5 Famously Dumb Movies With Mind-Blowing Hidden Meanings
We all have a favorite stupid movie that we watch over and over despite knowing that it's bad -- the kind of movie that we profess to love, but when someone says they didn't care for it, we're all "Yeah, I can see that." For me, that's all my favorite movies. "Quality" cinema like Citizen Kane and Pacific Rim is fine for what it is, but when you show me nonsensical dialogue, uninspired special effects, and gratuitous violence, I will swallow each ludicrous frame, digest every syllable of stilted dialogue, until I become ill and bloated with secret meaning. And then I'll puke that meaning all over you, like a mother bird feeding her young.
Hope you brought an umbrella, readers, because this column's about to get messy.
Doom Explores the Nature of Morality
I want to clarify right away that I actually rewatched all these movies specifically for this article over a very short time span. For Doom, I had hoped that the hazy memories of late-night double features in my twilight years of high school would inoculate me against the stupidity, but in the end I just wasn't prepared for how bland and fucking forgettable this movie is. But the low quality shouldn't be all that surprising: Not only is this a video game adaptation, but it stars "Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson" way back when he was just "The 'Dwayne Johnson' Rock" and ... wait, Karl Urban is in this? I love that dude! He's the most badass part of everything he's ever been in because his face looks like someone drew a frown on a giant walking knuckle.
Killer grimaces aside, this movie seriously sucks, don't watch it. Except the part where it (sort of) disassembles everything you know about the nature of morality. You should watch that part twice.
The Secret Message
Early on, a character named Goat is bitten by a demon. He starts to turn into one, because this whole script is clearly a zombie movie that was hastily rewritten into an Aliens knockoff. When he realizes that he's DOOMed, he decides to save his friends by slamming his face into a wall until he dies.
At least I think that's what's happening. They kinda forgot to light this scene.
Later we learn that when a demon "infects" you, it can go one of two ways: If you're an inherently bad person, it turns you into a monster, but if you're an inherently good person, it gives you superhuman reflexes and a healing factor. According to the movie, this is because it accesses the genetic code of your soul.
This is where shit gets real: Goat was genetically predisposed toward being a bad person, but he was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Karl Urban's John Reaper, on the other hand, says he's "done terrible things," but when he gets infected by the magic-demon serum, he gets really good at playing first-person shooters and saves the day. That means that Reaper is a good person on the inside (promise!); he just doesn't do anything good. Goat (some side character) was born shitty, but overcame that shittiness to become selfless enough to make the ultimate sacrifice by head-banging himself to death.
Basically, Doom makes the exact same point David Wong made last year, only this movie doesn't realize it's making that point, because if it did, Goat would be the hero of the whole damn story, and not just the lone hero of my aching heart.
I'll never forget you, Goat. And good job in House of Cards.
Batman & Robin Is About Batman's Homosexuality
Batman & Robin is the most uncontroversially terrible movie I could bring up. I'm talking 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Rewatching it for notes and screencaps is the most hazardous thing I've ever done for my career, and I once spent an entire week reading Reddit. It's so bad that when my roommate walked in on me watching this movie, I immediately slammed my laptop shut, and I can only hope she assumed I was watching porn.
I wasn't watching porn. But I was watching a movie that is all about how much Batman loves dicks.
The Secret Message
What you have to understand is that gayness has always been a major part of Batman's character. Sure, the higher-ups at DC insist he's straight, but the folks actually writing the character disagree, and when I have to choose between trusting a guy in a fancy tie and a guy who claims to have traveled to other dimensions, I'm always going to pick the latter. Even Frank Miller insists that Batman "would be much healthier if he were gay," and this is Frank Miller talking.
This is Frank Miller smiling.
From the perspective of a writer preparing to write a story within the existing Batman mythology, the gay subtext is hard to ignore: The guy is a reclusive billionaire leading a double life revolving primarily around other men and fetish gear. Sure, you're not wrong if you write him straight, but it makes more sense to say "Hey, maybe sometimes there are cocks in him."
Obviously I'm using this picture.
Enter Joel Schumacher. Aside from his use of surface-level gay stuff (the celebration of the male form in the outfits with massive codpieces; the fact that every fight scene looks like it was lifted from musical theater), he takes it a step further and makes overcoming heterosexuality a major part of Bruce's story arc.
Sure, Bruce Wayne has a girlfriend in this movie named [didn't catch it] and played by [who gives a shit she has like two minutes of screen time], but she's mostly presented as something he has to figure out how to ignore. Every time they're together, he's making excuses to keep the relationship from moving forward: "I'm not the marrying kind," he says, "There are parts of me you wouldn't understand."
Ladies: If a guy says that to you, it's not because he's Batman.
But the more telling part is how Batman deals with Poison Ivy's mind-control pheromones. Through the movie, Wayne manages to overcome not only Ivy's seduction, but the sexual advances of the aforementioned smoking-hot blonde supermodel, and the whole time he seems confused as to why he's sexually attracted to Poison Ivy at all. When Batman explains his suspicions to Robin, the younger hero is all [doofy voice] "You've got some real issues with women!"[/doofy voice] The big scene before the final battle shows Batman convincing Robin to suppress his heterosexuality in order to do battle with her. If that doesn't convince you, there's also the fact that George Clooney said he portrayed Batman as gay on purpose. That might be relevant.
My point is that while Joel Schumacher made a terrible movie, that might only be because he was trying to do something that's almost impossible to pull off. So partial credit for you, Joel Schumacher.
And good job on House of Cards.
Two and a Half Men Studies the Perils of Modern Masculinity
They must feel sooooo stupid in their space mansions.
Why is this stupid show so successful?
The Secret Message
The premise of Two and a Half Men is a metaphor for the two different kinds of masculinity the modern kid has to choose between. On the one hand, we have Charlie Sheen: a hard-drinking, lazy, womanizing misogynist who's successful, handsome, morally bankrupt, and completely miserable. On the other hand, we have Jon Cryer, who's effeminate, weak-willed, respectful/submissive to women (depending on the episode), and ... also completely miserable. Yup: He has no good role models to teach him how to become a man, and he is forced to go out into the world to find guidance on his own.
Miley Cyrus is his best bet, apparently.
It seems like this might be screwing him over. Jake was portrayed as precocious, but in later seasons he became kind of a dipshit. Either he's suppressing his own intelligence out of frustration at his life's inherent lack of direction, or making one of the characters really stupid just allowed the writers more room for doofy jokes. It's sorta unclear how much of this was intended.
Because this show isn't just dumb, it's also bad. That isn't always the case. Some "dumb" movies are actually pretty good despite their apparent stupidity, like ...
Dredd Is About the Cyclical Nature of Punishment and Violence
This movie stands out a bit on this list because I've never actually met anyone who saw this and didn't enjoy it. But at the same time, no one really argues that it's smart -- it just seems like it's cool because it's a competent and understated action story. No overcomplicated plots, no flashy special effects, just extremely competent world building, slow-motion bullet wounds, Karl Urban, minigun fights, and Cersei Lannister biting a dude's dick off and becoming a drug lord.
Did I mention the minigun?
But most importantly for this article, it has the most thought provoking and intelligent depiction of the nature of crime that I can remember seeing in a movie.
The Secret Message
The good guys in this movie aren't actually the good guys. Right at the beginning, Dredd tells a rookie that the Hall of Justice only has the manpower to respond to 6 percent of crimes reported, meaning that the police has no more authority than the criminal organizations it's fighting against. He also causes every problem in the movie: An opening shootout with drug dealers happens because his appearance scares them so much that they panic, try to escape, and accidentally kill a pedestrian. Later, we learn that even totally innocent civilians hate the judges: A woman with a baby tells Dredd that she wants him as far away from her family as possible, because rather than providing protection, he just invites violence.
Meanwhile, the villain, Ma-Ma, is one of the more sympathetic characters we meet: She became a drug lord because her pimp tried to murder her, and fighting back was the only way to stay alive. Her biggest crime (in Dredd's eyes) is manufacturing "slo-mo," a chemical that "makes you feel like time is moving at 1 percent of normal speed." It's basically Bullet Time, the drug.
It's literally impossible to be a danger to society from your bubble bath.
I'm not saying that Dredd is the secret antagonist -- it's actually more complicated than that. Dredd wants peace, and order, and law, but the only way he knows how to solve problems is violence. Since he also has the biggest guns, that forces everyone else to resort to violence, too, and things have been this way for so long that no one character can turn it around. The best example is at the end, when Ma-Ma tells Dredd that she has rigged the apartment building with bombs, and if she dies, a device on her wrist will transmit a signal, blowing them all up. Dredd shoots her in the stomach and throws her off the balcony, hoping that the signal from the device won't be strong enough to make it through the concrete. He takes an irresponsibly huge gamble, putting all the innocent lives he fought to save in danger, based on no information, because he just doesn't know any way to solve problems other than "shoot at them until they go away."
Awesome, right? And yet Silver Linings Playbook gets nominated for best fucking picture. This is a broken world.
Zardoz Is About Traditional Families Murdering Hippies
Zardoz is a movie about a future barbarian (Sean Connery) who discovers a society of immortal hippies that can't get boners anymore and are all dying of "apathy." Then Sean Connery and all his barbarian buddies kill everyone and Connery has a kid, grows old, and dies. The end.
Screenshots aren't going to be very helpful.
We need to get something straight here. This movie is not merely terrible in the Amazing Spider-Man 2 sense of the word, but terrible in the "how Galadriel used it" sense of the word. This film is not content to merely bore or depress you -- if not met with a certain level of mental fortitude, Zardoz will unmake you. I have held many viewings, and I have seen former friends left spiritually shattered, tears running down their slack faces, pants soaked with urine and tears. Even if you seem to survive, Zardoz will lay the eggs of madness inside your mind, and the only way to escape your fate is to figure out what this goddamn story is about. I have watched this movie 700,000 times, and in the eyes of God and man, I hereby proclaim that I have done exactly that.
The Secret Meaning
Zardoz is about how the traditional nuclear family is the only thing that can save the world from the perils of free love.
In the movie, the "immortals" have perfected technology that allows them control over the aging process, so they of course keep themselves in their mid-20s and just fuck around all day.
The "immortals" represent carefree, loose sex. They have no desire to procreate and specifically designed their "tabernacle" (the big crystal that, I think, keeps them immortal) so that they could never leave, and they just sit around wearing awful hippie clothes forever. The problem is that they can't get boners (there's a whole scene where scientists just look at drawings of cocks and shrug their shoulders), until Sean Connery shows up and sweats all over them, introducing them again to mortality and procreation. Seriously, when he sweats on the "apathetics" (immortals who have grown bored and stand there staring into the distance), they wake up and immediately try to fuck him.
Sean Connery's sweat is rad, you guys.
And then ... and then all this happens:
Until finally, Connery gets laid, has a son, grows old, and dies. All while never getting up from his comfy chair or even breaking eye contact with you.
There's also a giant stone head that flies around vomiting guns on people and telling them that "the penis is evil," but I don't think that's important. So there we go. The point Zardoz makes is that the family unit is the backbone of society, and if we lose track of that, we'll all become bored hippies, trapped in the prison of our commune, longing for a death that can never come.
Right? I mean, I don't agree with that message, but I've solved you, right, Zardoz? We're done? Can I have my dreams back?