Every now and then you’ll be watching a bad movie, and a moment arises that actually isn’t terrible. Whether you’re coming to realise it on your first viewing, or you’re watching it for that very reason, sneering at its incompetence like the connoisseur you are, sometimes there are just bits that aren’t so awful, maybe even impressive within an abundance of crap. We don’t talk about these elements much; most of these films don’t deserve those little flecks of praise, and god forbid we start defending them! That’s why I’m here by no one’s request to run down five bad movies with elements that are actually pretty good.
#1 Twilight (Cinematography)
There’s been so much hate on “Twilight,” and sure, much of it is duly deserved, but me adding to all that at this point just seems a little unreasonable. It’s like kicking a dead horse with the severed hoof of a dying one that should be getting more attention. But no, let’s gang up on this profitable pile of regressive gender politics further. All I can really add at this point is this: “Twilight” is a big stupid dumb-head that has no clue. Just no clue; about its genre, its audience, itself. It’s not great is what I’m trying to say.
But hang on a moment. When those sweeping establishing shots were shown first in those trailers that gave boyfriends everywhere commitment issues, you might have realized that the film has a look to it. The washed out colors somehow create a crisp wet look to images, and there’s a strange beauty put to the dreariness, which I’m thoroughly ashamed to admit invokes the books perfectly. A bleak palate with canted angles and close ups actually used appropriately make it seem like the film almost knows how nuts it really is. There’s a delirious sadness to the look of the first “Twilight” which I must say I don’t mind. Of course, the sequels didn’t follow that up, opting for the “we have a brand now so let’s play it safe” tactic, and sinking the series into true hopelessness, which is a shame . . . no wait, I mean good! Screw “Twilight!”
#2 Resident Evil (Costume Design)
Some see the Resident Evil series as ridiculous, but I have to disagree. That would imply a certain degree of madness to Paul W.S. Anderson, and thus a scrap of creativity. I’d call these films audacious, willing to pull anything just to appease the fleeting attention spans of 13-year old boys everywhere. Kick a zombie unconscious? Done. Ride a motorbike through a church and use it to blow up a terrible piece of deadly CGI with it? Might as well! Rip off “The Matrix” ten years late in the hope our audience is too young to know better? Why not? As vapid and broken (and quite sadly fascinating for if you’re me) as these films are, you’ll occasionally have to admit the character design ain’t half bad.
It pains me to say it but Milla Jovovich’s uneven red dress from the first film is now vaguely iconic for reasons I’m not stupid enough to determine, and I must say I don’t mind her survivalist gear from the third film when the series went all “Mad Max” because Anderson felt like it. It may get a little bondagey with the belt-centric costume in last year’s “Resident Evil: Retribution,” and I still don’t buy that Jovovich could fire a gun without snapping her arm, but she looks pretty original doing it. I won’t speak for the rest of the design choices as they’re almost entirely pillaged from the games and some kind of pop-culture vending machine Anderson mistakes for his own imagination. It wouldn’t surprise me if the upcoming “last” film has Alice wearing the corpse of Michelle Rodriguez or an actual bodice of bullets. Hey, it could happen.
#3 Daredevil (Colin Farrell)
Say what you will about Colin Farrell; his on and off-screen persona and the way he’s almost come to embody the practice of unambitious casting, there’s a shamelessness to him that I find myself endeared to. He’s the only actor in “Daredevil” who seems to know what movie he’s in, a soulless cash in on a name that Marvel would regret in ten years when they want to assemble the united super canon.
Farrell’s Bullseye is unabashed, mean spirited, campy and juvenile all at once, and amongst a bunch of mopey-faced protagonists taking themselves way too seriously in an uninspired superhero movie that’s essentially about a blind guy who can see, it’s just wonderful. Bullseye uses everything as a deadly weapon; from playing cards, to shurikens to paperclips and peanuts, everything except maybe a gun. It’s also one of few American films where Farrell gets to keep his Irish accent, so I’m gonna go ahead and assume this is how he is all the time.
His crowning moment of shamelessness is when given the opportunity, Bullseye demands a costume. He’ll only work for the villain if he gets a costume! In a genre where almost every big name has been embarrassed over their original design in one way or another, Bullseye actually wants to adopt the hokiness because screw practicality! The man is a pool of ridiculousness in a film that unironically uses Evanescence’s “Bring Me Back to Life” and has a target reticle on his head which is surely detrimental to his own gimmick. Don’t think for a moment that any of this means you should actually sit through the film though.
#4 Batman and Robin (The Set Design)
I’m honestly expecting it to become trendy to suddenly be nice about this film. We’re done with the Nolan trilogy, and now the latex covered nipple-endowed atrocity is like an exotic period before the rise of civilized superhero movies. Don’t get me wrong, the film is still terrible, really, really terrible. I just think it might become a quirky practice to pick through the film’s rare merits, one of which I believe is that set design.
Look at some of these establishing shots! There comes a benefit with paying no credence whatsoever to source material, artistic trend or . . . well, reality. Joel Schumacher gave so few shits about the fans, you actually almost have to admire him for it. If you’re already making one of the worst films ever, the risk is fairly low if you go overboard with something like the design of Gotham City. There are whole roads meandering level with giant statues (which Batman drives across but ignore that), and I’ve never seen an observatory positioned so irresponsibly in a public place. Too often I find filmmakers are too ashamed to make their sets look like something that overtly isn’t real. I suppose they’re worried they’ll screw up and make it look like total crap, but hey, “Batman and Robin” did it right, and aren’t we all just striving to match that beacon of creative genius?
Also R-Kelly sings over the end credits, but that would mean sitting through the entire film.
#5 Prometheus (Everything)
So here’s the strange one, the one that will get me a ton of flak and probably ruin my whole argument.
Listen. “Prometheus” is a bad film. If you don’t agree, stop reading, and go watch it again. Repeat until you agree with me, at which point, oh my god right? Nonsensical characters, forced themes, cringe worthy dialogue, plot holes so numerous I don’t think the film has corporeal form, and Guy Pearce’s face. Aside from those pretty serious narrative factors, all other elements are fantastic. The film actually has an aesthetic, which is more than can be said for the “apply more money here” approach of many contemporary big budget endeavors. The performances are pretty solid too, even if the characters themselves run in the opposite direction of logic, and by god that squid scene hits the perfect mix of horror and hilarity. Even if you admit how backwards as a whole “Prometheus” is, there’s something humorous about seeing literally the worst crew possible assembled for a job they shouldn’t have been given in the first place.
So yeah, it looks nice, and it’s held together competently, but I’m sorry guys; solid technicalities does not a good film make. This is especially true when the story it’s trying to tell is about as coherent as a dog chasing its own tail, only it doesn’t have a tail, and it’s not a dog, it’s a past-his-prime Ridley Scott.
I know it makes little sense to see this as a bad film with good parts in it, since it’s pretty much made of good stuff, but that only makes it more fascinating. It’s both and yet it is neither. A Schrodinger’s cat of quality filmmaking.