- King Arthur (2004)–Directed by Antoine Fuqua
In this re-imagining of the King Arthur Legend, Arthur becomes a moralistic Roman Calvary officer. This film replaces the legendary elements and creates a grittier vision. The narrative depicts the time period directly after the Roman Empire withdrew from England. In my opinion, an Arthurian film needs Merlin, otherwise why bother? King Arthur still enthralls numerous people because of its mystical and fantastical elements. At the heart of the story lies a tale about a courageous warrior who rose up to defend his homeland and the outlandish characters he encounters along the way. Taking away all these elements renders the story pedestrian and boring. This “realistic” film contained mysteriously bloodless fighting sequences. Apparently ancient warriors never bled when slaughtered with swords. Perhaps the greatest injustice is the portrayal of Guinevere. The film tries to turn Guinevere into Xena Warrior princess, but at least Xena wore clothing. I highly doubt warrior princesses fought in just strategically placed leather straps.
- Apocalypse Now (1979) -Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
I read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in my college freshman literature class. Heart of Darkness tells Charles Marlow’s experiences as an ivory transporter along the Congo River. Explored themes include alienation, confusion, doubt about imperialism, heroism, and civilized versus “savage” societies. At its most abstract, the narrative attempts to understand an alien culture. Within the context of of the collapse of imperialism in the late 19th Century the narrative works. Apocalypse Now is an extremely loose adaption of the novella in that it borrows a majority of the themes and motifs. However, the movie is a bloated anti-war narrative set in the 1970s during the Vietnam War that borrow the themes of the novella and places it outside of the historical context. Conrad’s novella is an excellent exploration into the difficulties of overcoming cultural arrogance. But it really does not translate well when the historical context is radically changed as it was in Apocalypse Now.
- Elf (2003)-Directed by Jon Favreau
I am probably in the minority but Will Ferrell’s brand of humor never appealed to me. In this movie Ferrell plays an elf named Buddy. Turns out Buddy is not an elf, he is a human who ended up in Santa’s sack as a baby. Adult Buddy no longer fits in with the elf community and sets out to find his biological father. A grown man running around in tight leggings and acting like a twelve year old is not funny after the first three minutes. The script lacks subtlety, nuance, and polish. The only Will Ferrell film that I have found remotely funny was Anchorman. But Ferrell played the straight man and everyone else acted crazy. If Ferrell is playing the straight man then I think he is funny, but his off the wall situational humor is just painful to watch.
- Transformers (2007)– Directed by Michael Bay
Any film based off a line of action figures is going to be either tolerable or cringeworthy. The first film details the struggle between two Cybertronian (aka robotic) races who bring their struggle to Earth. Only a clueless teenage holds the power necessary to end the struggle once and for all. If you peel away all the special effects and fire, the narrative is so thin to render it transparent. Maybe I just needed to be a teenage guy in order to appreciate this film in all its Megan Fox and CGI glory. But, hey, as long as everyone is running from exploding giant robots the actual story and characterization seems inconsequential.
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)-Directed by George Lucas
Actually Episodes I, II, & III are all films I regret watching. Part of the problem with this prequel trilogy is the relationship between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. It was cute in the first film, but horrendous in the other two installments. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman have zero chemistry. The prequel trilogy would have been stronger if it focused more on the relationship between Qui‑Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Both Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson are fantastic actors and Qui-Gon Jinn is extremely more interesting than Anakin Skywalker. The most glaring problem lies in the screenplay. There are so many cliched and simplistic lines that the film is almost unwatchable. I think George Lucas possess amazing world building abilities and his original trilogy is an undeniable classic. But screenwriting is not Lucas’ forte and the results are painful.