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Ambrosia writes...

I was wondering if you would go into some detail on why you hated Jurassic Park, ID4, Return of the Jedi, Titan A.E., E.T., and the last 10 minutes of Gladiator. You went through a list of movies you'd seen and rattled off sentence fragments (shame on you, ex-English teacher) like, "Hated it." "Made me angry." I just wondered why?
I was also surprised that you haven't seen The Phantom Menace (not Phantom Empire, BTW). I one time watched it four times in a week. I love movies where the special effects aren't just for making explosions in the most dramatic way possible, but are for the sake of... art.
People tell me I'm too passive about movies. I liked Battlefield Earth, for crying out loud. There are few movies I *don't* like, but you seemed to list off every good movie that exists.
Okay, I was just curious.

Greg responds...

Those are good movies?

No. Not in my opinion.

Here's a list of good movies (in no particular order):

Shakespeare in Love. Casablanca. Terminator. (The first one ONLY.) Risky Business. Betty Blue. Robin & Marion. Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back. Prelude to a Kiss. Jungle Book. One Hundred and One Dalmations (the animated version). Some Like it Hot. Henry V. Much Ado About Nothing. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Ran. The Third Man. Citizen Kane. Unforgiven. Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The Great Mouse Detective. Wrath of Khan. From Russia With Love. Rear Window. Singing in the Rain. Stripes. Ghostbusters (the first one only). Vertigo. And many, many more...

But those you listed above...

Well, where do I start.


Return of the Jedi was awful, in my opinion. The promise of the first picture, the depth of the second... All dropped for cutesy revelations, cutesy unbelievable action... and worst of all, an Emperor who was too stupid to win. As if the Ewoks weren't bad enough, the Emperor was embarrassing. HE LITERALLY lost the thing single-handedly. Every time Luke started to get angry and vengeful. Every time he started to turn to the dark side of the force, the big-mouth Emperor would LITERALLY rub his hands together like Snidely Whiplash and say: "That's it, Luke. Turn to the dark side of the force!" At which point, Luke would do a mental double take and remind himself -- visually, on camera -- that turning to the dark side was a bad idea. And it continued like that ad nauseum. Man, I was going NUTS. It was so disappointing. A great series with an awful ending. It broke my heart. The hope was that this was only the middle three of nine episodes. So if the other eight were great (and two were already great) then I could forgive one clunker.

But then as Phantom was being prepared, Lucas announced that he wasn't going to do the last three. That meant that no matter how good the first three were, the entire series still would end with a clinker. That depressed me. Then I read some reviews and heard some feedback about Phantom. And it sounded like it had more in common with Jedi than Empire. I can't say, since I didn't see it. But I reasoned that if that were true, I'd be massively depressed. Because then it really WOULDN'T matter how good episodes two through five were, because the thing began and ended with clinkers. So I just stayed away. And you know what. I didn't miss it one bit.

E.T. I thought this was also manipulative crap. Now, I'm older than you. I first saw it when I was in college, but I was stunned by how cold a movie it seemed to me, underneath all the sentimentality. Eliot and E.T. are linked until E.T. "dies" at which point the threat to Eliot goes away, because of course the alien E.T. can be shamelessly ressurected later, but Eliot can't. So we have to remove the threat to this boy which has been of primary dramatic importance for the last hour. I just thought there was no there there.

Jurassic Park was just a mess. The story didn't cohere. The characters all acted like idiots. Guys don't even fire their guns when they have a chance. I actually thought the editing was lousy. The lawyer is scapegoated because he's a "LAWYER" and we all know emblematically how evil being a lawyer is. We're supposed to cheer when he buys it in the toilet. But earlier, we were hissing him when he exerted common sense and suggested (quite rightly) that Jurassic Park might not be ready for business yet. I was appalled. Angered. The second one was arguably worse, but (a) I was prepared for that and (b) I didn't pay for it, DreamWorks did, so I had a better time enjoying it as a truly BAD movie.

Titan A.E. was gorgeous but also infuriating. All these great sequences that added up to a story that fundamentally makes no sense. Scientist builds a ship that can create a new earth. Aliens are so upset they destroy the old earth necessitating the creation of the new earth. We run around for a bit. We put our characters in various "dangerous" situations (all of which are solved in the very next scene) and wind up creating a new earth to replace the old. Of course in the process the Titan ship is destroyed (or utilized, whatever) so now all the aliens have to do is destroy this new Earth and, hey, we're all doomed. Great. Character motivation is awful. But, hey, it looked great, and there were great sequences. Why should I care if there are story holes you can drive a truck through? Well, maybe I care because TPTB will think that animated action movies just don't work. They won't want to make any more. They won't say, hey, bad script. A good script will make a good movie. They'll just say bad combo: no one likes action and animation. And suddenly, my career has been limited by actions not of my making.

Gladiator, I was enjoying. But I thought the ending was preposterous. I'm supposed to believe that this Emperor who never ventured into any battle. Who never went onto the Coliseum floor without a massive armed escort, would risk his life with Maximus after only stabbing him once with a short knife. Maximus, who we've seen survive everything under the sun. I couldn't believe he'd do that. And it made the outcome, obvious and without suspense. Not to mention the fact that it DESTROYED my suspension of belief. And once that is done, there's no going back. Suddenly, I'm wondering why Derek Jacobi is still alive when everyone else has been assassinated. Oh, yes, because we need him to bring back the republic at the end. (SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T COME CLOSE TO HAPPENING HISTORICALLY.) Movies are a house of cards. And this one all came tumbling down.

ID4 - Please. Don't make me go there.

And by the way, I know fragment sentences when I write them. They're done for effect and perfectly acceptable in prose. (Now my spelling mistakes on the other hand...)

Response recorded on August 22, 2000