There have been plenty of high-profile flops over the years, particularly in the realm of SF movies. The party line is that they were bad ideas, they ruined the book, or that that particular sequel never existed. But, I have to admit, I actually liked some of those flops. I even own the DVDs for some of them, and yes, I like to curl up in bed on rainy days and watch them. Ok, not so many rainy days lately, but when I’ve got a cold.
So, what movies are my guilty pleasures?
The Postman: Yes, Kevin Costner saves the world via US Mail. An entire plotline was stapled onto the original story just so that Costner could have his heroic showdown fight, but the core of the tale remained. Society can be rebuilt by ordinary people stepping up and believing in a better world. Plus, as much as some folks lambasted the film for including Tom Petty as himself, that scene was one of my favorites in the movie. It turned our modern idea of fame on its head, and pointed away from celebrity and towards those ordinary people who stepped up to make a difference.
Waterworld: Yes, another Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic box-office disaster – though with overseas markets and DVD sales, it did finally turn the corner on profit. Yes, there are problems with the science, and continuity problems abound with sunburns disappearing and reappearing from one shot to the next, but it was a fun film. I loved the cool gadget that was the Mariner’s boat, and Dennis Hopper’s brusque humor was awesome. “If you’ll notice the arterial nature of the blood coming from the hole in my head, you can assume that we’re all having a real lousy day.”
John Carter (of Mars): I thought was actually a decent film, and I think it did an excellent job of capturing the world of Barsoom that Burroughs laid out in the original books. What seemed to kill this movie, in my opinion, was not the film itself, but that it was poorly marketed, and that poor marketing became the story. In the lead-up to the release, I never saw any articles blasting the movie for itself. I only saw articles talking about how the marketing was being bungled (dropping the Mars references, no FX-laden early previews, etc.) and that this was going to result in poor ticket sales. And sure enough, when the movie opened, everyone went along with the fact that it was going to be a flop. Grrrr.
Hancock: In our movie world of heroic superheroes, apparently there’s no room for a drunk superhero. But I loved this one. The dysfunctional superhero was a great break from never-ending parade of dark-but-stoic, noble-but-naïve, omnipotent-but-tender heroes who always make the right choice. But what really did it for me was the love story that was both tragic and hopeful.
Red Planet: This one was apparently too boring for most folks, but I found it engaging. While the science jumped back and forth between spot-on and WTF, I enjoyed the gritty problems they engaged, from fire in space, to making an overland trek across the Martian desert. Plus, I really enjoyed Val Kilmer’s character and the sexual tension he had with the pilot Carrie Ann Moss. I’ll admit, the whole robot idea was ill-conceived, but it did add a little excitement. And of course, the line that stuck with me: “This is it. That moment they told us in high school where one day, algebra would save our lives.”
The Adjustment Bureau: This one is more properly fantasy than SF, and it did manage to squeak out a profit, but the press was fairly negative on this. Apparently early test screenings were bad, and it was sent back for reshoots and reedits, delaying its release by six months. A lot of my friends panned it. But I loved it. It’s quite literally the tale of a man fighting against his fate… and fate fighting back.
Bicentennial Man: This was a moderately-faithful adaptation of an Isaac Asimov tale of the same name. I remember seeing previews, but then it came and went from the theaters without notice. I suspect too many people dismissed it as “Robin Williams being silly on camera”, just like many dismissed his “Good Morning, Vietnam”. While this film did have a few comical moments, it was a quite serious quest of a robot to become human. If you felt sympathy for Star Trek’s Data, then you need to see this film. Going back to the original novella, this was probably the prototype robot Pinocchio tale.
Dark Star: Ok, this film is not actually good. It’s actually ridiculously bad. In no way whatsoever should you take this as a recommendation for the film. However, the final fifteen minutes of the film with the talking bomb are priceless. That part, at least, is a must-see piece of science fiction cinematic history.
So, what movies do you count as guilty pleasures?