Sometimes I wonder why I subject myself to watching bad movies. After all, I can easily dip into my collection and watch Chasing Amy or Rushmore, or rent a critically-acclaimed movie, saving myself wasted time and not regretting the torture upon my sensitive eyes. But then I remember how awfully hilarious bad movies can be, with nary a good quality to be had and many a bad quality to mock, and all is right with the world again.
Originally, this bad movie night was to be Batman-themed, based on the release of the latest Caped Crusader-opus, The Dark Knight. However, Blockbuster doesn’t carry quality movies like Batman and Robin and Batman: The Movie (1966) — another reason why brick-and-mortar video rental stores will become extinct — so we had to mix things up a bit.
In a pinch, I grabbed action-adventure flick Aeon Flux and my friend Josh brought the undefinable Judgment Day (NOT Terminator 2: Judgment Day) for us and the rest of or rag-tag crew to watch. What we had was an off-kilter, uneven and a truly baffling night.
Aeon Flux was the big-budget adaptation of the cult MTV action/artsy cartoons from the ’90s. Charlize Theron, best known for picking quality roles in movies like Reindeer Games, makes another dash for the duckets as the titular character (“titular” means the title character, aka Aeon Flux in this case… pervs…), a thankless role in bringing life to what was once a silent character with a lack of emotion.
Speaking of lack of emotion, there was none to be had while trudging through this movie. Aeon is on a mission to infiltrate and overthrow the government, led by the shady Trevor Goodchild — another character lifted from the cartoon series. Meanwhile, Aeon is trying to discover what happened to her sister Una, supposedly dead years ago. And Trevor’s brother Oren is worming around in the background, a supportive sibling while his brother manipulates the government’s puppet strings. Or is he? And what DID happen to Una Flux? And why is Aeon having weird flashbacks? And why do her and Trevor feel the “bow-chika-bow-wow” mojo in each other’s company?
This is all weighty stuff here, and a better movie would have been able to tackle the plot points with aplomb. Too bad this movie wasn’t a better film. You can see and guess the double-crosses and events to come from a light year away. (“Damn, Oren be acting shady… homeboy gonna work over his homeboy!”) An example of this is the initial infiltration of the government headquarters, where Aeon is assisted by her friend Sithandra — appearing out of nowhere. In this CGI-heavy demo-reel piece (clearly to show off where most of the film’s budget went), Sithandra gives shifty looks and onimous vocal tones when talking to her partner in the heat of action — flipping around trees and other goofy shit. Gee, her lack of enthusiasm isn’t a sign of things to come.
(While on the subject of Sithandra, the film’s writers saw fit to give the main black character not ONLY an ethnic-sounding name, but she is also the only human with hands for feet. Let that sink in for a second: girl has hands for feet. No other character in the movie has hands for feet, which the writers play off as making her more agile. Sorry, guys: it’s another reason to make her a minority outcast in a Hollywood-like whitewashed world. Nice try, though.)
So we have the acts of betrayal to look forward to; why not some PG-13 T&A on top of that? We get Charlize in her Victoria’s Secret nightie for futuristic assassins, while nice, is about as necessary as a clothing for pets. And hey, how about non-functionally futuristic buildings and architecture, with the only function being their odd and useless looks? It’s like this movie was imagined by a teenage sci-fi geek who was transported from 1976.
Mediocre acting, writing and cinematography were the icing on a bland, bland vanilla cake. None of the intrigue or charm of the original cartoon was present, replaced by a Hollywood ex-travesty-aganza. Obviously, the movie was MTV and Theron’s play for a potential franchise, but this was an ill-fitting puzzle with little going for it. Too bad that they didn’t go over the top and attempt a campy, whiz-bang futuristic romp like the hilarious comedy Logan’s Run. Such a missed opportunity.
Next on the docket was the direct-to-video Judgment Day, the answer to the Jeopardy! answer of “This movie combines a renegade asteroid, convicts and the charred remains of Mario Van Peebles’ career.” This movie slithered to life on the tail end of the Armageddon VS. Deep Impact battle of “who gives a fuck?” and the answer was sadists.
Mr. Van Peebles plays a cult leader/religious zealot, hellbent on welcoming the end of the world. The end of the world, you ask? An asteroid is heading towards the Earth, and he has the only man capable of solving the problem kidnapped, Linden Ashby of Mortal Kombat fame as a surly scientist. An FBI agent, played by Suzy Amis (who channels and has the look of an overworked Jodie Foster impersonator), springs Matthew Reese (rapper/actor/lisp-having Ice-T) to assist her efforts to track down the cult leader, create laughable sexual tension and deliver hilariously-bad one-liners.
As with all apocalyptic movies involving religion, we have the non-religious cynic (Ashby) who uses scripture later on to prove a tired point, we have the religious zealot driven by power and an enlarged ego and sense of self-righteousness (Van Peebles), stereotypical rappers-turned-actors and black actors (or “blacktors”) infusing the movie with minstrel-like shucking and jiving (Ice-T, Coolio in a laugh-out-loud awful cameo as a gangster), the heroine losing someone close to her (Amis, whose fiance is hilariously killed by an asteroid fragment explosion rendered by a Nintendo 64), and the zealot’s right-hand man having doubts about his task and eventually betraying his boss’s mission (Tommy “Tiny” “Zeus” Lister). Way to set the curve, everyone.
Now I don’t know what kind of budget a direct-to-video movie has, but Judgment Day seemed to have a drunken accountant at the helm. Even for 1999, the sets and special effects look ripped from the Goodwill of B-movie design stores. I suspect that most of the budget went to keeping Mario Van Peebles’ hair and head upright, as those dreadlocks were MONSTROUS. (Maybe the asteroid was being sucked into the gravity pull of his dreads?)
Eventually, things all work out for everyone involved: the asteroid is stopped in the nick of time, Van Peebles gets his comeuppance for his nearsightedness and arrogance, Ice-T is set free, the sexual tension between him and Amis reaches a pinnacle of giggle fits, and we get one of several songs by Ice-T to close out this disaster. (I bet Ice-T agreed to do the movie if he could do the soundtrack, which he probably provided on cassette tape.)
Note that in this case, “disaster” is in an awe-inspiring sense, as I haven’t seen a movie this bad since War of the Planets. While I can excuse Ice-T and everyone else for trying to make a paycheck, Mario Van Peebles cemented his legend as a B-movie superstud.
A slow start followed by a cracker-jack finish: this latest Bad Movie Night ended in a spectacularly-awful fashion. Perhaps the next theme will be the lower-tier Batman flicks, which put the tackiness of Spencer’s Gift store to shame. I can’t wait.