To start with the elephant in the room, well, yeah, I never really found George Lucas’s big reveal that the force has to do with life forms inside blood cells to be all that bothersome. It passed over my head when I was 9, and even now “without them… we would have no knowledge of the force” doesn’t really kill the sense of wonder to the “energy field created by all living things” for me. I took them as just a measure of force potential, as though midi-chlorians are to the force as IQ is to knowledge. Does knowing that a character in Dragon Ball Z is more powerful because he has a bigger “chi” also take the wonder out of all the flying around and firing energy blasts? Actually, that may seem like a random example, but it does give me an idea for a way we all might get some enjoyment from midi-chlorians: http/


But on that note, I’m very often the guy saying “not that bad.” Superman Returns, Spiderman 3, Batman Returns… they may not be the stories you had in mind, but at least try to appreciate what they did bring to the table. Still, I can sympathize. Oh boy, can I. I’ll always understand the feeling, because I have my own list issues with different franchises, some being common complaints and some mostly just me. So here are the moments that are my equivalent of midi-chlorians, Twilight Sparkle becoming a princess, emo Peter Parker, and anything else you just can’t accept. As before, it’s the top 9, because do you really want to hear me complain more than that?




9. All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 – Carface goes to hell


This one is at the bottom of the list, because most people, including me, gave up on the movie long before this. It is essentially a completely different story that just happens to star the same characters, and it’s not a particularly good story at that. But changing the ambiguous fate of Carface from the first movie to him being dragged to hell – just for a would-be laugh at his expense – is pretty lame. Instead of the first one’s subtle message that there’s always hope for someone, this one opts for the instant gratification of nailing him for being the villain, after tossing him back into the that role for no particular reason in the first place. It feels like a retcon and a bad one at that.




8. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master – The last of the dream warriors tossed out for new victims


Most horror movie sequels are uncertain of what to do with the survivors of the last movie. After all, most of them were just faces in a crowd of potential victims, so it might be awkward to validate them as our heroes in the same kind of movie. Their survival was a big part of the payoff, which is something nobody wants to give back, but if they outfox the killer for too long, it might start to seem like the – insert “memorable” weapon here – is getting dull. Still, I promise, on the list of purposes that fans would have been satisfied knowing the survivors of A Nightmare on Elmstreet 3: Dream Warriors went on to serve, this wasn’t one of them.


After the formal burial that Freddy’s mother assured us would get rid of him for good, he reappears for no clear reason and kill the three surviving “Elm Street” kids in standoffs only slightly more noteworthy than his average victims get. Okay… I don’t think you realize the significance of what you’ve done there, movie. Those were the last of the kids Freddy set out to kill for revenge against the parents who killed him. As in, you just let him complete his vengeance. It’s over. He won.


Hold on, what do mean he cares about the kids they just happened to be going to school with? You’re saying now he collects souls because they give him strength, and he just kinda likes getting stronger? Eh… no, sorry, you can’t just invent something new after the first act because you didn’t want to tell the old story anymore. It feels like we’re just watching Freddy do a victory lap, killing people because he can, which is actually kind of depressing. You’re lucky you found a strangely encouraging parallel arc to tell about this new girl Alice, or I’d hate the entire movie, instead of just that first act.




7. Return to Neverland – Captain Hook… what did they do to you?


I don’t know why they released this movie in theaters, but now, for all intents and purposes, it’s part of the official continuity. You know what? No it isn’t. It didn’t happen.


Actually, it could have been a tolerable continuation of the story if it just had a half-decent adventure in Neverland ready for the characters. And as we all know, a decent conflict needs a decent villain, which old Captain Hook has proven he’s more than capable of being. However, it seems the need for the oily menace, the deceptive cunning, and the blustering fury that Hook provided was all pushed aside in the writers’ minds by another thought, stemming from the character’s propensity for slapstick: “Dur… kids like HIJINKS!”









Whoever Robin Budd is, I think I’m starting to wish bad things on him right now.



To say this is an insult to the character may sound a bit extreme, since we’re talking about a guy who spent half his screen time fighting his way out of a crocodile’s mouth, but darn it, yes, it’s an insult to the character. Sure, Hook had some pretty funny scenes before, but part of the fun was in how serious he was until he reached the end of his rope, like an angry Wile E. Coyote shrugging off blow after blow, only to walk into an even worse one without noticing. Heck, this is an insult to the original movie, the functioning brain cells of the audience, and the notion of even wanting to watch a movie about Peter Pan. Return to Neverland has about 10 seconds of swordplay, including flashbacks, but it made all the time in the world for Hook to prance around in modern heart-covered boxer shorts, make idiot faces while bouncing off of stuff, and moan like a man child whenever something goes wrong. If we just wanted to watch a lame sequel to Home Alone, we’d rent the lame sequels to Home Alone. Return to Neverland, I don’t care if you almost had a real film’s budget and you got your own theatrical release. You are, in the words of a friend and colleague of mine, just another Disney cheapquel.




6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The “reimagined” kids


I’m sure if I’d asked you to guess, you would have said Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka is my biggest gripe with this movie. Actually though, I’m 50/50 on that one. On one hand, he wasn’t Willy Wonka, not even in the broad purposes the character is meant to serve beyond handing out golden tickets. And he tried way too hard to make the character weird, just to make an impression. But on the other hand, he did pack his share of genuinely funny moments, and in a movie that found so many ways to be annoying and lame, that really was something to latch onto. No, what I’m singling out is the way director Tim Burton butchered reimagined the child characters, including Charlie.


In the book by Roald Dahl, and the original movie adaptation, the four bad kids learn deliciously harsh lessons about their greatest flaws, but both versions make sure the crimes are identifiable and the punishments fit them, keeping it all in scale. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they’re all just obnoxious, selfish jerks trying to make us hate them as much as possible, with their original flaws only really used to tell them apart. Augustus Gloop is now a sadistic oaf who likes to mock Charlie for not being able to buy chocolate, Violet likes to call Charlie a loser because that’s something a character you’re not supposed to like would do, Mike Teavee is… whoever the bully in Burton’s sixth grade class was, and all of it is just so the movie has an excuse to savor their accidents as much as possible. If we want bad things to happen to them, the movie’s being effective, but if the movie wants bad things to happen to them, that’s just sadistic. Even the outcomes, which were supposed to demonstrate the lessons learned, are altered to be cruel ironies that solve nothing. (That is, except with Veruca Salt, whose gimmick was being selfish and obnoxious in the first place… meaning we’ve gone so over-the-top that the novel’s worst character actually fades into the background and gets off easy.)


In turn, Charlie’s goodness is overplayed every bit as much. Instead of a nice, hopeful kid working through tough times, he’s simply an angel incarnate (partly so we’ll hate the bad kids even more for being mean to him). He gives away his birthday presents, gushes on and on about the wonders of family and candy, alters the ending so he’s now solving Willy Wonka’s problems… I promise, movie, there is such a thing as overkill. We like seeing situations in which bad people fall and good people come out ahead, but we can tell when you’re just trying to play on that. On that note, we can also tell when you’re forcing in themes about daddy issues that have nothing to do with anything, but since I promised to stick to one creative decision per movie, moving on.




5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Making characters into doofuses who are only there to be laughed at.


These movies started out as faithful, if occasionally flat adaptations, and all in all, it was enjoyable. Still, there was room for improvement, which is what director Alfonso Cuarón realized upon taking over the series at its third chapter. His solution? Liven up Harry’s flat character moments by injecting lots and lots of melodrama, and just stop taking those other preteen character bits so seriously. Play ‘em up for laughs! In fact, why not just turn the whole thing into Harry Potter: The sitcom?


That may sound a bit harsh, but for me, this movie did to Malfoy, Wormtail, and to an extent, Ron what Return to Neverland did to Captain Hook. And I know it’s odd to claim the movie didn’t give Malfoy enough respect, but though he may be a little turd, I argue he’s the kind of little turd people actually encounter in the real world. He’s a punk who tries to bring you down to cover how pathetic he is, and he’s easy to hate. But getting the best of him is such a sweet feeling because, the reality is, it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes people like that do get away with what they came for. They can be challenging to deal with.


This Malfoy, on the other hand, is only there to be the butt of the joke, which makes it a pretty corny joke. The only purpose he serves is slapstick and cheap instant gratification. If he’d entered Hogwarts alongside the original Malfoy in his first year, he’d have given up on being Harry’s rival in the first few months and become the real Malfoy’s lackey. And if you think I’m exaggerating, watch the moment where Hermione hits him in the movie, making it look remarkably easy to get him to wet his pants twice in the same scene. Then go back and read it in the book, where his reaction was actually feasible, making it, on top of everything else, a much stronger Hermione moment. Speaking of Hermione…




4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Making characters into perfect know-it-alls who are never allowed to be laughed at.


To my gradual relief, David Yates stepped in and slowly got the series back on track, but not before Mike Newell took over and gave the fourth movie most of the same traits I didn’t like about the third one (albeit, with some pretty cool action scenes that almost won me over on their own). But where my biggest issue with the third one was lame comedy, this one didn’t seem to know when certain characters could have benefited from a laugh at their expense.


Where to start? We have the scene in which Professor Mcgonagall confronts Professor Moody for turning Malfoy into a ferret, in which she was originally so aghast at his madman’s audacity that she was barely able to slow him down. In the movie, however, Professor Mcgonagall is the boss. She chews everybody out. Turning students into ferrets? Oh no you did-dent! Then there’s Harry, who becomes more of a Legolas, finishing whole strides ahead of the rest, unless he turns back to play the hero, in challenges that originally didn’t include “dramatic” risks any school would be shut down for allowing. (Now he really is the character Rita Skeeter tried to make him.) And poor Hermione, even under Yates, only partly escaped the trappings of a Mary Sue. I know the third and fourth movies found praise for their character development, but I have a tough time buying it when the traits we seem to come back to the most are “moron” and “drama queen.”




3. X-Men: The Last Stand – Unceremoniously killing characters


I’m one of the ones who doesn’t hate Spiderman 3, believe it or not. Its emotional craft is weaker than the previous two, and it’s less satisfying, but if its biggest crime is delivering on the same front as the first two but not as well, I’d rather have it than not have it. It’s still giving me some of what I liked before and continuing the story. But the same can’t be said for the third X-Men movie. Like Spiderman 3, it’s bigger, shallower and less engaging, but it’s also something else: A complete betrayal of what we were invested in before.


You can tell this movie wants to be the big, bad final outing from how impressed it tries to sound with its own conflict, from the way it pretentiously tries to scale it up by bringing in characters we have no reason to care about, and from the way it so awesomely brings in a new big dog to make Professor X and Magneto look like nothing. But it crosses the line by killing off characters who really didn’t need to die, all for the sake of shock value and finality. Cyclops? Ha! No way some teacher’s pet with glasses is gonna distract the girl from Wolverine! Professor X? Man this is gonna be awesome! Just think how the little fanboys’ jaws are gonna drop when The Phoenix just blows him away!


It’s clear that when Bryan Singer left, the investment in the story, rather than just the plot points, went with him for the next couple outings. But I’m happy to report that the series’ recovery is now complete with his return. Now please keep the Rush Hour guy out of it!




2. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – The Pirate Lords


You may or may not have heard me rant about this one recently. There are several reasons that this movie was the one that fell through for me. But what really demonstrates the problem at the core is the idea of 9 “pirate lords” who come together to debate pirate laws and form a pirate army to fight in the name of pirates everywhere. Yar.


Come on, “pirate lords?” That doesn’t even make any sense. Don’t people become pirates because they want to stop living by the law? When did piracy become its own form of government? The first movie had about the level of law and order you’d think pirates would abide by, with a former captain trying to regain control of a ship from his mutinous first mate, each leading crews barely even loyal to them. Now they care about who’s in charge enough to dub them “lords” and give them the keys to their little club secret? (And we can only hope Jack, one of the lords, is the only example of how easy it is to be overthrown like that, because their super special league almost fell apart right there.)


Let’s be real here: This is the movie’s half-baked attempt to turn the pirates into the good guys. After all, if acknowledging that a pirate can be a good man was a fun bit of rebelliousness the first time, making them the full blown heroes must be even cooler, right? Yeah, all that murder and cruelty from Captain Barbosa and crew was nothing personal! Now they’re just the wacky group of fun-loving rule breakers who perform delightful hijinks for us to laugh at. Sure, it’s hard to care about anyone’s motivation now that we’re not compelled to root for or against anyone in particular, but at least we know that nobody likes Cutler Beckett, right? Yeah, at least the pirates would never give up their freedom to some tea-drinking SOB like him! What’s next, a pirate Justice League? The House of Representative Muggers? The Founding Serial Killers?




1. Alien 3 – Everyone is dead from the start


After Aliens wrapped up the story of Ripley so well, Alien 3 didn’t know how to handle it. It could have acknowledged that this chapter was complete and crafted another one, picking up some time later with or without Ripley. But that might have revealed that they didn’t have any ideas all that necessary to turn into a movie. It’s not like (they’d ever admit) this movie was just made for profit! So instead, they decided to find a way to extend the chapter we’d just finished. How? By undoing everything the last movie accomplished, killing off every member of the new makeshift family besides Ripley. That way, after finally winning an awesome struggle against the aliens to reclaim her life, we can hear the story of how she began living it by learning she was going to die in a couple days and spending them figuring out what to do about two more aliens. In space, no one can hear your face palm.


To work with this movie, you have to accept that everything about the last two, besides getting rid of the aliens, was for absolutely nothing. Is anyone willing to do that for what’s easily the least exciting and least interesting of the three original Alien movies? No, the idea that Alien 3 is, for all intents and purposes, part of the official continuity is such a turnoff that I will always maintain I have no idea what the first half of this sentence is talking about.




And with that, we’ve reached the end of the franchise moves that left me the coldest. Feel free to give me your spin on any of them in the comments section or list your own. I’m happy to listen, after indulging in so much time to vent.


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