Well dear readers, I’m back after a long absence and boy do I have an article for you. That’s right. It’s time to count down my top 5 worst film series of all time. Will there be controversy? You bet. I did a top 5 list before but that wasn’t in any particular order. This one is, so bear that in mind. Also note this list is about film series, not films taken on their own. Some of these franchises have a decent film or two in them, and I will be mentioning those, but I’m looking at the big picture here. Remember that.
I’m just going to warn you now; I’ll be saying things in this article that may offend some people. If you are easily upset by someone tearing your favourite films to pieces and calling you an idiot for liking them (I usually avoid doing that, but I just wasn’t able to manage it this time), then I suggest you don’t read any further. I’ve given you a clear warning, so I don’t want to see any comments about how I’m a complete douchebag. Just consider this: I’ve told you clearly to stay away if you don’t like what I’ll be talking about. God knows I wish any of the films I’m about to examine had extended me the same courtesy.
(NOTE: Twilight is not on this list because it is now irrelevant. It was, as many people suspected, simply a fad. Everyone who thought they liked Twilight has now woken up from that nightmare, and jumped straight onto the One Direction bandwagon, which will hopefully crash somewhere down the road. The film series on this list are ones I believe have staying power, and are therefore far more damaging to pop culture at large)
5) Man of Steel
This one is at the bottom of the list because it’s slightly unfair to judge this as a film series when it only comprises one film. But if Man of Steel is any indication of what we can expect from future entries in the series, and given that the next film is already introducing the character of Batman when they failed to handle Superman himself meaningfully in the first film, I think we can expect the worst. Man of Steel is so bad it borders on disbelief. What was supposed to be a bold reimagining of the franchise instead turned out to be the fourth terrible Superman film in a row. I may not be a big Superman fan, but I did enjoy Superman and Superman II, and I don’t think a great film is beyond the character. Man of Steel wasn’t that great film, and the next one is going to have to work hard to convince me this franchise is worth bothering with any more. Call me pessimistic, but I don’t think it is.
4) The Marvel Cinematic Universe
This is more of a personal opinion, but I’m not really a big fan of superheroes. I don’t read their comics, don’t watch the cartoons that feature them and generally don’t have much interest. There is an exception to this rule (Batman), but even then I don’t regard myself as a premiere bat-scholar.
That’s not to say I’ve never liked superhero movies or I automatically write them off. I’ve already mentioned Superman and Superman II, but you can add Spiderman 2 and The Dark Knight Trilogy (even though The Dark Knight Rises was disappointing) to that list, and I guess X-Men was okay. And there are even films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe I like. Two to be exact. Iron Man was good and Iron Man 3 was very good, maybe better than The Dark Knight Rises in the context of its own series. The same, I’m afraid, cannot be said for the rest of these Marvel films. If you want to know what my problem is with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just look at Iron Man 2. Iron Man 2 is not a film. Iron Man 2 is a teaser trailer for The Avengers, and that’s my problem. Most of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are not films. They are either teaser trailers for the next Avengers movie, loaded down with fanwank or just plain won’t give you the time of day unless you’re a fan of the comics. Characters and villains are rarely fleshed out for the audience because the filmmakers assume that everyone watching has either read the comics or done some cursory Wikipedia research. No. Screw you. Make a real film, not something that just caters to fans. Films are for everyone, that’s why you release them in the cinema and not direct-to-video, because you want to appeal to the widest audience possible.
Going back to the teaser trailer problem, that’s something else which annoys me. Every film has to be beholden to what’s going to happen in The Avengers. Why bother making individual films for these characters if all you want to do is just see them fight together? Fans reacted negatively to the ending of Iron Man 3 because they were worried about how this would affect Tony Stark’s role in The Avengers 2. They didn’t care that it was a satisfying ending to a film series, they just wanted to know if they could drool over Tony coming back as Iron Man in Avengers 2. What the hell? And while we’re on the subject of The Avengers I guess I should say something about it. I thought it was a dull, lifeless piece of fan service. If you’re a fan I can understand why you liked it, but is it the 10/10 “best film of the year” extravaganza the critics tried to pretend it was? No.
Now that Iron Man (the only franchise I cared about in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) is over, I just plain won’t be bothering with these films from now on. And considering a raccoon with a jetpack is going to be one of the main characters in a future instalment I can’t say I’ll be revising that opinion.
3) The Matrix Trilogy
If you’re not already foaming at the mouth over the previous two entries, you probably are now. You’re probably going to tell me that The Matrix is an amazing, revolutionary piece of cinema that shouldn’t be seen anywhere a “Top 5 Worst” list, so let me just say I agree with you. Well, I don’t agree with you, but I can see where you’re coming from. The Matrix is a good film. It’s a good film, not a great film, but a good film nonetheless. I’ve personally never understood why The Matrix is held in such high regard. It’s nowhere near as clever or original as it would like you to believe, but even discounting its unoriginal philosophical ideas, aside from the bullet time effects (which is really the main reason why it’s remembered) The Matrix doesn’t offer anything special. With a few exceptions the characters are all stiff and one dimensional. Seriously, can you give me one character trait for Neo, other than he seems surprisingly unfazed by everything happening around him (although that may be down to Keanu Reeves)? If you don’t have decent characters to root for and engage with, what are you really watching other than people dodging bullets and trying to look badass while staring into an explosion?
This might all sound quite negative but I do like The Matrix. It’s a fun, dumb action movie which I still watch and enjoy to this day, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The same can’t be said for its sequels. The Matrix sequels are, simply put, appalling. Despite containing numerous action scenes, Reloaded and Revolutions are both excruciatingly dull, with the character problems compounding on an absolutely senseless plot, and waves of pretentious philosophical bullcrap. The Matrix may not have been original, but at least the whole thing sort of made sense and was enjoyable. Its sequels aren’t. Not in any sense of the word. You may argue that The Matrix can be watched and enjoyed on its own, treating the sequels as separate entities. I can’t say I’d argue with that, because I’m about to do the same with the next entry on this list. But two films can still make up a series, and if we take The Matrix as a trilogy, one out of three is not an impressive score.
2) Star Bores
Shouldn’t that be Star Wars? No, Star Wars is an amazing film trilogy. The three pieces of cinematic excrement that were released under that banner between 1999 and 2005 are as much Star Wars as a Tesco’s carrier bag is a designer handbag. The Star Wars prequels are not Star Wars, and anyone who says they are doesn’t understand what Star Wars is. Star Wars is about seeing flawed, relatable heroes triumph against impossible odds in a sprawling, vibrant space opera setting. It is not about watching one group of dorks with blue and green lightsabers pathetically smack at another group of dorks with red lightsabers in front of what is obviously a blue screen. No, A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi we’ll call Star Wars, and Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith we’ll call “George Lucas’ retirement fund”.
And that’s what’s so baffling to me when people say they like the prequels. They’re just such dishonest films. Even if I liked the Star Wars prequels I would never defend them because I know they’re made by someone who has absolutely no artistic passion whatsoever and just wants my money. But people still lap this stuff up just because George Lucas is behind it. There are thousands of fanboys across the internet who’ll tell you that the prequels make perfect sense if you read Obscure Comic No-one Cares About#5, and the answer to that should not be: “Oh right, I’ll go read it now”, the answer should be: “Who the hell cares?”
And it’s not just that either. It’s the fact that George Lucas just doesn’t care what you think about his films. As long as he’s happy with what he crapped out, everyone else can go to hell. Is that really an outlook you want to support? I’m just going to say it. If all you want from Star Wars is to watch very boring people swing lightsabers around for a few hours, then I guess I can’t argue with you. But if you’re trying to tell me that any of the prequels are objectively good (or, even more bafflingly, better than the Original Trilogy), I’m sorry, but you’re just plain wrong. There is nothing, absolutely nothing objectively good about the prequels. They’re the plot hole-ridden story of a spoilt arsehole meandering his way from stupid plot point to stupid plot point surrounded by a supporting cast that makes the characters from The Matrix look like something Shakespeare could never hope to dream up.
That may sound harsh, but I’m sorry prequels fans, I’m sick of you. I’m sick of you telling me that Mace Windu is the most badass character ever when he did nothing except swing a purple lightsaber round in a few scenes and deliver stiff dialogue with all the enthusiasm of a doctor’s receptionist. I’m sick of you telling me that yes, Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were a bit sub-par (an understatement to say the least) but Revenge of the Sith made up for it, when in actuality it was the worst entry in the series so far. And I’m sick of you crapping on Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars and saying they’ll ruin it, not because they might make bad films, but because they’ll contradict your precious, precious canon. Y’know what? If Disney want to wipe away over a decade of awful storytelling, I’m right behind them, because I’ve got news for you guys. Just because something is canon doesn’t mean it’s good. All I hope is that we finally get something worthy of the name Star Wars instead of the pale imitations we’ve been offered for far too long.
1) The Transformers Trilogy, soon to be (God help us) The Transformers Saga
Michael Bay’s Transformers films don’t even make me angry any more. I am beyond feeling any rage towards them, and all I feel now is a deep sadness. A deep sadness that in an industry where thousands of talented writers with great ideas are going ignored a bunch of talentless jerks can get together and make three films which embody everything that’s wrong with cinema these days.
Okay, I’ll admit it; I kind of liked the first Transformers film, but was it a good movie? No way. Not even close. Little did we know it was all downhill from there. Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon were so unbelievably bad that when I think about them I honestly feel like breaking something. If you like the Transformers trilogy then what you have liked are three of the most casually sexist, racist and excruciatingly unfunny films in the history of cinema. These films treat women like objects; tackle the subject of race with all the delicacy that an earthquake affords a ming vase and even discounting that they’re not entertaining to watch in the slightest. If you want to tell me that they’re just fun, brainless action films I would have to reply that when you total up all the time the robots actually spend fighting in the films, you’ll find that mostly you’re just watching the terrible human characters attempt comedy that’s about as funny as Bambi’s mother getting killed.
I’ve also heard that a positive side effect of the films was that it attracted a new generation of fans to the Transformers franchise. There is some truth to this. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a Transformers fan in part thanks to the films making me aware of it. But just because the Trilogy attracted new fans doesn’t mean it’s good, and I think if you asked most Transformers fans they’d rather people just discovered the franchise on their own rather than having the characters they love turned into a cinematic joke.
There’s a fourth film coming up next year which I will be avoiding like the plague. If you have brain and hate these Transformers films I would urge you to do the same. If enough of us band together, maybe we can stop this new trilogy before it gets off the ground. But I’m not holding out hope. There is good storytelling to be found in the Transformers universe. But you don’t need to look in these three films to find it.