I was talking to a friend of mine a while ago, and we always get into an argument about my pickiness when it comes to movies. I can find something wrong that most people would just ignore. For example, I loved the original Bad Boys, but I hated Bad Boys II. Why? Well, it wasn’t just because it seemed like it was being misogynistic just for the sake of being misogynistic (which it was). It also wasn’t just because it looked like every clichéd Buddy Cop movie on HGH (which it did). It didn’t even have anything to do with the fact that it had none of the charm of the first one, replacing it with rote one-liners and jokes that swung and missed more often than it connected.
No. I hated Bad Boys II because of the music.
Now, I know what you’re saying; “But, Joseph; that’s a weird thing to hate a movie for. Why on earth would you do that?” I’ll explain that in a bit. First things first, you need to understand what I look for in a movie. For me, there have to be four things working in harmony before I give it my thumbs up, and those things are: director, writer, actor, and score. Still confused? Allow me to elucidate.
The director is important because he or she actually puts the cast through the rigors of the story. Every movie has one, be it a Hollywood blockbuster, or something a stoner threw up on YouTube (take that one as you will). They range from the good (Darren Aronofsky, Steven Spielberg, Edgar Wright), the average (George Lucas, James Cameron, Tim Story), and the bad (Uwe Boll, Tyler Perry, Paul W.S. Anderson).
Now, those categories are interchangeable depending on the type of movie you like, but I’ll say this much: I’d run out to see the latest Spielberg movie before I do a Tyler Perry film. And, if you like Tyler Perry, then that’s okay; I have no problem with him per se. My problem lies with the same one-note movies he pushes out. If he’d challenge himself for once and do something no one expected, then he could be a very good filmmaker. Until then, he’ll always be a hack in my eyes.
The writer is important because they actually create the story for the director to direct and the cast to perform. This is important because you kinda need a direction to go in with a movie. Sure, you can wing it and improv your head off, but not every movie can work like that. Could you imagine a movie like The Godfather with Al Pacino ad-libbing every fourth line? Didn’t think so.
I’m more willing to give a pass on average writing, especially if I know the writers have a good track record (Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, I’m looking at you). This duo specifically was responsible for M:I III, Alias, Fringe, and Star Trek. However, they were also responsible for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and I think we can all agree that TF2 was a steaming pile of dog turd laced with arsenic.
I shouldn’t have to explain this one, but I will. The actors are important because without them, there wouldn’t be a movie. You can have the most beautiful direction, the most amazing story, and the most thrilling score possible, but without the actors to portray the characters, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. The actors can make or break a movie. Don’t believe me? Picture Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly or Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones. Go on; I’ll wait. Need a relatively more current example? Imagine Will Smith as Neo.
There used to be a time where I didn’t understand how an actor could look bored in a movie; in fact, I thought that was the strangest anomaly possible. Then, I watched Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Shia LaBoeuf – who is a VERY good actor – looked completely bored in that movie, and I was bored watching him. Of course, when you’re acting next to blue screens and the beautiful but talentless Megan Fox, I can’t blame you. I think I’d be bored, too.
The score is important because it can bring a depth of emotion to a movie that not even the actors can. Sure, the actors can look scared or terse or in love, but the right music behind it really brings the point home. Sometimes, the music can be so good that no one wants to follow behind the original composer. Take Superman for example. Everyone knows the venerable score by John Williams:
Now, this is the version done by John Ottman for the much maligned (and deservedly so) Superman Returns, which I consider a love sonnet to the original:
Yes, there’s a difference. You have to listen closely, but you can hear a slight tonal difference. Doesn’t make it any better or worse, but – much like Superman Returns was to Superman II, this was a John Williams-type score. My point? Well, there was a rumor that Hans Zimmer was going to score the new Superman movie. Zimmer shot that down, basically saying he didn’t want to touch the great John Williams score. Personally, I would’ve loved to see what Zimmer could do with a Superman movie, but we’ll never see that happen. Instead, we’ll hear Zimmer’s works with the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
Now, this brings me back full-circle to the beginning of this blog; my dislike for Bad Boys II because of the score. The original had a memorable score by Mark Mancina, and it’s one that stuck with you for days after watching the movie. Bad Boys II was done by Trevor Rabin with an assist by Harry Gregson-Williams and Dr. Dre. These are three musicians who are – when separate – great at their craft. However, when you put the three together, you get a load of mush. Adding that to the other stuff I mentioned before made me want to pull a Scott Pilgrim about halfway through it.
What’s a Scott Pilgrim, you ask? Well…