4 Surprisingly Simple Fixes for Famously Bad Movies

I watch a lot of bad movies, because intellectually debasing myself for your entertainment is the most lucrative career afforded me by the cruel fates, you hideous bastards. And like everyone who spends a lot of time enjoying the hard work of other people without ever actually engaging in that work, I feel like I have a better understanding of that job than the people who actually do it professionally well enough to support their families. Ya know how drinking a lot of beer will teach you organic chemistry? It's like that.

So if there are any professional filmmakers in my readership, just sit down and shut up for a minute while Big Papa teaches you how to do your job ("Big Papa" is what my cat thinks my name is).

#4. Pacific Rim: Switch Mako and Raleigh

Pacific Rim is one of my favorite movies ever. I love it for the same reason I love the Hobbit movies: it's like someone eschewed every piece of narrative technique we've learned throughout storytelling history just so they could make a movie that me, Sargey Pargey Puddin' 'n' Pie, would enjoy while drunk, stoned, sleepy, sick, or trying to prove my nerd-cred to a sexy geek girl ("Anime? I know a little bit about anime ..."). But still, whenever I meet someone who says they hated it, my reaction is always, "Yeah, I see what you mean."

"Your opinion makes more sense than mine."

The film's a freaking mess. Raleigh Becket is the most boring protagonist this side of whatever it is that Ethan Hawke did last, because he starts out a cocky hotshot who hates Kaiju because they killed his brother, and he's the exact same when the movie ends. You can argue that maybe he learns the value of cooperation as evidenced by that "let's do this, together!" line, and he learns to open up to Mako Mori, but if you have that opinion you're stupid, so I can ignore it. Raleigh has less depth than the useless secondary antagonist's dog.

But all that's fine, because I figured out ...

How to Fix It

Switch Mako and Raleigh's places in the story.

The opening of Pacific Rim is a voiceover explaining how the world has Kaiju now. Then, bam, we meet two characters, brothers Raleigh and Yancy Becket, as they pilot their Jaeger against a Kaiju off the coast of Alaska. Yancy is killed, but Raleigh manages to kill the monster. This is not how Pacific Rim should have started.

The best scene in the movie is a flashback at around the halfway point, when we see Mako -- as a sobbing child -- running through the smoking remains of Tokyo as a huge crab Kaiju barrels down on her. Just as she's about to be squashed, Stacker Pentecost shows up and saves her. This is how Pacific Rim should have started. Mako should be the character we meet first -- as a child -- and Raleigh's tragic backstory should be revealed at the halfway point instead.

This works better for a few big reasons. First, Mako is a far better protagonist than Raleigh is, because she's a synecdoche for the human experience of encountering Kaiju and therefore a better surrogate for the audience. If we're introduced to her as a child, we follow her (and humanity) from naive and impotent terror, to aspirational self-improvement, to triumphant vengeance. Bam, fools: Hero's Journey, all up in this bitch.

Allll up in it.

And, more importantly, this revised structure forces audiences to feel the Kaiju threat: at the beginning, we're watching the destruction through the eyes of a helpless child, which would establish them as a vast, insurmountable danger. Then, when we finally watch a fight from the inside of a Jaeger and get to live vicariously through the most satisfying CGI sequences I've ever seen, it would feel earned, deserved, and justified.

Note: If Guillermo del Toro is reading this then hi oh my god how are you all your movies are awesome even Mimic has its moments I forgot what I was going to say.

#3. Godzilla: Don't Kill Bryan Cranston -- Kill His Son

The problem with Godzilla is that there isn't a protagonist. We start with Bryan Cranston, but then he is killed off in a real dumb and unsatisfying way, so we watch his son (who has no personality) and his son's wife (who wasn't given a copy of the script) stumble around wreckage looking sad. Are we supposed to sympathize with Godzilla? Because he's a giant death-lizard. Normally I'm all about supporting death-lizards (especially when they're, say, disguising themselves as humans and subverting the U.S. government from within; I dunno, I'm just spit-balling) but when they kill most of Hawaii I'm less impressed.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

How to Fix It

Aside from killing fewer Hawaiians? Check this out: instead of killing Cranston, kill his son. We'd had enough of that musclehead by the end of the first Kick-Ass anyway, and we can never get enough Cranston, because he is the one who knocks. But there are plot-based reasons to do this too.

Let's jump to the part at the end when MUTO (the nuclear death monster that we're not supposed to sympathize with) beats up Godzilla. As our giant nuclear lizard monster hero is lying on the ground in agony, he and Kick-Ass share a moment: they gaze deep into each other's eyes, and just for a second look like they're about to fist-bump. It's a scene that basically grabs you by the shoulders and screams, "This is supposed to be powerful!"


Now, imagine he and Cranston's places are switched. The young, virile, smooth-skinned, muscular dreamboat is killed stupidly at the 30-minute mark, and the older, salty, intimidating-yet-vulnerable Cranston survives. Now he's watched both his wife and his son get killed by the MUTO monster, and he's willing to do anything for revenge, since we've already seen that he's devoted his entire life to this. We'd be seeing these events through his eyes, through the filter of his more-than-a-little-unhinged brain. This movie desperately needs to give us that perspective in order to view Godzilla as a hero, because, I can't stress this enough, he's a giant lizard monster that murders cities. And speaking of lots and lots of gratuitous murder ...

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J.F. Sargent

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