5 Historically Bad Series That Had Exactly One Good Scene
Bad movies are easy to laugh at and subsequently ignore. Bad movie series, on the other hand, make you question whether or not this whole Hollywood thing was such a solid plan. But rarely is a bad series ever totally bad. Usually, trapped within the wreckage are scenes that would've shone ever so brightly under different circumstances. Sadly, these five scenes were stuck in the midst of war crimes against human creativity, which means that it's especially hard to appreciate things like ...
The Only Time The Hobbit Series Is Good Is During A Goblin Song
The Hobbit trilogy, or That's How You Spent $675 Million?, is a bloated titan of failure. They're sluggish movies made on a rushed shooting schedule, and all of the charm that Middle Earth had once held is pulled gasping and quivering away, replaced by copious CGI and extended sequences that add nothing to the plot or our happiness. They're the movie equivalents of hearing your roommate throw up until 5 a.m. Surely it must be over soon, you think. Surely, they must be running out of body juices. But nope. The Sun is rising and The Hobbit is still doubled over the toilet, puking hot air on the audience.
It's a shame, because The Hobbit book is pretty delightful. If The Lord Of The Rings is the college professor who lectures you about prose forever, The Hobbit is the professor who invites you out for a beer after class. And the only time that the movies manage to capture that sense of fantasy and whimsy is during a scene that was actually cut from the theatrical release of An Unexpected Journey, presumably because the producers saw it and said, "Hold on, we're starting to enjoy ourselves. Back up."
In the scene, Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf bros are captured by goblins and taken under the Misty Mountains to meet the Goblin King. The king greets them with a song, and for a brief two minutes, we get a respite from the misery of adventure scenes that play out like parodies of themselves. A big criticism of The Hobbit is that it's about 95 percent green screen. The robot apocalypse has begun, and it did not begin with violence, but with a Hobbit special effects artist yelling "Stop! Please! Stoooooop!" at a computer. This song is no exception, but by god, it isn't the rest of The Hobbit, so I will clutch it to my chest like a life preserver in a sea of director Peter Jackson's dreams.
A big thing that sets this apart from the rest of the movies is that it doesn't take itself seriously at all. So much of The Hobbit is meant to set up and extend the grandiose mythology of The Lord Of The Rings, which plays out in the form of a lot of people having flat conversations about magical bullshit with each other. But here, a CGI monstrosity of goblin fat and genital warts sings a song about how great it is to be a carnivorous dirt lord. And it almost distracts you from the reality that it's all a countdown until we get another action sequence that is a literal hour too long.
The Punisher's One Good Aspect Is A Ludicrous Fight Scene
As a movie character, filmmakers have never quite been able to nail down the Punisher. Is he a self-aware gore explosion? Is he a moody former FBI agent? Is he Dolph Lundgren? It's uncertain to them, and so Punisher films have always played out like no one knows exactly what they're supposed to be doing, but they're sure they'll figure something out by the time the movie's over.
The 2004 Punisher is probably the biggest victim of this. The tone is all over the place, starting out as a crime film before veering wildly into the lane of a fish-out-of-water drama before slamming into a wall, shaking itself off, and turning into a revenge thriller. So to have even five minutes of consistent anything is a blessing, and we get that when the Punisher is greeted by a mercenary. But not just any mercenary. This mercenary is "The Russian," and he's played by pro wrestler Kevin "Big Daddy Cool" Nash, who is wearing a T-shirt that he bought at GAP Kids.
Before I continue, this is not a plea to put Kevin Nash in more movies. He's in the Magic Mike series, and he does alright for himself. In the wrestling world, his persona was "I fucked your girlfriend, brah," and thankfully, he doesn't bring that to the table here. Instead, he mostly grunts, and during his last moments, he moans like a bear getting a pine cone enema. And it fits his character perfectly. Sometimes characters need backstories to be improved, but all Kevin Nash needed to nail his character is a glance that says two simple words: Bear Enema.
Tom Jane, who plays the Punisher, does a really good job of getting his ass kicked in every way that a small apartment setting can support. So good, in fact, that I kind of wish this movie had been 90 minutes of ass-kicking and ten minutes of triumphant, last-chance victory. And the best part is that it's totally coherent. You can tell what is going on at all times, and in the superhero genre, which is mostly made up of an orgy of CG bouncing, that is an underrated trait. As Orson Welles said in The Making Of Citizen Kane: "In cinema, you must do two things. 1) You must realize that you are at the mercy of the audience. 2) Put Kevin Nash in a tiny T-shirt and make him stab that smaller man. Make him stab him good. I am Orson Welles, and I said this."
The Star Wars Prequels Are Nearly Redeemed By Darth Maul
I don't need to tell you why the Star Wars prequels are bad. You have the internet, and I imagine that you've been on it before you traveled to Cracked.com today. Hell, you may have visited one of our illustrious articles about the Star Wars prequels today. So you know how they're just a pile of suck. Jar Jar, Trade Federation, Hayden Christensen, "I don't like sand," "Nooooo!," etc.
The only good scene in this trilogy occurs at the very end of The Phantom Menace. All of the protagonists are running around, as they're prone to do, when all of a sudden, a karate demon appears behind some sliding doors. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi stop as the karate demon holds up his lightsaber. A single red beam emerges from it. AND THEN, AS IF GEORGE LUCAS REACHED HIS SPECTRAL CLAW INTO MY SLEEPING HEAD AND PULLED OUT MY DEEPEST WISHES, ANOTHER RED BEAM EMERGES. The year is 1999. I am ten. A kid named Trevor poured a cup of water onto my slice of pizza at lunch today, but as of now, all in the world is right.
The heyday of George Lucas' more frenetic style of lightsaber dueling would last until the end of this scene. That's mainly because the fight here has some semblance of focus and tension, while the sword fights in the two films after it would be a smorgasbord of Wouldn't it be cool if ... Also, Lucas gives everyone their own unique styles. Darth Maul dances around like a homicidal ballerina. Obi-Wan keeps doing needless flips and keeps getting kicked in the face for it. And Qui-Gon battles very traditionally, because Liam Neeson doesn't need any fancy somersaults to school you in a space fight.
This scene also benefits from having "Duel Of The Fates" playing through half of it, which is the only song from the prequels that achieved any sort of staying power in our collective headspaces. I don't know what the chorus of voices in "Duel" are saying, but considering how hyped I get whenever I hear it, I can only assume it's a group of aliens shouting "IT'S ON, IT IS SOOO OOOOOOONNNNNNN."
If The Amazing Spider-Man Series Was Just About A Relationship, It Would've Been Okay
I've written about The Amazing Spider-Man series before, and usually in an overwhelmingly negative tone. Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker feels smug and unsympathetic. The villains' motives range from "I will have my revenge for this slight hindrance in my life!" to "I hate the people of the world, so I must turn them all into lizards!" And its attempts at world-building are all half-baked and less of a natural extension of the Spider-Man universe and more of a "If I check enough boxes off of the SET UP FUTURE VILLAIN TO-DO LIST, the sequels will be a piece of cake."
Even the action scenes pale into comparison to what came before them. Which is why the best scene in these two dumb but infinitely fascinating movies is one between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey, which allows them to just talk to each other for a goddamn minute. Not to set up some kind of plot point, and not to drop hints about the future of the franchise, but just to give the audience a fleeting chance to like them a little more, and relate to their characters as more than "main character and his blonde lady pal."
A big problem with a lot of modern superhero films is that even the little moments between characters feels manufactured and obligatory. You gotta insert Dialogue Chunk C into the slot for Action Scene B and Emotional Note D to make any sense. But here, the lines shared between the two only serve to strengthen them. They don't necessarily HAVE to be goofily quipping with each other. If you exclude it, nothing about the plot is changed. But three years after this series was shitcanned in favor of Spider-Man: Homecoming, it's telling that the only thing regrettable about the loss is that we'll no longer get scenes like it.
There is no world that would allow director Marc Webb (who had previously made 500 Days Of Summer) to create a movie that's just about the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. If you presented that to me, I would have you dragged off the Sony backlot while I pitched Spider-Man vs. Men In Black to investors. But maybe it would be neat if we had something like that.
"Nah. Let's have the Avengers team up with the cast of Frozen. I'm trying to buy the bottom half of Florida, and I need something to cover the down payment."
The Best Part Of Transformers Is Michael Bay Getting The Color Schemes Right
The Transformers series has its own bizarre subset in the action genre. People like to compare it to Fast & Furious, but at least Vin Diesel's Legion Of Vroom has charm. No, the Transformers series falls along things like Underworld and Resident Evil in being action movies that I can't remember a single specific action scene from. Well, except one.
The biggest problem with the robot brawls from Transformers isn't that the combatants are too close together to tussle properly or whatever. I'm used to action movie fight scenes that are close-ups of the actors' elbows flying by and nothing else. It's that they have the most blah color schemes in the history of silver-colored robots fighting against a silver-colored urban background. The grey and black of the pavement and buildings blends in with the grey and black of the Decepticons' innards, and soon it looks less like a battle and more like someone threw a tantrum at Advance Auto Parts.
However, in the first film, Bay nearly gets it right with the brief battle between Optimus Prime and Bonecrusher. Aside from it taking me about 12 times to remember the name of this evil robot, this scene shows the benefit of pitting robots that don't look totally similar against each other. Optimus Prime is blue and red because U! S! A! U! S! A! And Bonecrusher is a dim khaki because it took two seconds to think of his name and one second to decide that he'd be dome-headed cannon fodder.
But with this, you can totally tell who is doing what. And at one point, Bone Crusher catches on freaking fire, because Michael Bay's entertainment tastes and my entertainment tastes aren't so different after all. That Optimus kills him by shoving a sword in his face is just icing on the cake. The fact that I can tell what is actually happening in a fight between two five-story robots is the reason that I'm throwing roses at the screen.
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