And the reason they hurt so much was because, at the time, I was a young, innocent lover of film, naive to the ways of Hollywood with its slapdash sequels, soulless reboots, and godawful adaptations. These were movies a fresh, ingenuous Joe looked forward to, counting down the days to their release. I expected great things. I got:
HOWARD THE DUCK
I mean, come on! One of my favorite comic book characters brought to the big screen by the creator of Star Wars. Star Wars! How could it possibly fail?! I recall trying to convince a dubious friend that a movie about a talking duck could, nay, WOULD actually be good. Oh, how wrong I was. The scene where Howard rocks out on stage with Lea Thompson still haunts my dreams. Yes, it was directed by George Lucas, the man behind Star Wars. Also, the man behind…
RETURN OF THE JEDI
This third installment in the original Star Wars trilogy was the equivalent of meeting a beautiful girl and having her invite you back to her place where you enjoy a few drinks, partake in a little romance – halfway through which her partners in crime kick in the door, beat the shit out of you, and steal your wallet. In the case of Return of the Jedi, that wallet held about five bucks – and my wide-eyed faith in my big screen heroes. What was so maddening was the bait and switch, how the movie suckered you in with a cool first half and then suddenly, inexplicably, horrifyingly, morphed into The Intergalactic Teddy Bear Picnic Movie. I still haven’t forgiven George Lucas.
In retrospect, it’s not a terrible movie and certainly blazed a trail for future great superhero movies to follow but, for a kid who grew up reading Detective Comics and the work of Frank Miller, it was nothing less than an astounding disappointment. Michael Keaton was a milquetoast Bruce Wayne and a stiff and emotionally unengaging Batman. Worse, he’s completely unheroic during the anticlimactic battle with the Joker, simply beating the crap out of the overmatched lunatic. And speaking of the Joker – I still cringe whenever I envision the hitherto terrifying Clown Prince of Crime prancing around to Prince.
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM
Oh, you enjoyed the action and high-flying adventure of the first Indiana Jones movie? Great. Have some more. And more! AND MORE! Try not to choke on the never-ending barrage of frenzied action scenes that follow one after another after another until, by the time those final credits roll, you’ve become so desensitized to the spectacle of it all that you swear off Indiana Jones forever.
JURASSIC PARK: THE LOST WORLD
This was the movie that pulled back the veil, stripping away the filmic fun and fancy trappings to reveal the Spiebergian formula in its basest form: Over-the-top adventure + precocious kids = Not much in the way of jeopardy or a satisfying movie, but box office gold. In one of the most contrived moments in movie history, one of the kids, who happens to be a gymnast who happens to be trapped in a room with some high parallel bars just happens to save herself by executing a flawless gymnastic routine. What are the chances? In a Spielberg movie, I eventually realized, pretty good.
So, let’s hear ’em. What were your most painful filmic disappointments?