this one definitely remains the one with the best story I think.
Of course, remaining an over-coloured action-packed movie, The Island will always suffer from oversaturated cinematography, a pretty weak script and implausible stunts. Oh..did I mention an overabundance of sponsors and product placements (Cadillac, Xbox, Apple, Speedo, etc.)? We stop counting after thirty minutes into the movie. However, as we did in the Star Wars prequels, we love seeing Ewan McGregor at work, here as Lincoln Six-Echo. After fourteen years, the movie still managed to age well, so I recommend it as a Sunday night feast! Don’t let the other terrible Michael Bay movies scare you, because you might actually enjoy this one.
2. Death Proof (2007) – Quentin Tarantino
Good old Quentin! As many of you may know, the second movie of the Grindhouse double-feature in 2007 is Tarantino’s Death Proof, which he co-produced with his friend Robert Rodriguez. This movie, somehow, is the lowest-rated of all Quentin Tarantino movies. Knowing his filmography by heart, or almost, we understand why this movie remains the unloved one of the collection for being too talky, but is it really warranted? Personally, I find people a little harsh. First of all, putting The Thing and Escape from Los Angeles aside, this is perhaps one the best roles of Kurt Russell; his Stuntman Mike is both charming and dangerous. The rest of the cast, women like Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito and Zoe Bell, have wonderful chemistry and deliver good and typical Tarantino lines. I agree, we have to wait almost an hour and a half before we have our great car chase between the Chevy Camaro and the Dodge Challenger in the Tennessee plains, the rest is mainly sitdowns and chit-chat.
Death Proof will never outrank some of Quentin’s best work, namely Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Kill Bill, but it remains a good western-spaghetti movie full of good cultural references with a really good script. Beware to all, it is less bloody and action-packed than the classics that we know so well.
3. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) – Kevin Reynolds
Too few might recognize this one, but it remains to this day the best live-action movie about the tale of Robin Hood. Surpassing Ridley Scott’s mediocre attempt in 2010 to tell his story again, Prince of Thieves had better elements in play. After 28 years, this movie is not so fresh and didn’t aged too well, but remains entertaining for the good medieval action, set pieces and excitement. You’ll laugh and you’ll be thrilled, even by our standards today. Kevin Costner, back in his prime, gave us a compelling Robin Hood, even if his interpretation looks a bit wooden at times. Setting aside the kitsch script, his good match with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s Marion is touching.
However, I save the best for last. The greatest and most memorable element of the movie will always remain Alan Rickman (Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise) as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, he steals every single scene he is in! Sometimes very funny, sometimes scary and sometimes a bit weird, the character is absolutely brilliant. People may laugh when I say this, but Rickman’s portrayal might one of the greatest villains of the 90s era in blockbuster films. Watch the movie only for him!
*I left some of his best scenes below.
4. Batman Forever (1995) – Joel Schumacher
It’s really important to mention this beforehand; Batman Forever might be the first VHS I ever watched by myself when I was young. My dad had a huge movie collection at home and, knowing fully well my love for Batman, he left this copy in my room for me to watch. So, to be fair, I might be a bit biased in commenting on this film. The third Dark Knight movie of the 90s era is considered the “just okay” one, mainly because it was unable to beat the visual wonder of the Tim Burton movies and the horrific disaster that was the following instalment, Batman & Robin. However, to this day, hardcore Batman fans, including me, still love this one! Before he botched the series completely, Joel Schumacher’s flashy and neon-like vision for the crime world of Gotham City was kitsch (yes, Bat Nipple, I refer to you), but the story and character development were still pretty great. Also, the Batman soundtrack by Elliot Goldenthal is memorable to this day. Val Kilmer is unjustifiably low on the ranking of all Batman actors, as I believe he was a great and charming Bruce Wayne. His first interactions with Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson (aka Robin) are strong and his persona worked well in costume as well. But, needless to say, the greatest wonder of Batman Forever was Jim Carrey, who delivered us the latest and best real incarnation of The Riddler. His heritage from comedy, weird gestures and impeccable sense of humour are most welcome for this role, making him one of the most memorable villains in the 90s movies.
Unfortunately, it can’t be said of everyone. Tommy Lee Jones’s psycho-funny interpretation of Harvey Two-Face was wrong, as this villain is known to be serious and without any glimpse of joy. Also, Nicole Kidman was incredibly beautiful in her role, but remains a forgettable love interest, all things considered. I know Schumacher’s movies left a bitter aftertaste and now look outdated, but Batman Forever needs a second viewing for sure, at least for the story and for the rise and fall of Batman.
5. Constantine (2005) – Francis Lawrence
Constantine was Keanu Reeves’ greatest comeback after he completed filming the Matrix trilogy in 2003 and, somehow, people seem to forget it. Adapted from a comic written by Alan Moore, the movie explored the underground world where angels from above and demons from below interact with humans in the real world to dictate their passage to the afterlife. Goths and religious fanatics will absolutely love this one! Needless to say, after Neo and John Wick, I’m confident that John Constantine remains Keanu’s third greatest character put to screen. The story is sometimes confusing and poorly detailed, but everyone must admit that this incarnation of Constantine, the rules of this world, his gadgets (his holy shotgun) and the balance between heaven and hell are extremely cool subjects. To this day, even when I still find Constantine‘s script messy, the themes and subject matter remain fascinating. You’ll remember a few scenes very well, including how Constantine tries to drown Rachel Weisz’ character in a bath so that she can enter hell, as well as the truly great and entertaining appearance of Peter Stormare’s Lucifer. Overall, a dark and geeky movie, but definitely one to rediscover (all these The Exorcist fanatics out there, this is for you).
6. Terminator Salvation (2009) – McG
The Terminator franchise seems to have hit a wall after the release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1990, since all the movies that came after are not regarded as memorable pieces of science fiction. I saw this movie in theatres in 2009 and I remember loving the real incarnation of the character of John Connor (Christian Bale) in the post-apocalyptic world controlled by Skynet (which we never really had before). Following the first two movies released more than 20 years ago, it was time for a realistic facelift in the depiction of the future, and I believe Salvation mainly succeeded. Although it suffers from being too short and for its weak character exploration, the movie by McG gave us truly great war-like sets, visual effects and action. Also, even if I find Sam Worthington to lack acting skills, the background story if the character of Marcus Wright is really interesting and was never seen in the Terminator series before then. Finally, the movie is a must-see for the final confrontation with the T-800 in the SkyNet factory, which is truly memorable.
*Funny fact: it was on the set of Terminator Salvation that Christian Bale had his notorious dispute with the director of photography!
What are some of your favourite divisive or critically panned movies? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check out the first article about Movies Hated by Critics, But Secretly Loved by Fans and our new review of Godzilla: King of the Monsters.