If you’ve been on the internet for more than a few minutes, then you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of the movies that everyone hates. They’re movies that are legendary in their awfulness, ruined people’s childhoods, whatever.
And then those movies get sequels and people go bananas wondering who’s greenlighting these things.
The answer, of course, is the same people complaining loudest about them. They’re doing it with their wallets.
5. Spider-Man III
The first Spider-Man film was, shockingly, not a disaster and made Sam Raimi a household name. Then he followed it up with another one and it was good, too! Then he announced a third one! With Venom! What could go wrong?
If you believe the internet, the whole thing was Emo Peter. (Really that sequence only lasted about ten minutes.) And then you had that skinny whitebread Venom and a shoe-horned Hobgoblin and the whole thing was just a complete mess. Now, I’m not trying to argue it was actually a good movie. It got significantly worse reviews that its predecessors, and for good reason.
But the thing is, it was the highest grossing movie of the Spider-Man films by worldwide gross (which is the real metric movie studios look at). And that wasn’t all people who showed up at midnight, unaware it was going to be a steaming turd. No, these were presumably people who knew it was supposed to be bad and went anyway. It’s no wonder they were going to make a fourth one before Sam Raimi walked away and forced a reboot of the series. (And for the record, Spider-Man 3 has made way more than the two Amazing Spider-Man movies.)
4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
What can be said about Episode I that hasn’t been scrawled about someone’s mother on bathroom stalls all across the world? It sucked, it was dumb, and it inspired many screeds filled with horrifying language. Not even Liam Neeson could rescue it, and that’s all he does these days. There are probably college courses on why The Phantom Menace was bad, followed by a graduate-level course on ways the internet has found to improve it. And that’s not even touching what the masses think of the prequel trilogy as a whole.
But while the movie only scored middling reviews from the critics and outright hate from the fans, it killed at the box office. When adjusted for inflation, Episode I is behind only the original Star Wars in box office money. Worldwide, it’s the highest grossing film of the entire series, followed by the other two prequels. As far as the industry is concerned, Star Wars Episode I was the most successful thing George Lucas ever did. And yes, I’m including Howard the Duck in that. Oh, he did another set of movies too, didn’t he?
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The much-maligned fourth Indiana Jones film has a strange reputation among enthusiasts of the series in that it’s typically completely unacknowledged, like pretending it doesn’t exist will somehow make it go away. Unfortunately, films are not thought-forms and continue to exist even if you close your eyes. Sorry, everyone. (Maybe I will join you once I actually watch it.)
I can talk about the gross here, but the fact of the matter is that since Kingdom of the Crystal skull came out significantly later the the original trilogy, of course it will have made more money due to inflation. And even if you look at the inflation-adjusted numbers, it didn’t do so hot, coming in dead last for the series. It still made tons of money, though, don’t get me wrong.
Instead, let’s take a look at the reviews, which were… not terrible. Yes, the film that purportedly ruined Indiana Jones for everyone actually fared pretty well amongst the critics. It’s got a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is nothing to sneeze at. The other three films do have higher ratings (the next lowest is Temple of Doom with 84%, which isn’t massively better) but it’s kind of hard to believe this movie destroyed anything for anyone. It sounds more like some people got wound up over 20 years of expectations and freaked out when it didn’t blow the doors off of the theater. It made gobs of money and got pretty decent reviews, but to hear some people tell it, they raised the corpse of Indiana (the dog) and spent 2 hours kicking it.
2. The Transformers series
Speaking of destroyed childhoods, Michael Bay is apparently a time-traveler who went and broke every 18-34 year old’s Transformers toys when they were kids and also had the cartoon cancelled, then gathered up all the animation cels and pissed on them while they burned. Or something. How dare he? Why would they even let him keep making these disasters?
Simple: The Transformers movies make so much money it’s unholy. And it just keeps going up. Worldwide, each of the Transformers movies has made more money than the previous ones. Right now, Age of Extinction hasn’t quite surpassed Dark of the Moon, but it’s only been in theaters for around two months compared to the 100+ days of the third film. It still has several weeks to go.
So while the reviews keep going down, the money keeps piling up. All people want to see is giant robots beating each other up. You don’t need a plot anymore. You don’t even need Megan Fox anymore. Just keep showing Transformers kicking the shit out of each other, and go to sleep on your pile of money.
1. The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix sequels have uniquely been hated so feverishly that they made the original film look worse. As beloved as the original was, that’s how despised the sequels are. Watching the first Matrix is now an exercise in seeing how long you can go before you get a rabid case of the “What Could Have Beens.” The Animatrix is, perhaps, the only other redeeming part of the series.
And yet The Matrix Reloaded got fairly decent reviews. They weren’t stellar or anything, getting 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, but they weren’t terrible by any means. And it made way more, almost double the money of the other two films, at the box office. Like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it was a little disappointing, but not outright terrible.
No, ’twas Matrix Revolutions that killed the beast. With a 36% Rotten Tomatoes rating and the lowest box office haul of the trilogy, not even I can put a polish on that turd. (Note: I tried to put Batman & Robin in this list, but it, too, was beyond redemption.)
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