I watched the infamous “Birdemic” over the weekend. Yes, I did this on purpose. No, I’m not a glutton for punishment.
The movie was probably one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, even though I’ve seen “Gor” and “Battlefield Earth.” So let’s take a look at some bad movies.
“Birdemic” is pretty much Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” but with all the interesting parts, good writing, excellent acting, suspense and characterization removed.
Instead, the movie features animated clip art birds flapping mechanically in a sad attempt to be menacing, and some dialogue from actors approaching the woodenness of Kristen Stewart in “Snow White & the Huntsman.” It’s not quite as wooden, I admit, but it’s very close. Fortunately, none of the actors attempt to express emotion through twitching like Stewart does. They don’t attempt to express emotion at all.
And like most truly horrible movies, “Birdemic” contains both a cringeworthy dance scene and a heavy-handed moral slammed over the audience’s head at every possible opportunity.
Then there are all the driving scenes. Driving, driving, driving. Not car chases, just ordinary driving. Seriously, Days of Thunder had fewer driving scenes.
Gor and Outlaw of Gor
There were things to like about “Gor” and its equally dreadful sequel, “Outlaw of Gor.”
There weren’t a lot of them, I admit, but there were some: one, Jack Palance was clearly hammered out of his mind when he agreed to do this movie, and also while he was filming this movie. Two, rather than putting on a serious face, the movie amps up its owncampiness. Three, while it is hideously exploitative of women, and features more butt-or-boob shots than any movie I’ve ever seen before, the men wear equally stupid outfits and there are nearly as many butt shots of them. They are cringeworthy, but at least the Gor flicks made an effort, right? There are no women in chainmail bikinis and men in full suits of armor. Everybody gets loincloths and armor diapers, no exceptions!
And there are black people in Gor–some slaves, some slavers, some just wandering around wondering how the heck they got into this wretched movie, just like everybody else.
I could also mention the hilariously plastic, fake-looking props as a plus, because they are funny, and if you made a drinking game and took a shot every time you saw a silly hat while watching these films you would probably die of alcohol poisoning in five minutes.
Battlefield Purple Filter, I Mean Earth
Battlefield Dutch Angle, Er, Earth
I think Battlefield Earth has a worse reputation than it deserves, possibly due to its connection with Scientology.
Mind you, it is a terrible movie. I just don’t think it’s much worse than most other crummy scifi flicks intended to be action blockbusters.
The writing is mediocre. The acting is so-so (which is ten steps above Birdemic). The plot is ludicrous and requires so much suspension of disbelief that your belief will probably need a vacation afterward, possibly somewhere that offers massages and mud baths.
But the movie suffers the most from directorial and filming choices, I think. One: there are weird color palettes used throughout the flick, so much so that the friend I was watching it with got queasy. It didn’t bother me, but only because I was preoccupied with… Two: Dutch angles! All Dutch angles, all the time! Has there been some terrible catastrophe causing Earth to tilt at a weird angle? No, it’s just bad directing.
Another major problem with the movie is that none of the human characters are the least bit interesting or sympathetic. They act like apes a lot of the time, maybe because you were supposed to be seeing things from the evil aliens’ point of view. Protip: We don’t need to see things from the evil aliens’ point of view.
The only part of the movie that was in the least bit watchable was John Travolta’s evil alien character. This is despite the fact that the character totally fails to be menacing in any way whatsoever. He is not the stuff of Darth Vader. He’s more like Darth Vader’s secretary’s receptionist who wants to be Darth Vader but isn’t smart or competent enough to pull it off.
Instead of having a real villain to hate and fear, the audience is treated to the antics of an incompetent, controlling, abusive middle-manager fixated on profits and his own pathetic ambitions. The fact that he’s wearing dreadlocks and platform shoes doesn’t really signify–everyone has met people like this and many people have had the misfortune to have a boss like this. But the movie presents Travolta’s character as doomed to failure, so it’s kind of fun to watch him dig his own grave, hoist himself up on his own petard and spit into the wind, so to speak.
If you have less than an iron stomach this movie is not for you. The constant color filters and the apparently-randomly-tilting camera will probably make you sick, if the “plot” and the dialogue don’t. And I haven’t even mentioned the excessive use of slow-motion yet, or the blanket assumption in the movie that all females exist only to serve or in relation to males, alien or human. Yikes.
In terms of watchability, Gor and Outlaw of Gor provide the most fun bad-movie experience. Battlefield Earth is probably second to the Gor flicks, followed by Birdemic, which has far too many sections in which nothing happens at all. It’s hard to make fun of nothing, and that makes a bad movie merely bad, rather than entertainingly bad.