Big dumb action movies I have loved

Or at least liked. Subtext: by “liked” I also mean “were way better than Dead Man’s Chest.” This is a direct response to a sort of challenge posted in the previous comment thread. Well, OK, it was actually just a simple question of what the last action movie I actually enjoyed was, but I picked up on the subtext: “Alright, jerk, if you’re going to be all condescending we’ll be more than happy to get our verbal abuse from a site that offers better reads and more interesting content.” So here, look. I can be just as lowbrow as anyone.

In no particular order: the first… uh, eight dumb but enjoyable action movies that popped into my mind as I drafted this.

There’s a gigantic gap in quality between the first Alien and its sequels, but Aliens is miles beyond the others, and not at all bad for a Reagen-era “kill ’em all” flick. (Besides the Director’s Cut, which spoils all the suspense and ruins all the pacing. Nice one, Cameron.) The marines are just army movie clichés in space, but Sigourney Weaver is so completely convincing as Ellen Ripley that it doesn’t actually matter. P.S. in my perfect world, the other sequels never happened.

X-Men II
Sure, it was about leather-clad people with physics-defying abilities. But it was surprisingly well-written once you got over the suspension of disbelief hump.

Spider-man II
I’m not quite convinced that radical genetic mutations will simply go away on their own if you give self-doubt a foothold in your brain. Still, despite the fact that half the movie was spent ripping off Superman II, Sam Raimi did the impossible and turned Dr. Octopus into a completely great character. But you know, if I were Peter Parker, I would have forgotten about Mary Jane and made a move on the landlord’s daughter. Sure, she was gawky and weird, but she could bake delicious-looking cakes.

Mission: Impossible
Before Tom Cruise was a psychotic advocate of scientology, the world admired him. (Mainly for his beautifully manicured teeth.) I’d probably hate this movie if I had any affection for the original M:I television series, seeing as the film craps all over the characters at every turn. Since I don’t, I’m even willing to forgive its mid-’90s “INTERNETS ARE MAGICAL” plot twists. Truth be told, I think the main reason I enjoy it is because I had been in Prague a few weeks before the movie came out, and it hit that “OMG I WAS JUST THERE” spot in my brain.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Raiders of the Lost Ark was awesome, and Temple of Doom was just plain stupid. The Last Crusade was somewhere in between, but it had the good grace to be fun. Which brings us to an important point: if you’re going to make a dumb movie, have a good sense of humor about it and we’ll forgive you.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
This movie would have been mildly dumb instead of completely stupid if only the ending hadn’t been such a cop-out. Not that it matters. The only reason to watch this movie is to enjoy the spectacle of beautiful people shooting at each other to the accompaniment of a great soundtrack.

Kung-Fu Hustle
Stephen Chow basically has one movie that he keeps making over and over again, and every time it becomes a little more polished and hilarious. Kung-Fu Hustle is basically a classic Warner Bros. cartoon filmed with live Chinese actors, and basically stands as a monument to how good Kill Bill might have been if it hadn’t been so completely horrible.

Revenge of the Sith
There’s nothing redeeming about this movie whatsoever, but I was programmed by nearly 30 years of Star Wars saturation to enjoy it. And I did! Plus, it was still better than Dead Man’s Chest.

The end.

Also, I’m told that I sort of indirectly made it into Newsweek. Maybe next time it’ll be about something I’m not sick to death of. (Edit: Apparently the online version links directly to my 1UP blog. Victory? I guess?)

29 thoughts on “Big dumb action movies I have loved

  1. I really liked Dead Man’s Chest, but I sort of respected your opinion that it was terrible. Right until you said Revenge of the Sith and Mr. and Mrs. Smith were better. Now I spit upon your opinion. It disgusts me!

    Good call on the rest of the list, though. I always thought I was the only person who liked The Last Crusade best out of the Indiana Jones trilogy.

  2. No, I like Raiders of the Lost Ark best. But it doesn’t qualify as a dumb action movie because it’s much too good.

  3. In regards to the Newsweek thing, its funny how Kotaku repeately seems to blow things out of proportion like they did with your FFVII re-review.

  4. I like The Last Crusade quite a lot. And it gets bonus points for Sean Connery chasing birds with an umbrella.

  5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Really?…wow

    So where does that leave movies like Die Hard with a Vengeance or Conan the Barbarian?

  6. If there is such a thing as gaming journalism, Kotaku is cheerfully hanging out at the yellow end of the spectrum. As for M/M Smith, I didn’t say it was good, just palatable. Unlike Pirates II, it’s nicely paced, with sufficient quiet interludes to keep the brainless action from becoming wearisome. Aaaaand Connery was definitely the best thing about Indy III: “Let my armiesh be the rocksh and the wavesh and the birdsh in the shky.”

  7. Pretty much everything gets a major boost when a Scottish-accented lisp is involved, really.

  8. The first Mission Impossible is what I hate about Evangelion: worthless religious references which have nothing to do with the main story. But trashing Pirates while praising Mr. and Mrs. Smith isn’t exactly helping your cause, J.P. Also, there’s no real action in Sith, because the camera cuts close during most of the duels, and Palpatine and Anakin don’t actually put up a fight, and when they did, they usually lost. In fact, I’m actually wondering why Obi Wan and Yoda didn’t just finish the job themselves. The only reason to see it is for the dog fights in the beginning. On the positive, you earn brownie points for trashing Kill Bill.

  9. The only reason to see Sith was to be in a theater with uber nerds who would dress up like star wars characters just to watch a star wars movie. Jesus Christ I thought I was a pathetic dork. I was totally wrong for about 2 hours of my life.

  10. While I haven’t seen Pirates II yet, I do enjoy all of the movies on this list for what they are.

    As far as Kotaku, the statement of “If there is such a thing as gaming journalism, Kotaku is cheerfully hanging out at the yellow end of the spectrum” is dead on =)

  11. You know, I did think the land lord’s daughter was hot. I’ll take cake-making over Mrs. Creepy snaggle-tooth any day of the week.

  12. I third on the russian chick in Spider-Man II topic. She was sweet. Overall I agree on most of your choices, with the sole exception of Sith. God, that was awful. Lucas pissed in my entire childhood by making Darth Vader an idiot.

  13. Best thing about M:I: good guys use iBooks, bad guys use ThinkPads (the uber-spiffy 701, with fold-out keyboard, no less).

  14. “if I were Peter Parker, I would have forgotten about Mary Jane and made a move on the landlord’s daughter. Sure, she was gawky and weird, but she could bake delicious-looking cakes.”
    So I guess now we all know the way to Jeremy’s heart.
    FYI, Mageina Tovah / Mageina Tovah Begtrup as Ursula (the landlord’s daughter).

  15. Does “The Killer” count? Cause if it does it goes right to the top of my personal list.
    I’d also like to jump on the “Last Crusade” love train. It was the first Indiana Jones movies that I saw and still remember being scared under the blankets by the extreme aging scene.

  16. Mission Impossible 3 was a masterpiece. Well, alomost. It was freaking awesome, at least. I remembered MI 1 much better than it actually was. MI 2 sucked balls. Hairy monkey ones.

  17. I’d have enjoyed M:I3 a lot more if I hadn’t just watched the entire Alias series in a six-week marathon that wrapped up a week before the movie opened. It made all of J.J. Abrams’ little tricks and cliches hopelessly predictable.

  18. Pirates would have been a much better movie if you could actually hear half the dialogue. (See also: Saving Private Ryan, though with that one it’s more ‘war noises drown out dialogue’ than ‘weird accents, background noise, and references to 18th-century sailing culture drown out dialogue.’) The banter was pretty much all worthwhile, and almost insanely historical. If you consider it in the vein of ‘barring the insane physics and mythological characters, this is pretty much how the world was back then,’ it becomes a much better movie.

  19. Alias was a great series for the first 2 and a half seasons. Everything after this is just kind of a painful downhill slump. Mainly do the abscence of Lena Olin as Sidney’s mom.

    I’m going to take the lack of Terminator 2 on this film to mean that you found the film to be a smart action flick, rather than just not liking it.

  20. I watched Terminator 2 again a few years ago and was astounded by how awful it was. It was a little disappointing, because I remembered it as being so good.
    T-100: your plastic pal who’s fun to be with!
    Reviewing Kill Bill would actually require me to (1) watch it again and (2) give a crap. Don’t go holding your breath or nothin’.

  21. Some guy at Whatever Dude or some other E/N site was complaining that Cameron turned smart sci-fi movies like The Terminator and Alien into dumb action films in the sequels.

    jp: If only you’d do a Thumbail Theater for it…

  22. I actually liked Star Wars Episode III. Okay, I didn’t like it, but I got up and cheered when Anakin got his arms and legs hacked off. If I was twelve, I would’ve even made a Monty Python and the Holy Grail joke.

    As for Jim Cameron, I thought Aliens and T2 were good. Yes, they are nothing in comparison to the originals, but they were fun, brainless flicks. Terminator 3 sucked though.

  23. Wait, I thought Terminator 3 got rid of Cameron’s hardcore pompousness and concentrated on being a mindless, fun popcorn flick. I was expecting a tremendous film crime, but it turned to be quite enjoyable.

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