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Genres and industry trends
- Ask nearly any British film critic what they think was the defining Dork Age of the nation's film industry at large, and they will return with one simple answer: the 1930s.
- It was the height of The Golden Age of Hollywood, and British film was trying to respond... and flailing in the wind. In 1927, the UK passed a quota on foreign (i.e. American) films that, far from protecting British studios as was intended, merely led the Hollywood studios to establish British and Canadian subsidiaries to crank out "quota quickies" for the British market. These films were dirt-cheap, and often downright dreadful; an Urban Legend claims that British cinema houses used the quota quickies as time to clean and even vacuum the theatres, as they so often showed to empty seats. British studios in turn had to cut costs if they hoped to compete.
- As for the law's effects on Canadian cinema... well, it wasn't the harbinger of a Dork Age so much as it was a Genre-Killer. The entire Canadian film industry, already reeling from the high-profile flop of Carry on, Sergeant!note , was overgrown by Hollywood studios churning out quota quickies for British consumption. Unlike British film, which soon recovered after the repeal of the quota in 1938, Canadian film took until the '70s to recover, and required direct government sponsorship of the arts to get the shot in the arm that it needed to do so.
- That said, not all critics view the '30s as a Dork Age for British film. For some recent revisionists, while many of the quota quickies were indeed crap, the era also allowed many aspiring British filmmakers like Michael Powell, Alfred Hitchcock, and David Lean to cut their teeth, using low-budget films to gain experience that they'd later put to use in much greater masterpieces. Furthermore, the decade also saw a boom in comedies, particularly with the importation of music-hall talent into cinema. Indeed, some have argued that, without the experience gained during the "Dork Age" of the '30s, the Golden Age of British cinema that began in the late '40s and lasted through the '60s could never have happened!
- In any case, the British got their revenge when Hollywood plunged into a Dork Age of its own in the 1950s and especially the '60s, during the Fall of the Studio System. Hollywood spent the '50s struggling to keep up with mounting pressures from television, foreign (especially British) cinema, changing cultural norms, the Red Scare, the collapse of the star system, and antitrust actions, and while they were still turning out quality films, a vast gap was emerging between the epic movies that they hinged their box-office success on and the rest of their output. By the '60s, these pressures had collectively overwhelmed them and had started to impact the quality of their films. For every smash hit like The Longest Day or The Sound of Music, there were a slew of copycats like Doctor Dolittle and Tora! Tora! Tora! that bombed, while old standbys like Westerns and Sword & Sandal epics were hitting diminishing returns due to audience burnout. The Dork Age ended with Hollywood's creative renaissance in the '70s, though it wasn't until the Blockbuster Age in the '80s when the studios fully turned themselves around from a business standpoint.
Again, though, what seems like a Dork Age later gets revised. Today, the '50s is seen by some, such as James Harvey (author of Movie Love in the '50s), as one of Hollywood's best periods. Changes like Method Acting (popularized by Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Paul Newman) first came from this time. Auteur directors like Samuel Fuller, Nicholas Ray, and others came to prominence in this decade. Douglas Sirk's melodramas, initially seen as typical of '50s kitsch, is today seen as Deconstruction avant-la-lettre, or rather pendant-la-lettre (since it originated in the same decade as Sirk). This was also the great period for Film Noir, The Western, and B-Movie science fiction and horror, and the end of Hollywood's monopoly on owning theatres paved the way for the rise of independent and avant-garde films.
- The auteur critics of the French New Wave also famously castigated the '50s as a Dork Age for their own native film industry. Later historians have argued that the likes of Truffaut and Godard were being unfair, and made the French cinema into a strawman to bolster their points. But even a revisionist like Bertrand Tavernier admits that '50s post-war cinema was a low-point with largely forgettable films, poorly-thought literary adaptations that the screenwriters themselves disliked, and the best work being done in the French independent scene of Jean-Pierre Melville, Jacques Tati, Jean Cocteau, and Robert Bresson (all of whom were championed by the New Wave). France would enter into another dork age, at the time of The '90s and Turn of the Millennium, a scene described in Olivier Assayas' Irma Vep where post-New Wave filmmakers and other independents felt so marginalized that they felt no reason to expect any audience for their films.
- The '80s are seen by both American and British film critics and historians as a major low point. This period of neoliberalism (Reagan and Thatcher) saw many of the great New Hollywood directors out to lunch or in exile (Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman), as well as a great many now-forgotten mainstream films that attempted to copy the success of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Films that are celebrated today, like Blade Runner, Raging Bull, and The Thing, were flops early on that would only later be Vindicated by History. In general, critics note that this was the first decade in American cinema in which the most exciting filmmakers came from the independent scene rather than the mainstream (before, it was at least a case that both Hollywood and the indies produced excellent films, and the former kept a door open for the latter to climb in), with Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, and Abel Ferrara rising to prominence in this era as cult directors.
In the UK, meanwhile, the era of Thatcherism and reduced spending saw the elimination of tax credits designed to facilitate foreign productions filming there, leading to a growing dependence on the home video and television markets. Goldcrest Films briefly became a major player in the British film industry, winning Best Picture Oscars in 1981 and '82 for Chariots of Fire and Gandhi, only to crash and burn mid-decade with a string of flops. A few cult films by Terry Gilliam, Stephen Frears, and Withnail & I punctuated what was otherwise a dry decade.
The leading exception to this view is with the comedy genre, with the '80s often seen as a Golden Age for Hollywood comedy. Relaxed censorship combined with the end of the New Hollywood era (with its focus on gritty dramas) allowed Lighter and Softer fare to reenter theaters, this time with far more edge than would've been permissible in the '50s or '60s. At the same time, Saturday Night Live and SCTV had been important training grounds for young comedic talent since the mid-'70s, and the former would continue to be so even as it recovered from its own Dork Age in the 1980-81 season. '80s stars like Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Rick Moranis, and John Candy are now seen as icons, with films like Ghostbusters (1984), Groundhog Day, Stripes, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Beverly Hills Cop, and more acclaimed as classics. "Genre" films were also robust during the decade; the science fiction boom that Star Wars kicked off lasted into the mid-'80s, the horror genre saw the slasher wave, and there was a revival in fantasy films led by the likes of Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Dark Crystal, and The NeverEnding Story.
- For American horror fans, two periods of time are often remembered as low points in the history of the genre. One thing they both had in common was that they were periods of unparalleled prosperity and security in the United States, the conventional wisdom holding that the success of the horror genre is inversely proportional to how well the rest of the country is doing, since people are less primed to be scared when they feel safe and happy. This explains why the genre boomed from the '60s through the '80s (a time when people were afraid of declining moral values, a crumbling economy, and nuclear war) and from the mid '00s into the present (when fear of terrorism, bigotry, and economic malaise ran high).
- The first era is the late '40s through the '50s. The Universal Horror cycle was sputtering out around this time, with only Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, and quite tellingly, the parodies by Abbott and Costello being all that fondly remembered nowadays. The rest of the genre, meanwhile, was descending into drive-in B-Movie hell as a slew of cheaply-made sci-fi and monster movies tried to copy the success of hits like Them!, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and It Came From Outer Space. Overall, the era provided quite a bit of material for Mystery Science Theater 3000, and with the exception of the undisputed classics, most '50s horror cinema is remembered as kitsch. As noted above, this era is remembered nowadays for being arguably the height of American middle-class prosperity, and while the Soviets were a menace, the specter of World War III still seemed remote until the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. While Hammer Horror, Roger Corman, and (on television) The Twilight Zone would provide the beginnings of a comeback, the genre isn't usually held to have fully gotten out of its Dork Age until the late '60s, after which it's often seen as have entered a Golden Age that lasted for roughly two decades. After that...
- The second era is The '90s. With the "Big Three" Slasher Movie franchises (Friday the 13th, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street) all falling into their own Dork Ages in 1989 that are detailed below, the genre as a whole went dormant in the first half of the decade. Very few horror films had much success between 1989 and 1996, and the few that did (such as The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en) were typically closer to the Psychological Thriller or "horror-adjacent" end of the spectrum. The sudden success of Scream in 1996 made horror popular again in the mainstream, but the wave of Follow the Leader teen horror flicks that followed is often held in hindsight to be a continuation of the Dork Age, with many horror fans seeing it as little more than a half-hearted, sanitized recycling of '80s slasher tropes — especially given how Scream had mercilessly skewered and discredited many of those same tropes. (Wes Craven had intended for it to be a Genre-Killer for slashers; one could argue that, in a roundabout way, it wound up being so in the long run.) Julia Alexander of Polygon refers to the '90s as the "WB period of horror" due to the fact that many horror films from the decade looked like pilots for a Teen Drama on The WB, filled with good-looking young people getting (bloodlessly) hacked to death by generic slasher villains.
Much like how the late '40s and '50s were the height of post-war prosperity, the '90s are remembered as the age of the Pax Americana, the time when America was at the height of its power and the only serious problems in society were mostly felt by groups who were already on its margins. It's not for nothing that Scream and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, two works that are now often held up as high points of '90s horror, are best known as parodies of the genre, looking back on the films of the '70s and '80s with a great deal of snark. There are, of course, films from this decade that are still acclaimed today, but they tended to be diamonds in the rough, such that the horror website Bloody-Disgusting devoted a series of articles to unearthing those hidden '90s horror gems so as to demonstrate that the decade wasn't all bad. The Dork Age ended around 2002-04 with the success of the American adaptation of The Ring, the boom in the zombie genre (kicked off by 28 Days Later), and the rise of the "Splat Pack", a group of ultraviolent horror filmmakers that included James Wan, Rob Zombie, and Eli Roth, and has maintained a decent place ever since.
- Depending on your opinion, either Alien³ or Alien: Resurrection is this to the Alien series.
- While in popular culture, Alien³ is considered the turning point, many fans of the franchise appreciate the Assembly Cut's greater focus on character drama, leading some to believe that Resurrection was the point where the series truly crashed. To support its quasi-popularity, many fans saw Alien³ as a return to the themes and atmosphere of the first film, whereas Resurrection was a subverted gung-ho action flick. Prometheus, a 2012 Stealth Prequel to the original Alien, saw Ridley Scott return to the franchise, but met a divisive reception and came to be seen as part of Scott's own continued Dork Age (as described below), indicating that the series is not quite out of the woods yet. Time will tell if Alien: Covenant, due for release in 2017, will turn things around.
- The Alien vs. Predator films are considered the nadir of both franchises. While the two have crossed over before, the films were considered inferior to previous team-ups and both films have the two lowest Rotten Tomatoes scores of all the films. note While AVP: Alien vs. Predator was criticized for its watered-down PG-13 rating, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem was panned for trying too hard to go in the opposite direction. Both the Aliens and the Predators underwent severe Villain Decay, and later films in both franchises have rendered the spinoffs non-canon.
- Batman was in it deep during the late '90s. Tim Burton left the franchise, as did leading actor Michael Keaton. Executive Meddling caused Batman Forever to be campier and more toyetic than its predecessors. Following that film, the new lead actor Val Kilmer left as well, and then the camp factor went Up to Eleven with Batman & Robin. That film killed the Batman movie franchise for eight years until Batman Begins came out.
- The Superman series had it worse, as unlike Batman, the series never really escaped the hole it fell into. The series' decline initially comes off as a direct parallel to what happened to Batman—an increased focus on camp, spearheaded by producer Alexander Salkind. This led to the ousting of series director Richard Donner and his replacement through Richard Lester for the poorly received Superman III; which had a heightened focus on comedy, both in script and through the introduction of Richard Pryor into the casting fold. Not helping matters was the Salkinds' attempt at a spinoff film for Supergirlnote made around the time, that ended up being a critical and commercial dud. But things truly went off the rails when the Salkinds handed the film rights to The Cannon Group, who cheaply churned out the notorious Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which bombed heavily with reviewers and at the box office. Development Hell ensued for a fifth film —which was mostly delayed by frequent Executive Meddling, as famously detailed by Kevin Smith—, which finally emerged as Superman Returns—decades later after Superman IV's release. Returns received decent reviews from critics, but didn't perform as well as the studio wanted in gross and split the fanbase (no thanks to it being being an indecisive reboot and sequel to the old films); leading to a firm reboot in Man of Steel, which also doubled as the start of the DCEU.
- The DCEU itself is widely considered to be a Dork Age for DC superhero films as a whole, namely for what many perceive to be Warner Bros. trying to chase Disney/Marvel's tail and coming up short. All of the films released so far have made decent financial grosses, but have either received mixed reactions at best (Man of Steel) to being widely-panned at worst (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad). With the majority of the planned films within the universe (The Batman, Flash, Cyborg, etc.) having seen their development stalled, fans of the franchise pinned their hopes on Wonder Woman and Justice League being able to win back the crowd of critics and audiences. Given the positive response of Wonder Woman (which became the first critically-acclaimed DC film that wasn't either Superman or Batman), the Dork Age may come to an end after all.
- The Crow went into one after people realized that there was money to be made after the first film was successful (even though Brandon Lee had died). The Crow: City of Angels was poorly received by most, not helped by the fact that Dimension cut out at least 20 minutes' worth of character development and important plot points, causing the film to feel rather disjointed at times. (And, of course, there's the atrocious performance by Lee's replacement, Vincent Perez, which, to paraphrase film critic Leonard Maltin, will cause you to wish his character had stayed dead.) The Crow: Salvation was considered a definite improvement, while most people see The Crow: Wicked Prayer as So Okay, It's Average. And now there's a remake in the works, and most people have very low expectations for how it will turn out.
- Friday the 13th lost its edge when the seventh film, The New Blood in 1988, was butchered by the MPAA to avoid an X rating, though the film itself is still regarded as pretty good in spite of it. The true point of no return came with the eighth film, Jason Takes Manhattan the following year, which was a Franchise Killer that convinced Paramount (who had always been ashamed of the series' success) to offload the rights to the first film's director, who in turn sold them to New Line Cinema. New Line proceeded to churn out two very poorly-received installments that are viewed as So Bad, It's Good at best — one where Jason turned out to be a demonic entity capable of body surfing, and another where he went to space — before finally getting off their asses and making Freddy vs. Jason, a long-anticipated crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street that, by and large, ended the Dork Age. The 2009 remake is also generally regarded as acceptable (or at least, better than most other horror remakes), though not great. The only redeeming value that many fans can universally agree on from the Dork Age is that Kane Hodder, who played Jason from the seventh film through the tenth, was pretty damn awesome in the role.
- The franchise is often claimed to have undergone a Dork Age during the Mid-Showa era, starting with either Son of Godzilla in 1967 or (more commonly) All Monsters Attack in 1969, one that lasted through the first half of The '70s. However, one is hard-pressed to explain exactly how the '70s flicks were any sillier or any 'worse' than the films that preceded them, given that Godzilla was already setting King Kong's crotch on fire, drunkenly tripping over buildings, chatting up a storm with Mothra and Rodan, dancing in outer space, and playing volleyrock with a giant shrimp during the '60s. It probably has more to do with the outlandishly low production values for a few of those films coupled with bad direction and poor acting. In fact, only one of the dork age films are considered irredeemably bad, with two films being considered almost on par with the '60s films and a fourth falling squarely into Love it or Hate it territory. Even the aforementioned bad films often fall into the So Bad, It's Good category for some people, with Mothra vs. Godzilla actually often considered the best Showa-era Godzilla film out of all of them. As a whole, most fans agree that the Showa era began picking itself back up with the release of Zone Fighter in 1973, which took the 'superhero' formula the Godzilla franchise had adopted and refined it into a much more streamlined yet equally enjoyable theme, by teaming up Godzilla with the show's eponymous Kyodai Hero and giving him plenty of monsters to fight, either with Zone or on his own.
- Lately, the Millennium series seems to be taking over this role, due to a lack of continuity and a perceived overuse of tropes lifted from popular anime of the time, though there is still some contention within the fandom on this.
- The Halloween series fell into its first Dork Age with the fifth film, The Revenge of Michael Myers in 1989, and sank further into it with the sixth film, The Curse of Michael Myers in 1995. The common denominator in both films was the Curse of Thorn storyline, which tried to tie Michael to prophecies and an ancient cult that had never been hinted at in prior films; the Troubled Production on the sixth film in particular only made it that much worse. The series only got out of its Dork Age by way of a partial Continuity Reboot with Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later in 1998, which took only the first two films as canon and threw out everything that came after them (even if it meant that they also had to drop the popular fourth film). It was praised as a return to form and the best Halloween film since the first two, and the Dork Age seemed to be over, the series in good hands and back on track...
- ...only for it to fall right into a second Dork Age with Halloween: Resurrection in 2002, which featured a gimmicky (and dated) Internet/Reality TV story, series protagonist Laurie Strode getting unceremoniously killed off, and the humiliating sight of Michael Myers getting smacked down (twice!) by Busta Rhymes, resulting in a film that many fans feel to be in the running with The Curse of Michael Myers for the title of the worst entry in the original series. As a result, they hit the reset button for the next film, a remake by Rob Zombie in 2007. That film received a visceral Love it or Hate it reaction, and Zombie's follow-up two years later was a critical and commercial dud and a Franchise Killer. Attempts to revive the series since then (the latest being another partial reboot titled Halloween Returns) have found themselves stuck in Development Hell.
- Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is universally ignored since its take on the series ended up being more or less a generic horror movie of the era, although there is more debate over Hellraiser: Bloodline, which is either seen as at least a good step back to the spirit of the first two films despite its troubled production (which resulted in the movie getting the Alan Smithee treatment) or as just Hellraiser in Space!!!. Interestingly, the franchise's own creator Clive Barker has put both movies in a Dork Age on his own. His Hellraiser comics for Boom Studios serve as a direct sequel series to the first two movies, but so far have completely brushed aside the continuity from the other sequels.
- Then there's the straight-to-video sequels. Well, as always YMMV, but generally when Hellraiser fans recommend the series to someone they're usually only talking about the first two films - and maybe, possibly Bloodline. It is worth mentioning that with the exception of the latest, all movies after Bloodline were Dolled Up Installments where the studio slapped Pinhead onto unrelated horror scripts they had bought. In addition to often making Pinhead's inclusion in the stories feel disjointed, this also results in the problem of turning him into a generic Always Chaotic Evil slasher villain to fit him in better, while he started out much more complex and nuanced.
- Highlander II: The Quickening started a Dork Age from which the Highlander film series would never recover. The TV series did all right for a time, until the end of the fifth season alienated many fans by introducing a demonic entity into the series (when no previous episodes foreshadowed it, or implied that such things existed in the Highlander universe), and killing off a popular character abruptly and anticlimactically in an Idiot Plot.
- James Bond:
- While many fans consider Sean Connery to be the definitive Bond, his last two films, Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again, are considered a step down from prior ones. Connery initially left the series after You Only Live Twice, but when his replacement George Lazenby met a poor reception in his lone Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Connery was very quickly brought back as Bond for Diamonds Are Forever, which was widely panned as campy and boring. Connery departed the series for good afterwards, but came back years later for Never Say Never Again, a loose remake of Thunderball which, due to some complex copyright tangles, was made by a different production company than Eon Productions and was positioned as a dueling movie with the official Bond film Octopussy in 1983. The resulting film received a mixed reception; some liked the world-weary cynicism that the 52-year-old Connery brought to Bond, while others thought he was over-the-hill (though to be fair, the same complaint was lobbed at Roger Moore around the same time; see below).
- The Roger Moore era is usually considered a Dork Age among Bond fans, especially in comparison to the Connery films. Plots became weaker and campier, with more focus on gadgets and locations than characterization or action. Although this era did have its highlights (The Spy Who Loved Me) it also had its dark abysses (A View to a Kill, Moonraker). Of particular note was Moore's age; he was actually older than Connery by three years, and by the end of his run as Bond in the mid '80s, it was obvious. (He was genuinely squicked out when he learned that he was older than the mother of his female co-star in A View to a Kill.) The Man with the Golden Gun is divisive, with some considering it on par with Moonraker and other fans feeling it to be Moore's equivalent to Goldfinger and much better than made out to be. For Your Eyes Only is unique in that it was a Roger Moore Bond film without gadgetry — it was given a mixed reception in 1981, but thirty years later, even fans who didn't like Roger Moore seem to like it. For music fans, on the other hand, the era is most often fondly looked at as the golden age of Bond themes, from "Nobody Does it Better" (Carly Simon) to "Live and Let Die" (Paul McCartney and Wings) to "A View to a Kill" (Duran Duran).
- For a long time, the Timothy Dalton movies were seen as a Dork Age, with Licence to Kill being so gory and violent that many felt it barely resembled a Bond film. Nowadays, however, the Dalton movies are seen as prototypes for the Daniel Craig era, having had the bad luck of hitting about twenty years too early. In addition, the Bond that Dalton portrays is much closer to the Bond that Ian Fleming wrote: a stone-cold killer with a hinted-at lust for violence whose womanizing, used to paint him as a playa during the Connery era, made him come across as a sexual predator.
- The consensus on the Pierce Brosnan age is that it got progressively worse as time went on. GoldenEye, the first film with Brosnan as Bond, is the only one with a Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes (even Moonraker has a Fresh score on RT, although just barely), and is Brosnan's equivalent of The Spy Who Loved Me or For Your Eyes Only as the film that even his critics tend to enjoy. (It also had an absolutely kick-ass video game adaptation, which makes it nostalgic for a whole generation of '90s kids.) On the other hand, it ended with Die Another Day, which fan consensus views as a rival to Moonraker as the worst film in the series. The fact that, around the same time, the Austin Powers series was parodying Bond to great success didn't help matters. Even Brosnan doesn't seem to think fondly of his tenure as James Bond. In a documentary made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the franchise, Brosnan said he can only remember filming GoldenEye, and that the rest "blurred together."
Whether or not the era as a whole was a Dork Age depends on one's opinion of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough, the two films in between GoldenEye and Die Another Day. Some think that they were stylish and perfectly acceptable, while others think that they were too over-the-top and had some questionable casting choices (most notably '90s bombshell Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist).
- A large chunk of the fanbase was expecting this when Daniel Craig was announced (there was a "Bond's Not Blond" movement after his announcement), but was averted when shown that Craig was actually pretty awesome. Like Dalton, his films hewed much closer to Bond's characterization in the novels, with the first three films acting as something of an origin trilogy for him. That said, some Moore and Brosnan fans consider the Craig era to be a Dork Age, arguing that Craig-era Bond has taken so many pages out of Jason Bourne's book that he no longer resembles Bond at all. Specifically, the plots are heavily toned down from past films, with few of their over-the-top villains, gadgets, or science fiction elements.
Within the Craig series, fan opinion tends to look favorably on Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall as his best films, while Quantum of Solace and Spectre are generally seen as falling into this trope. Quantum is frequently criticized for poor direction and a plot that tried to marry the Darker and Edgier style of Casino Royale (2006) with a more conventional Bond Super Villain, with mixed results (stealing Bolivia's water just doesn't measure up to past Evil Plans). Spectre, meanwhile, is disliked for a poorly-received attempt at Canon Welding with the prior Craig films, as well as for giving a backstory to Ernst Stavro Blofeld that many fans felt cheapened both the character and Bond himself.
- The third of the "big three" '80s slasher franchises (after the aforementioned Friday the 13th and Halloween), A Nightmare on Elm Street, reached its commercial peak with the third and fourth films, Dream Warriors in 1987 and The Dream Master the following year; Dream Warriors is generally regarded as the better film, but The Dream Master still has its fans. However, decay set in hard with the fifth film, The Dream Child in 1989, a Franchise Killer that convinced New Line Cinema to end the series with the next film. That film, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare in 1991, was the point at which the series became completely impossible to take seriously. While the non-canon spinoff Wes Craven's New Nightmare in 1994 didn't restart the series, it was very popular among fans and, at the very least, restored its pride, while Freddy vs. Jason in 2002 also got a decent reception. The poorly-received remake in 2010, on the other hand, seems to have put Freddy to sleep for good.
- The RoboCop franchise has been stuck in one since 1993 with the release of RoboCop 3, where the once famously ultraviolent series went for a PG-13 rating and shifted its target audience towards children. It continued with RoboCop: The Series, which likewise was targeted towards children and featured RoboCop using Non-Lethal Warfare against his enemies. The animated series RoboCop: Alpha Commando also hurt the franchise, turning the title character into Inspector Gadget. RoboCop: Prime Directives tried and failed to move things back to the first two movies, featuring what many considered a nonsensical plot and a miscast RoboCop in the form of Page Fletcher, who moved awkwardly in the suit and was significantly shorter that most of the cast. The reboot was met with mixed reactions, mostly due to it being PG-13, a decision to make RoboCop's suit mostly black, and a scene mocking the original design. It too bombed, keeping this franchise stuck in a Dork Age.
- Star Wars, due to a Broken Base, and having so many different projects going at one time, goes into a constant rotation of dork ages.
- In the mainstream stuff The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were polarized in how they were received, and even the much more acclaimed Revenge of the Sith was divisive. It was only when Star Wars: The Clone Wars re-established a cool factor that the franchise has managed to recover. With Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, the Dork Age can considered to be over, with Rebels, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One all being commercial and critical successes.
- There's also a true "Dark Age" between 1986 (when the comic was published by Marvel, and the animated series Droids and Ewoks were finished) and 1991 (when Heir to the Empire was published). George Lucas was uninterested in making new films, and both merchandise and the Expanded Universe stalled (notable during the period are only the Star Tours ride at Disney Theme Parks, the Star Wars RPG... and Spaceballs).
- Likely the most unanimously agreed-upon Dork Age for the Star Wars franchise is the period where Troy Denning was head writer for the novels, spanning nearly nine years from July 2005 to April 2014. Denning's work was noted for being far Darker and Edgier than most other stories in The Verse, with a level of gratuitous sex and violence unusual for the franchise, most infamously a scene in Legacy of the Force where a grown woman sexually tortures a teenage boy for information. Denning and his contemporaries also built up a bad habit of using characters created by other writers for their own books as C-List Fodder. When it was announced in 2014 that the franchise would have a Continuity Reboot, the response from Denning's considerable hatedom was a resounding "Meh."
- As mentioned above, the Universal Horror films are generally held to have gone downhill in The '40s, with The Wolf Man (1941) often seen as the last great movie in the cycle. Universal, running out of ideas for sequels, started making crossover films in which the various monsters did battle and teamed up, and when that well ran dry, they hired Abbott and Costello to start making parodies of their films. The actors were growing tired of their roles, with Lon Chaney Jr getting let out of his contract after House of Dracula in 1945 as his alcoholism made him increasingly unreliable. The Dork Age reached its nadir in The '50s as the studio struggled to adapt to the new wave of sci-fi horror, with It Came from Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon being the only Universal horror films that are all that fondly remembered nowadays.
While Universal's own monster movies never returned to the heights of the '30s and early '40s, the monsters themselves returned to the popular consciousness once Hammer Film Productions started remaking many of them in the late '50s and through The '60s. This set off a wave of nostalgia for Universal's classic films, one that was further fueled by late-night Horror Hosts who screened the films on television and by geek enthusiast magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland. Later on, Universal would themselves return to the well, remaking and reimaging many of their classic monsters over the years with varying degrees of success.
- The X-Men franchise went through this with both X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, both of which came in a period less-than-affectionately called "Rothman's reign of terror". Referring to Executive Meddler Tom Rothman, the chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox when those two filmsnote were made, he was responsible for Bryan Singer's departure for the third movie, as well as the many woes faced in the Troubled Production for the first spin-off. Both movies are widely considered to be the worst out of the entire series, and the entire bunch of movies that followed (The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, and X-Men: Apocalypse especially) were specifically written to right the wrongs that had happened under Rothman's watch (as he'd been let go by the company in the middle of 2012).
- Disney's animated films have seen three Dork Ages. The first happened during World War II and a little while afterward, where all films released were cheap "package" films rather than ones with coherent stories, and ended with the release of Cinderella. The second happened between the late 1960s and the mid '80s due to the death of Walt Disney, and ended with the Disney Renaissance, while the third started in the early 2000s and ended with the release of The Princess and the Frog.
- DreamWorks Animation has gone through two:
- The first was from 2004 to 2007, where the company after Shrek 2 had mostly box office successes but harsh critical reception, with the exception of Over the Hedge.
- The second from 2012 to the present day. After Rise of the Guardians didn't do as well at the box office as they hoped despite good reviews and a cult fanbase, most of their output since then has been wildly inconsistent in quality (ex: How to Train Your Dragon 2 got rave reviews but Penguins of Madagascar, released in the same year, was considered So Okay, It's Average at best). And unlike during their first Dork Age, even their critically-liked works have garnered disappointing box office grosses, with even How to Train Your Dragon 2 grossing less than its predecessor and no film since 2012's Madagascar 3 breaking the $200 million mark domestically. This has resulted in studio layoffs, financial writedowns, and ultimately led to the studio being bought out by NBCUniversal.
- Some argue the Marx Brothers went through this after their switch to MGM. Zeppo got tired of acting, and the studio forced the brothers to go from completely anarchic Rapid-Fire Comedy to more good-natured characters helping out a forgettable romantic lead between increasingly tedious musical numbers (Groucho called The Big Store's "Tenement Symphony" "the most godawful thing I'd ever heard"). Granted, there was still plenty of Funny Moments, but it was more restrained than during their years at Paramount.
- Eddie Murphy had one starting with his 1989 flop Harlem Nights that lasted into the early-mid '90s, with many unsuccessful movies including The Distinguished Gentleman, Beverly Hills Cop III, and Vampire in Brooklyn (all of which he has since disowned), before he made his comeback with his 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor. He entered another one in the 2000s, where, with the exception of the Shrek movies and Dreamgirls, his films like The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Haunted Mansion, Norbit, Meet Dave and Imagine That were all massive failures (Pluto Nash has become one of Hollywood's biggest flops, and many feel Norbit torpedoed Murphy's Oscar hopes with Dreamgirls). He got praised for starring in 2011's Tower Heist, but his 2012 follow-up A Thousand Words (although it was filmed in 2008) was universally panned, receiving a Tomatometer score of 0%, so only time will tell whether he'll recover. Bowfinger is another exception to his mid-career slump. It is generally considered some of the best material to come from both Murphy and Steve Martin in years. It was a box office success and currently holds an 80% on RT.
- Suffice it to say, 2016 has not been a good year to be a Paramount fan, with such "highlights" as getting the business end of the Summer Bomb Buster (which hasn't really been kind to the rest of Hollywood, either) with 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and the Ben-Hur remake and an internal power struggle that ended with Philippe Dauman leaving on bad terms, the latter especially which may foreshadow that they're not out of the mire yet. And that's not even scratching the surface—you know you're all but waist-deep in the big muddy when your own parent company urges you to get back together with the very sister studio you had split up with about a decade before.
- Pixar seems to have entered a minor one in The New '10s, possibly related to corporate owner Disney's current obsession with extending established franchises as opposed to creating original concepts for films.
- After the massive success of Toy Story 3, the studio's next effort was Cars 2, by far its weakest film, the first to earn a Rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the first not to receive a nomination for Best Animated Feature Academy Award since that category's inception.
- Brave won the Animated Feature Oscar in 2012, but it did so over classic animation's Wreck-It Ralph, which was received considerably better,note and Brave is one of the most divisive films in the canon, suggesting to many that the Cars films weren't just aberrations in the company's output.
- Monsters University in 2013 was received rather well — if not quite as rapturously as previous Pixar movies had been, and again went without any Oscar nominations.
- While Inside Out received a near-rapturous response, their other film for 2015, The Good Dinosaur, has been mostly regarded as So Okay, It's Average, just slightly worse than Brave and Monsters University although better than Cars 2 (its extremely Troubled Production probably doesn't help). In addition, it actually became Pixar's first Box Office Bomb.
- Filmmaker Ridley Scott has gone through two in the course of his career:
- The first was in the '90s. After the success of Thelma & Louise, his next film after that was the Christopher Columbus epic 1492: Conquest of Paradise, which was a financial and critical flop. His other two films that followed were White Squall and G. I. Jane, and while they had their own wins (the former got good reviews while the latter made money), Scott didn't fully recover until Gladiator years latter.
- The second started in 2010 with Robin Hood (2010), a Gladiator retread in the form of the Arthurian legend. The films after that (Prometheus, The Counselor, and Exodus: Gods and Kings) were divisive at best and downright hated at worst. However, things are looking bright for Scott again, with his adaptation of Andy Weir's The Martian receiving some of the best reviews he's had in a while, so time will tell if he's out of it or not.
- If this profanity-laced tirade in the form of an open letter written by a disgruntled ex-employee is anything to go by, Warner Bros. has been languishing in one of these ever since Kevin Tsujihara took over as CEO in 2013, following longtime leader Barry Meyer's retirement and his business partner Alan Horn's ouster, the latter which has been derided as ageist. Rubbing salt in WB's wound is that, under Horn, WB's rival Disney is riding high with a whole pack of successful features.
- Mae West lost a good chunk of her sex appeal when The Hays Code was imposed, but her movies remained passable. Myra Breckinridge and Sextette, made after she was convinced to come out of retirement in old age, are not. Myra Breckinridge (loosely based on a novel by Gore Vidal, for whom this is a Disowned Adaptation) was a terrible film in its own right and only featured Mae in a single scene — basically playing herself — as a man-hungry talent agent-type who gives the eponymous heroine (a trans woman who's just had her sex change) lessons on mistreating the menfolk. Frankly, Mae is not the grossest thing in it — not after you see the strap-on scene. Sextette... well, it was based on her 1926 play Sex, and having her be a sex symbol back when she was 32 was quite a different matter from having the movie treat her like one when she's a frail, overly made-up 84-year-old woman paired with men young enough to be her grandchildren (such as 32-year-old Timothy Dalton, for whom this is a major Old Shame). Most people's reactions to the film are somewhere between a Primal Scene reaction and profound Squick.