Movies that Missed

 

shutterstock_179931563On The Great Debate thread about superpowers (specifically the superpower of flight), a comment by Carey J reminded me of the not-so-great superhero movie Hancock. I thought Hancock had real potential. The basic premise is an alcoholic superhero — but not a mostly functional alcoholic like Tony Stark; a real Skid Row-type alcoholic with Superman-like powers, who can’t fly straight because he’s blind drunk. He causes damage just taking off to fly, not to mention all the havoc he creates while flying, stopping crime, or saving people. Then a PR guy comes along who wants to reform Hancock and rehabilitate his image. The publicist is a loser and schmuck who is also unsuccessfully trying to get a charity campaign off the ground. If you haven’t seen Hancock, what follows is a spoiler alert. 

The PR guy’s wife is actually another super-powered immortal like Hancock and is really Hancock’s wife.When the two of them are together, they start to lose their powers and become vulnerable (she is his Kryptonite and vice versa). she left him back in 1931 after he had suffered serious brain trauma so that he would be invulnerable again and could recover and serve the world. The movie just sort of falls apart from there. It’s a mess. The story has more loose ends than knots that come together.

But it could have been a great movie. It’s like they had this one great image in the beginning, and couldn’t figure out what to do with it. They had the start of the story and a general them (redemption), but had no idea where to take it. Maybe it was the editing of the movie, the rewrites, or a thousand other things besides the original script, but the movie that should have been made did not come together. It’s a terrific example of a film that could have been great but wound up mediocre.

Are there movies that you think were unnecessary misses? Movies with great premises, but poor execution? What’s your favorite movie that could have been?

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  1. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    The Final Countdown: USS Nimitz pops back to 12/6/1941 and then pops back to its own time before it can wipe out the Japanese fleet.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    ctlaw:

    The Final Countdown: USS Nimitz pops back to 12/6/1941 and then pops back to its own time before it can wipe out the Japanese fleet.

    Why do you think it was a miss?  Because they didn’t blow the Japanese out of the water?  Or were there other features of the movie you found unsatisfying?  (Roger Ebert seems to have agreed and figured the real star to be the ship.)  It definitely had aspects of war porn.  I actually re-watched this movie within the last few years.  In my opinion, even though the vortex was not really explained, at least they closed the loop.

    • #2
  3. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Four of many things that contribute to failures are: (1) pushing special effects beyond what they should do; (2) failure to hire competent script/dialogue consultants; (3) behind-the-camera personnel who fall in love with their own idiosyncrasies; and (4) political correctness.

    These all come together in a number of the Bond movies.

    Consider You Only Live Twice!

    Terrible space special effects. Terrible makeup.

    Terrible astronaut dialogue including mispronounced technical terms because no American and nobody with technical knowledge was involved.

    Set design that went into self-parody mode. Couldn’t someone have told Ken Adam: “No more freaking villain lairs with slightly tilted circular features on the ceiling!”

    Bizarre moral relativism where the Brits need to play neutral arbiter between equally belligerent Americans and Soviets.

    • #3
  4. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Great idea for a discussion.  Right now, I’m commenting just to get updates, but I know I have a few titles to contribute, somewhere down in the dark recesses of my mind.

    • #4
  5. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Arahant:

    ctlaw:

    The Final Countdown: USS Nimitz pops back to 12/6/1941 and then pops back to its own time before it can wipe out the Japanese fleet.

    Why do you think it was a miss? Because they didn’t blow the Japanese out of the water? Or were there other features of the movie you found unsatisfying? (Roger Ebert seems to have agreed and figured the real star to be the ship.) It definitely had aspects of war porn. I actually re-watched this movie within the last few years. In my opinion, even though the vortex was not really explained, at least they closed the loop.

    It was a tease of war porn that disengaged short of climax.

    There were all sorts of other minor things that were wrong. We notice them because we did not have the final combat to distract us.

    The disappearing senator was a plot hole.

    Propelled back to 1941, there are not going to be spare parts and fuel for the aircraft. The captain would carefully limit use of his resources. Rather than wait and send the fighter group to do air combat after the Japanese launch their planes, wouldn’t it have made sense to send one or two aircraft with bombs/torpedoes to sink the fleet?

    Also, the 12/6 photos taken by the recon aircraft were the actual 12/7 Japanese photos, including showing torpedo wakes. Anybody heard of airbrushing?

    • #5
  6. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    What do you mean about the missing senator being a plot hole?  Wasn’t there an actual politician who was out on his boat at the time and went missing, often presumed to have been sunk by the Japanese?  I think I remember Dad telling me this when that movie came out.

    • #6
  7. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Tim H.:

    What do you mean about the missing senator being a plot hole? Wasn’t there an actual politician who was out on his boat at the time and went missing, often presumed to have been sunk by the Japanese? I think I remember Dad telling me this when that movie came out.

     I am unaware of any such person.

    • #7
  8. TheRoyalFamily Member
    TheRoyalFamily
    @TheRoyalFamily

    Transformers.

    How do you mess up a movie about a war between transforming giant robots?

    Make it about the humans.

    And not just any humans, either. The movie was more about Sam and his personal problems. If it had focused more on the general human issues with giant robots using our planet as their battlefield, it could work, and quite well. This is what makes the better Godzilla movies work, after all. So Bay could have his military porn, and it wouldn’t hurt the movie; indeed, those parts showed just what we (the audience) were dealing with, in terms of robo mayhem.

    But no, we had Sam and His Robot Pals: The Movie.

    • #8
  9. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    “Last Action Hero”.  I can understand why this didn’t equal “T2” at the box office, but it’s a genuinely clever premise with plenty of inside jokes and film/life crossover. (An eleven year old boy enters the world of his movie superhero, a la Keaton’s “Sherlock Jr” or Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo”. Everything in movieworld is recognizable but bigger, better, more glamorous–but Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t exist: Blockbuster has never heard of him, and lobby stand-ups of “Terminator” feature Sylvester Stallone. 

    Then the kid brings the movie hero (“Jack Slater”) back to the real world, where a bullet doesn’t make a car flip over and explode. Slater goes to a big movie premiere and angrily confronts the man responsible for his troubles, Schwarzenegger–hilarious and bizarre. 

    So why didn’t it succeed? No one reason; Arnold Fatigue? Excessive length for what was a family action movie? My theory is the physical threats that the violence presented to the kid were a little too intense to be laughed off. It’s got to be real enough to be scary, but not too real; with potential adult victims you have more leeway.

    • #9
  10. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    A side note about “The Final Countdown”. I saw the film when it came out, at a small, side street theater in Santa Monica. When we exited, the pedestrian mall was dark and deserted, with a couple of bums sleeping under newspaper. I looked around sadly; “This used to be so nice, so clean and modern…what the hell happened? 

    It was August 1980. A low ebb. 

    There was an election that fall. Over the next ten years, the economy rebounded more than nearly anyone had hoped. That mall became clean again, then prosperous, and now it’s been a glamour spot for visitors–a generation of people who will never know about the sleeping bums and the burnt-out lights. 

    But I remember.

    • #10
  11. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Alexander. It was visually beautiful, technically well-done, and generally well acted. Somehow it ended up being horrible overall. I blame Oliver Stone. He has a lot of skill, but no discipline.

    • #11
  12. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    I was an NYU film school freshman when Oliver was a senior. His senior film, “The Mad Man of Martinique”, had a lot of sex in it, giving us some hope that he’d have a career after all, since “everyone knew” his time in Vietnam made him years older than the rest of his class.  

    Funny how these things work out. 

    • #12
  13. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    Just from the last few years: Prometheus, of course
    Looper
    Red Tails
    The Tree of Life
    The Monuments Men
    The Lovely Bones
    District 9

    a few “classics” that disappointed me:
    Red River
    Giant
    On the Beach
    Gilda

    • #13
  14. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    kylez–I can’t argue with your exceptional lists. Well, okay, I can always argue a little. Let me vote a straight “yes” ticket on your new films. On the classics, I’ll play up some virtues you might agree with–or might not:

    Red River. Marred somewhat by its “When Freud Rode the Range” undertones, but visually still pretty majestic, and is still an iconic Wayne role: “Take ’em to Missouri, Matt”. 

    Giant. An interesting mixed case, a self-conscious attempt to make the “Gone With the Wind” of Texas, when that state’s postwar boom was an object of national pride and fascination.  Sure, those of us who would have preferred framing Elizabeth Taylor’s long legs in Cinemascope to James Dean’s complain about the film’s creaky equation between Chicano progress (a real issue, sure) and universal human decency. It has some moments. Dean is weird as Jett Rink, but interesting.

    On the Beach. Stanley Kramer has never been regarded as arty. This film is essentially a long Twilight Zone episode with a simple anti-WWIII message.  The scenes of trying to find the last living person on America’s west coast were eerie.

    • #14
  15. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Gary McVey:

    “Last Action Hero”. I can understand why this didn’t equal “T2″ at the box office, but it’s a genuinely clever premise with plenty of inside jokes and film/life crossover. (An eleven year old boy enters the world of his movie superhero, a la Keaton’s “Sherlock Jr” or Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo”. Everything in movieworld is recognizable but bigger, better, more glamorous–but Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t exist: Blockbuster has never heard of him, and lobby stand-ups of “Terminator” feature Sylvester Stallone.

    Then the kid brings the movie hero (“Jack Slater”) back to the real world, where a bullet doesn’t make a car flip over and explode. Slater goes to a big movie premiere and angrily confronts the man responsible for his troubles, Schwarzenegger–hilarious and bizarre.

    So why didn’t it succeed? No one reason; Arnold Fatigue? Excessive length for what was a family action movie? My theory is the physical threats that the violence presented to the kid were a little too intense to be laughed off. It’s got to be real enough to be scary, but not too real; with potential adult victims you have more leeway.

    It seems you are arguing more that the poor reception did not live up to a good movie rather than a poor movie not living up to a good premise.

    I liked Last Action Hero. It was branded as the first action-comedy. People may not have been prepared for this.

    I have an unusual way of suspending disbelief. On the one hand, I can’t fully suspend disbelief when watching a typical action flick. Thus I tend to have a relatively low favorability for films that take themselves too seriously. On the other hand, I can partially suspend belief. Thus, I have a relatively high favorability for films such as this; whereas people who can fully suspend disbelief for a more serious film do not (because this film does not let them suspend disbelief).

    A similar film was Knight and Day.

    However both these films, at times, went too far for me. For example, the eyeball, Dobermans, and cartoon characters of LAH and the wacky plane of Knight and Day. Also, LAH was poorly edited so that some scenes had oddly abrupt transitions.

    • #15
  16. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    Gary: you’re a generation older than me so I expected you might have some interesting comments. 3 of those 4 films (excepting Gilda) receive **** in Leonard Maltin’s guide. On the Beach was dull, and Giant just becomes overlong and a bit preachy and dated.

    Though I enjoy me some black-and-white films, movies with colors describing geography (Red River) should have been made in color. The same goes for How Green Was My Valley? (answer: not very!). That of course is not a reason for criticizing a film on its merits. I don’t remember Red River enough to comment on the Freud thing, but it was just kind of hokey, though probably worth seeing again in the future. 

    Add Easy Rider to the list. How did they manage to make such a dull and, at the end, over-the-top movie about such a topic?

    • #16
  17. Palaeologus Inactive
    Palaeologus
    @Palaeologus

    He Got Game, Spike Lee.

    I loves me a good basketball movie, or occasionally even a bad one, for instance, Above the Rim.

    This had all the trappings of a fun show, but it was annoyingly pedantic and mostly boring from start to finish.

    I like watching Ray Allen and Denzel Washington, but I liked both better before I watched that movie.

    • #17
  18. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    “Mulholland Falls”, two-fisted imitation L.A. noir with a bit of paranoia about the LAPD and the Atomic Energy Commission to give it a hint of seriousness; on paper it had ideas and probably looked like “Chinatown” meets “The China Syndrome”, but despite a decent job by Nolte it’s just not well written enough. Roughly ditto for “The Two Jakes”, who should have known better. 

    Doug Trumbull’s “Silent Running” and “Brainstorm”. We’ve talked about “Running” before. “Brainstorm” has an interesting fantasy idea–actual thoughts and experiences recordable on holographic wideband tape–and after an eerie death scene with a certain extremely recently-dead actress, the script mostly blows it on dorm room dummery (an unlikable dork turns the playback tape into his own personal orgasmatron) and anti-military, anti-spook farce. So why did I bring it up? It’s got something, the frustrating half-realized vision of a partial artist. 

    “The Forbin Project” (1969). An “eh” idea–the artificial intelligence entrusted with American defense predictably takes over–has some insightful angles about then-new computers and technology. Odd touches: families at a Kodak Photospot overlooking computer headquarters; a noisy videoconference interrupted by an emergency.

    • #18
  19. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Gary McVey: It’s got something, the frustrating half-realized vision of a partial artist.

    That’s the kind of things I mean.

    • #19
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Palaeologus: Spike Lee . . . annoyingly pedantic

    Need any say more?

    • #20
  21. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Gary McVey: Doug Trumbull’s “Silent Running”

    Just on a total side note, one of the composers involved in Silent Running was Peter Schickele of P. D. Q. Bach fame.

    • #21
  22. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    ctlaw: I have an unusual way of suspending disbelief. On the one hand, I can’t fully suspend disbelief when watching a typical action flick. Thus I tend to have a relatively low favorability for films that take themselves too seriously. On the other hand, I can partially suspend belief. Thus, I have a relatively high favorability for films such as this; whereas people who can fully suspend disbelief for a more serious film do not (because this film does not let them suspend disbelief).

     I’m very similar. “True Lies” is just so stupid when it isn’t being rather morally repulsive.   But it doesn’t pretend to be anything but an excuse to watch Arnold blow stuff up and an absolutely adorkable Jamie Lee Curtis.  It’s like a proto-Michael Bay movie, and it definitely counts as one of my guilty pleasure movies.

    • #22
  23. Blue State Blues Member
    Blue State Blues
    @BlueStateBlues

    I had trouble suspending disbelief when I watched “Godzilla.”  I had no problem with giant monsters that are impossible to kill, feeding off of radioactive material and rampaging over the countryside.  But, then the writers made the mistake of making the giant buglike creatures head for Yucca Mountain, where all of the USA’s nuclear waste was supposed to be stored.  And I said, “Now wait a minute — there’s no radioactive material there, they never built the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain!”

    • #23
  24. Wylee Coyote Member
    Wylee Coyote
    @WyleeCoyote

    No Country for Old Men.

    I typically love anything the Coen brothers make.  And it’s not that it was a bad movie – far from it.  The first two-thirds of it were a riveting chase drama and a vivid portrait of a weird Western demimonde.  Then they blow it all in the final act, with an anti-climactic bait-and-switch denoument, lamely justified with the banal point that real life isn’t like the movies.  Gee, thanks, I didn’t know that.

    • #24
  25. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull”. The first and third films were anti-Nazi, so the roll of the chronological dice meant that a Fifties sequel would parallel that with anti-Communism. OK. But to take the supposed “curse” off that, they had to make the Fifties into the usual pit of McCarthyite kneejerk horrors that seem to morally repel Indy Jones. Why, G-men and red baiters ran wild at one of their typical nests of iniquity, an Ivy League university.

    Most 65 year olds in 1955 were not particularly fond of ACLU politics, but Indy’s got some moral equivalence going; he must have been watching David Susskind on that 12 inch DuMont.

    • #25
  26. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Blue State Blues:

    I had trouble suspending disbelief when I watched “Godzilla.” I had no problem with giant monsters that are impossible to kill, feeding off of radioactive material and rampaging over the countryside. But, then the writers made the mistake of making the giant buglike creatures head for Yucca Mountain, where all of the USA’s nuclear waste was supposed to be stored. And I said, “Now wait a minute — there’s no radioactive material there, they never built the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain!”

    Also, why did they try to transport entire missiles when they only intended to use the warheads?
     

    • #26
  27. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Munich. Awful remake of Sword of Gideon, which was actually a really good movie.

    • #27
  28. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    ctlaw, there’s a doctoral thesis waiting to be written about the use and misuse of nuclear weapons hardware in the movies.  The bomb in “True Lies” looks pretty realistic; the one in “The Shadow”, despite some superficial touches, is not. “Strangelove” makes the grade. “Godzilla” does not. 

    The bomb doesn’t have to be realistic to be dramatically effective: the one in “Goldfinger” gets some things right but is mostly fanciful (the core rotates like a cement mixer? Why?). Yet, like the exploding shark at the end of “Jaws”, it’s entertaining and you get carried along. 

    Primitive, yet effective, like Mike Hammer himself, is the “whatsis” everyone seeks in “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955). anonymous will tell us it’s unrealistic. He’s right; yet if the whatsis were a barely sub-critical core assembly, it would exhibit many of the weird, unpleasant traits seen in the movie. 

    • #28
  29. user_891102 Member
    user_891102
    @DannyAlexander

    #27 AIG

    To borrow Amy Schley’s expression, “Munich” was morally repulsive.
    Because scriptwriter and avowed Israel-hater Tony Kushner is.

    • #29
  30. Blue State Blues Member
    Blue State Blues
    @BlueStateBlues

    ctlaw:

    Also, why did they try to transport entire missiles when they only intended to use the warheads?

     The nuclear power plant was goofy, too.  All the people in space suits running down an incredibly long pipe tunnel, trying to outrun a radioactive steam jet, and a giant door that automatically slams down shut like a portcullis — nope, only in Hollywood.

    • #30
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