5 Famously Terrible Movies That Were Almost Great
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.)
Prometheus Was a Straight Alien Prequel That Actually Made Sense
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.
"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).
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?
I 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.
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.
The Three Stooges Film Could Have Been the Most Utterly Insane Thing Ever Made
Despite a supporting cast that features Larry David, Jane Lynch, and everyone from Jersey Shore (at least all the ones we've heard of), the 2012 reboot of The Three Stooges still managed to suck in a way that made it utterly forgettable (how many of you even remembered they made this movie?).
This is a shot from the movie, we think.
The Awesome Movie We Missed Out On:
We want you to sit back and imagine a Three Stooges film starring Jim Carrey, Benicio del Toro, and Sean Fucking Penn as Curly, Moe, and Larry, respectively. What's that, you say? You can't imagine it, because that's too bizarre for the human mind to conceive? Well, it almost happened.
Yeah, we're gonna go on record here saying that this visionary dream cast for a film about three man-children who solve every problem they face with cartoonish violence is a work of abstract modern art. Watching it would've been like ... well, like a two-hour movie of Three Stooges gags performed by Ace Ventura, Fred Fenster, and the guy with the terminal heart condition from 21 Grams. Got a good mental picture?
Neither do we.
When was the last time Penn did anything -- movie or otherwise -- that wasn't wrought with psychological material mined from the Stygian depths of human suffering? We're picturing a Larry flailing around a scene of chaotic slapstick while his eyes quietly whisper the truth: that Larry is constantly fighting the pain from the acid burns he suffered as a child, and he is searching, ever searching, for a grip on his place in the modern world. And then Moe would hit him in the face with a shovel.
Sadly, the world was spared this celebrity LSD trip when all three actors eventually backed out -- presumably after deciding that the world just wasn't ready for this yet. And speaking of potentially great films ruined by casting ...
The Worst Bond Movie Could Have Been the Best
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the James Bond movie most likely to be completely forgotten, and for good reason. It's the first Bond movie to be released after Sean Connery decided he wanted to be a cowboy, and it stars his first replacement: Australian model George Lazenby, who had never acted and allegedly received no coaching from director Peter Hunt.
"You're Bondy enough as-is. Now get out there and topple something."
On top of that, the movie tries to complicate Bond by giving him human fears and emotions, even having him fall in love with a girl only to abruptly watch her die. It's like Casino Royale, only instead of being released as a post-hiatus reboot, it was a sequel to a two-year-old movie where Bond was invading volcano layers with the help of trained ninjas, inexplicably starring some random dude audiences had never seen before.
The Awesome Movie We Missed Out On:
"So, the movie sucked because they couldn't get Sean Connery. What were they supposed to do?" Well, here's the thing -- it's not like Connery signed a blood pact to never play Bond again; he returned to the role just two years later with Diamonds Are Forever. And in fact this one would have had Connery in it, had production problems not caused it to be pushed back (the script called for snow, but the planned shooting location had an unusually warm winter that year -- no, we're not kidding).
We always figured Bond's most devious enemy would be a little more imposing.
So you wound up with a distractingly bad lead in a film in which just about everything else is widely considered to be top-notch. Its action scenes are still praised to this day (particularly its climatic ski chase), and its score is considered the best in the series. Basically everything in the movie works, but you're so distracted by the incompetence of the lead that you don't notice. Remember, this was before the era when you just got used to a new Bond every few films -- you can imagine how much weirder it was for audiences back then.
After Pierce Brosnan, we're pretty much OK with anything.
And keep in mind that this is the first movie to show how Bond creator Ian Fleming had started being influenced by Sean Connery's portrayal -- specifically by revealing that the character is Scottish. The whole point was about Connery's Bond evolving as a character. Instead, we watched some other guy that everyone called Bond for some reason stumble through a bunch of spy stuff while not seeming all that into it.
Had the film been produced on schedule (after Thunderball), or had Connery simply not taken a bizarre one-film hiatus only to return two years later (the producers got him back via the creative tactic of "offering him a shitload of money"), there is a very real possibility that On Her Majesty's Secret Service would have been the best James Bond film ever. Of course, we'll never know, just as we'll also never know what it would have been like to see ...
Return of the Jedi as Directed by Steven Spielberg
OK, look: we're not saying that Return of the Jedi is really a bad movie. We're just saying that it's the bronze medal of the original trilogy, and that Rotten Tomatoes totally agrees with us.
Of course, it also puts the score lower than Revenge of the Sith -- but let's not go there.
From the introduction of the "clearly designed to sell merchandise" Ewoks to the "Hey, let's just have them blow up a Death Star again" finale, this was the first time fans started to see the cracks that would blow up the franchise later (did we mention fan favorites Boba Fett and Yoda dying pointless, uneventful deaths? Or the terrible green screen in the rancor fight?).
"Jason and the Argonauts is two sound stages down, pal."
To be fair, even by Star Wars movie standards, putting this flick together was a goddamn nightmare. In an act that George Lucas would later describe as "extortion," the filmmaker was fined -- i.e., sued -- by the Directors Guild of America for $250,000 simply because Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back decided to forgo opening credits, instead opting for a mildly badass opening sequence you may have heard of. Sick of their shit, Lucas quit the Directors Guild, which forced him to find a non-union director to replace the filmmaker he really wanted for the third and final film in the original Star Wars trilogy. And who was that?
The Awesome Movie We Missed Out On:
We at Cracked present to you Revenge of the Jedi directed by Steven Fucking Spielberg. Yep, that's who we would have gotten had it not been for Lucas' dispute with the union. And we're talking 1982 Spielberg, a man in the middle of a run that included Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Try to wrap your mind around how awesome this would've been: Yoda's death was nearly staged by the same man who shot E.T. The rancor was almost handed to the same man who directed Jurassic Park. The Battle of Endor and the attack on the shield generator were nearly captured by the same dude who won an Oscar for Saving Private Ryan.
Actually, that may have been a little much.
Oh, and the sarlacc battle, and with it Boba Fett's painfully disappointing death? That was nearly storyboarded, choreographed, and lodged into Star Wars lore by the same Steven Spielberg who directed this fight in Raiders of the Lost Ark:
That could have been Boba Fett punching Han.
Also, we have no way of knowing this for sure, but we're just gonna guess that ol' Stevie would've vetoed the Ewoks, because that makes us feel good inside. Basically, instead of a pretty alright Star Wars movie, we could've closed the greatest adventure trilogy of all time with an epic from one of the greatest filmmakers of all time at his peak. And it was all due to one split-second decision and a $250,000 fine that George Lucas could probably have paid with the loose change from his sofa cushions.
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Related Reading: For some bad movies that could be awesome remakes, click here. It's time we gave Hancock's premise another shot but, y'know...not with Will Smith. If you want to know how Hollywood tricks us into watching their drek, read this article. Then click here and discover the spectacularly bad ideas Hollywood has convinced you are badass. Flamethrowers don't work that way.