Worst 5 Films of 2010

     December 30, 2010

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There are plenty of terrible movies released each year and I don’t see most of them.  Either they’re not screened for critics, the screening conflicts with a film I want to see more, or I felt that my time could have been better spent another way.  But for all of these terrible films, there’s a fine line between “bad” and “insulting”.  The Switch is a bad movie, but that’s simply because it’s unfunny, lacks creativity, and wastes a talented lead actor in Jason Bateman.  But it doesn’t offend me.  The five movies that made this year’s worst list had to do something that insulted my intelligence and/or my belief that people should be treated equally no matter their sex, race, etc.  These are films I would wish on my worst enemy because then we could bond over having experienced these cinematic travesties.

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5. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I was less than enthralled with the misadventures of three teenage protagonists who don’t know how to count.  Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) discovers he’s not only The Chosen One, but also The Framed One and if he doesn’t recover Zeus’ precious lightning bolt, the Greek gods will go to war and destroy the world.  Our hero decides he would rather rescue his mother from the underworld and that the whole “End of the World” thing is Future Percy’s problem.  Percy and his useless friends then go on a quest to find magic pearls that will get them out of the underworld, but only get three pearls for four people.  Oops.  The hero’s inability to understand that three is less than four is compounded by crappy special effects, uninteresting supporting characters, and squandering the potential of introducing Greek mythology into the modern world.

4. Clash of the Titans

Of the five films on this list, the remake of Clash of the Titans did do one good thing for cinema: it showed how crappy a rushed, 3D post-conversion could be.  Unfortunately, that did nothing to diminish the movie’s success at the box office, but at least we now have a clear example of how bad 3D can look.  However, you can’t blame the 3D for the convoluted story, paper-thin characters (although the 3D made them look like cut-outs), dull set pieces, and uneven pacing.  And if Percy Jackson takes the crown for stupidest protagonist, then Zeus (Liam Neeson) wins the prize for stupidest antagonist (The 2011 Stupids will be held following the 2011 People’s Choice Awards).  His plan to murder the city of Argos so that they’ll learn to love him makes almost no sense.  Zeus’ plan to help his son Perseus (Sam Worthington) in his quest to stop Zeus is where it gets delightfully stupid.  Clash of the Titans bore the tagline, “Damn the Gods” and this movie, with the help of Percy Jackson, certainly did just that.

3. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Percy and Clash are stupid, but the next three films on the list add a nice heaping of racial and gender insensitivity to the mix.  I understand the financial necessity of attaching name actors to your blockbuster picture and there simply aren’t any Middle Eastern actors who have widespread name recognition in America.  So while I’m not crazy about casting Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince of Persia and Ben Kingsley as the Bad Guy of Persia, I can accept it.  What I can’t accept is why the rest of the royal family is white and why the love interest from another Arabian city is white and why the comic relief character who stumbles into the movie is white.  Toby Kebbell, who plays a member of the all-white Persian royal family, even throws on some brownface for good measure.

But even if you manage to get past Persia being England if England had a desert, you still have to contend with petty, mean-spirited “heroes” who believe smug arrogance is the same thing as charm.  Percy Jackson wanted to be Harry Potter, Clash of the Titans wanted to be Lord of the Rings, and Prince of Persia wanted to be Pirates of the Caribbean.  None of them succeeded.

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2. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

In my review of the film, I asked why folks found The Twilight Saga so appealing.  I got more responses telling me I should have read the books than actually defending the movie.  If I need to read a book in order to appreciate a movie, then the movie is a failure.  And I still don’t have a satisfactory answer to my question about why Bella Swan is a worthwhile protagonist.  There are going to be scores of teenage girls who grow up thinking that rather than fighting your own battles, it’s better to have big strong guys fight your battles for you.  It’s also okay if those guys lack a personality (Edward) or are domineering assholes (Jacob).  It just matters that they’re hot and will do everything for you, including walking and telling you how you feel.

Every time I see a Twilight movie and the scores of teenage girls “Oooh” and “Aaaah” over the offensive actions of the protagonists, I feel sad for the future.  Also making me sad for the future: knowing I’ll have to endure two more of these movies.

1. The Last Airbender

This year, there really isn’t a “five worst films” list as much as there’s “four bad films and The Last Airbender“.  There’s awful, terrible, unwatchable, atrocious, and then there’s this movie.  After I saw The Happening, I wondered if it was possible for M. Night Shyamalan to do any worse.  It was and he did.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is a wonderful TV show and is easily adaptable into a feature film.  Shyamalan managed to bungle it from the word “Go”, by having his casting department set a preference for white actors to play Asian-based roles.  The whole “racebending” issue cast a pall over the entire production and the decision was never justified.  He didn’t need name actors like Prince of Persia and the young actors he ended up casting didn’t give good performances anyway.  Of course, they weren’t helped by Shyamalan’s abysmal script.

The Last Airbender ultimately had no respect for anyone or anything.  It didn’t respect racial diversity, good storytelling, narrative cohesion, special effects, set pieces, characters, or the source material.  I hated the film only because it decided to hate me first.  The last-minute 3D conversion almost felt like Shyamalan had suddenly discovered a new way to make his movie an eye-sore and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to make the experience of seeing the movie even more miserable.

I hope the executives at Paramount learned that “Because my kids like the TV show” is not a good enough reason to hire a director.  Shyamalan had already burned away all his good will, but someone thought “Hey, let’s give him a potentially lucrative franchise.  What’s the worse that could happen?”  M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender is the worst that could happen.

Monday: Top 10 Posters of 2010

Tuesday: Top 10 Trailers of 2010

Wednesday: Best Performances, Directors, and Other Miscellany of 2010

Thursday: Worst 5 Films of 2010

Friday: Top 10 Films of 2010

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