There are good movies and bad movies, and then there are those weird hybrids -- bad movies that seem to have a great film trapped beneath the surface, struggling against the constricting binds of Hollywood mediocrity like a majestic eagle that has accidentally gotten tangled in a discarded pair of fishnet stockings.
This is because all great movies are walking a razor's edge, and just one step in the wrong direction will send you plummeting into the darkest depths of absolute stupidity. That means that in some alternate universe ...
(If you're hungry for greatness, check out Cracked's new Star Wars miniseries.)
5Prometheus Was a Straight Alien Prequel That Actually Made Sense
20th Century Fox
Prometheus is probably the biggest sci-fi letdown since the last time someone made a movie set in the Alien universe. Instead of a worthy follow-up to the best sci-fi action movie ever, we got an attempt at a stand-alone plot that wouldn't have even happened if the characters weren't stupid enough to pet alien snakes, get lost in tunnels that they themselves had mapped, and take their helmets off on an alien planet most likely so full of dangerous microbes that they'd be shitting their intestines out within the hour. Seriously, they're like the dumbest scientists ever.
20th Century Fox
"I found something that looks like chocolate! Let's lick it!"
And beyond that, the plot winds up being just a disjointed series of scary situations with no rhyme or reason, from the deadly black goo that is never explained to the ship's android randomly turning evil, just because.
But maybe the weirdest thing of all is that clearly the film is intended to be an Alien prequel -- the finale of the movie literally leads up to the plot of Alien. A horseshoe-shaped ship crashes with an alien sitting in the cockpit, landing in the exact same position as it is discovered by the crew in the first Alien film. "But wait," they say, "this isn't the planet they landed on in Alien known as LV-426. This is LV-223, a completely different planet. It just so happens that this planet has an identical bit of wreckage and a nearly identical species of alien on it. Makes perfect sense, really." It would be like if, at the end of Revenge of the Sith, it turned out that Anakin had actually been turning into a completely different guy who was also named Darth Vader in a neighboring galaxy.
Actually, that might be a best case scenario.
The Awesome Movie We Missed Out On:
Prometheus was just one or two rewrites away from greatness -- but not in the direction you think. An earlier draft by John Spaihts called Alien: Engineers was in fact a straight Alien prequel that, yes, took place on the same planet and could easily have been one of the best movies in the series (or at least something that wouldn't have made audiences want to reach into the screen, grab each character by the shoulders, and violently shake them until they stopped being stupid).
20th Century Fox
Where's Michael Biehn when you really need him?
This script completely removes or explains all the weird character decisions and plot holes, opting instead for badass one-liners ("I brought it in. [hefts her gun] I took it out"). Engineers has a new take on the chest-burster scene that's even more intense than the one Prometheus gave us: Instead of getting a cesarean section, the original draft had that medical pod repairing Watt's chest as a xenomorph burst out of it. We also would've seen new types of xenomorphs, including a gray human-alien hybrid -- except, ya know, better than the one we saw in Alien: Resurrection.
And no one has sex with it!
Weirdly enough, it also explains virtually every plot hole in the version we saw. Why does the crew not know what their job is? Because classified jobs pay more and Peter Weyland is worried about corporate espionage. What's the black goo? A bioweapon originally intended for Earth. Why does the Engineer throw a temper tantrum when people wake him up? Because he has a xenomorph in his belly and is awaiting medical care -- our heroes have effectively doomed both him and the planet. Why did David the Android turn evil? Because he goes nuts and starts seeing the Engineers as gods worthy of worship.
So what happened? Well, they brought in Damon Lindelof (the guy who wrote Lost) and, shockingly, suddenly the plot took on the same random and nonsensical nature of the seasons of Lost he wrote. Lindelof convinced director Ridley Scott that the movie didn't need to be an Alien prequel at all, that audiences wouldn't care about that. So instead they'd just make the aliens look pretty much like the xenomorphs everyone knows and loves and do a "search and replace" in the script, switching out the names of the planets. After all, there's nothing audiences love more than being utterly confused by random plot elements that seem to have been slapped together on the fly, right?
4I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry Was a Serious Take on Gay Marriage
The I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry that you know is an Adam Sandler vehicle about two New York City firemen who have to pretend to be gay because that's the only way Sandler could think to end that sentence at that moment. It's ostensibly pro-gay rights, but is so worried that you might actually think it's gay that it takes the preventive measure of serving up great slathering piles of homophobic humor with just a spritzing of casual racism, because why not?
Oh, Rob Schneider. What ever happened to- oh, wait, he's always been this terrible.
So this is one of those deals where Sandler and some of his buddies just got high and slapped together a movie idea in an afternoon, right? Hell, they probably just wrote an outline and improvised it as they went along.
But here's the thing -- the script is credited to the award-winning writing team of Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, best known for winning a Best Screenplay Oscar for Sideways, getting nominated for another one for Election, and winning a Golden Globe for About Schmidt. In fact, the disappointment of seeing Payne and Taylor's names on such forgettable trash caused at least one movie critic to lose his faith in God.
The Awesome Movie We Missed Out On:
It's almost tragic: I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry wasn't always just another copy-pasted guy-has-to-do-a-thing Adam Sandler comedy, but was a funny and touching character comedy called Flamers. To give you an idea of just how convoluted the Hollywood process can be, it started life as a script written by Barry Fanaro (who wrote Kingpin), and the award-winning team of Payne and Taylor were brought in to make it not terrible. This resulted in a script so good that Sandler now wanted to be a part of it, and as soon as he came on board, he proceeded to make it terrible again.
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At least he resisted the urge to add a ukulele number.
Despite Sandler's uncredited rewrite, you can see the shape of the cool story struggling to escape the crushing grip of Sandlerification. In the original script, Larry's kid was a young figure skater struggling with his sexuality, emotionally trying to deal with the complication of his father merely pretending to be gay. In Chuck & Larry, Larry's son is a walking gay stereotype who wears sparkly shirts, screams like a girl, and concludes his character arc with a Gene Kelly-style victory dance after punching a bully in the nuts.
Oh well, same thing.
While Chuck and Larry's courtroom kiss is yet another opportunity for Sandler to make a joke about how kissing other men is gross because of how totally straight he is, in the original script it was an intimate moment between two friends -- described in the stage direction as a "melding of souls."
Apparently their souls smell like butt.
Basically, Flamers would've thrown down the gauntlet on depictions of gay men in film by tackling homophobia and male sexuality pretty much head-on. Instead, we got more Sandler-style freakouts, dropped-the-soap gags, and Rob Schneider.