#2. Reign of Fire
It's the future. Dragons have reawakened and quickly become the dominant species on Earth. It's up to Christian Bale to fight them and save humanity. That's the premise, logline, and (ideally) the entire script of this movie.
Because the movie is set in the future, we're not seeing knights fighting dragons with swords -- we get dragons versus tanks and helicopters! AND CHRISTIAN BALE!
I'll never know how Hollywood screwed up this movie so fantastically, but it did. Check out these reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:
Even the positive reviews aren't exactly glowing. Roeper agrees that the movie isn't good, and one critic's grading system seems to be entirely built around the fact that there were dragons in the movie. And those are the positive reviews.
"The sound wasn't working in my theater, but still, I'll give it five stars."
The CGI is terrible, the movie is too dark, the ending is predictable, none of the characters make sense, and the most shocking thing of all is that the filmmakers took this premise with so much potential and made it boring. There are long stretches of time where people just angrily whisper-fight in a dark castle and surprising little dragon-fighting happens.
But you and I both know that there is an awesome movie-meal to be made out of ingredients that include tanks, dragons, and Christian Bale. So my only advice to Hollywood is try again. You screwed up. Hard. We're not mad, just do better next time. Don't change any of the ingredients, just try one more time.
#1. Theodore Rex
Theodore Rex is a straight-to-video buddy-cop film that pairs Whoopi Goldberg with a talking dinosaur. It's an alternate future, and Whoopi and Rex are paired up to track down a guy who is systematically killing dinosaurs. It turns out to be an eccentric billionaire who is trying to cause another ice age.
Everyone hated it. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive straight-to-video movie ever. Whoopi desperately tried to get out of her contract. Several present-day lizards went extinct out of protest.
Richard Roundtree is in it.
The '90s, man. The '90s were a pretty weird time for movies. '80s movies are cute and campy -- they have an identity -- and by 2000, technology had gotten sophisticated enough that we could make cool movies that looked good, and almost any movie can at least look like a blockbuster. '90s movies just sort of languished in that middle ground. They wanted to avoid a silly, '80s camp reputation while shooting for a level of sophistication that they couldn't actually meet. The '90s were embarrassed by the '80s. It's what makes the '90s the most self-conscious decade for movies in history.
Look how embarrassed that dinosaur costume is.
That's how a movie like Theodore Rex happens. Throwing yourself completely into camp territory takes confidence, and so does trying to make a really badass movie about a fairly weird subject. Rex, like most '90s movies, had no confidence, so the movie won't be good or "so bad it's good." Ever.
A movie about a cop being paired up with a dinosaur in the future is perfect for right now. If books like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and movies like Machete prove anything, it's that we are living in the golden age of dumb ideas handled seriously. How many writers and directors could take the simple, idiotic premise of "What if one of them is a dinosaur?" and have an absolute blast with it? Theodore Rex just came at the wrong time. You give that premise to Robert Rodriguez and we would have one ridiculous, over-the-top, badass, balls-out incredible movie.
If we keep fixing the mistakes of the past, eventually EVERY movie will be great.
Except Die Hard 5. I'm not going to touch that movie. I want it to live on as the only bad movie in human history. That is the fate it deserves.
(No, I'm not bitter about this.)
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's head writer (ladies). Watch him perform stand-up Tuesday, April 2, at Westside Comedy Theater (Los Angelenos), or check out the movie he and all of his friends are in, Kill Me Now (everyone).