Dork Age: Film

  • 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.
  • The Godzilla movies are claimed to have undergone a dork age starting with either Son of Godzilla in 1967 or (more commonly) All Monsters Attack in 1969 that lasted through The '70s, though one is hard-pressed to explain exactly how the '70s flicks were any sillier 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 two of the '70s films are considered irredeemably bad, with two films being considered almost on par with the '60s films and a fifth 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.
    • 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.
  • Star Wars, due to an Unpleasable Fanbase/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. It was when Star Wars: The Clone Wars re-established a cool factor that the franchise has managed to recover. Even still, many people feel over-saturated in the merchandise, which led to a Critical Backlash against Star Wars: The Clone Wars. However, that show appears to have grown the beard in Season 2, so hope springs eternal. There's also a true "Dark Age" between 1986 (when the comic 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, 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."
  • 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 and we got Batman & Robin. That so-called "film" killed the Batman movie franchise for eight years until Batman Begins came out.
  • James Bond:
    • The Roger Moore era is usually considered a Dork Age among Bond fans, especially in comparison to the Sean 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). The Man with the Golden Gun is a Base Breaker, 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. Golden Eye, 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. 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).
      • 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. The rest "blurred together."
    • 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, acting as 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, Quantum of Solace is usually held to be the worst of the three, thanks to 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).
  • 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 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 hero/heroine (don't ask) 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 Memetic Sex Goddess 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.
  • Depending on your opinion, either Alien³ or Alien: Resurrection. While in popular culture, Alien 3 is considered the turning point of the franchise, many fans of the franchise appreciate the Assembly Cut's character drama (with an Alien...) approach, leading some to believe that the latter example is the true turning point. To support its quasi-popularity, many fans saw Alien 3 as a return to the themes and atmosphere of the first film, where the second was a subverted gung-ho action flick.
    • 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 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 have rendered the spinoffs non-canon.
  • The Crow pretty much went into one after people realized that there was money to be made after the first film was successful (and Brandon Lee 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 only redeeming value that many fans can universally agree on from the era is that Kane Hodder, who played Jason from the seventh film through the tenth, was pretty damn awesome in the role.
  • Halloween.
  • And the third of the "big three" '80s slasher franchises, 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.
  • Notice how the above three entries all began falling into Dork Ages around the exact same year, 1989? The cumulative effect of that was that American horror films in general went dormant in the first half of the '90s. Between 1989 and 1996, very few horror films had much success, and the few that did (such as The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en) were typically closer to the Psychological Thriller end of the spectrum. It wasn't until the sudden success of Scream in 1996 when mainstream moviegoers began seeing horror movies again in large numbers.
  • The Disney Animated Canon has 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.
  • Pixar seems to have entered one in The New Tens, 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 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 has received a near-rapturous reception the extremely Troubled Production of their other film for 2015, The Good Dinosaur, combined with most of their upcoming films being still more sequels (Finding Dory, Toy Story 4, and The Incredibles 2) suggests the company may not be out of the woods yet.
  • 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 CMOF, it was just 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.
  • Hellraiser
  • 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 as they hoped despite good reviews and a cult fanbase, most of their output since then (with the exceptions of The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon 2) has had similar results: Good reviews (with the exception of Home), but disappointing box office grosses, resulting on financial writedowns and re-estructuring.