Apr 23, 2020
The seven worst movies born from TV shows
With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dominating the box office despite an abysmal 20% score on Rotten Tomatoes, this seems like a perfect week to spotlight the seven worst attempts to reboot a TV series into a movie franchise.
Sure, there are a handful of success stories, but for every The Fugitive, there are twenty I, Spys. And before you start shouting “Star Trek 5! Sex & The City 2!” the rules of the list say it must be a reboot, not a continuation.
7. LOST IN SPACE
Gary Oldman is wonderful as the scenery-chewing, evil-for-the-sake-of-evil Dr. Smith. Everything else is a disaster. William Hurt–in his half-awake period (1998-present)–has to save the human race from a looming pollution-based apocalypse by flying an experimental spaceship to “Alpha Prime” in the Generic Quadrant and setting up a teleportation device that will let the rest of the world follow him there instantaneously. Spoiler alert: he gets lost in space instead, which means the entire human race is doomed, a fact that no one involved with the movie ever seemed to realize.
6. AEON FLUX
Four hundred years after an apocalyptic plague, a generic black-clad female assassin must fight her way through a generic dystopian cityscape to bring down the generic fascist government. Sadly, the movie is actually at its best when it’s at its most generic. Every attempt to show originality goes awry: nods to the nonsensical, nonstop action of the original MTV cartoon come off looking preposterous in live action; discussions of scientific ethics grow increasingly serious as the science grows increasingly laughable; and why bother casting an Oscar winner (Charlize Theron) as your action hero if you’re writing your dialogue with kitchen magnets.
5. MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
Everything about the old cartoon, which was already a bad memory by the time this film was made, has been jettisoned except for the villain Skeletor and one half of the hero He-Man. Gone are the castle intrigue (such as it was), colorful sets, and closeted Prince Adam. Instead we get Dolph Lundgren, whose casting is always a clue that character and dialogue are going to be nonessential, playing a shirtless space barbarian who is quickly swept away to 1980s Earth where the film can easily stay within its $7 budget. At least the movie is good for an occasional unintentional laugh, usually at pre-Friends Courteney Cox’s expense.
At last one that’s not sci-fi. The decision to make this big screen adaptation of Bewitched about people trying to make a small screen reboot of Bewitched isn’t inherently bad, just unnecessary. The decision to make Will Ferrell play a blustering self-obsessed idiot has worked at least six hundred times before, so why not? The casting is strong, the direction serviceable, but the jokes… ouch. One dud after another until you just feel uncomfortable for everyone on screen. You want to take them aside, give them a cookie and a hug, and tell them, “you’ll get ‘em next time, champ.”
3. LAND OF THE LOST
Oops, spoke to soon, Will Ferrell. Nobody reading this saw this one, and neither did I. But we’re all correct in guessing that Will Ferrell plays a blustering self-obsessed idiot, this time a paleontologist whose field of expertise somehow includes tachyons and time travel. But whatever, no one cares about the damn logistics of the plot, they’re just buying tickets to see Will Ferrell be funny. Only he wasn’t and they didn’t.
2. DARK SHADOWS
Tim Burton teams with Johnny Depp under six inches of make-up! Audiences can’t get enough of this shit! Apparently we can. A 1700s vampire waking up in the 1970s has a lot of comic potential, and in fact there are a fair number of solid laughs. What’s missing is a plot. Lost and aimlessness, the whole production devolves into feeling like someone trying their damnedest to emulate a Tim Burton film and failing. Other movies on this list may be bigger bombs, but the cast and premise here are so promising that sheer frustration over the outcome bumps it up to the number two spot.
1. THE LAST AIRBENDER
What else could be number one? M. Night Shyamalan murdered his own reputation with The Happening and then buried it under in the shallow grave of The Last Airbender. What could have been an effects-heavy thrill ride through a magical world is weighed down by idiotic characters, wooden acting, and painfully stilted dialogue. M. Night is at his best when he gets to be brooding and meticulous, letting his characters slowly recognize and accept a dark secret. Here he’s out of his element (ELEMENT! IT’S A PUN!). Add in whitewashed casting where every hero is white and villains are not (when the TV show was much the opposite), and you can see why audiences told Mr. Shyamalan to just get bent.