The Bad Movie Club: Spider-Man & The Phantom Menace
So the bad movie club is pretty much what it sounds like. I watch crap movies, then I tell you about it. Pretty much as simple as that, no muss, no fuss, just shit. I thought since this is the first meeting of the club I would start with a double header. And which two movies are more perfect to start with than the two movies I hate more than any other movies? Sure, you already know which two movies I’m reviewing because they are in the title but for the sake of my fun: *drum roll please* They are not the infamous pieces of shit that are parody films; I mean Epic Movie who the fuck thought that was an acceptable idea? Neither are straight to DVD sequel of classics like American Psycho 2 starring the incomparable William Shatner or S. Darko starring literally no one you’ve ever heard of. Neither of these movies are so bad it’s kinda awesome like Manos Hands of Fate or Leprechaun: Back 2 the Hood. Unfortunately neither of these are the plotless, action filled cinema d’auteur that was I, Frankenstein or any movie ever made by Michael Bay.
No unfortunately these two pieces of shit are the foundation of the pile of crap that is my list of terrible films because one is the reboot of one of the most hyped and greatest sci-fi series of all time, and the other is the first adaptation of one of possibly the best superhero to ever grace the easily torn pages of comic books. No not Superman, Superman sucks, literally the worst super hero ever. So here we are, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and the once great George Lucas’s The Phantom Menace
What’s Good About Them
I’m an eternal optimist so I like to kick these little club meetings off with something positive. What’s good about these movies? Not much to be completely honest with you. It’s rare that I come into a movie thinking I will enjoy it and then be so thoroughly disappointed. There are only three movies that I can say I have gone in expecting a 10 out of 10 and walked out with a big ol’ goose egg (the third was Movie 43, those previews looked hilarious which is a pretty amazing accomplishment considering). But I can say that without Spider-Man we probably never would have gotten Ironman, The Avengers, or X-men: Days of Future Past. I’m glad Spider-Man murdered it at the box office because it basically gave birth to my favorite overdone trend in film today—I say that with literally zero sarcasm. The visual effects for Spider-Man were pretty great for 2002 and the score was rather—wait for it—super. Also not the worst fight choreography you’ll ever see. Look at me being generous.
The Phantom Menace is harder to say good things about because it’s pretty much just 136 minutes of trash. I will say this though, if today Firefly got a season two I would be ecstatic even if that season was more like The Goldbergs than the Joss Whedon masterpiece. And that’s pretty much what fans got from George Lucas’s return to the series. There’s even a whole film about how Star Wars means more to its fan base than anyone outside of the closed-culture could ever understand. Spoilers: it turns out that it doesn’t matter how absolutely terrible the movie was to the group of lovable misfits in Fanboys.
What’s Bad About Them
Oh boy; strap up.
Well, with this bad movie club having watched two movies for our first meeting, you would think that we’d be able to point to one decent performance. You’d be wrong. The bottom of the barrel is without question Kirsten Dunst and Jake Lloyd delivering two of the worst performances of this past decade. But the truth is that not even Natalie Portman (one Oscar nomination and one win), Liam Neeson (this is the guy who played Oskar Schindler, i know right!), or James Franco (one Oscar nom) could manage to put together a decent performance in either of these dreadful movies. The cast chemistry is none existent, not to mention the fact that the writing in both movies makes it seem like the characters are reading random lines off of Jay Carney’s index cards at each other. I mean honestly how the hell do you mess up playing Mary Jane Watson?
The truly amazing part of these two films is that that managed to bungle pre-written plots. It seemed more like they were haphazardly stumbling toward a goal than telling a story. I found myself more times than I should in any move not about time travelling dream heists saying, “Wait, what? How the hell did we get here?” Which is weird because it’s hardly like three two hour movies in a short amount of time to tell a story. The character development is nonexistent so much so when one of our main characters die I only found myself thinking, “Good we must be near the end then.” Things that are mentioned once in The Phantom Menace and never… ever come up again: Anakin Skywalker is a master engineer, our two jedi heroes leave Otoh Gunga with a slave just sorta cuz, and my favorite thing piece of genius plot is that Anakin Skywalker is the product of a virgin birth. Not only does this never come up again in two movies but it’s mentioned just sort of in passing by Ms. Skywalker.
And the writing. Holy. Fucking. Hell. The writing. It’s like George Lucas and David Koepp have never had a conversation with another human before. Or else so few that they can’t recognize what is a conversation, and what is a series of tired clichés that two talking car bumpers wouldn’t even say to each other. Here’s a little taste of what you’re really really not missing:
Anakin: Are you an angel?
Queen Amidala: What?
Anakin: An angel. I’ve heard the deep space pilots talk about them. They live on the moons of Iego, I think. They’re the most beautiful creatures in the universe.
Queen Amidala: You’re a funny little boy. How do you know so much?
Anakin: I listen to all the traders and star pilots who come through here. I’m a pilot, you know, and someday I’m going to fly away from this place.
I just hope that little bastard crashes. Or how about this?
Peter Parker: I said… uh… Spider-Man, I said uh… The great thing about MJ is… when you look in her eyes and she’s looking back in yours… everything… feels… not quite normal. Because you feel stronger and weaker at the same time. You feel excited and at the same time, terrified. The truth is… you don’t know what you feel except you know what kind of man you want to be. It’s as if you’ve reached the unreachable and you weren’t ready for it.”
I kept thinking when he was done some girl in hot pants and giant neon headphones was going to slow clap as a single tear fell down her face.
But without question the single most cringe-worthy part of these movies are the incredibly terrible chemistry between Anakin/Peter Parker and Amidala/Mary Jane I am not sure which is worse actually. But the fact that the Anakin Amidala relationship basically brings about the death of the jedi and the rise of the empire and Darth Vader it would have been nice if it seemed like anything at all on screen. The one saving grace of these two absolutely unwatchable love stories is not that their “still better than Twilight” but that neither are Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen. I will give you, far less creepy than Luke Lloyd + Natalie Portman = luv 4 eva but still far less watchable.
What Level of Bad are We Talking About
The Phantom Menace-So Bad I Can’t Look
Like a car crash but up close and really… really long. The mixture or poor writing, worse acting, and offensive everything makes The Phantom Menace a masterpiece of garbage.
Spider-Man-So Awful it’s Funny
Watch it with a friend, you’ll get a hearty laugh as the awful actors deliver the awful writing as they weave their way through the nonexistent plot. It didn’t used to be funny, but then The Amazing Spider-Man came out and I had a decent Spiderman movie to watch and it was proven that it was possible to put the webbed wonder on screen and not fuck it up royally. Maybe when Star Wars 7 comes out the prequels will be funny instead of depressing—just maybe.
Should You Watch Them
The Phantom Menace:
Yes, it’s such a huge piece of our collective culture. Even though it’s like getting your teeth pulled, it’s just sort of necessary.
No. Why bother? Instead of watching Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst flail around you could watch Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone just be amazing. Mark Webb runs circles around Sam Raimi like it’s not even funny.