Who Told You That Movie Sucked?

Travis McClain

Bats: R, Throws: R (Does both poorly.) How Acquired: Basically, I begged and pleaded to be allowed to contribute.

I hold a bachelor of arts degree earned in the discipline of history from the University of Louisville. I have four cats, am pro-LGBT equality and was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2005. I have also fought severe, chronic depression since my youth. I love baseball but am bored by every other sport. All of these, and more, factor into my perspective on the films I view and the thoughts I share in the blog posts below.

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30 Responses

  1. Derek Armstrong says:

    Great points, Travis. You’ve chosen a good four movies for this, as I would give them all at least a marginal thumbs up. (Waterworld is the closest to thumbs down territory.) Six Days is pretty damn charming.

    • Thanks, Derek. As you know, this is an issue that’s been on my mind for quite some time. There were other examples I could have chosen but I think this foursome hits the chief categories:

      *Fixation on budget/production issues
      *Fixation on an actor’s personal life
      *An actor’s off-set antics
      *Studio marketing dropping the ball

      There were other examples I could have chosen for each of these but I wanted to also pick movies that I could personally stand behind (even though I was unimpressed by M:i:III) as being better than the public consensus.

      I also wanted to highlight recent examples in hopes that readers might begin to reflect on how *they* felt about these movies…and why.

  2. Nigel Druitt says:

    M:i:III is my favorite of that franchise. John Carter was great fun.

    I remember being entertained by 6 Days, 7 Nights, but it hasn’t stuck in my memory. I would watch it again, but am in no hurry to.

    Waterworld is definitely the worst movie on this list…but does not totally suck, either. This is definitely an interesting phenomenon.

    • I didn’t really even want to include anything from a franchise, because those kinds of movies tend to dominate these kinds of discussions. M:i:III was unavoidable, though, because it was really the movie slain at the altar by/for Tom Cruise’s personal life antics.

      It’s also worth noting that my argument here isn’t even that these four movies are good at all. I personally think they’re better than the consensus against them, but that’s ultimately not even important. The issue at hand is whether audiences were unfairly prejudiced against them by distracting issues and I believe they each were.

  3. Stephen Carpenter says:

    Great article. This happens a lot and it works both ways. It is the reason you see movies getting bad ratings or good ratings on IMDB even before they are released. I notice another reason people often hate a movie beforehand is if it is a remake of a beloved movie. People will often down a film without giving it a chance. I am particularly thinking of Let Me In and Fright Night, which both got savaged by many people online and bombed at the box office. Both films were good, if not quite as good as the originals. In the case of the Karate Kid remake I felt it was, dare I say, better than the original. Even as a child of the 80s I never felt Karate Kid was that amazing. It was fun, but quite cheesy as well.

    • Thanks for reading, Stephen! I discussed elsewhere the idea of films benefiting from hype but it strikes me as a less compelling subject. After all, each movie made is produced with the intent of finding an audience, and marketing departments work to see that they’re found. How does one go about proving that any given movie was “over-enjoyed”? At most, you could probably point to rabid fans driving up IMDb ratings and Internet chatter on forums and social media but that’s the desired behavior.

      Remakes definitely invite disapproval but I omitted them here because that’s such a universal issue. That is, there really haven’t been any specific remakes that were singled out by the public as particularly egregious than any others. The four films I highlighted here each paid the price for something specific to its cast/crew/production unrelated to the story itself.

  4. B.J. Hardage says:

    Excellent article. I would agree with all your points with the exception of M.i.III. It was that movie’s generic plot and mystery item, the “rabbit’s foot”, that turned me off there, not the critics’ reviews.

    I will say, though, that I’ve never actually seen Waterworld because of the horrible reviews it got, and if it weren’t for Red Box and Friday night boredom I never would have seen John Carter for the same reason. I did end up liking that movie, though, except for the ending.

    I suppose with the large quantity of new releases and the cost of ticket prices, I often look for an excuse not to “waste my time”, critics’ reviews being usually a pretty good indicator.

    • Thanks for reading, B.J.! Not that it matters, but I personally agree with your sentiment about M:i:III being generic. Ultimately, though, that’s outside the scope of my piece here because you actually saw it, whereas the general public avoided it outright because of the negative connotations with Tom Cruise.

      One of the most recurring things I hear about film criticism is what you’ve stated here, that people look to critics more for a product review (“should I waste my time/money?”) than they go seeking actual insights or discourse.

  5. WendiTardis17 says:

    A friend of mine was the screenwriter for 6 Days and 7 Nights. His original screenplay had been hailed as a work of genius — a comedic masterpiece. He was paid handsomely for it and was expected to go on to big things. This was not to be. A little while ago, unable to overcome the scathing reviews that dogged him thereafter, and paralzyed by crippling depression that sprung therefrom … he ended his life. He was an amazing, funny, intelligent, and creative man.

    • I’m terribly saddened to learn of this. I’ve fought depression myself since my adolescence, and I know how overwhelming it can be. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

      The official credit for the writing is attributed to Michael Browning, but I can find nothing online about his passing. Was your friend’s screenplay rewritten, or has his passing been so recent that it hasn’t been reported?

  6. Not only do I agree with your point but I have found that my own personal taste is so far from center that I shy away from anything hailed by the media as a must see. For example, it took me years to finally break down and watch Titanic and can’t imagine when I will bother with Avatar. I know my own taste in film pretty well, and I have to admit that many of my favorites make “worst” lists all the time. On a rare occasion however, I am lucky enough to have a popular media darling of a picture be something I am interested in and will see. I fight this fight all the time with people I know, trying to convince them to give a movie a chance even though it is supposed to be aweful according to the press. No one listens, but I keep trying. So, I guess I am the flip side of your articles coin…ready to hate anything popular because of all the great movies killed by bad press!

    • Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Barbara!

      Take heart; I know a lot of movie viewers like you who are mistrustful of critical or popular consensus. If you ever doubt how large an audience you are, just think of how many movies keep getting made that clearly didn’t expect to be critical darlings or popular favorites! They know you’re out there and that you’ll continue to support the movies that you enjoy.

      That said, I would be remiss not to note that the specific scope of this piece is about movies that were poisoned by discussion that wasn’t actually about the quality of the films themselves. That’s a bit different from movies that received overwhelmingly bad reviews, because at least those reviews were about the actual movies. Waterworld, Six Days, Seven Nights, M:i:III and John Carter weren’t even discussed as movies nearly as much as they were the victims of media fixations on external issues that don’t appear on screen at all.

  7. I gotta say, I greatly appreciate this piece. It very strongly stands to reason and it’s the very basis for my approach to critics reviews of anything. I simply don’t care what these people think about a movie. It deeply saddens me that so many people are swayed from watching movies I have found quite enjoyable because someone else, who you don’t even know, says it’s terrible.

    Furthermore, I find it highly annoying when people refuse to watch movies based on the off-screen character of an actor/actress in the film. These people are actors. They are entertainers. They are not supposed to be role models or spiritual leaders. Why would you care what this person believes in their personal life? Is he/she a good actor? Is the story of the trailer/online synopsis something you are interested in seeing portrayed onscreen? Is the director known for making good movies? These are the questions that you should be asking yourself when you are decided whether or not to see a film.

    On one last note, I am really bothered that people have generally panned Waterworld. I watched it for the first time years ago and enjoyed it greatly. I watched it again a few days ago and still found it to be an entertaining movie. There is a great cast, an interesting story, and very well envisioned dystopian world set incredibly well. I simply do not understand why so many people will still use this, and many other of Costner’s films, as a “go-to” example of a bad movie.

    • Thanks for reading, Marcus. One point I want to reiterate that I’ve made to a few other commenters is that my point here was not to argue that we should dismiss the work of film critics, but that we should make an effort to distinguish between off-screen distractions and criticism of the film itself.

      That is, none of the films I cited here were given a fair chance by audiences – not necessarily critics. In fact, the one instance where I quoted a critic at all was in the section on Six Days, Seven Nights, where I felt Paul Clinton actually did try to review the film for what it was while still having to acknowledge that all anyone wanted to talk about was Anne Heche’s sexual orientation. It’s a tricky thing to try to ignore the elephant in the room.

  8. Cervantes says:

    Interesting. But did you know that than and then don’t mean the same? Too much linguistical clueless people…

    • Your remarks have no context, so I have no idea how to respond other than to say that yes, I do know the difference between “than” and “then”. Was there an instance of word usage in my post that confused you?

  9. My pet film in this category is Michael Cimino’s 1980 epic “Heaven’s Gate”. While it’s got problems, it’s one hell of an impressive epic. Sadly, it’s been condemned as one of the worst films of all time. Yet when you read the reviews, very few of them make valid criticisms of the film. Most of them discuss the craziness of the director, or the troubled production of the film (wildly over time and over budget). The film was immediately doomed from the day of it’s premiere.

    Even worse, after the initial wave of critical hatred, the studio desperately hacked the film down from 4 hours to 2 for wide release, rendering it incomprehensible. Thankfully the full version is now widely available (on Netflix, no less!), giving this flawed masterpiece wider exposure.

  10. David – Heaven’s Gate is definitely another terrific example of pre-release fixation on extraneous elements. You must be thrilled that The Criterion Collection finally gave it its due recently!

  11. roycat says:

    John Carter was great! So was Waterworld.

    • Thanks for reading, roycat! I’m not quite sure I would go so far as to say either is “great”, but I definitely agree that they’re at least solid. I personally enjoyed John Carter more than Waterworld, but that’s just me!

  12. John Taylor says:

    Amazing. Three photographs and all three were from movies I liked. As for M.I., I refuse to even watch on free TV. No way Jim Phelps goes bad. Had they said Dan Briggs, I could have accepted that. Anyone else remember him as the team leader from the first season?

    • Thanks for reading, John! I would point out that the specific film cited is M:i:III, not the first film in the series. I confess, I’ve only seen a handful of episodes from the show but I remember when I told my mom that Phelps was the culprit that she was pretty irked that they would do that.

      I didn’t truly understand how she felt until I saw the live-action Scooby-Doo and Scrappy turned out to be the villain there.

    • John Taylor says:

      I have deliberately avoided any Cruise movie after that first I.M. film. Will make an exception for night and day. I figure if the can screw up Phelps, what else can they screw up in his other films? Number of movies that have screwed with the original TV show or book. Man of Steel for one. Did you know that a lot of the dialog was taken from the animated series pilot? Starship Troopers. Turned one of Heinlein’s best works into an anti=military propaganda piece. And on and on.

    • To be fair, your examples of Man of Steel and Starship Troopers, and my citation of Scooby-Doo illustrate that the phenomenon goes well beyond Tom Cruise.

      You might check out some of the posts in our “From Book to Screen” series, where we discuss specific adaptations.

  13. David says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I’m even glad I’m a few months late to the party, because I just saw “Lone Ranger” a movie that I think is falling prey to much of the same circumstances as movies on this list especially “Waterworld” So much talk about the huge budget and how the film was cancelled then brought back. People criticizing Johnny Depp playing another weird role in make-up. I feel like the public decided this was a gonna be a bomb before anyone even saw it. Not saying it is a great film by any means, but I found it far more enjoyable than the flop it was supposed to be.

    • Thanks for reading, David! You know, I think Lone Ranger might actually be a good example of this phenomenon. If I ever do a sequel piece, I might include it.