A few years back when Disney bought Star Wars it seemed like this was great but cautious news. It was going to bring us new films, sequels, prequels side stories and much more. We have seen two films so far, The Force Awakens and Rogue One both are good and due to their success Disney will continue to expand the universe, including some more head-scratching prequels such as a young Han Solo movie. A movie that appears to be having all kinds of problems – with tone, directors, rumors that Vader may appear (what?) and I am sure they will shoehorn in other characters that shouldn’t be in this. We hope for the best but have started thinking this sounds like a bad idea. Do we need this film? So we were wondering what are some of our favorite bad ideas that became a movie or television show?
There are a ton of bad ideas that became films or shows, some turned out surprisingly good and some are very bad. For me all three of mine I once loved but realize now with a little more context they should have stayed as an idea and never made. One I would have included, I had talked about in a separate blog, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho should be in the hall of fame of bad ideas, just a terrible waste of time.
Game of Death (1978)
Bruce Lee died in 1973, yet a new Bruce Lee movie surfaced in 1978. I truly enjoyed UHF “kung fu” movies of the 70’s. I watched a ton of them and regularly saw Lee’s films, although he didn’t make a ton, just The Big Boss (Chinese Connection), Fists of Fury, The Way of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon (my personal favorite). He was shooting The Game of Death when he was called to do his first U.S. film Enter the Dragon, which I compare to a James Bond martial arts film. Before going back to finish Game of Death, he tragically died. All he shot was 40 minutes. The idea of the film was that he was a retired martial arts champion and with two companions are coerced by a Korean gang (they kidnap his brother and sister) to retrieve something at the top of this pagoda. There are 5 levels with a “boss” at each level and they must defeat them to get to the next level. Sounds like where video games got their boss level ideas from, and it sounds pretty cool. He wears the iconic yellow track suit that Tarantino borrows for Kill Bill. He shot 3 levels worth of fighting, including a battle with his then student basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This fight is great – Kareem is so big and can only be defeated when Lee figures out his weakness (Wilt Chamberlain, just kidding). That’s all that was filmed. Sounds like a great idea. The bad idea is director Robert Clouse taking the footage and turning it into a new Bruce Lee movie which he did in 1978, with a completely different plot. In this his character is a stuntman who gets shot and needs some facial reconstruction, fakes his death, deals with the syndicate, his girlfriend is captured and he has to fight the mobsters at a restaurant (the pagoda). He also gets chased by a motorcycle gang that has matching but different colored track suits. Clouse uses some of the original Lee fight scenes and uses not one but two stand-ins for the rest of the movie(They look nothing like Lee and it’s clear). He also uses close-ups from other films, and in one scene when the character is looking in the mirror, he has a cardboard cutout Bruce Lee face on the mirror. But the most despicable part of the film is when Lee’s character “fakes his own death”, they use real footage of Bruce Lee’s funeral including real pictures of him dead in his casket. Talk about money from the dead. It’s a dreadful and disturbing film, that is only worth seeing for Lee’s real scenes.
Bonus: There is a documentary about Bruce Lee called A Warrior’s Journey and it has all of Bruce Lee’s shot footage which includes his two companions and it puts some of his reactions more in context with the scenes. It would have made a great film.
MG: Wow, the cardboard cut-out on the mirror was genius! I knew about Brandon Lee and The Crow needing to be finished without him, but had no idea his father suffered the same fate. Though I thought the Crow was merely ok, it sounds a lot better than this film.
Never Say Never Again (1983)
I remember seeing this in the theaters when I was a preteen, it was an exciting year for Bond as I had just seen Roger Moore’s James Bond in Octopussy four months earlier. As this preteen I loved both movies, looking back at the 1983 battle of the Bonds I now concede that they both should be on the lower end of the best Bond film rankings, Never Say Never Again may actually be the worst. So why two Bonds in 1983? The co-writer of Thunderball won a suit against Ian Fleming and it allowed him to do an unofficial Bond film, and it could only be a remake of Thunderball. So they thought let’s make a remake of Thunderball (closer to the original script) and get Sean Connery back after 12 years away from the franchise. There were certain things they could not use, the music was one for example. This movie is ok, so why is it a bad idea? For starters Connery, although only 52 and younger than Moore at the time, looks older. His Bond with Kim Basinger just doesn’t look right (I know a lot of movies pair grandpas with 20-year-olds). Basinger is a bland Bond girl that doesn’t make my top 50 Bond girls list. The movie is somewhat boring. There is a scene where the villain is playing some video game to the death with Bond, it’s just awful. Never Say Never Again did not need to be made, it’s not an official Bond film, and Connery had a good legacy as Bond that gets slightly tarnished with this. Just seems like a cash grab for all parties including Connery. Surprisingly, the great Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner directed this. Someone could argue that it made a ton of money but so did The Phantom Menace. Sean Connery’s Bond should have been retired.
Bonus: First film role of Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson, as the operative Nigel Small-Fawcett. Atkinson currently films a James Bond spoof movie series called Johnny English.
MG: When this came out I had no appreciation of Connery as Bond, and this may have been the first time I watched an entire Connery Bond film. Talk about a bad idea. This put me off watching any other Connery Bonds for quite a few years, which was unfortunate. This film just has a stink about it in all aspects.
The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
Wikipedia lists this as a musical science fiction television film. This alone should tell you what you need to know – that this is awful. It’s notoriously awful and everyone knows it’s a slam dunk bad idea. For some reason, unknown to all of us because George Lucas refuses to address it, he thought this piece of garbage was a good idea. I am guessing cash drove this. So it was aired in 1978 one time only on CBS. As a 6-year-old, I saw it live and remembered it as fondly as Star Wars itself. So for many years, this remained a myth, did I really see it? Was it really that good? Was Boba Fett in it? As a young twenty-something visiting collectible shows, I found a VHS pirated copy and rewatched it with friends. My mouth was wide open, what a mess. It can’t be explained, it’s long, boring, has terrible musical numbers and doesn’t make sense. It featured non-Star Wars stars of the 70’s as well Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman, Diahann Carroll and Jefferson Airplane, all singing. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill looked like they were completely disinterested or completely on drugs. I heard a rumor that this new Han Solo movie might feature some of Chewbacca’s family. I hope Ron Howard has viewed this show first because Chewie’s family and the “celebration of life day” is a complete trainwreck. My advice to Richie Cunnigham is to bail on that movie now. The capper on this is Carrie Fisher singing to close the special, Princess Leia is %^$@%& singing! I was surprised to see Bruce Vilanch listed as a writer but that might explain the corny jokes. Lucas knew it was a joke too as it’s now a banned property and probably the only Star Wars thing worse than his prequels. I would not be surprised if in his contract with Disney it’s mentioned for this to never see the light of day, although an HD copy would be nice, am I right?
Bonus: It’s only redeeming quality is the “intermission” cartoon that introduces Boba Fett. The animation is awful and the story is pretty rough, but just seeing Boba Fett is awesome.
MG: I think you picked the mother of all bad ideas here, although if I think about it, I might watch this again over being subjected to Attack of the Clones. As a kid I’m sure I was pumped to see this, but I have no fond memories of it, that’s for sure. The scene with Itchy getting aroused to the virtual reality headset is ridiculous and disturbing. The remarkable thing is that Lucas was able to realize it was crap, and suppress it from ever being put out on tape or DVD. In some ways, after all this time, why not just put it out? Make it a light-hearted thing and donate the profits to a charity. Every die-hard fan has watched it on the internet by now. But Lucas is like child who has to hide away his failure instead of just admitting it.
Bad ideas and Hollywood are as certain as death and taxes. 99% of the bad ideas are profit driven, but occasionally there are poor choices driven by more artistic pursuits. Often it can be hard to decide whether the idea was bad or the execution of the idea was the problem. For example, take another Lucas project, the notorious Howard the Duck. The comic upon which it was based had a cult following and was well-regarded, but the movie was an abomination. Marvel is even seeming to indicate it wants to revive the character onscreen in some capacity, so it seems like the idea was fine, to begin with. Anyway, out of the many, many bad ideas out there, here are 3 that come to mind.
The Star Wars holiday special was bad TV, but the nearly forgotten made-for-TV films The Ewok Adventure: Caravan of Courage and Ewoks: The Battle For Endor, may top it for outright shitty Star Wars productions. Both productions star a child actor named Aubree Miller, who was like a discount version of Carol Anne from Poltergeist. The plot of the first one was that a shuttle crashed on Endor and the kids were somehow separated from their parents. The cute and cuddly Ewoks, led by Wicket, of course, help the kids find their parents and have to get past various creatures that look like rejects from Return of the Jedi’s creature shop. The Battle For Endor is about…..ugh, I can’t do it. Let me just say it stars Wilford Brimley as a hermit, has an evil witch in it, and an army of “Mauraders’ that kill the little blond girl’s parents and brother. I vaguely recall watching these on TV and they were horrifically bad, even by 1980’s bad-TV standards. Take a look at these pictures from it and they pretty much say it all.
Around this time there was also an Ewoks cartoon, which was also abysmal. According to IMDB, there were plans for a third Ewok TV film, but someone must have finally said “enough” and kyboshed it. All of this only proves the assertion among fans that Lucas purposefully changed Jedi’s Endor battle from being with Wookies to the more child-friendly Ewoks (basically a half-sized Wookie), for marketing and merchandising purposes. Fans, including myself, have always felt robbed of what could have been an awesome Wookie vs. Empire epic battle (and the 2 minute CGI crap battle in Revenge of the Sith does not make up for it).
Bonus: I’m glad Warwick Davis was able to get a few more paychecks playing Wicket. We saw him once at another one of the sci-fi convention shows we attended. I should have asked them about these films but I think we chatted about Willow instead.
DJ: Never saw these thank god. Lucas didn’t learn his lesson from the Holiday Special, and these stills don’t look like Star Wars. By the way I don’t think we talked Willow with Warwick judging by my signed autographed picture from said convention my money is on the Leprechaun franchise.
Superman Returns (2006)
It had been almost 20 years since the big screen had seen America’s most famous comic book character, and after Christopher Nolan’s successful relaunching of Batman the previous year, on the surface, it seemed like a great idea to restart the Superman franchise. However, writer/producer/director Bryan Singer, who had scored success launching X-Men, soon turned this into a bad idea. His plan to do a “rebootquel”, as Screen Junkies called it in their Honest Trailer (below), ended up neither creating a new direction for Superman nor acting as a loving homage to Richard Donner’s first two films of the original series. The storyline of Lois Lane being a single mother, spending 5 years in an inexplicably hero-less world, was not something anyone wanted to see in a comic book film. The subsequent love triangle subplot with her new man and the returning Superman is cringe-worthy. For anyone that’s seen the movie, quick, what was Lex Luthor’s evil plan in this? Beyond creating a new island in the Atlantic, I couldn’t tell you either. The production values on this film actually were pretty good, and the cast did their best to make it work, excepting Kevin Spacey’s refusal not to overact to the hilt, but none of it could overcome the underlying poor concept for this film. The planned sequels were wisely scrapped and unfortunately, the rising star of Kate Bosworth was quickly dimmed, while Brandon Routh’s career was relegated to network TV. Even Spacey took a while to recover until House of Cards revived his lagging career. Singer has yet to really recover either, having directed the duds Valkerie and Jack The Giant Slayer before briefly getting his groove back with X-Men: Days of Future Past, only to plummet back to earth with X-Men: Apocalypse – yet another horrible concept.
Bonus: Routh, Bosworth, and Spacey all signed on to the project without reading the script. Word to the wise: always read the script first!
DJ: I have to admit on first watch I enjoyed this film. I think it was the nostalgia, love the John Willimas music kicking in and I have a soft spot for the original Superman films especially the first 2. Rewatching it and thinking about it, its a mess and stupid and also boring. Huge bummer. It will be forgotten about over time.
Indiana Jones 5 (2020)
OK, we are talking ideas here, so it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about something that exists today only as an idea. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, understandably all the focus was on the crown jewel of Star Wars, and thus far they’ve done a pretty good job recouping their multi-billion dollar investment. It’s a head scratcher to me why they’ve ignored the Indiana Jones property for several years, which has amazing potential – if done right. And then comes along the news this year that they are, in fact, making an Indiana Jones film – but it’s a sequel to Crystal Skull! Bringing back Harrison Ford to reprise his role and Spielberg to direct again is NOT the way to do it right. What the hell is Disney thinking? Do they not realize that Crystal Skull was one of the most reviled and mocked films of the past decade? Are they aware that Ford will be 2 years shy of 80 in 2020? There is no reason to continue with this franchise with Ford in the lead, even if there is another attempt in this movie to hand the reins to another actor for subsequent films. Similarly, you’ve gotten Lucas out of the mix, I daresay it’s time to get Spielberg out as well. The best approach is to reboot the whole thing – bring in a new director and most importantly a new, much younger actor. Go back to the 1930’s or even 20’s and make a film about Indy’s first big archeologic discovery/adventure. Have him face off against a young Belloq and you could even have Marion Ravenwood’s father as his mentor. I would love to see this film, and there is so much you can do with that historical time period. The only good news is that there is still time for the current project to be canceled. Calling Kathleen Kennedy – please save the franchise, save the dream!
Bonus: Supposedly this will be the final film in this series. Why stop there? We’d all love to see Ford kicking some ass when he’s 85.
DJ: I have said it before here, it needs to end sooner than later…they are underestimating the audience for another bad Indy film.