?There’s a number of films out there that have drawn the ire of the nerd community: Many quite deservedly… some, perhaps not so much. I maintain that there are movies out there which we despise more as a matter of “following the party line” than honest objective criticism. The result is there are more than a few nerd movies that have been a bit over-maligned. Now, by no means do I suggest all of these films are great, or even necessarily good; just that their reputation for wretchedness is more the product of hype and publicity than a well-considered, critical assessment.
So I’ve compiled a list of nine films I believe fit this bill. And yes: there ARE a disproportionately large number of sequels, prequels, remakes, and films based on pre-existing media on this list, as we tend to sharpen our knives for such movies as a matter of principle. Worry not, I’d never advocate that we, as nerds, abandon the time-honored tradition of venomous criticism — I merely ask that we consider a modicum of discretion: There’s all manner of truly heinous wastes of celluloid out there that are much more deserving of evisceration than any of these films.
(Also, I’m stepping out from behind the “we” device employed by most TR contributors. Why? Because I’m expecting a lot of you are going to disagree with this list, perhaps vehemently so. And to those of you who do I say: Here I am — direct your slings and arrows my way. Rob and TR are innocent: This list is on my head and mine alone.)
I know, Topless Robot is the world’s largest natural source of Bayformers hate, and the idea of coming here and finding an opinion that could even be vaguely construed as positive concerning the works of Michael Bay seems beyond comprehension. And yet — here it is! Now make no mistake: Revenge of the Fallen was and remains one of the most wretched excuses for a movie in history, but its predecessor? Well, if nothing else, ROTF proved just how awful it could have been (honestly, I really don’t mind this film at all, but this is as nice as I could bring myself to be to a Bay movie while writing for TR).
Ang Lee’s vision of Marvel’s signature green behemoth is near the bottom of this list for an odd reason: It’s good! Really good… well, taken as a standalone movie anyway. Yes, I’m well aware that the plot has little or nothing to do with Marvel canon, and the CGI is rather weak, but the performances, the writing, and the cinematography stand up to these criticisms — besides, one Jennifer Connely is worth ten Liv Tylers. There is probably no movie on this list I have been forced to defend more often and more virulently (almost to the point of blows).
Constantine didn’t inspire as much nerd rage as it could have, mostly because it’s based on a lesser-known (outside of the comics world) Vertigo comic. I’ll admit, I’ve never read Constantine, and didn’t even realize it was a comic until after seeing the film, so I can’t speak as to its accuracy (although I know Constantine is supposed to be blonde and British). But all in all, I like this movie: For one — I’m a sucker for Judeo-Christian themed supernatural thrillers. Plus, Peter Stormare plays one of the coolest cinematic Satans I’ve ever seen — right up there with Peter Cook and Viggo Mortensen. Even Shia LaBeouf manages to be not quite as obnoxious in this… and you get to watch the son of Lucifer kill him. That’s entertainment.
6) Fantastic Four
A lukewarm comic book flick at best, F4 had a few decent points: Michael Chiklis was perfectly cast as The Thing, Julian McMahon had fun as Doom, and while I’ve always hated Jessica Alba as a blonde, she’s undeniably appealing. Not a great deal to recommend here — but not a lot to really hate, either. The film is a masterpiece of “4pm on Saturdays on FX” cinema. It’s too benign to bother wasting perfectly good snark on.
5) I, Robot
I’m a reader, and I know Asimov’s book (which shares a title, and little else, with this film) very well. And yet, this film didn’t piss me off as much as one might expect. Sure, reducing Asimov’s brilliant study of the human condition told through a series of interconnected short stories following the gradual evolution of artificial intelligence to an ultraviolent Will Smith vehicle might seem… disrespectful? Disingenuous? Sacrilegious, even? Maybe… but the film DID follow the concepts set forth in the novel quite faithfully, and Smith plays one of the strongest and most nuanced characters of his entire action/sci-fi career. Plus, Alan “Wash” Tudyk provides the voice of the robot “Sonny” — that’s bonus nerd cred right there!
4) Batman Forever
Batman and Robin was so unspeakably awful that the blind hatred for Joel Schumacher extended back in time and tainted his previous work. Sure, BF is still the second-worst Bats flick ever made, but Val Kilmer beats the heck out of George Clooney, Jim Carrey was a rather entertaining Riddler, and the movie overall was neat-looking ,stupid fun. Perhaps Schumacher should have taken a look at the state of the fandom before conceiving his Batman films as Day-Glo, vaguely homoerotic kitsch fests, but taken on its own, Batman Forever is hardly the terror it’s been made out to be.
I would imagine Ben Affleck is the primary source of most of the hatred directed towards this film, and cinematic horrors like Pearl Harbor and Armageddon certainly back up such sentiments. But honestly, Affleck’s Matt Murdock is really little worse than bland. The film does have quite effective villains portrayed by talented actors (Colin Farrell and Michael Clarke Duncan), and was entertaining enough as a whole that I could forgive the rather uninspiring hero. Forgiving the film for spawning the vile abomination that is Elektra is somewhat more difficult.
2) G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra
Okay. Sienna Miller’s Baroness was a sacrilege, Channing Tatum is a graduate of the Paul Walker/Casper Van Dien School of Forgettable Lead Acting, and Marlon Wayans’ comic relief was uncomfortable at best. BUT! Chris “Ninth Doctor” Eccleston is always entertaining, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was an effective enough Cobra Commander that I could forgive his ridiculous mask. Plus, the Cobra attack on The Pit was pitch-perfect G.I. Joe, even if the rest of the movie wasn’t. Beyond this, it’s a fun and relatively well-made popcorn action flick, and most importantly — it could have been a lot worse.
1) Street Fighter
Sweet mother of crap! STREET FIGHTER! Most of the films on this list are here because they honestly have a few good points to them, and I feel they’ve been a bit harshly judged… not this one! If you haven’t seen it, then be aware — it’s every bit as awful as they say it is. So why is it here? And at the top of the list even? Well, there’s a special class of bad movies — Ed Wood films are a good example — that there just isn’t any real satisfaction in trashing. It’s like beating up a kid in a wheelchair (“Way to go, Ebert! You pointed out the shortcomings of ‘Glen or Glenda’ — that’s really sticking it to Hollywood!”) Street Fighter is one such film. Also, like a Wood production, it’s loads upon loads of absurd fun, and should be appreciated for the masterpiece of unintentional comedy that it is.