While 101 Dalmatians was a hit at the time of its release and is considered one of Disney's classic films, it contains several elements that would come to define The Dark Age of Animation for the studio, such as recycled animation, the use of xerography that created a hard outlined look, and an increased emphasis on physical comedy.
The first film was 'Batman: starring Jack Nicholson as The Joker.' Batman Returns was similar — its two villains combined have more screen time than Batman. This led the way for Batman Forever and Batman & Robin to become overcrowded with villains and the same 'villain shows up, teams up with other villain, they fight Batman, Batman wins' plot repeated in every sequel. Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer both left the series because they felt that the movies had become more about the bad guys than Batman. Somewhat tellingly, Burton's Batman even gives a definitive identity and origin story to the Joker—which he has never had in the comics—but is surprisingly vague about Batman's origins. note To go in a different direction, Nolan's trilogy did the opposite: it devotes the entirety of Batman Begins to chronicling Bruce Wayne's early life and the start of his crime-fighting career—in much greater detail than it's ever been shown in the comics—but leaves the Joker shrouded in mystery in The Dark Knight.
Batman Returns introduced another problem not only for the Batman movies but for comic book film sequels in general: The Extraneous Secondary Villain, in the form of Catwoman. Max Schreck and the Penguin are the film's main antagonists, while Selina does her own thing and doesn't really affect the main plot besides a very brief alliance with the Penguin. And even then, her only job was to distract Batman long enough for the Penguin's mooks to hack into the Batmobile, which another mook could have done just as easily. CinemaSins went as far as to call her the "Patient Zero" of the "Too Many Villains in a Comic Book Movie" cliche. Moviegoers in 1992 were simply too distracted by Michelle Pfifer in skintight leather to notice.
The two biggest flaws present in all four of the Burton/Schumacher Batman films were the semi-obligatory casting of A-list actors as the main villains (whether they were any good in the role or not) and the Bizarrchitecture (which was reasonably subtle and effective in the first film, but by the fourth had become an obscene distraction). You'll notice that the Nolan filmsinvert the first trope by having an All-Star Cast in every main role and avert the second altogether by shooting all their outdoor scenes on actual locations, rather than on soundstages or in front of computer green-screens.
Batman & Robin is incredibly campy, but there was a certain level of camp present in Batman that only increased with every following installment. The first film had most of the Joker's scenes, from the giant revolver to the museum robbery, and the second film had the Penguin remote-controlling the Batmobile with an arcade machine and eventually plotting to destroy Gotham with an army of missile penguins.
The manner in which the series has influenced the stylistic direction of the emerging DC Extended Universe and, to a lesser extent, comic book movies as a whole. When Christopher Nolan rebooted Batman with a far grittier and more grounded series of stories, he was acclaimed for having vanquished the legacy of Batman & Robin. The thing was, the real reason why his films were so successful was because he also remembered to tell engaging, complex stories with three-dimensional characters; the darker tone was merely the means by which he did so rather than the main draw in its own right. Furthermore, Batman, as a Vigilante Man who turned to crimefighting after the murder of his parents, proved to be exceptionally well-suited to a darker reimagining. When DC Comics and Warner Bros. applied the most superficial elements of the Dark Knight formula to Superman with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, they got hit with a large backlash, to the point where some even compared it to the excesses of The Dark Age of Comic Books. As for non-DC movies... well, the less said about Fantastic Four (2015), the better.
This article by David Christopher Bell of Cracked asserts that Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker, while still legendary in its own right, "ruined comic book movies" in the long run. He was, and still is, acclaimed for his off-kilter vocal delivery, overall aura of total madness, and deliberately obtuse, nihilistic motivations; his lack of any clear goal beyond general chaos and destroying Batman's image made him terrifying. And of course, Ledger's untimely death — and the urban legend that he had killed himself as a result of getting too deep into character — only boosted the stature of his final role. The Joker copycats, however? A slew of annoying Large Ham villains who used all manner of strange, distracting accents and voices, leave the heroes alive for no reason beyond making some point about 'breaking their spirit', deliberately get themselves caught as some sort of poorly-explained Xanatos Gambit, commit heinous crimes For the Evulz even if they seem to go against their stated end goal, and are written as being insane to justify why their Evil Plans are so full of holes.
Francis Ford Coppola included many of his family in the cast and crew of The Godfather, Parts I and II, most notably his sister Talia Shire in an important role. In The Godfather Part III, he cast his daughter Sofia Coppola in an important role that she couldn't handle. Part II also had much of what critics attacked in Part III, namely longtime Corleone associates we hadn't met before causing trouble (Hyman Roth and Pentangeli in Part II, Don Altobello in Part III) and a multilayered plot incorporating historical events (the Cuban Revolution and Kefauver Hearings in Part II, the Vatican Bank scandal and Pope John Paul I's death in Part III).
If they really wanted to eliminate this series-derailing problem, then they should've retconned out the second film as well, because that was where it started. In the original, Michael had no explanation beyond him being an escaped mental patient returning to his hometown to kill again, with Laurie Strode and her friends having no connection to him beyond circumstance. It's also left up in the air whether Michael is supernaturally evil or just extremely tough; while Dr. Loomis's final linenote Laurie: "Was that the boogeyman?" Dr. Loomis: "As a matter of fact, it was." leans towards the former, that's presented as merely the opinion of one man. The second film, on the other hand, not only revealed that Michael and Laurie were brother and sister, it also implied that Michael's seeming indestructibility was related to the occult. Later films continued piling on new pieces of backstory, enough that the script for the reboot-necessitatingsixth film drew heavily from writer Daniel Farrands' Epileptic Trees about the prior films. In other words, that film merely took trends that had been going on unchecked for over a decade to their logical conclusion. John Carpenter, looking back on the franchise he created, stated that its downfall came the moment it started giving Michael motivation and Character Development.
"... Michael Myers was an absence of character. And yet all the sequels are trying to explain that. That’s silliness — it just misses the whole point of the first movie, to me. He’s part person, part supernatural force. The sequels rooted around in motivation. I thought that was a mistake."
As for the remake continuity, one of the most polarizing things about it was in how it gave Michael a definitive origin story explaining why he became a killer, revealing it to stem from Abusive Parents and growing up in a broken home. Many who disliked the film saw it as a return to the Original Sin and a misunderstanding of what made the first film great, though there were also those who enjoyed the new spin that Rob Zombie put on the series and how it drew from real-life Serial Killer mythos.
The much greater physicality of Michael Myers in Zombie's films also drew criticism. The stuntmen who played The Shape in the first two films, Nick Castle and Dick Warlock, were fairly normal-sized men (5' 10" and 5' 8½", respectively), while Zombie cast the mammoth 6' 8" Tyler Mane in order to make Michael more imposing and threatening, which a number of fans felt took away from his Badass Normal image and turned him into a clone of Jason Voorhees. This trend towards making Michael bigger actually began with the fourth film, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which cast the 6' 2½" George P. Wilbur as Michael; every future Michael would be at least 6' 1". It was even more jarring in this case, as it created canonical issues with how Michael grew so much taller between the second and fourth films* For those wondering, the third film, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, was a non-canon story that had nothing to do with the prior two. — and when the sixth film tried to answer that question, it became a major Voodoo Shark moment and a big part of the reason why the producers hit the reset button with H20. The fact that Zombie's films had Michael be outright gigantic simply put a much greater spotlight on the issue.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! featured needless Adaptation Expansion, confused morals leading to a Broken Aesop, an emphasis on big sets over good writing, some problematic and unfitting jokes, and a few creepy makeup jobs. However, it was saved by Jim Carrey, who was at the height of his popularity and perfectly cast as the protagonist, topped off with an Academy Award-winning look. When the same people made The Cat in the Hat, they cast Mike Myers right when he was starting to slide off the radar, and shoved him into a costume that mostly just looked creepy, leaving the bawdy jokes, rancid morals, and mindless spectacle in the spotlight.
As explained here by Maven of the Eventide, a lot of what went wrong with the film adaptation of Queen of the Damned can be traced back to its much better predecessor, Interview with the Vampire. In Interview, Lestat was a vivacious, lively character who mocked his brooding counterparts, yet those "tortured souls" still came off as sympathetic characters due to their development over the course of the story. Unfortunately, the makers of Queen mistook that as 'brooding = sexy and cool.'
Casino Royale (2006) got rave reviews for its Darker and Edgier reinvention of 007, and it was widely hailed as a breath of fresh air. Thing is, though, in spite of its grittier tone and minimalistic storytelling, the movie also had enough spectacle to keep the audience engaged (in the famous construction site chase, for instance), and the Big Bad Le Chiffre still retained enough of the classic Bond villain flavor to keep the movie anchored in the world of Tuxedo and Martini fiction; he didn't have a supervillain lair or an arsenal of elaborate gadgets, but he was a genuinely scary Soft-Spoken Sadistwho wept tears of blood. For the follow-up, Quantum of Solace, the filmmakers tried to maintain that stripped-down approach, but wound up stripping out most of the spectacle that made Casino Royale work. In trying to do a "realistic" evil industrialist as a villain, they ended up with Dominic Greene, generally considered one of the most boring Bond villains in the series' history; and in trying to tell a simpler story, they wound up with a largely by-the-numbers revenge story with a subplot about hoarding a country's water thrown in.
Skyfall got similarly rave reviews for managing to bring much of the fun of 1960s-era Bond to The New '10s, balancing out some of the grittier elements of Craig's previous outings by resurrecting some old series favorites. The return of the original Aston Martin DB5, complete with machine guns and ejector seat, was widely applauded by fans, as was the return of Q and Moneypenny. But in spite of its homages to the series' past, it also wasn't afraid to shake up the status quo by killing off M and exploring Bond's childhood with the visit to Skyfall manor. Its followup, Spectre, kept those same trends going, but it was widely criticized for sloppily handling the return of the SPECTRE organization, and its attempt to reintroduce Ernst Stavro Blofeld as Bond's evil stepbrother has proven to be much more divisive. While Skyfall's odes to the past were seen as a good way to complement a genuinely interesting story with a strong antagonist, Spectre has been accused of leaning too strongly on them to round out a weak plot hinging almost entirely on old faces.
While Craig's films have gotten plenty of acclaim, their attempt to give Bond a definitive Origin Story has always been one of the most divisive things about them. Detractors of Casino Royale (2006) argued that it was an unnecessary Continuity Reboot in a series known for its very loose continuity, detractors of Quantum of Solace argued that it was needlessly weighed down by Bond's angst over losing Vesper Lynd, and a few people argued that Skyfall stripped Bond of much of his mystique by showing us his childhood home and introducing us to the man who raised him after his parents' death. In spite of all that, the movies generally had strong enough original plots that they could still stand on their own, and Bond remained as badass as ever (his relative inexperience was something of an Informed Attribute). But when Spectre tried to give the same Origin Story treatment to Ernst Stavro Blofeld—"explaining" that he and Bond grew up together, and that his hatred of Bond was a twisted case of Sibling Rivalry—detractors accused it of being an embarrassing case of Villain Decay that made it all but impossible to take the story seriously.
The original film, together with Star Wars two years later, has often been held by many old-guard (or at least highbrow) film critics with ushering in The Blockbuster Age of Hollywood and all of its worst excesses, killing off the New Hollywood era in the process. The makers of both films, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas respectively, both came from the same "film school geek" background that many of their New Hollywood contemporaries came from, but their films were made with a far more populist orientation, telling simple plots of "men vs. shark" or "plucky resistance vs. The Empire". The difference was in the artistry they put into telling those seemingly simple stories, elevating them into classic tales that still garner the respect of those who watch them. Years later, even Spielberg and Lucas themselves had grown disillusioned with the trends that their films had kicked off, predicting that they would lead in time to Hollywood's downfall.
Jaws 2 introduces the idea of a shark taking revenge against Martin Brody and his family for killing the original shark. It's quickly dismissed by a scientist who tells Brody that "Sharks don't take things personally." Then Jaws: The Revenge takes the idea dead seriously. And even that can be traced back to the original, which also used some pretty heavy Artistic License regarding shark behavior in the name of Rule of Scary, portraying the Great White Shark as lurking in the shallows of a heavily populated beach town and repeatedly preying on humans—even though real sharks find humans unappetizing because of their low fat-to-muscle ratio, and a large Great White would find such shallow waters far too confining. The end result made for an effective horror film, but it relied on portraying the shark as more of an ethereal monster than a realistic predatory animal. note Notably, the original author Peter Benchley actually spent much of his later life involved in shark conservation efforts, specifically because he felt so guilty about his book warping public perception of sharks. As a former marine biologist, he knew how inaccurate his own portrayal of sharks really was, and he tried to make sure that the public knew it too. The later films just took that trend to its logical conclusion, finally stretching Willing Suspension of Disbelief to the breaking point.
After Peter Jackson's trilogy debuted, the general consensus of them were that they were the best potential LOTR adaptations that the books were likely to get. Some criticism was directed at the overly long ending(s), but they were mostly joked about than harshly derided. When Jackson's King Kong (2005) came around, consensus also was that it was great, but that Jackson might have overdone the homage to the original a tad, resulting in the film being much longer and more padded than it should be. Then when Jackson returned to Middle-earth with The Hobbit, enthusiasm for them dipped upon the announcement that it would be split into three films, despite the book being shorter than any of the Lord of the Rings books. The resulting films have been highly divisive, with many criticisms directed at the over-length of the story being stuffed full of unnecessary padding.
In Lord of the Rings, Jackson notably played up the roles of Arwen and Eowyn and put some more focus on romance. Though not everyone liked it, it did help give the films a strong Periphery Demographic among girls and women. Their success was likely the inspiration behind Tauriel being created wholecloth for The Hobbit, and her Romantic Plot Tumor became one of the series's most criticized aspects.
Likewise, Avengers could be considered guilty of the "too many characters" problem that plagued some of the later films. It's less noticeable because the Avengers all had a common goal and the film itself had a fairly streamlined plot, while later movies made the mistake of trying to give every character their own arc and storyline.
Iron Man's Wolverine Publicity was already on full display in the Phase 1 movies, what with him being the only hero to have two movies in a single phase, getting a cameo in The Incredible Hulk, and Stark Tower playing a major role in the climax of The Avengers. Fans didn't really start complaining until Age of Ultron, where he replaced Ant-Man as Ultron's creator and got to be a Karma Houdini.
The later movies are often criticized for having flat, one-note villains like Malekith and Ronan. This is likely because Loki wound up becoming a Breakout Villain in Thor and The Avengers (2012) by having depth and dimension; prior to that, none of the villains (Obadiah Stane, Anton Vanko and Red Skull) were all that memorable. Following Loki's popularity, however, audiences were far less tolerable of generic villainy—especially considering that Serial Escalation made the stakes so ludicrously high that there was no way they could succeed.
The overabundance of Spinoff Hooks, a problem that eventually spread beyond the MCU into other superhero films. This goes back to the very first Iron Man movie, where Nick Fury showed up to tease The Avengers during The Stinger. This was pretty surprising and groundbreaking at the time, but it was purely a bonus scene tacked on after the credits that had little bearing on what came before; Iron Man still worked as a standalone movie without it. Now, a common complaint about superhero movies in general (not just Marvel's films) concerns how the films go out of their way to advertise future installments and spinoffs.
Most viewers agree that The Avengers (2012) marked the franchise's Growing the Beard moment, but it was also the start of its problems with Continuity Lockout, which ultimately became one of its most criticized aspects. The movie generated a lot of buzz because it finally featured the long-awaited team-up between Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk, but it also built on several plot points introduced in the characters' previous solo movies, making it somewhat alienating to people who hadn't seen the five movies that came before it. Still, it helped that the plot remained fairly easy to summarize ("Thor's vengeful stepbrother strikes deal with alien warlord to conquer Earth, steals mysterious alien artifact from the government to fuel his Evil Plan, SHIELD assembles superhero team to stop him"), and that the previous movies were at least standalone stories that required no introduction. That isn't quite the case with its sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which can be legitimately confusing if you didn't see Captain America: The Winter Soldier before it; if you didn't, you probably won't understand why the Avengers are hunting HYDRA, why SHIELD no longer exists, or why Nick Fury is in hiding. And if you didn't see Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War can be similarly confusing, since Age of Ultron introduced the characters of Vision and Scarlet Witch, and the nations of Sokovia and Wakanda—all of which are crucial to the plot of Civil War. Civil War, in fact, was so reliant on plot points introduced in Age of Ultron that some fans nicknamed it "The Avengers 2.5".
Mad Max: Fury Road was still a good picture and a box office success, but it caught a lot of flak from people asking "Why is this even a Mad Max film?" and complaining about the fact that Max was just there to put on the poster for what was essentially Furiosa's story. But Max being a supporting character was actually a tradition that started in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, where Max was just a hired hand in a story about a tribe of wastelanders and a gang of raiders. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was literally a Dolled-Up Installment, and likewise more about the orphans than it was about Max. But in Fury Road, there was a single individual who clearly had better claim to the protagonist slot than Max, and that led to the complaints of Max "just being there."
The Matrix and its sequels are a smorgasbord of trippy visuals, stylized action, and East-meets-West philosophy. But whereas the first film stayed compelling by the freshness of its concepts, its relative subtlety, and understandable story, the sequels went overboard with its own formula, resulting in CG-heavy action divorced from character interest, a too complicated and Anvilicious story, and entire scenes of random oracles sitting around and droning at length about incomprehensible philosophy. Josh Friedman, creator of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, alleged thatThe Matrix also had this effect on cinematic and television science fiction as a whole, producing a greater focus on action and special effects at the expense of story and characterization.
The rise of Miramax Films is often cited as a major contributor to the much-maligned advent of Oscar Bait at the Turn of the Millennium, but some of the warning signs for the trend could be seen even back in the studio's glory days in the 1990s. Back then, cinephiles praised Bob and Harvey Weinstein for supporting promising independent filmmakers like Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, and Steven Soderbergh, who gave us beloved '90s Cult Classics like Clerks, Pulp Fiction, and sex, lies, and videotape. However, even though those films were widely praised for their originality and experimentation, they could be thrilling, funny, and irreverent at the same time, and dipped into action and comedy as often as they dipped into drama.
Unfortunately, their success also planted the idea that having a film win critical acclaim and clean house at awards shows could rake in just as much money as having it open big at #1 its first weekend. The Weinsteins would essentially build their entire business model on that premise, with some very controversial behind-the-scenes efforts devoted to ensuring that their films got recognized at the Academy Awards. The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love ended up winning Best Picture over Fargo and Saving Private Ryan thanks to those efforts, resulting in two of the most controversial Award Snubs in the history of the Oscars. To make matters worse, plenty of other studios proved eager to beat Miramax at its own game, producing a slew of depressing, ambitious, and self-consciously "weighty" dramas during the winter months designed to pander to the tastes of film critics and Academy voters (specifically, the "old guard" whose formative cinematic experiences came in the '60s and '70s), which often wound up just as hollow and formulaic as the crowd-pleasing blockbusters released during the summer months. In the modern age of the Oscars, "genre" films are all butexcluded from upper-tier awards for Directing, Writing, and Acting, and you can nearly always tell when a studio is banking on an Oscar by watching for the obligatory scenes devoted to showing off an actor's range.
The Nostalgia Chick puts the origin of Oscar bait further back, citing The Deer Hunter as the first film to use its award success to fuel its financial success rather than the other way around. It pioneered the release tactic employed by many later Oscar bait films (a limited release in Los Angeles to meet the barest minimum requirements for nomination, then opening in wide release after it had the hype of an Oscar nod behind it), giving a big boost to a critically-acclaimed yet difficult-to-market film, one that other studios took notice of in the years to come.
While the final three The Pink Panther movies (not counting the 2006 remake and its sequel) are frequently criticized for their reliance on questionably funny Running Gags, outdated racial stereotypes, and over-the-top humor more suited to the Pink Panther cartoons than their live-action cousins. In actual fact, most of these began during 1978's Revenge of the Pink Panther, the last one generally regarded as being any good. As to why Revenge works and most of the subsequent ones didn't, most fans have one simple answer: Peter Sellers was still alive.
The flaws that built to a fever pitch in Rocky IV (overuse of montages, implausible fight scenes, schmaltz, lionizing Rocky) were mostly present in earlier films. In particular, the first film featured a pretty believable fight (Rocky was lucky and determined, Apollo was playing, caught off-guard, and still won), which became less believable in the second film (Rocky was still injured, Apollo had been training for months), but it didn't seem impossible. In Rocky III, Clubber Lang losing to Rocky was seriously stretching it, given that Lang was younger, taller, heavier, and tougher than Apollo while Rocky was significantly older, but he at least had something resembling a character and was within the realm of possibility. By Rocky IV, the main villain has no personality and appears to be physically superhuman while Rocky had only gotten older, abandoning any semblance of down-to-earth realism as a thirty-nine-year-old goes fifteen rounds with a cartoonish muscleman who should be able to knock his head off his shoulders in a single punch, no matter how many trees he cuts down.
Going beyond a franchise or even a genre, Saving Private Ryan has been blamed for the rampant abuse of color correction in Hollywood in the '00s and '10s, with filmmakers and editors washing the color out of their films for the sake of 'realism'. The thing is, Steven Spielberg used that type of desaturation in Saving Private Ryan not to make the film look more realistic, but conversely, to make it look more stylized — he was specifically angling for the look of old World War II newsreel footage, not real life. His gifts as a director, however, caused Saving Private Ryan to become the new standard for a gritty, realistic war movie, and its look was frequently copied over the years out of a misguided sense that Real Is Brown.
The first was the 'reverse bear trap' scene. The Saw sequels' reputation as the Trope Codifier for Torture Porn is so infamous that few people realize just how light on blood the first film actually was, with many a Gory Discretion Shot instead of a gushing arterial spray. The Jigsaw killer's death traps were modest in scope, such as being forced to crawl through razor wire, walk barefoot over broken glass, or cut one's foot off in order to escape being locked away forever. The reverse bear trap was among the few exceptions, relying on intricate machinery to tear open the victim's jaw, but even then, it was a small contraption that a skilled engineer (like the Jigsaw killer, who was established as a Gadgeteer Genius through his creation of this device) could build in his spare time — and furthermore, the scene ended with the intended victim Amanda escaping from the trap rather than being subjected to its graphic punchline. There was also the 'drill chair' in the same film, but again, not only was the device a comparatively simple one and its intended victim rescued, but it was portrayed as an experimental design on Jigsaw's part, as he refers to the victim as a test subject.
The second was the Twist Ending. The Reveal that the seemingly dead man in the middle of the room was not only still alive, but was in fact the Jigsaw killer didn't really have much of an effect on the plot once you thought about it, especially given the more important reveal in that scene concerning Zepp, but it worked at its intended goal of shocking the audience, and when paired with Charlie Clouser's downright epic "Hello Zepp" theme, it became another great moment. The plot twists in the second and third films were better-integrated into their stories, but they also gave the series a reputation for a complex, overarching storyline. Once Lionsgate elected to keep the series goingover the wishes of its creators (who wanted to end the series at #3), the Myth Arc went from complex to convoluted as new twists and killers were piled on in the sequels, while the original motive of the Jigsaw killer (to punish those he deemed to be wasting their lives) was slowly forgotten. Perhaps the increasing levels of gorn were an attempt to compensate for The Chris Carter Effect...
In addition to its post-modern parody of slasher movies, the Scream series was also known for having a surprisingly strong focus on characterization for the genre it was in. Everybody had their own backstories and motivations, all the better to create red herrings and make viewers question who the killer was. In the third film, however, this turned against the series and dipped into pure melodrama. The entire plot revolved around the protagonist Sidney's family backstory, and the killer's motivation hinged on familial relations that weren't even hinted at for that character before The Reveal. The first twofilms had similar reveals of the killer having some personal connection to Sidney, but they made sure to tie it to information that had already been revealed or otherwise implied in the story. The third film, meanwhile, had a new writer with a very different understanding of the characters, as well as a Troubled Production that saw substantial rewrites, including a different killer.
Many of Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg's trademark writing traits (shallow, narrow parodies depending more on references and audience recognition than actually making fun of the target, regardless of how well the reference works with the movie itself) are fully visible in their earlier, funnier movies, Spy Hard (which was barely saved by some of its clever bits, including its theme song by "Weird Al" Yankovic) and Scary Movie (which was saved by having four other writers, including the Wayans brothers at the height of their careers). Then the duo dived headfirst into directing their own movies, with every problem that plagued the last two movies amped Up to Eleven and creating some delicious Snark Bait in the process.
One of the principal reasons Spider-Man 3 is the least liked in the original Spider-Man Trilogy is because it was too goofy. The first and second films are far from devoid of silliness, but that element provided actual levity in those first two movies because a) they had more focused plots, having only one super-villain apiece, compared to the third having three, and b) they didn't take the silly humor overboard. The infamous 'dancing emo Peter' sequence in 3, on the other hand, took it way too far.
Although it did save the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan started the trend of every Star Trek film being built around a confrontation with one particular villain, as it was the first in a very long line of Actionized Sequels.note The major exception being Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which doesn't have a villain and used comedy as its major selling point. For better or for worse, this was a necessary change of pace for the series after the lukewarm response to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which went for a more cerebral storyline but was roundly criticized for its slow pace. Two decades later, when Star Trek: Nemesis became a Box Office Bomb after being criticized for its one-dimensional villain and its gratuitous action (most infamously, the nonsensical car chase that comes out of nowhere), the producers finally realized that they couldn't keep milking the old Wrath of Khan formula indefinitely. The Star Trek reboot films avoided that pitfall by placing less emphasis on the big villain and more on the ensemble cast trying to deal with the villain's plot.
The original trilogy has all the elements that would come to be widely criticised in the prequel trilogy, including wooden dialogue, the uninspired romance in The Empire Strikes Back, the Wacky Wayside TribeKid Appeal Characters in Return of the Jedi, and even as early as A New Hope one can tell that Lucas was mostly focused on the visual aspect of the movie rather than getting the best performance from the actors. It was a combination of his vision and his collaborators that helped forge the original trilogy into the well-liked works they are; it also didn't hurt that his actors (particularly Harrison Ford) weren't afraid to ad-lib and improvise to make their performances feel more authentic. As some of Lucas' collaborators went on to other projects and didn't come back for the prequels, combined with massive Protection from Editors, he no longer had that support that kept his weaknesses from showing.
The franchise was known for having underdeveloped villains all through the original trilogy, but it wouldn't become a glaring handicap until the prequels came along. The Imperials were cartoonishly evil Space Fascists with little motivation beyond crushing our heroes, but that could be forgiven because it was actually fun to root against them: they were anchored by charismatic performances from screen legends like James Earl Jones and Peter Cushing, they invoked real-world dystopias enough that they actually seemed threatening, and they had enough Kick the Dog moments that it actually felt cathartic when the heroes won. But in the prequels? The Trade Federation just gets a throwaway line about protesting "taxation of trade routes" and a lot of Offscreen Villainy regarding the people of Naboo to establish them as the bad guys, and the Separatists just get some vague mumblings about "intentions to leave the Republic" and being led by the Sith, without even mention of their doing really evil things. Hell, the most memorably "evil" act in the whole trilogy is Order 66, which is done by the Republic. There's a reason why Rooting for the Empire is a time-honored tradition among Star Wars fans, but Rooting for the Separatists most definitely isn't.
When criticizing the prequels, many fans are likely to moan about the movies' focus on politics at the expense of action, often pointing out the many long scenes in the Galactic Senate chamber. It's easy to forget that A New Hope actually incorporated a fair bit of politics into its story as well: Princess Leia uses a diplomatic mission as a cover for transporting the Death Star plans, several characters discuss the Imperial Senate's growing support for the Rebellion, Luke and Biggs talk about the Empire's plans to "nationalize commerce in the central systems" in a deleted scene, and a major plot point involves the Moffs' rise to power in the wake of the Senate's demise. The difference? In A New Hope, the politics never eclipse the central struggle between Good and Evil, and there are enough memorable villains and relatable heroes that the audience never forgets what's at stake. In addition, the politics in the original are a lot more understandable and fairly ironclad: Tarkin wants more power and more favor with the Emperor, Tarkin builds giant battlestation, dissolves treacherous Senate, blows up anyone who disagrees. Compare this to the prequels, where Palpatine's plots are both ridiculously complex and seem to work only because every single person in the galaxy is an idiot.
George Lucas' tendency to Retcon elements in his own series was present as early as The Empire Strikes Back and resulted in some shocking but ultimately widely acclaimed decisions, such as having Darth Vader as Luke's father, and having the Emperor as a powerful Sith Master. Several years later, it resulted in first a few, then many controversial changes to the original trilogy, many of them to accommodate the prequel trilogy—even though the prequel trilogy became even more controversial for several more Retcons that frequently led to unresolved Continuity Drift. In particular, there was the decision that Leia's mother died in childbirth, that Owen Lars wasn't actually related to Anakin, that Yoda was never actually Obi-Wan's personal Master, and that the clones from the Clone Wars actually fought on the Old Republic's side.
One of the biggest complaints regarding The Force Awakens is that Rey is unrealistically good at too many things without any justification, but the same can nearly be said of Luke, who was an incredibly skilled pilot and marksman (possibly the best pilot and marksman in the whole Rebellion) despite being a sheltered farm boy. With Luke, there's a flimsy Hand Wave of his abilities in that he apparently spent his free time shooting rats from an airspeeder, but with Rey, the audience is left to wonder where she picked up many of her skills, and that has really brought the question of whether or not she's overpowered into the light.
A seemingly minor gripe that many viewers have with The Force Awakens is that Leia inexplicably hugs Rey after Han's death instead of hugging Chewbacca, even though Chewie presumably needs a hug a lot more badly than she does. That complaint is eerily similar to another common complaint about A New Hope, where Chewbacca inexplicably doesn't get a medal at the ceremony on Yavin, despite doing just as much to save the day as Luke and Han. note Out-of-universe, it was because his actor, Peter Mayhew, was so tall that Carrie Fisher couldn't fit a medal around his neck without it looking ridiculous. In-universe, the Expanded Universe eventually explained that Wookiees are a warrior race who consider it dishonorable to accept awards for their accomplishments. It seems that the writers have always had a bit of a problem remembering to treat Chewie with the same respect as the human characters, but it was easier to forgive when it came up in a less dramatic moment note Word of God is that this scene in Awakens was actually a mistake; the idea was to have Chewbacca busy helping the wounded Finn in another part of the hangar at the time, but then the shot was blocked so that Leia had to walk right past him .
The single most common criticism of The Force Awakens is that it recycles way too many ideas and plot points from the Original Trilogy, to the point that it sometimes feels like a remake of A New Hope with the characters' names changed. note A young desert dweller from a backwater planet gets pulled into a war between the evil Empire and the noble Rebels after a chance encounter with a diminutive robot carrying secret information that could save the Rebellion, then goes on a quest across the galaxy to Bring News Back with the help of a dashing space pilot and a grizzled Mentor Archetype, climaxing with a scene where the mentor sacrifices his life, the Rebels destroy an armored battle station that destroys planets, and the heroes rescue the female lead from captivity in the Empire's fortress. One can nearly say the same about Return of the Jedi, where the writers decided to end the trilogy by having the Rebels blow up a second Death Star instead of coming up with a new action sequence—not to mention that the first act had the heroes pointlessly returning to Tatooine for a rescue mission that easily could have taken place on a new planet. But it was easier to forgive when the Call Backs were limited to the setting and staging of action sequences, with the actual story (Luke attempting to redeem his father) being entirely new. People were a little less patient when the plot seemed to follow the early movies beat-for-beat at times—particularly since the writers had nearly thirty years to think of something different.
Both Superman Returns and Man of Steel were accused of being Anvilicious with their space Jesus/God symbolism. But in that respect, it only follows the lead of the Reeve Superman films, though there it was at least restricted to Jor-El's speechifying. Still, it's not to be found in the comics; Jor-El doesn't have any higher destiny in mind for Superman and Earth unlike Marlon Brando and Russell Crowe's portrayals, he just wanted his son to live.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) often gets flack for making April the focus of the story, though the film still centers around the turtles. The Turtles' personalities are well done, but they don't get much character development. Lacking Casey Jonesnote who was MIA in Secret of the Ooze and putting in a villain (Eric Sacks) who had nothing to do with any of the comics or cartoons prior to that point was a mitigating factor too. The thing is that this problem can be found all the way back in the 1990 original. As pointed out by CinemaSins, Raphael is the only who gets a character arc of some sort, Leo gets some, and Donnie and Mikey don't get any at all. Plus, Danny, a minor character, had a sub-plot that while did not take over the whole film, was an odd decision. The reason why it wasn't noticeable back then was due to it being the Turtle's first film, the hype surrounding it, and a well written story with great practical effects and action scenes. The sequel, Secret of the Ooze, tried to fix the character development issue by putting the focus on Donnie's arcnote When the turtles find out they were created by accident., but it never really goes anywhere. Turtles III and TMNT (2007) both featured villains that had nothing to do with the comics or cartoons, albeit, the latter had Karai with hints of Shredder returning in a sequel that was never made. Tatsu wasn't in any prior media either, acting as a stand in for Karai, but he was the right hand man to Shredder, so that was okay. Karai was still obscure at the time unless one read the original comics, so that was understandable. Ooze had Tokka and Rahzar as expies for Bebop and Rocksteady, because Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman did not want them in the film. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the sequel to the 2014 movie, is fixing that by dropping the Eric Sacks character entirely, adding in Bebop, Rocksteady, and Baxter Stockman, villains that have appeared in the cartoons or comics. Also, the turtles themselves are going to be the main focus of the story and receive character development just like in other media.
For an all-powerful, hyper-intelligent supercomputer, Skynet's plans are incredibly convoluted. Over the years, many people have pointed out all the ways Skynet, with its unlimited resources and supposedly limitless intellect, could have killed John Connor or even the Human Resistance outright. This was forgivable in the first two movies because time travel was spoken of as a last-ditch effort, so Skynet didn't really have much time to plan. However, with each subsequent movie, book, comic, series, etc. that's released, the time-travel-was-a-desperation-move aspect gets retconned further and further, meaning that Skynet has essentially unlimited time to plan. This has the adverse effect of making the central premise of the series not only less believable but harder to keep straight, since time travel theorems are both way over the average audience member's head and very easy for writers to screw up. Case in point: when Terminator Genisys made an attempt to corral the Timey-Wimey Ball that the series' continuity had become, it wound up only making the problem worse.
In general, Terminator 2: Judgment Day kicked off most of the franchise's worse trends. While the first film was a low-budget sci-fi horror film, T2 was a big-budget Actionized Sequel, due in part to the Sequel Escalation involved in making a Terminator the hero. However, T2 was still genuinely scary at points, with the T-1000 being a memorably frightening antagonist, and the non-Terminator characters remained vulnerable despite their Action Survivor status — plus having the Terminator do a Heel–Face Turn was genuinely pretty amazing to see at the time. Later films, books, and other media would jettison the series's horror/slasher elements entirely, to the point of being nothing but action films with action-star protagonists (even the ones who don't have the Terminator, a bulletproof, mass-produced cyborg, taking up the hero slot), destroying what tension remained.
Skynet goes through quite a bit of Villain Decay throughout the series as it gradually becomes clear that using Terminators is a horribly inefficient way to kill people. After Skynet's failures in the first two films, the Terminators practically become The Artifact, as one naturally wonders why their masters can't come up with other ways to beat the humans—like radiation, chemical weapons, or biological agents, which are harmless to machines but deadly to humans. The inefficiency was excusable in the first movie, partly because the series' trademark Ridiculously Human Robots were still a novel concept, and partly because it was heavily implied that (like Time Travel) the Terminators were experimental weapons used as a last resort after the Resistance arose from nothing and wiped out most of the Machines' resources. Even when we got another Terminator villain in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it could be forgiven because it was actually an improvement over the T-800, making it seem like Skynet actually adapted and learned from its previous failure. But after that, future Terminators like the T-X and Cromartie became largely generic rehashes of the original, and it became far less forgivable when Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys made it clear that Skynet knew what would happen in the future, and was actively preparing for it. note It also didn't help that The Sarah Connor Chronicles made it clear that several Terminators' have unshielded nuclear fuel cells, essentially making them walking nukes. But apparently they need machine guns and knife-hands to kill humans. This trend reached its low point in Genisys, where Skynet changes things up by inventing nanomachines that can infect humans... then uses them to make another Terminator that can only infect one person at a time.
Mark Harris' GQ article "The Day the Movies Died", while noting how many critics have blamed the aforementioned Jaws and Star Wars for the rise of the Lowest Common DenominatorSummer Blockbuster, pegs its origin instead on Top Gun. The success of that film, he argues, paved the way for the PG-13 action flick aimed at teenage boys and young men to become the default "blockbuster" template, causing other genres that had produced blockbuster films in years past (horror, romance, non-action science fiction, smaller-scale family films) to be crowded out. As the studios hyper-focused on the stereotypical "young male" (i.e. a stereotypical fratbro) to the exclusion of everybody else, television was left with an open field to march in and claim all the women and older viewers who had found themselves abandoned by Hollywood marketers.
The X-Men films were always criticized for their blatant overuse of Wolverine, but it didn't really start to get out of hand until X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which are universally cited as the low points of the series. In the first movie, it was forgivable because Hugh Jackman was still a new and exciting actor, and the film also had Rogue as an Audience Surrogate—but most of the movie was still shown through Logan's eyes, and the big climax still basically amounted to the other heroes throwing Wolverine at Magneto's doomsday device and letting him fight Mystique and Sabretooth one-on-one. And in the second film, Jean and Nightcrawler both got notable arcs, but much of the plot was still dominated by Wolverine's efforts to get to the bottom of his past, with Cyclops and Professor Xavier spending most of the movie imprisoned in the Big Bad's fortress. In the third film? Rogue vanishes after deciding to take the cure, Cyclops and Professor Xavier are killed off anticlimactically, there are extended scenes involving Wolverine taking on Magneto's army singlehandedly, and Jean barely seems to remember that she was in love with Scott years before she met Logan. By the time they cut out the middleman and gave Wolverine his own spinoff, they barely had anything interesting left to do with the character, and critics trashed the movie for forgetting to put in any memorable characters who weren't named "Logan".
When Zack Snyder's 300 was released in 2007, it proved to be a huge hit with audiences—in large part—because it pushed the use of uniquely stylized CGI like few movies before it ever had; it used computer animation to craft everything from environments to action sequences from the bottom up, creating a melodramatic spectacle that practically seemed to pop off the screen. And even though it had many detractors at the time who criticized Snyder's Signature Style for being shallow and over-the-top, most people agreed that it was at least well-suited to a violent Sword & Sandal epic. note Also: an oft-overlooked aspect of 300 is that the whole story is narrated by the Spartan soldier Dilios as he rallies the Greeks to war against the Persians. It's very heavily implied that Dilios is an Unreliable Narrator, and that some of the movie's more melodramatic and far-fetched moments are the result of him embellishing the story to play up the Spartans' heroism. Audiences weren't so forgiving when he applied largely the same style to his movie adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen, a graphic novel that's about as far from 300 on the Sliding Scale of Realistic Versus Fantastic as it's possible to be. Where 300 was an escapist war epic tinged with mythic fantasy, Watchmen is a nuanced intergenerational drama with a cast of complex, morally ambiguous characters defined by their human frailties. Paired with a story like that, the flaws that were so easy to overlook in 300—the unnecessary CGI environments, the distracting costumes and makeup, the gratuitous slow-motion, and the elaborate action sequences occasionally sidelining the plot—just become even more glaring, making it a lot harder to forgive Snyder for burying the novel's complex themes under a thick layer of flashy melodrama.
But in the 2000s, such major movie franchises attracted buzz because they were fairly rare occurrences, and movie studios only really gave the "franchise treatment" to intellectual properties that could be justifiably seen as deserving several Epic Films. The Lord of the Rings was based on a trilogy of beloved fantasy novels that had been popular for nearly 50 years before they were made into movies, the Star Wars prequels were follow-ups to the most popular film saga in cinematic history, the Harry Potter films were based on one of the most massively popular book series of the 20th century, and The Matrix didn't get its two sequels greenlit until film critics started hailing it as one of the best American science-fiction films since Star Wars. And even when they did support movie franchises, studios generally knew when to stop, and only did as many movies as it took to tell a story.