There are times when just a few minutes into a movie, we get a feeling that we are in good hands. Some of these movies don’t disappoint while others get better with every passing minute.
But then there are some others – movies that begin on an impressive note, raise our expectations to a maximum only to strike them down gradually, some with unnecessary elongation or a decaying storyline, others by their tedious self-indulgence and others yet simply fail to follow through with a particularly brilliant beginning. Below are 10 such movies that take the viewers on a swing from one extreme opinion to the other.
1. Dreamcatcher (Lawrence Kasdan, 2003)
When a person goes in to watch a horror science-fiction flick, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, with Morgan Freeman in it, the least they expect from it is a good time. But, Dreamcatcher, which builds up with an interesting start only to take a tail-first plunge from there, leaves all expectation, sanity and soundness far behind, and eventually buries itself in a mound of dumbness and cringe.
The movie begins with four best friends in their childhood who witness a mentally challenged boy, called Duddits, being bullied and go on to help him, and then console him by singing Linda Ronstadt’s ‘Blue Bayou’. Duddits is revealed to possess certain telepathic powers which he passes on to the others in the group by creating a sort of psychic web between their minds.
Till now, the movie seems to deliver and is intriguing with a Stand by Me kind of feel. A while later, the four boys are all grown-up and vacationing on a cabin in the woods when suddenly, we find ourselves watching helplessly as gross and slimy aliens, called ‘Shitweasles’ who look like humongous vaginas with teeth, go out of control, ejecting from people’s anal cavities and leaving behind not only a mess on the screen but a bad taste in the audience’s mouths.
Just as we start reconciling to the new & profoundly stupider normal of the film, thinking it can’t get any worse – it does. Enter Morgan Freeman as Colonel Curtis, in charge of the military operation to bring the ‘blizzard of bullshit’ under control, sporting eyebrows as thick as a squirrel’s tail and obviously, he has gone a bit rogue. The movie takes 153 long mins to end and by the time it does, one barely remembers the high points of the first half of the film due to the mental scarring left by the second half.
2. Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002)
There is no good reason why any movie-going person wouldn’t be excited about seeing Anthony Hopkins play Hannibal Lecter in a film that also stars Edward Norton and the brilliant Ralph Fiennes. The case for watching Red Dragon only grows stronger by the fact that it tells the story of Lecter’s imprisonment, something that no one who has seen Silence of The Lambs can resist.
The way this movie opens, with the beautifully directed scene at the opera, makes a profound impression and it feels like we are in safe hands. The film then progresses steadily, laying down its story effectively with an inherent sense of humour and introducing characters that capture our attention. But as it goes on, it starts feeling like a banal foreign rip-off of Silence of The Lambs.
Will Graham is summoned to catch a dangerous serial killer called Tooth Fairy, because Will possesses the ‘unique’ ability of being able to think like a criminal but only after he gets some insights from Dr Lecter, who is in a prison cell that looks like a replica of the one in Lambs. Obviously, Lecter has had contact with the Tooth Fairy who, oddly enough, has a scarred and traumatized side to his personality that prevents him from killing a child because watching him get scolded for wetting his pants brings back bad memories from his own childhood?
The movie has its strong moments every now and then but it doesn’t add anything to the story of Hannibal which hasn’t been exploited before and after a while even the actors’ performances doesn’t do much to demand attention.
As the unimaginativeness of the film becomes more apparent, everything that seemed to have worked for the film in the start is left hanging amidst clichés and blandness. However, it does sometimes offer laughs and is well-directed in what it does but that’s where the trouble lies.
3. The Doors (Oliver Stone, 1991)
Most of the allure of Oliver Stone’s The Doors, a rockumentary about the quintessential 60s rock band of the same name & its controversial lead singer Jim Morrison, comes from the renown of the band itself and the appeal of good old rock. So, going into the movie, as you watch the brilliance of Val Kilmer’s performance and his striking & uncanny inhabitation of Jim Morrison’s persona, it does in no way seem like a let-down. The characters are still young and enthused & seem to be going somewhere.
Further, the movie builds up around intriguing premises of lesser known influences on Morrison, like the time he witnessed a dead Native American on a road. But, all this clouds one’s ability to realize that from the very beginning, the film has been on a downward slide into obscurity and stupor.
As Morrison embarks on a metaphorical trip to nowhere picking up all the drugs, alcohol and notoriety that he can find along the way, destroying himself and all the other people who are generous enough to support him only stopping at times to deliver excellent performances on stage, the film follows him around with excessive tardiness and self-indulgence that would’ve been infinitely more enjoyable had it been a sarcastic caricature of an entire demographic that takes itself too seriously, but unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite.
Watching the film feels like sitting in a two-hour-twenty-minute-long scholarly conference of drug-high psychoanalysts discussing Jim Morrison, with one after the other speaking a lot without actually saying anything. Had it not been for Val Kilmer, the wonderful music of The Doors and the perennially dependable appeal of rock ‘n’ roll, this movie would have been exponentially more unpleasant.
4. The Patriot (Roland Emmerich, 2000)
Set during the American Revolution in the late 1700s, The Patriot follows Mel Gibson’s Benjamin Martin as he is driven to leading a guerrilla militia against the Britishers after a sadistic British Officer murders his son.
The film doesn’t waste much time before the pacifist farmer and widowed father of 7 children, Martin, has vowed revenge after a singularly cruel British Colonel named Tavington shoots his little son outside his South Carolina house. Martin, who had earned a name for himself for his bravery in earlier wars, becomes a nightmare for the British military as he gathers a militia which carries out guerrilla attacks on their convoys.
For a while in the beginning, the sheer one-dimensional narrative is enjoyable for its impressive action sequences and elementary thrills which are captivating nevertheless. The period appearance is also effective and is helped further by the odd older-days’ battle scene in capturing the audience’s interest. However, it isn’t long before the movie’s lack of meaningful depth and its silly pandering to sentimentality for evoking passions becomes apparent.
What follows is not so much a tale of the American Revolution as it is the tale of Benjamin Martin’s righteous revenge against the monstrous Col. Tavington. The movie delves into meaningless romance plots which serve no purpose, not even plain entertainment. It makes a point of indulging in every cliché that it possibly can without ever having the effect that it should.
The singularity and lack of layers in the characters and the story alike makes the movie seem like a 7-year-old making his toys act out these juvenile scenes from his imagination & his understanding of wars, heroes and villains. What makes the experience of watching The Patriot even worse is its intolerable length, running at about 2hrs 45min.
5. Five Minutes of Heaven (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2009)
This novel drama about an incident of murder in the period of massive sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, called ‘The Troubles’, and its aftermath in the lives of the two people affected the most by it, is directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, who also helmed the acclaimed movie on the final days of Hitler in his Berlin bunker, Downfall.
The movie follows former UVF member Alistair Little, played by Liam Neeson, and the little brother of the man he shot during the strife, James Nesbitt’s Joe Griffen. The movie begins with an especially intriguing and effective sequence which re-creates the incident of the shooting when Little was just 16 and Joe Griffen, who witnesses the murder from 2 feet away, just 11.
The film feels taut and succeeds greatly in portraying the tension of the time and the whole incident. It builds up our interest in the characters we see onscreen which is more than most films can manage. But then the film jumps 25 years ahead to a meeting between Griffen and Little being arranged by a TV show, in which Griffen, half-heartedly atleast, looks forward to stabbing Little.
From here, the film starts losing steam, becomes unpersuasive and appears almost lifeless. The whole act starts becoming a very studious depiction of human emotions but which are not the least bit evocative or compelling.
Ultimately, the resolution of the two men’s conflict is also very common and not gripping. Even though, despite all this, Five Minutes of Heaven is never boring. The performances by Neeson and Nesbitt are especially phenomenal and the ending is also better. But, what is disappointing by the end is the ordinary follow through to an exceptional initial build-up and the thought of what all the film could have been but isn’t.