Worst Picture Winners: Battlefield Earth

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When discussing bad movies, especially those that went on to win razzies, Battlefield Earth is always going to come up at some point. Yes, the movie cobbled together from an L Ron Hubbard novel and John Travolta’s weird perception as to what makes a good movie, that not only went on to win worst picture of the decade, but had its razzies picked up in person by the screenwriter of the moviewho considered it well deserved.

And watching the movie, I can honestly say, you can understand why.

Battlefield Earth is no ordinary bad movie. It is one of the most intriguing disasters I have ever watched. See, bad movies tend to come in three categories: boringly bad (Fantastic Four), atrociously bad (Movie 43) or so-bad-it’s-good (The Room). Yet Battlefield Earth manages to fit into all of these categories simultaneously. The plot and events are mind numbingly boring, to the point where when something bizarre and frankly amazingly inept happens (which is a common occurrence), you suddenly wonder what the fuck is going on after having zoned out, and are now laughing because of how nonsensical literally everything is.

So, what is the plot then?

Well, we start off with, once again, a plot that kind of had potential. On some kind of post apocalyptic earth setting, humanity is now primitive and believes they displeased the gods, and so the gods sent demons after them. The notion that these demons were actually alien invaders all along could have been an interesting idea and plot point. If, you know, the title crawl hadn’t explained everything that’s going on from the beginning.

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So, we are introduced to our hero, Johnny, in a way that looks as though they forgot to feature the scene that actually introduces him. Or the rest of his civilisation for that matter. We soon are made to realise that Johnny is an idiot. And also, every other human is even more of an idiot. And every conversation the humans will have is either mind-numbingly boring or stupid as all hell. Especially those involving a character that I can only really describe as “piece of cake” guy (it kind of makes sense in context).

Johnny meets some humans, and they seek shelter from the “demons” that hunt them at night. But apparently this was completely pointless as one such “demon appears and starts shooting the worst laser sfx imaginable at them. You know how in Star Wars the blaster shots are bright neon blue so you can always see them? Well here they’re pale transparent yellow, and often small enough that you can only barely notice them. Considering they stole the screenwipe transitions from Star Wars (in a way that just looks dub and not cheesy enough to work) you’d have thought they would have picked up on that.

So Johnny and co are captured easily, and we are introduced to the Psychlos.

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Allow me to explain the Psychlos. First, in order to make them look taller than the humans the costume designers gave them overly gigantic shoes, along with giant dreadlocked heads and furry monster hands. But that my friends is only the beginning. You know how a lot of alien species in other media is defined by one universal trait? Like how the Klingons are proud-warrior-race-guys, and the Vulcans are emotionless beings of logic? The Psychlos universal trait is that they’re all idiotic jerkbags.

And then we get to the main villain of this movie, Terl, an incredibly hammy Psychlo played by John Travolta, along with his sidekick Ker. Now given John Travolta was, in fact, taking this movie very seriously, I can’t help but question what he was thinking with his performance as Terl. Because honestly, these two act like villains you’d find in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.
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Contrary to popular belief, Krang did not make his movie debut in TMNT 2: out of the shadows.

So, about twenty minutes in and the most plot this movie has given us is the fact that Terl hasn’t gotten the promotion he wanted. Again, I’m not sure what anyone was really going for with the Psychlos. Every scene of them seems to just have them discussing boring bureaucratic business then laughing at each others’ misfortune. Even ignoring the ridiculousness of them and their giant shoes, they feel more like the race that would play henchmen to the evil all-conquering race, just doing their business work that none of the proud warrior race guys can be bothered to do. There is nothing intimidating about them at all.

Back to the human plot, Johnny proves just how incompetent the Psychlos are by making an escape attempt. Terl then shows up, and kills the guards because he wants to train humans to mine for gold in an area that is surrounded by Uranium. You see, Psychlos have come from a planet that has an atmosphere that is so badly affected by radiation that setting off a nuclear bomb there would destroy literally the entire planet. Oh, yeah, spoiler alert.

So, okay, radiation will kill any psychlo, and we’re expected to believe that the humans who survived their initial attack had no way of just nuking them all? Hell, these things could be killed by a catapult that fires lumps of Uranium at them. Hw does this make sense? How does any of it make sense? How does their atmosphere even work at all? How does any of the so-called-science in this movie work?

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Just replace goggles with nose clips and it makes about as much sense

Johnny is taught the language of the Psychlos so that they can convey orders through him. And he gets an idea to find a nuclear weapon and teleport it to the Psychlos’ home planet and nuke it into oblivion due to its weird anti-radiation atmosphere. I know a lot of other stuff happens but this film’s plot is so dull that half the time I’m wondering where the hell the characters are and how they got there because I’ve zoned out so much.

I won’t spoil the ending for you. Not just because I think you should go and watch it for yourself, because I don’t, but because this film ends on a fight scene that is so poorly lit and colour graded that I actually couldn’t figure out what was going on half the time. It was so dark I couldn’t see which side had the dreadlocks and comedically large shoes, therefore couldn’t tell who was “winning”. All I can say is that the so called “advanced” Psychlos are defeated more or less by falling debris (which, given just how dumb they all are, I have no trouble accepting). In fact to put into perspective just how dumb the psychlos are, allow me to explain how Johnny defeats Terl. Earlier on in the movie Terl puts an explosive device around the neck of a woman I think is supposed to be Johnny’s girlfriend, to threaten Johnny. Johnny later does a deal with Ker to get the device removed, and hangs onto it. During their final fight, Johnny quite clear clamps the device to Terl’s arm, something Terl does not question or even so much as notice. Johnny fools Terl into activating the device; THE DEVICE NOW CLEARLY ATTACHED TO HIS ARM, and he does, blowing it off.  Also Johnny and his sacrificial friend Mickey commit mass genocide of the Planet Psychlo.

Now, you may have noticed that the story of this movie is a little hard to follow. Well, this is not helped by the godawful cinematography that has almost become infamous. In fact, if you’ve heard of this movie, you’re probably familiar with the fact that virtually every single shot is at a weird angle, which makes it hard to focus and navigate just what the hell is happening. And that’s not even starting on the random shots of meaningless crap that occasionally appear for five seconds, or the awful cliched green and blue washed colour schemes.

Folks, Battlefield Earth is one of the most bizarrely bad movies I have ever encountered. It is so inept, so boring, so fantastically bad, that part of me isn’t sure whether to recommend you actually check it out or not. Is it funny? Yes. Is it overly long and tedious? Yes. Is it something that will simply get a reaction that is indescribable and makes you wonder what on earth anyone involved in it was thinking? Oh yes.

All I can say is, if you are going to watch this movie for any reason, any reason at all, watch it for the scene where Terl walks into the ceiling. That is undeniably some of the greatest comedy gold I have ever encountered.

VERDICT:

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Kubo and the Two Strings Review

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Kubo and the Two Strings, in case you don’t know, is the latest in a not-so-long line of sop motion movies from Laika studios (not so long, given just how long it takes to make stop motion movies of course). Being a stop motion movie from Laika, obviously the movie was guaranteed to have some of the most stellar stop motion animation put to screen. and, thankfully, this movie has a pretty good story to go with it.

The movie tells the tale of Kubo, the son of a long dead samurai and the daughter of a celestial being called the Moon King. As a baby, the Moon King attempted to steal his eyes, but only took one; and ever since, his mother has been hiding him away in a cliff side cave, forbidding him to go out after dark. His mother is losing her memory, while Kubo takes time both caring for her, and showing off his ability to enchant origami paper using his shamisen. However, when Kubo finds himself out after dark, the Moon King’s other daughters arrive to take him away, take his other eye, and turn him into a celestial being like them. Kubo’s mother uses the last of her strength to send him away and bring his monkey charm to life. Kubo, the monkey, and a being the encounter who was once a samurai but has been cursed to be half man-half beetle, must travel around looking for three sacred pieces of armour so that Kubo can stop the Moon King.

As you might have gathered, the story is surprisingly detailed for a kids’ movie. Yet, it manages to get these details across very well, leaving few questions unanswered. In fact, one criticism I would have for the movie is that, quite frankly, I’d like to see more of what they show. The opening scenes feature some villager characters who don’t get much of a role, yet seem like fairly decent, likeable characters. There’s a lot about the celestial beings that remains unrevealed, and while this doesn’t detract too much, it feels like there was more to explore. At one point, Kubo has a strange and beautifully animated dream sequence-something I kind of wish could have happened multiple times.

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Something that might just have helped with the second point too.

 This movie does have two major strengths to it. The first probably goes without saying-the animation. The visuals in this movie are nothing short of spectacular. Laika has impressed me many times in the past with its stop motion. So, what does this movie have to offer? How about a battle against a red skeleton that happens to be one of the largest stop motion puppets ever put to screen? A fight between a monkey with a katana and a moon goddess aboard a ship made of leaves on a raging stormy sea?

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The second main strength of the movie lies in its heart. Kubo and the Two Strings offers in interesting portrayal of family and parenthood. Without spoiling anything, Kubo starts off the movie as a lonely kid without a father, caring for his mother who spends half the day catatonic, and the other half trying to remember her life. Once his quest begins, he gains two parental substitutes in the form of Monkey and Beetle. The scenes of them bonding and acting just as any family would are genuinely heartwarming to watch.

kubo-bow-and-arrow.png Is the movie entirely perfect? No. The pacing around the beginning is a little slow, which isn’t helped by the fact that the full story hasn’t been explained at this point can make you eager to find out more faster. But, that said, once things get going, the action sequences and sense of adventure definitely make this one worth a watch.

Verdict:

4/5

A lesson on weird art styles

Writing about the uncanny valley really got me thinking about animation, and the art styles that tend to stand out amongst animated movies and tv, and thus, I felt compelled to write a post about weird and unique art styles in animation (and to a lesser extent comic and video games): when it works, when it doesn’t work, and how to make it work.

Unique art styles for animation have been around since the beginning. One of the very first animated features, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, was done in a strange “shadow puppet” style

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Since then, there has been all sorts of advancement and innovation in the art of animation. Some of it has worked, and some of it hasn’t. Quite often that which doesn’t work is down to corner cutting and a lack of budget, such as the weird use of putting live action mouths on animated characters that cropped up in 70s animation.

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However, sometimes, even with a proper budget and allocated time and freedom, an artist can still fail to make decent art out of their animation. In fact ugly artwork can sometimes be a result of giving the artist too much freedom.

How exactly can these problems be overcome? (Definitely not by making an obvious joke on one of the ugliest cartoons ever made that we’ll be getting to in a moment)

For starters, you have to ask yourself why you’re doing something new with the art. Are you trying to gain your own unique, recognisable style? Do you feel your product, be it a comic, an animation, a video game etc. needs this unique look? Are you literally just doing this as a gimmick and nothing more?

Whatever the reason, it helps to follow these little guidelines.

1. Do not make your art so ugly that no one wants to watch it. Ever.

Okay, now let me start off by saying that not all ugly artwork or animation is bad. In the cases of cartoons like Ren and Stimpy, the ugliness of the animation was actually what made the cartoon stand out by a long way; this being partially because it was pretty well animated in spite of ugliness, and usually no two facial expressions of the characters were ever the same. Plus, that kind of animation worked for a gross-out show withut feeling cheap or forced, unlike its many cheap imitators.

Similarly, sometimes an ugly style can be endearing. I’ve always found that the animation of Klasky Csupo (Rugrats, As Told By Ginger, The Wild Thornberries, Aah! Real Monsters etc.) to be fairly ugly, but damn if it isn’t recognisable simply on the character designs alone.

But then you have art that is so ugly, that it’s actually difficult to watch. Shows like The Brothers Grunt, the aforementioned Ren and Stimpy knock offs, and quite possibly the worst I have ever seen in my life: The Problem Solverz

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Where do I even fucking begin with this one

Okay, so ignoring the fact that this show featured some of the most hideous character designs I’ve ever seen, take a good look at the colour scheme of this thing. Virtually every episode was jam packed with bright neon colours that constantly clashed with each other. This made the cartoon quite literally painful to watch due to how bright and obnoxious it was. The Problem Solverz only lasted one season on Cartoon Network, and I would not be surprised if the eye straining animation contributed to its cancellation.

The Problem Solverz definitely had its own unique design, and a very recognisable art style. But that did not excuse just how ugly and unpleasant it was to watch. Whenever someone brings up the excuse of “well its just the art style” to excuse bad aesthetics, I fee the need to point out that this show had “its own art style” too, and that art style was fucking hideous to look at.

2. Sometimes you don’t need to go over the top to have your own unique art style

So just a few paragraphs ago I mentioned a certain show called The Brothers Grunt. It was a short show created for MTV by Danny Antonucci. And this is what the animation looked like.

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Please do not look up the full scene of this.

Like The Problem Solverz, The Brothers Grunt did not last especially long. While it wasn’t painful to watch like the Problem Solverz, it was very hard to love a show where the titular characters are lumpy, misshapen humanoids with pulsating veins, constantly squirming like they’re in agony.

If you’re an animation fan, you may have recognised the name of the guy who created this though. That’s because he went on to create a far more successful show on Cartoon Network, that show being Ed Edd n Eddy.

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The character designs of Ed Edd n Eddy still looked lumpy and misshapen, with a strange squiggly line effect that meant the animation was constantly in motion. Nevertheless it was far less stylised than The Brothers Grunt. And it worked much better. 

A lack of overdesign meant that the character designs were far more endearing, but the squiggly line effect gave it a unique look, and went well with the feel of the show, given it still had a good deal of cartoon physics despite being a slice of life show.

In other words, these two shows proved that sometimes less is more. I recognise the Brothers Grunt by its animation alone, but that’s it. I know nothing else about the show because its hideous art style is the most memorable thing, and for the wrong reasons. With Ed Edd n Eddy, I fondly remember the show as well as its style.

3. Just what is the purpose behind your art style?

In my uncanny valley post, I mentioned Frankenweenie, and how Tim Burton’s style very much worked for the movie, since not only was it his signature style, but the intentionally creepy character designs added to the fact that it was a love letter to old Hollywood Horror.

If your art style is very noticeable and different, then usually there should be some reasoning behind it. But, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be, such as in the case of shows like 12 oz Mouse

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12 oz Mouse was a surrealist show that looked like it was drawn by a five year old. While I understand the show had more fans than the others I’ve ragged on so far, I still have to bring up the terrible animation and why it doesn’t work.

As I said, the show was clearly aiming for surrealism. And surrealist shows often work better with surreal animation. As in weird, unusual, imaginative animation, not something this lifeless and lazy. 12 oz Mouse had no reason to look this bad. It wasn’t parodying bad animation, since no other show has ever put forward animation this bad. Budget issues feel moot, given that shows like South Park (which was crudely animated due to getting episodes out so quickly, but had its own, very recognisable style that kept it from looking a mess) exist. The only message I’m getting from the animation was that the creators for whatever reason had a tough time animating, and so just took the lazy route and chose “bad animation” as their art gimmick.

If 12 oz Mouse wanted to be satirical about bad animation, then given it was made in the 2000s, in the era of digital animation, it would have worked better if it had been deliberately bad Flash animation that repeatedly glitched up,  with layers going missing in shots every now and again. That might have actually worked, especially in surrealist storylines. The animation in the real product however is so bad that it couldn’t be considered a parody of anything, because it’s literally the only show that looks like this. And while that might give it some uniqueness, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

 4. What works for one art style won’t necessarily work for another.

Just for a moment, I’d like you to take a look at two characters from the cartoon series Adventure Time.

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You may notice these two characters more or less have the exact same face. Now take a look at some characters from Disney’s Frozen.

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Notice how these three also more or less have the exact same face.

This works in Adventure Time. It does not work for Frozen.

Now, I’m not going to deny that Frozen has beautiful animation, but the character design leaves something to be desired here. So why is it that same-face-syndrome works for Adventure Time but not Frozen?

Adventure Time has a very minimalist style, that is charming and fitting to the series. Not only is it easier to cause same face syndrome, but the same-faces are less of an issue due to the lack of detail. See, because Adventure Time is far less detailed than Frozen, certain features stand out more. Marceline’s hair being black and more tousled than Princess Bubblegum’s pink gummy hair is a much bigger difference than Elsa having whiter hair than Anna, because Adventure Time’s characters are so underdetailed that a small change makes a big difference. Well rendered and detailed CGI requires more than a few tweaks and alterations to truly make a difference. And yes, I know the characters in frozen are related, but it’s possible to visually convey two characters are siblings  without making them flat out look like clones, as shown here by How to Train Your Dragon:

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Furthermore, while Frozen carries the Disney style, it’s still not that stylised, at least not in comparison to Adventure Time, which is heavily following its own unique style. When your style is more detailed and less unique, then getting away with certain things like same-face-syndrome, or cartoonish movements and proportions, is a lot harder.

But then again, most things are hard when it comes to making real art, which brings me to my last point

5. Artwork and skill can always improve and change over time

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Perfecting art styles is a tough challenge. Heck, finding what your style should really look like is tough enough.If you are a budding artist or animator, the important thing to note is constant practice and occasional experimentation is the key to getting the style you want, even if it takes years, which is perfectly normal.

And yes, the term experimentation is key.

To be honest, I’m happy that both Adventure Time AND The Problem Solverz exist. Both went for minimalist styles that used bright colours and slightly odd looking character designs, and saw hat could be done with it. Adventure Time showed how to do it right, and The Problem Solverz showed how to do it wrong.

If you haven’t noticed, I actually have a lot of appreciation for things that try something and fail. An example of how not to do something is often just as, if not more useful than an example of how to do something.

Trial and Error is often the best way to determine how to properly do something. The fact that Danny Antonucci made something as good as Ed Edd n Eddy after something as bad as The Brothers Grunt is proof of this.

If you are an artist, all I can say is that failures are an important part of learning how to perfect something. Do not be discouraged if it doesn’t work at first. Because art can always evolve.

Climbing up the Uncanny Valley

 

I’d just like to start by apologising for the lack of posts recently, since I had a weekend away, then fell sick, so I’ve not updated since then.But, anyway…

If you are a follower of mine, you may remember me mentioning how I’m a huge fan of animation in my post about the “It’s Just For Kids” excuse. And that is true. I love all forms of animation, from hand drawn, to digitally drawn, to CGI, and of course stop motion.

And then there’s the other form. You may be wondering what I’m talking about, since it likely sounds like I covered them all. But there is another form of animated feature that seemed to come and go awfully quickly. I am referring to all-mocap animation. As in cartoon features made entirely through the art of motion capture CGI.

Now you might be thinking “what are you talking about, mocap is doing great! How many big budget blockbusters use it nowadays?” While that may be true, I’m not referring to movies like Avatar that feature motion captured CGI in a live action setting. I’m talking about movies like The Polar Express or Beowulf: movies that use mocap, but aren’t attempting to appear as live action, but instead as very detailed cartoons.

Mocap Cartoons stated off reasonably well with the Polar Express, but have now become a non entity in the world of animation. Why is this? Well, for starters, you can ask Mars Needs Moms about that one.

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Someone thought this idea was worth $150 million apparently

But there is another reason. And that reason is what I would like to discuss today. It’s something that can affect any form of animation, but especially motion capture. And that reason is the Uncanny Valley effect.

What is the uncanny valley? Well simply put, it’s an effect where, when attempting to make something seem more realistic, anthromorphic and human, there will always come a point where that thing looks too real and yet not real enough at the same time. It looks convincingly real, but not convincingly alive as such. And this makes it look unnerving.

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You’ll notice that corpses and zombies are slap bang in them middle of the valley. This is largely why the uncanny valley exists in the first place. Humans have evolved to be naturally disgusted by corpses. It’s a necessary revulsion, given it wards us away from the diseases that dead things tend to carry.

Unfortunately for animators, this means there is a bit of a problem when trying to create realistic animation. Designing a realistic looking human is one thing, but making it look alive is more challenging. When the human looks off, or dead eyed, it’s going to trigger our natural revulsion to dead bodies. People are not going to  want to watch a movie with a protagonist that looks like a corpse puppet.

In all forms of animation, the uncanny valley has had a tendency to crop up. 2D animation would sometimes have problems with rotoscoping (that being the act of tracing 2D animation over a live action person-the 2D equivalent to mocap if you will) due to over-detailed character models appearing in otherwise under-detailed two dimensional animation. CGI had a rough start towards the beginning, as exemplified by the baby that appeared in one of Pixar’s first shorts, Tin Toy.

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yikes

Nowadays, this is less of an issue for 2D and CGI, but is possibly the biggest issue for motion capture. This isn’t entirely surprising. Motion capture is  designed to look realistic. This works for films that are simply trying to create something that blends in with the live action. But all mocap movies aren’t attempting to be live action, but instead, are attempting their own realistic cartoonish imagery. In other words, just like the uncanny valley, they’re trying to be too realistic and not realistic enough at the same time. And this can  lead to disastrous consequences.

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Again, just ask Mars Needs Moms

So, what steps can animators take to avert the uncanny valley? Well, consider the following:

1. Stop trying to animate humans

The first CGI feature film was of course Toy Story, one of Pixar’s many greats, and the hit that began the CGI animation revolution. You will notice that Toy Story is, surprisingly enough, about toys. Not realistic people, but toys, made of plastic with unrealistic proportions. There was a reason for this. In fact there was a reason Pixar didn’t make movie centred on humans until The Incredibles in 2004, almost a decade after the release of Toy Story. Humans were difficult to animate in CGI. Back in the days of Toy Story, limitations to animation technology meant that human characters ended up looking as though they were made of plastic. Which, of course, Pixar took advantage of by making a movie about people who were in fact made of plastic.

Nowadays, “live action” motion capture is rarely used to create normal humans. Instead it creates aliens, apes, and even dragons. But, most importantly, it creates beings with proportions very different to your typical human. As such, they are less “familiar” to us, and less easy to fall into the valley as a result.

2. Try to find a unique style

Most motion capture films tend to simply go for the style of cartoon realism. While some, like The Adventures of Tin Tin, go for a more cartoonish approach, their “styles” still look off, and would likely only be improved by making it straightforward CGI instead.

Sometimes, you can get around the uncanny effect by stylising to the point where somehow it works. Take for example, the stop motion movie Frankenweenie

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While gigantic eyes with miniscule pupils and tiny noses could easily land a movie straight in the valley, Frankenweenie is able to get away with it thanks to having its own gothic, black and white Tim Burton style-a style that fits in with the fact that the movie is a shout out to classic horror movies. One can only wonder what kind of animation could be created if Tim Burton created an all mocap cartoon.

3. If all else fails, try to take advantage of the uncanny valley

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While the uncanny valley is often seen as a detrimental effect, you don’t always need to overcome it. Sometimes, it can be used to your advantage.

I recently started watching Attack on Titan, which quickly became my new favourite anime, and also provided me with quite possibly the best deliberate use of the uncanny valley I’ve ever seen. In that show, the titular titans are giant humanoid figures with supposedly no sentience, that feast on humans. We see this happen on screen numerous times, and every single time it’s absolutely terrifying. Not just because people are getting eaten alive, but because the titans constantly have dead eyed grins on their faces, showing no sentience or expression in spite of looking mostly human. Every time they’re on screen, I feel deeply unnerved.

See, the uncanny valley is something I feel can be taken advantage of in terms of horror. It’s why so many horror films have featured things like creepy dolls, mannequins, or everyone’s favourite, zombies.

In conclusion, as a fan of animation, I feel it is important to all budding animators to understand the uncanny valley, and just how much it can affect our enjoyment of an animated movie, since the last thing we want is another Mars Needs Moms style disaster. And yes, I hope that all motion capture movies do make a comeback. Over the years, we have seen all sorts of things that can be accomplished through CGI and stop motion. And I think it would be a shame if we never got to see the scale that all mocap movies could accomplish.

All they could accomplish if they would just stop making movies about humans goddamn it.

Stranger Things season 1 review

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So, having railed on about remakes and reboots for the past few posts, perhaps it’s time I did a proper review, and in this case, a proper review about a new and original tv series. Kinda.

See, Stranger Things is it’s own new and unique story in the same way that something like Pacific Rim is new and unique, in that while it is it’s own story and not any kind of adaption, a good chunk of the tropes and plot devices used are things we’ve seen before, as the series has clearly taken a great deal of inspiration from older movies. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Stranger Things is not what one would consider a rip off, but rather a spiritual successor to the old eighties media it’s taken its inspiration from. Rather than stealing ideas and content, it’s celebrating them and presenting them in such a way that modern audiences can appreciate.

The show feels in many ways like some kind of strange hybrid of Twin Peaks and a Spielberg family movie from the eighties, with a dash of Aliens thrown in the mix. And yes, this is a case where a winning formula actually works.

The story centres around Will Byers, a boy who goes missing due to some kind of supernatural entity sneaking up on him in the night, and how the people around him attempt to figure out what caused his disappearance. Meanwhile, at the same time that this strange monstrous entity appears in the town of Hawkins, Indiana, so too does a strange girl with telekinetic powers, who goes by the name “Eleven”, and seems to have been some kind of government science experiment.

One of the key things that makes the show work, in my opinion, is that in spite of following several “lead” characters (namely Will’s friend Mike, Eleven, police chief Hopper, Will’s mother Joyce, and Mike’s sister Nancy), it does not fall in to the trap many other multiple-protagonist series have been victim to. That being having protagonists that just seem to drag the story along. At no point did I ever think “oh not X character again, go back to Y” when the scene switched to another protagonist. This is quite a rarity in my eyes. Even Game of Thrones, one of my personal favourite shows, can sometimes guilty of this. If you were to ask who my favourite Stranger Things character is, it’d be a tough one to answer.

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Though it’d probably end up being Hopper.

The way in which the mystery unfolds is also fascinating. From the first episode, I was intrigued, and my attention was grabbed. In terms of what we do see, acknowledging that there will be a second season, I feel enough was revealed at the right pace. There are still some mysteries to be solved, but none that make me want to punch my tv yelling “Answer! Answer!” What we see of the Upside Down is fascinating visually and conceptually, and the fact that each character solves different parts of the mystery enhances this in their own way.

And, of course, let’s talk about the homages to old eighties media. The trio of boys (plus of course Eleven) that form one party of protagonists are likeable, surprisingly well acted, and feel very much like your typical group of adventurous urban youngsters from an eighties movie. The overall tone of a small town being struck by a tragedy that may involve supernatural elements feels a great deal like Twin Peaks, though this time focusing on government conspiracies as opposed to flat out mind screws.

Is the series entirely perfect? Not exactly. If I had some complaints, then for starters, I feel the design of the monster could have been improved. While the strange flower shaped mouth head is an interesting feature, the rest of it is just a lumpy grey humanoid body. On top of that, it really doesn’t make much for a villain when we discover it’s basically just a wild animal; though one could argue that the “bad men” of the government facility are the true villains of the piece.

As well as this, I do feel the need to mention this show does use one of my least favourite tropes, that being the “no good deed goes unpunished” trope. Two of the characters killed off, Barb and Benny, are both killed as a result of trying to do nice things (Barb being there for Nancy and trying to guide her on the right path, Benny trying to help a lost little girl). I realise that death does not only come for the wicked and leave the innocent behind, but these two are the only protagonist characters we get to know who are killed by the end of the series. Call it a personal annoyance, but in particular, I took some umbrage with Barb’s death, as she felt like the only sensible teenage character in the series, who actually went against the trope of, as Jonathan Byers points out, “rebelling by acting like virtually every other teenager out there”. All in all, she felt like a waste of a perfectly good character.

Finally, I would just like to bring up that this show does have one of the most overused tropes of them all, in the form of a love triangle, between Nancy, her boyfriend Steve, and Will’s brother Jonathan Byers. In the show’s defence, Nancy actually stays with Steve who, while a jerk at first, seems to realise the error of his ways towards the end and redeem himself. This was actually quite unexpected. The show seems to suggest she’ll end up with Jonathan, who while shown to be less of a jerk, does take creepy photos of people without their consent, even if he seems apologetic later. By having Nancy choose Steve (who, again, develops and redeems himself as a character), it felt like a surprising subversion of the “girl goes for the “nice guy” over the jerk”, which was a little refreshing.

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Though the most refreshing option would have been her ending up with Barb.

All in all, in spite of some flaws, for a first season of a show, Stranger Things has definitely impressed me, and does feel like the modern day equivalent to Twin Peaks. One can only hope it does not suffer the same fate as TP’s second season.

Why Hollywood has NOT “run out of ideas”

After a post on how overused remakes and reboots have become, I felt I needed to just clarify one thing that tends to come up during discussions of such topics: the notion that Hollywood has “run out of ideas”.

Now, let me make it clear now that this statement, in my opinion, is wholly false. Allow me to elaborate on why that is.

Saying Hollywood has run out of ideas seems to make one of two false assumptions: either that Hollywood only has a single screenwriter who creates literally every movie, or that any screenwriter has a chance to make a movie in Hollywood.

The truth of the matter is that the film industry has countless writers, successful or not, creative or not, many of whom may have fantastic, unique, and original ideas. Unfortunately, not all of them will get the chance to bring such ideas to the big screen.

See, when it comes to making a movie, usually those who come up with the idea will pitch it to the executives of a studio, in an attempt to get funding. I have complained a lot about Hollywood executives in the past, so let’s just give a clear precise explanation as to why that is. Executives are, for the most part, not creative people. They are entrepreneurial people. They know about business, not about art or writing. Executives usually don’t give a shit as to whether a movie is good, creative, inspiring, or unique. They care about how marketable it is, and that’s it. If they think a movie isn’t enough to draw in a mainstream audience, then they aren’t going to fund it.

And, I’m not going to lie, they sort of have a point. Writers and directors get paid regardless of how well a movie does at the box office. Sure, a flop might kill their future career, but they are generally going to get paid for the flop regardless. It’s the studio making the gamble, and it’s the studio that will lose the cash if it fails. And yes, sometimes even good movies with stellar ideas can be box office bombs, simply because they were so difficult to market to audience.

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When not even a best picture nomination can save them

In other words, the reason so many films seem so similar isn’t because of a lack of creativity due to the writers, but because the studios only fund those they’re certain are safe bets in terms of making money. Most movies are adaptions because the original work already has fans. Most blockbusters follow the recent trends, like being a movie about superheroes.

The problem with this, of course, is that safe can often become stale. I understand why the people who believe Hollywood has run out of ideas are angry, even if they are directing the anger at the wrong source. Because the studios are so determined to play it safe, that anything unique and original is all too often ignored and abandoned because it’s too much of a risk.

But is there potential for change?

Possibly. One can always point to independent cinema as a place where artists and writers may create what they want. This has worked wonders for a certain other creative industry, that of course being the video game industry. Nowadays, thanks to crowdfunding, and the ability to sell games on sites like Steam at very little cost, independent gaming has proven it can easily survive without the big name publishers. Nowadays, strange games that go against the typical Call-of-Duty-clone mould are showing up left right and centre.

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For better or for worse

Unfortunately, movies may not be so lucky. Unlike games which, in the absolute right hands, can be made by one person who knows how to code, movies require a whole cast and crew, and can’t be made in the comfort of your own home (with the obvious exception of found footage horror).

While the costs of salaries, equipment, props and locations may be covered, at the end of the day, it’s the distribution that often proves to be the problem. Truly independent movies will often go unnoticed, and may be shown in limited theatres. While the independent video game’s industry has proven it can be successful when implemented correctly, it still has the advantage of the ease of selling a game online, rather than trying to get movies into theatres, and have people come to see them during limited release times.

Maybe someday this will change. Maybe crowdfunding will expand to the point where kickstarted million dollar movies will become commonplace. Maybe independent filmmakers will be able to take advantage of the growing popularity of Netflix. But the point is, no matter how, when, or even if strange and unique movies studios wouldn’t touch with a barge pole start to get made and grow in popularity, there are probably plenty of screenwriters out there with the ideas in their heads.

They haven’t run out of ideas. They just don’t have the opportunity to let them be anything more than ideas.

The Nostalgia Problem

 

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Lately, it feels as though the summer blockbuster season has been dominated mostly by two types of movies: superhero flicks, and remakes/reboots/sequels based on somewhat old movies. For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to call them “nostalgia cash-grabs”.

However, as of late, I can’t help but notice that while superhero flicks are generally doing well bar the odd flop like Fantastic Four, nostalgia cash grabs are slipping a lot more. This year we’ve seen remakes and sequels like Ghostbusters and Independence Day 2 prove unsuccessful in terms of moneymaking. Before that, there were flops like Pan, Jem and the Holograms, and The Lone Ranger. While not all of these movies are necessarily bad in terms of quality, it’s clear they were made with the hopes of cashing in on people’s nostalgia.

People like to say that Hollywood is running out of ideas because it’s turning to old movies in order to make new movies. I personally would say this is not true. In fact, I dare say the fact that people always complain about movies being “so much better back in the day” is helping to contribute to the fact that Hollywood executives are convinced people just want newer versions of what they’ve seen before.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the older decades had some pretty bad pieces of shit movies too.

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When people argue films were better in the 90s, there’s a reason superhero movies never seem to come up.

  See, Hollywood executives believe, as always, that a “winning formula” can apply to any and every movie. Because executives who run businesses and make no art don’t seem to realise that creative industries don’t work like every other business, and what works for one movie might be disastrous for another.

See, the thing is, cashing in on Nostalgia can work. Pokemon Go is a pretty simplistic idea that is currently making Nintendo all of the money because it allowed people to experience their childhoods in a way they never have before. This worked for Nintendo and Game Freak, there’s no doubt about that.

But, as I say, just because it works for one thing, does not mean it is a universal winning formula. The main problem with this is simple: if your nostalgic cash grab is the same as the original, then there’s no point in its existence. But if it’s too different from the original, then it’s practically an insult.

Pokemon Go got around this by taking the original formula for pokemon but applying it to a different medium to the usual handheld Nintendo console, instead turning it into a real life pokemon catching simulator for your mobile. It was different enough to have worth in its existence, but similar enough that it is a part of the same franchise.

That’s not to say that successful nostalgia is limited to video games. Mad Max: Fury Road is a fantastic example of a reboot-y sequel to an old franchise. While a modest hit financially, it gained spectacular amounts of critical acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Unlike a lot of nostalgic cash grabs, Fury Road both kept to the spirit of the original, likely due to being made by the originals’ director, George Miller, but it also proved enjoyable to newer audiences too. Fury Road was the first Mad Max movie I’d ever seen, but it still ended up being one of my favourite movies of 2015.

So making a successful nostalgic movie is a possibility, but I feel the reason for their failures is simply because executives and directors don’t seem to acknowledge the obstacles that come with making a new version of an old franchise. Unless what you’re adapting sucked to begin with but had a good idea behind it, you can’t go in assuming everything’s going to be easy.

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Not that a good remake of a shit movie isn’t an option of course.

If you’re going to reboot a nostalgic movie, the first question you should ask yourself is simple: why? If the answer is “because a lot of people like the original”, then what you’re doing is likely gong to suck.

Your answer should be more along the lines of “because there’s more story to be told”, “because we can look at it from another angle”, “because we have a great opportunity to modernise it now”. This is the starting point, of course, since there’s far more too it than just “a reason to remake”. Some remakes that follow this reasoning don’t exactly turn out well. Robocop for example could have worked as a remake given a lot of the political satire the original covered can be applied to modern day politics like mass surveillance and drone warfare. But, most people have already forgotten the Robocop reboot.

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And it’s only been 2 years

The problem with reboots that fail to differ from the originals isn’t even just the fact that people already have the originals. Consider for a second how successful some of the movies people are remaking have been. And consider how many other works they’ve inspired.

Put it this way: Independence Day was one of the first major blockbusters focused on a massive alien invasion, and it was a huge hit. Now consider every single other alien invasion blockbuster we’ve seen since then. The formula has been done so much that when Independence Day 2 came out, it was just another movie following the formula. It didn’t have the same impact as its predecessor because it wasn’t released at a time when this shit was new and exciting.

The truth is, there are so many factors in terms of whether or not one should cash in on nostalgia, yet executives still believe nostalgia is enough of a selling point. Executives always want to go with the safe option, and thus, assume that a past hit MUST have potential to be a present hit too. But this is not true, because what worked in the past will not necessarily work in the future, and a past winning formula may have been done to death so much that nowadays it will likely fail.

And the sad thing is, there’s probably a good deal of old fizzled-out franchises that could actually benefit from being resurrected, if done correctly. But, either because they won’t get the well-made reboot they deserve, or because executives may likely soon wise up to the fact that nostalgia just isn’t enough to make a hit, such potential is not going to be achieved.

The “it’s just for kids” Excuse

 

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It should come as no surprise that I am an avid consumer of movies, but I’m guessing not many people reading this will be aware that one of my favourite types of movie is the animated kind.I am personally a huge animation buff. Whether it’s 2D or CG, Disney or Dreamworks, nineties or noughties, I feel that the animated side of movie media is a good source of some incredible artistry.

Unfortunately, animated movies are one form of movie that is often not taken seriously enough, if at all.

The answer to that may seem simple at first. I’m sure many of you are thinking “it’s because animation is for kids, and media aimed towards kids is often not taken as seriously as animation aimed towards adults.” And, yes that is a good point. While you do get the odd adult oriented animation like Persepolis, Akira, or the recently released Sausage Party, animated movies are for the most part always made with the younger demographic in mind.

However, in my opinion, that’s not the real problem here. The real problem is the “it’s just for kids” excuse.

What is the “it’s just for kids excuse”, you ask? Well, unfortunately, when it comes to children’s media, there are many writers, executives and and other creators out there who assume that, because their audience is generally less mature and intelligent than the adult audience, then it’s perfectly acceptable to be as lazy as possible in terms of writing and production. The writing might be sloppy as all hell, the production values might be non existent, but the creators behind it all can easily hide behind the excuse that “it’s just for kids, and kids are stupid, so we don’t have to put in any effort, because those dumbasses will just watch it anyway.”

So, is this argument actually valid? I mean, it’s true that kids generally are less intelligent and mature than most adults. Showing them something overly complex, or that deals with subjects they likely won’t understand, is likely not going to prove successful. While I think the “it’s just for kids excuse” can sometimes be valid in a different sense (more on that later), quite often the rebuttal to this argument is “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

There’s no doubt about it, a lot of incredibly brainless cartoons like Teen Titans Go! have proven successful. But at the same time, cartoons with good writing that actually put in a great deal of effort like Adventure Time or Avatar: the Last Airbender have also proven successful. And while Nickelodeon’s sacred cow of a show, Spongebob Squarepants, may be a mindless zombie of a franchise nowadays, it no doubt reached its massive popularity due to being actually pretty funny in its earlier seasons.

Media aimed towards kids can be well written. Some of my favourite tv shows of all time are cartoons for children. If anything, I dare say there are proportionally more examples of good kids’ cartoon shows than good adult cartoon shows.

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But that’s a story for an entirely different post.

In other words, yes, kids’ cartoons can be successful despite being lazy and stupid, but considering they can be incredibly well written and also gain the same amount of success, the argument of “well I don’t have to, so why bother” is a little thin.

When it’s not creators running on this logic, it’s the critics. I have heard many a tale of animation critics being bombarded with counter arguments that “it’s just for kids bro, who cares?” when they happen to call out terrible shows like Teen Titans Go! It seems odd that despite the fact that kids are far more impressionable than adults, and are likely to be more affected by the media they consume, people seem to care less if the media they watch is mindless trash. If you have kids, or can imagine yourself having kids, would you rather they watched something as dumb and vapid as the 2016 Powerpuff Girls reboot, or something well written and meaningful as the original 90s cartoon?

See, there’s a reason why kids shows often have more obvious morals and messages. TV shows do play a part in most kids’ lives when it comes to learning about the world

Now that’s not to say all children’s media needs to be deep and intellectual. On the reverse side of the coin, there are people who criticise certain parts of children’s media for not being as insightful or as appealing to the adults as possible. Yes, while children’s media should be taken seriously, given the fact that it’s just for kids, I think we can give a pass to the kids’ shows that have good writing, but are simplistic and silly and, you know, for kids. I may criticise something like Prometheus for its complete disregard of the laws of science, but I’m not going to criticise something like Dexter’s Laboratory for it. While shows for kids should not be written off as automatically stupid, they shouldn’t be held to the same critical standards if they’re not trying to go above and beyond, and are simply aimed primarily towards kids. When it’s just for kids, you can forgive some of the sillier aspects that don’t come up in entertainment for adults.

And this is why the argument is not all bad. The “it’s just for kids” excuse should be applied in situations when people are judging a kids’ show based on the standards they hold to serious adult aimed shows and media. It is not an excuse for writers to lazily try to put in as little effort as possible because who cares what the kids are watching.

The thing is, people don’t use the “it’s just for kids” excuse on crappy adult entertainment. People complain all the time about trashy movies and shows like the works of Michael Bay becoming huge hits despite terrible writing. If we want to get rid of such trashy hits for adults, then maybe we need to raise our audience’s standards from a young age.

Worst Picture Winners: Fantastic Four

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Allow me to start this review with a simple question: what is this worst kind of movie to review? I’m sure many of you might say something along the lines of “the movies that are so bad they make you want to drink molten uranium”. After all, nobody wants to watch a shitty movie, right?

Well, while that may be true, tearing apart awful movies like Movie 43 or I Know Who Killed me is remarkably cathartic. When a movie gives you so many awful things to talk about, the experience may not be fun, but the review certainly will be.

No, the worst kinds of movies to review aren’t the horrendously bad movies, but the boringly bad. So, let’s talk about Fantastic Four (2015), the most boring superhero movie ever made.

The first five or so minutes of this film are deceptively charming. It features a very young Reed Richard and Ben Grimm, who seem to bond as Reed attempts to create a teleportation device. In this scene, the two child actors are actually pretty good, correctly establish the two characters’ personalities, manage to interact in a fairly interesting way, and thus completely upstage the adult actors who we’re stuck with for the rest of the movie.

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I hope these two get better roles in the future, I really do.

As soon as these two grow up, all charisma is lost. The characters speak in a moderately paced monotone, free of any charm or energy. This continues throughout the first half of the movie. Admittedly I’m not that surprised this boring charisma-free delivery continues throughout this period, because so, so little happens of note.

And that brings me to the second main problem of this movie outside of the boring, phoned in acting. That being: the pacing.

While the Last Airbender had the problem that it tried to cram in too much story into too little screentime, this movie has the exact opposite problem. It takes so long for anything truly of note to happen. The first half of this movie is just the build up to the moment the characters teleport to Planet Zero, and gain their powers. All that build up should have occurred in the first quarter. I wouldn’t mind so much if this was focusing on character development and relationships between the characters, but every single interaction is so phoned in and uninteresting that I honestly couldn’t care less. The characters are barely established at all. The most we get in terms of character traits is that Johnny Storm is determined and reckless, and Victor Von Doom is a pretentious fuckwad. That’s about it.

So, when they finally get their powers, that’s when it gets interesting, right? Actually, no. We see vague glimpses of them fighting through a video that’s shown through a projector, but that’s it. We don’t get an exciting montage of them learning about their powers, but instead just boring footage, and some brief scenes of them practising.

Now, I’m well aware that there is more to superhero movies than just action and fight scenes, but those two things are usually supposed to make up a good chunk of the movie. Those things are a primary reason why a lot of people go to see superhero movies.We want to see some real action, especially when it’s fight sequences that involve a whole bunch of people with unique powers. And with the amount of superhero movies nowadays, you need to give us something that will really wow us.

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Fantastic Four contains about two fight scenes. One involving Mr Fantastic Reed Richards fighting off a bunch of soldiers with stretchy powered punches…which lasts about two minutes because The Thing Ben Grimm shows up and then just lightly headbutts him. End scene. No awesome battle between super strength rock man and super stretchy man, just one headbutt.

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Oh and he punches a tree too, I guess.

The second fight scene is between the Fantastic Four unnamed team and Dr Doom. But, of course, before we get into that, let’s talk about Doom. Considering this is a big budget movie with all kinds of SFX, one would assume they could have hired someone to make a better costume than the one that appears on screen. The one that amounts to “crash test dummy made of tin foil and glow sticks”.

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That is not hyperbole

Now I’ve never read a Fantastic Four comic, and never have been a fan of the series, but even I know Dr Doom should look like a great menacing man in a metal suit,and should be an evil genius. This version on the other hand could be best described as budget Apocalypse. In fact while X-Men Apocalypse wasn’t great, at the very least Apocalypse had some mysticism and aura of intimidation about him. This guy on the other hand starts off as a mouthy jerkass, then gets turned into a boring as hell generic doomsday villain that can’t open his mouth, and bears no resemblance to the original.

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The similarities are uncanny.

So, how does the fight with Doom go? Doom kicks their asses, and I don’t care because I’m not interested in any of the characters. Then Reed somehow inexplicably breaks free of Doom’s control, and just hits him. Doom falls into a ravine, gets back up, then eventually gets punched out by Ben. All that waiting for an interesting fight scene, and it’s over in just a few anti climactic minutes.

So, is Fan4stic really the worst superhero movie ever made? Maybe not. But my god, if it isn’t the dullest. This movie has so little charm or energy. Any sign of creativity or good storytelling I’m certain came purely from the comics it was based on.

In a world where superhero movies rule the box office, I cannot fathom just why this movie is so ashamed of its origins as a superhero comic book. I realise it’s likely trying to take after the seriousness of The Dark Knight, but The Dark Knight still had cool action scenes, good storytelling, and some amazing acting from Heath Ledger. Fantastic Four features next to none of these things. No action, little story to fill an hour and a half movie, and well and truly sub par acting.

The most interesting thing about this movie is well and truly the story behind its production. Young director Josh Trank was brought onto the project after his work on Chronicle, a movie with a far lower budget. According to what has been said behind the scenes, giving him full creative control seemed to have a Heaven’s Gate effect, as he clearly wasn’t experienced enough to work on a big budget blockbuster, but became convinced the movie could be his masterpiece (until executives realise he was fucking things up, and tried rather pitifully to save the movie through meddling).

In this day and age, superhero movies have risen so much in quality and popularity that yes, some can in fact be considered masterpieces. But the primary goal behind a superhero action blockbuster should be to make it fun. Most of the classics of the modern era are exactly that.

And, incidentally, many of these fun classics were Marvel movies. In other words, if Fox could just give them the rights to this franchise back, that would be great.

Verdict:

Verdicts

Request Review: Birdemic

In all honesty, I’ve been debating as to whether or not I should review this particular movie. When it comes to reviewing movies, I like to try to be educational and analytical, showing people precisely why something doesn’t work, and helping those who perhaps wish to be writers and creators themselves. In the case of Birdemic: Shock and Terror, however, I don’t think there’s anything I could say on the movie’s quality (or lack there of) that you couldn’t figure out yourself.

Birdemic fails in ways you wouldn’t think possible. The story is all wrong. The camera is all wrong. The sound is phenomenally wrong. And the SFX…oh good god the SFX…

But, nevertheless, sometimes a movie this bad well and truly deserves a good trashing regardless of how obvious it may be.

Birdemic tells the story of some guy. I know he probably has a name, but he has so little charisma, and gives us so little to root for, that I’m simply goign to refer to him as that. Some guy meets some girl and starts dating her. Unfortunately for them, the realtionship happened to bloom right before the coming of the bmutant exploding bird based apocalypse. Because of global warming.

Even before the birds show up, the problems are fairly clear. Not only is the plot paper thin, but the dialogue is atrociously unnatural. Say what you want about The Room, but at least the weird dialogue there worked in a sort of comedic way given I can imagine someone as weird as Tommy Wiseau saying such things. Here, the actors state things so obvious, in such an unnatural exposition-y way, and most of them talk like they don’t wuite know why they’re saying what they’re saying. Take, for example, a scene that takes place immediately after the characters go to a cinema.

“That was a good movie. An Inconvenient Truth.” – some guy.

Why would he say that? Why would you state what movie you were referring to right after you’ve all seen the movie, aside for the fact that it’s pure exposition? I realise a lot of movies try to shove in exposition as best as they can, but Birdemic does it so unnaturally that the characters feel like robots desperately trying to masquerade as humans.

But speaking of An Inconvenient Truth, this movie does indeed have an environmentalist message. The WORST environmentalist message I have ever seen.

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Someone actually outdid “inanimate garden variety plants wage war against humanity”

There’s one thing to clumsily shoehorn environmentalist messages into your story. Birdemic on the other hand has shoehorned a “story” into a string of environmentalist messages. Characters repeatedly make reference to the environment and global warming for no apparent reason, and with no subtlety at all. And need I even point out that global warming and climate change have very severe and serious consequences, that do NOT include “creating mutant exploding birds that wish to wage war on humanity.”

There is actually one more thing I’d like to cover before we go into what really makes this movie famous, and it’s something that I don’t feel has been mentioned enough when criticising this movie: the sound quality. This movie has entire scenes where sound only comes in when characters are talking. And when the sound comes in, it’s not just voices, it’s background ambience as well. Rather than recording background ambience and actually layering the sound, the scenes can switch between complete silence and suddenly noise. Some sequences have literally no background ambience or foley added to them. In other scenes, the background noise drowns out whatever the actors are saying

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Not that that would ruin the movie in any way

But, of course, it’s about time we got around to discussing the real reason people remember Birdemic. And the real reason why anyone ever watches it at all. The mind blowingly terrible SFX.

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Yes folks, if you’re capable of sitting through 40 minutes of boring monotonous “plot” about characters you are never going to care about, you will be treated to some of the worst CGI ever featured in anything daring to call itself a movie.

The evil mutant birds featured in the movie are looping GIFs. Rather than the shock and terror of watching our protagonists fending off a mutant bird apocalypse, we get the baffling confusion of watching our protagonists getting attacked by what appears to be a screensaver from the late 90s. Oh, and if things couldn’t be more perfect, they’re fighting them off with coathangers. Because apparently coat hanger were literally the best prop they could find on short notice and no budget.

While the rest of the movie is so amateur and pathetically filmed that it just ends up being boring as all hell, the “action sequences” are what earn Birdemic its place in the so-bad-it’s-good category. If you want to watch this movie, skip straight to the first scene of the mutant birds. Literally none of the first forty minutes are worth your time. The characters are so dull and the plot so wafer thin that no previous “development” matters. And any confusion caused by this is moot, because this film is so utterly senseless regardless of how much of it you watch.

To conclude, Birdemic: Shock and Terror is objectively one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I say “objectively” because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie filmed so poorly with no consideration about how sound, cinematography or dialogue actually works. But in terms of subjective opinion, I can’t say this movie is worthy of other so-bad-it’s-good masterpieces like The Room, but I honestly can’t bring myself to hate something so pathetically and hilariously inept.

Verdict

1/5

Plus the so-bad-it’s-good get out of jail free card.