Loving The Hated Ones

Sometimes a movie comes out and gathers instant negative critical momentum. Sometimes it gets to the point where every review outdoes the previous one with its hyperbolic hatred. Sometimes the viewing public gets on the bandwagon, and film goes down in history as a legendary turkey. Sometimes, I love these movies.

Sometimes, of course, the films in question are deserving of the jeers. But they can also be victims of a critical mob mentality fueled by bile-spewing internet haters, while being guilty of no worse a crime then simply being as bad as every other averagely bad movie.

World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles, released in NZ this week, got me thinking about this phenomenon due to its strange connection to a recent example.

The Aaron Eckhart-starring film got caught up in some unique controversy last year when it emerged that brothers Greg and Colin Strauss – owners of the visual effects house responsible for much of the digital work in Battle: LA – were making their own aliens-invade-LA movie, Skyline.

Battle LA producers Sony charged that because the films were so similar, the Strauss brothers had an undisclosed conflict of interest, and that Skyline would benefit from the work Sony were paying the Strauss brothers to do.

Then Skyline came out, and it became one of the most derided films of the year. It wasn’t a total flop, financially-speaking, and there has been talk of a sequel, but everyone I know who could’ve been potentially interested stayed away because of the negative buzz, and gosh darn it, I think they’re missing out.

Yes, Skyline is a scuzzy B-movie with A-level effects filled with cheezy acting, and I would hesitate to use the ‘L’ word from the title of this blog entry in describing my affection for it, but seriously, it’s kinda cool.

The Strauss brothers still haven’t made up for the atrocity that is Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, but in Skyline they demonstrate a true fanboy’s enthusiasm for cool alien concepts and large scale spectacle. They were clearly having fun, and it rubbed off on me.

The legal situation was quietly resolved last week, and Battle LA is proving a relative commercial success. But boy is it a stinker. Putting aside the clunky global release title which patronisingly inserts the word “World” as if that will make it seem more relevant to the global market, it commits the unforgivable sin of having crappy aliens.

The designs and concepts in Skyline are fifty times cooler than anything in Battle LA, which actually manages to make a global alien attack boring.


I’m not here to argue for Skyline‘s place in the modern sci-fi canon, but thinking about it has spurred me to share with you some other examples of critically-savaged films I have a non-ironic soft spot for.

Brian De Palma’s sci-fi adventure Mission to Mars was the first of two competing Mars films to be released in 2000, and incited some serious vitriol in both critics and viewers. I freaking love it. There are some huge ideas in this film, and while they may not be all that original, I thoroughly enjoyed watching them play out on such an impressively large scale.

De Palma has spent his career borrowing from the best (mostly Hitchcock), but Mission to Mars has him channelling Stanley Kubrick, which got a lot of critics angry. I’ve never had a problem with De Palma’s cribbing from other filmmakers – to me it comes across as reverence.

De Palma’s technical mastery creates some incredibly tense set-pieces in Mars. If you like a space movie and have never seen this, please check it out. 2000′s other Mars movie, Red Planet starring Val Kilmer, is kinda cool too.

The world seemed to spend a good portion of the last decade hating Ben Affleck, who following his breakout success with 1997′s Good Will Hunting made a string of alarmingly bad movies. Despite it’s terrible reputation, Reindeer Games (2000) is not one of them.

This down and dirty thriller from genre master John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate; Ronin) is often cited by co-star Charlize Theron as one of her biggest regrets. Snob.

Affleck projects an appealing beleaguered quality as a small-time crook in over his head, and Gary Sinise is hilarious as a vindictive and petty bad guy. Please give this movie a shot if you never have.

I’ve watched Mission: Impossible II all the way through more times than I’d care to admit. (Okay: six times). The widely dismissed sequel shot in Sydney is classic John Woo – slow-motion action scenes featuring honour-compromised killing machines. Maybe I’m just a sucker for slow-mo, but I think this has some of the best action of the past twenty years – remember the below motorbike chase? So cool. Somehow the action carried me through all operatic emotional content.


Nicolas Cage is a constant target for movie hate and his recent sci-fi flick Knowing copped its fair share. But I was completely caught up in the film’s ambitious outlook, epic disaster action and batshit crazy ending.

Snake Eyes, a delirious collaboration between Hated Movie All-Stars Brian De Palma and Nicolas Cage is one of the most mental fun thrillers I’ve ever seen. Sure, it may have marked the beginning of Cage’s decent into caricature, but he’s awesome as a slick Atlantic City huckster caught up in a assassination conspiracy.

In case you haven’t discerned this already, I feel a perverse pride in sticking up for movies other people hate. I’ve been a professional film critic for nine years, and maintaining a sense of objectivity going into each individual movie is near-impossible. So I find it oddly reassuring when it turns out that everyone else hates a movie that I love, even if I’m the only one.