4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Speaking of canonical, let’s talk about something most die hard Star Wars fans begrudgingly accept as canonical: The Prequel Trilogy!
Much like the latter Planet of the Apes films, the new installments of Star Wars are working to erase the perceived stain the previous films left behind at the beginning of the century.
All the prequel trilogy had was everything the original trilogy didn’t, and all the original trilogy had was what the prequel trilogy didn’t.
That either sounds like they’re equally good or equally bad.
Wrong, they’re equally great.
Much like Shyamalan with Lady in the Water, George Lucas appeared to be testing the loyalty of his fans with the narrative risks in The Phantom Menace. This was the vision of a wise man who had learned much since he last gave his audience a film. He wanted to give the public what they got with the original Star Wars, but in a much more advanced and complex way. He wanted to give the people something that’s never been seen before in a way it’s never been visualized before.
Something with implacable inspiration, and a story structure that cannot be compared with any other film. Unlike the original Star Wars, whose structure is rooted from Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. George Lucas wanted to innovate the world with Episode I, but instead he had to settle for the consolation prize of innovating technology and marketing, which he was already doing.
The original Star Wars was a space opera about the backdrop of a great war. The Phantom Menace was a space opera about the politics that led to that great war. Lucas still delivers all the bells and whistles that made the original films great (space battles, lightsabers, space battles), but this time they are delivered with firm sternness and strong political themes. With lessons children can understand about how government works.
This was a lesson Lucas felt his younger audience needed to learn, and what better way to teach it than through a Star Wars film? It acknowledges influence, corruption, majority vote, and the seed of conflict. You see both sides of a political argument and it’s up to you to decide who to side with.
Each side has different reasons for doing what they’re doing. The Neimoidians are being manipulated by Darth Sidious who wants revenge on the Jedi for exterminating his people. Queen Amidala is strong willed, yet impressionable, and when her will overcomes her weakness, Darth Sidious has her planet invaded. Enter the Jedi, who are no longer warriors, but diplomats and peacekeepers. They’re caught in the middle of this mess and now they have to fight their way out. And in the middle of everything, they find out their ultimate enemy, the Sith, still exist. Thus uncovering an intricate conspiracy of one man’s desire to eliminate his enemies before he takes control of the entire galaxy.
This is what happens in The Phantom Menace.
And what did the fans say to that?
“George Lucas raped my childhood!”
With what? Education?
5. Batman and Robin (1997)
If you think George Lucas raped your childhood, then you must think Joel Schumacher raped your childhood while it was happening.
With the one-two punch of Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, loyal Batman fans balked at the sight of neon lights, stunt casting, flamboyant performances, and a batsuit with nipples on the pecs.
Fans really can’t get over the nipples.
But they should, here’s why.
Because Batman and Robin is the most influential comic book movie ever made.
It’s the one film anyone who makes a comic book movie bases their all their creative decisions on because they do not want to make the same decisions it made.
Perhaps it’s contradictory to say that Batman and Robin should have been hated upon it’s release so that superhero films could evolve. So we could have films like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight: the sequel we needed, but not the one we deserved.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is a spiritual sequel to Batman and Robin. Without it, these films would not exist.
Batman and Robin should have been hated when it was new, but it deserves to be loved now. It’s a cinematic martyr that gave into all the indulgences available during its production and it Kamikazed itself with the execution of its excess.
It triggered the superhero revolution started by 2000’s X-Men and continues now with the ever expanding Marvel and DC Universes.
Okay, that’s enough to respect Batman and Robin, but it’s not enough to love it. What happens in Batman and Robin to make it worth loving?
Batman and Robin is worth loving because it’s one of the best comedies of all time that no one considers a comedy. If you Google it, it’s labeled a “fantasy action” film. But even if it didn’t trigger the superhero revolution by sacrificing itself, it would still be a film celebrated for its hilarious badness.
Batman and Robin isn’t “so bad it’s good.”
Batman and Robin is an example of a great director taking a dying franchise and having it go out in style. Joel Schumacher is one of our finest directors. His skills were proven in the films he made between Batman films like The Client, and A Time To Kill.
Those John Grisham adaptations proved that the man was a cinematic juggernaut. This is the man who directed the big screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. He did Flatliners, Flawless, Falling Down, and The Lost Boys too. This is a pedigree anyone would kill for, and it’s all Joel Schumacher’s.
Yet, fans despise him for putting nipples on the batsuit like he was putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Maybe it would’ve been better if he put rubies on the tips.
But that’s mere speculation.
The fact is Batman and Robin, and every other film on this list deserves a second chance because there is so much more to mine behind what they’re criticized for. They are unique because it’s taboo to say otherwise. After all, no one wants to be the butt of a joke like Joel Schumacher. Not everyone has accomplishments like The Lost Boys to catch us when we’re falling down. People only make those jokes when they have time to kill, and Batman and Robin isn’t flawless, but we can’t hate on this Batman forever.
Author Bio: Nick R. Murphy is an aspiring author, freelance screenwriter, former actor, future comedian, and self-proclaimed pseudo-philosopher. He’s currently working on many projects in various stages of development. He lives in central Arkansas with his beautiful wife, and his three lovely daughters.