If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ve probably noticed that I have a hard time hating on movies. I just can’t do it. Sure, some movies simply do not work for me, but even the worst movies work for somebody, and that’s enough for me to turn my vitriol tap off — or at least down a bit. Sure, my credibility as a critic may be at stake, but I certainly prefer to view my medium of choice from a place of love. It is through this lens that I ask you to revisit the following movies, all of which are generally maligned despite, in my opinion, being worthy of our love … or at least spared of our hatred.
Ocean’s Twelve (2004 – dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Why it’s hated: The general consensus is that the movie is just a series of in-jokes amongst the star-studded cast. By leaning on the real-life chemistry of the leads, the filmmakers are able to avoid having a plot. Also, having Tess (Julia Roberts) pretend to be Julia Roberts is about as egotistical of a joke that a movie can have.
Why it shouldn’t be: Sure, we could have had the gang pull another similar casino heist, but why retread that territory? Ocean’s Twelve trades the glitz of Vegas for a more subdued European feel in a nod to the 60’s spy movie. In another era, Matt Damon’s Linus would have been played by a nervous-but-cool Michael Caine. As for the in-jokes and the ‘crutch’ of star power, I don’t see how that is any different from the original movie. If ever franchise was marketed solely by its cast, it’s the Ocean’s trilogy. Nobody went to see Ocean’s Eleven for the primarily for the plot. NOBODY.
And to tell you the truth, the Julia Roberts gag is perhaps my favorite part. Not only have I jokingly been waiting for years to see a movie to do such a thing, but the gag serves as the perfect commentary on the very idea of the franchise being built on casting. Soderbergh playing it totally straight is, dare I say, brilliant.
Prometheus (2012 – dir. Ridley Scott)
Why it’s hated: There are two schools of thought on this movie. Critics either don’t like that it stayed married to the Alien mythos, or they wish it committed to the franchise entirely. Overall, shoddy characters and laughable dialogue make what should have been a heady sci-fi adventure feel stupid.
Why it shouldn’t be: First and foremost, Prometheus is one of the most visually successful movies I’ve ever seen. I maintain to this day that it is the finest use of the IMAX 3D format I’ve ever seen, and the mix of practical and CGI effects is truly seamless. I’ll concede that the characters make baffling decisions and behave illogically, but that doesn’t subtract from the fact that the film is breathlessly exciting from beginning to end. The c-section sequence as well as the final alien reveal are two of the most indelibly terrifying moments ever to sneak their way into a blockbuster. And despite how fashionable it is to hate on a post-LOST Damon Lindelof, the Prometheus script does make a valiant attempt to ask big sci-fi questions that, if you’re willing to put in some mental legwork, merit much discussion. Sure, Lindelof could have plainly stated what the black goo represents, but I’d much rather discuss it with friends and reach my own conclusions. I’m at a loss as to why this is a problem for some people. Critics hate broad exposition, but lament the lack of it a second later. What gives? Plus, Fassbender-bot.
Hulk (2003 – dir. Ang Lee)
Why it’s hated: Not enough Hulk! And when he does show up, he looks like Shrek! A Hulk movie shouldn’t be boring! Where are my explosions?!? I was promised explosions!!!!! Hulk-poodle?!? Grrrrr!
Why it shouldn’t be: Shame on you for giving this one such a raw deal. Not only is much of the hatred for Hulk rooted in too-cool-to-admit-I-like-something elitism, but the movie itself is the antidote to mindless summer fare like Transformers, despite having been administered years in advance. Hulk succeeds in its representation of the popular comic book hero for the same reason the 1970’s TV show did: we are given a strong Banner. This is why The Avengers‘ iteration is so successful as well, whereas the Ed Norton version fails miserably. Without an interesting human at the core, who cares who/what gets smashed? Eric Bana brings a bruised intelligence to the role that evokes strong emotion long before he mutates. And when he does — oh boy is it exciting! There is something calmingly Zen about the Hulk leaping across miles of desert, and when he touches down to smash some tanks, we feel every bit of the brutality without sacrificing the fun of a summer movie. By mixing elements of the classic “sins of the father” storyline with bits of Shakespearean tragedy, and editing the visuals to look literally like panels of a comic book, Hulk is a blockbuster with a brain. Yeah, the poodle scene is silly, but it’s a scene ripped directly from a pre-existing Hulk storyline. And the whole Shrek thing is just stupid. Hulk doesn’t look like Shrek. That’s just a lame joke that caught on. Yeah, he’s green and CGI, but so are the Ninja Turtles, Gollum, and Slimer, you hack.
The Happening (2008 – dir. M. Night Shyamalan)
Why it’s hated: Wooden acting from Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel with an eco-horror plot that is undercooked and condescending. The ‘twist’ was lame, and the extreme violence throughout is a cheaply gratuitous way to drive home a broad message.
Why it shouldn’t be: Shyamalan has since stated that his intention was to made a purposely schlocky throwback to grindhouse movies of the 70’s, which often featured ham-handed social messages and hokey performances. Whether this is true or if it’s just the director backpedaling in reaction to bad reviews is unknown, but if those were indeed Shyamalan’s intentions, The Happening is wildly successful. The tone of the film is evocative of films like Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive, Colin Eggleston’s The Long Weekend, or George McCowan’s Frogs. Yes, it’s clunky, poorly acted, and excessively violent, but that’s what makes those older films so charming and lovable. Why exclude The Happening from the fun just because it was made more recently? Plus, the idea that Mother Nature regards humans as a virus is a concept often talked about but never portrayed literally in film. The death sequences are well-crafted and morosely creative (and in local settings!), and if I’m being totally honest, I could watch hours of Mark Wahlberg reciting the scientific method while running from wind, but that’s just me. Also, if you were disappointed by the twist, that’s your own fault for expecting one in the first place. Just because The Sixth Sense had a twist ending doesn’t contractually oblige Shyamalan to provide one in every subsequent film. The Happening has as straightforward a narrative as they come, and promised nothing more, so it shouldn’t be held to a false standard.
How about you? Are there any hated movies that you love? Hit up the comments!
Author: Dan Scully
Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.