Monday, January 10, 2011

The New Worst Movie I've Ever Seen

Please bear with me today, as this is rather long-winded. Disclaimer: Not responsible for any drool induced by boredom, aching sides induced by laughing, or any stuck eyeballs from rolling them too much.

Okay, so normally I go for life stuff, book stuff, all that jazz. I feel I have rather callously ignored a major area that deserves just as much recognition as anything else going on: and that, dear friends, is movies. Not just any movies, of course, but bad movies.

I thought I had seen bad when I saw "2012." You remember: the disastrous disaster movie of last year, hoping to plague civilization with worries and panic about the coming year 2012? If anyone is NOT familiar with at least one theory on how the world is supposed to end, I will happily eat my shoes. Yes, the John Cusak suck-fest extravaganza had me on the edge of my seat, forcing myself to stay sitting and not reach for the remote to pick something better, anything better, as long as there was something convincing! Oh, Danny Glover, how you have fallen! Oliver Platt, you were once more duped into playing a douchebag. For shame. Amanda Peet... nobody really cares.

Still... even with the plotholes so large that Star Trek: Voyager could have comfortably moved in and called itself realistic, "2012" had something going for it: there was acting, a large budget for over-the-top special effects, and something resembling a script.

No, no, my friends. I have found something new at the bottom of the pile.

You've SEEN the horror of "Day After Tomorrow." You've CRINGED at the cheesiness of "Armageddon." You've GROANED with pain at the deviancy of monster movies like "The Relic" and "Species." You've even learned to laugh at giant killer bunnies thanks to "Night of the Lepus."

But now, there is a new contender, fighting hard, for that coveted bottom title. And that is... "The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon."

Made in 2008 and starring (brace yourselves) Michael Shanks and Shannon Doherty, this little gem is the delightful tale of how a team of rag-tag archaeologists in 1930-something must go in search of our heroine's father, who has wandered off into a "cursed valley" of the Grand Canyon.

Where first it is debated whether Egyptians set foot into North America, our apparently relationship-phobic hero, Michael Shanks, appears pitiless and practical. Shannon Doherty, in one of her most challenging roles ever, must convince the team to go find her father, including maverick Dr. Langford (JR Bourne), who has the murky reputation of leaving his team to certain death in Amazon at some point. We also have our required journalist, as well as our Bad!Feminist!Tryingtomakehernameinarchaeology! character; damn it, we've got to act like the men, Shannon--er,Susan, or they won't take us seriously because we're women!

After some love-lorn gazing at the heroine from both Dr. Thain (Shanks) and Dr. Langford, who is not opposed to showing off his sweaty arms as Dr. Thain prefers to bury his head in a book, they set out. Our heroes rely on some untrustworthy Mexican guides who ask for money to guide them to the mysterious valley. Of course, the guides abandon them, taking all but two horses, for some reason. Hmm. All right. Once the horses decide the desert is too hot to walk in and selfishly lie down to die, our Bad!Feminist! chastises the horses for dying.

Eventually, the group comes to said mysterious valley. Dr. Thain is apparently an expert on Aztec culture and realizes that there is a GIANT FREAKING Aztec symbol on a canyon wall. After dueling it out with a surviving member of the dad's original group, who is apparently a little crazy, they decide how to get in. Michael Shanks of course figures it out.

What lies inside our cozy canyon? Why, an outpost of ancient Aztecs, of course! Now, from the start of the movie, we know there is some sort of crazy rubber monster that goes around eating people. As we come to discover, this

is, in fact, the Aztec god, Quetzalcotl.

Does anyone else see a problem with this? Unfortunatley, this was the best and ONLY picture I could find. The thing has bat-like wings, horns, and tiny evil yellow eyes. Oh, it is apparently also a hybrid escapee of Jurassic Park's very own dilophosaurus: it spits a blinding, possibly paralyzing, venom at random people. Oooh, kay.

Now, forgive me for my ignorance, but as far as I remember, this is what Quetzalcotl is supposed to look like:

Anyway. Bad!Feminist! mentions something about a lost treasure. The film, however, decides that naming the movie "The Lost Treasure" is about all they could afford; any sort of actual treasure is only implied and the film company is not responsible for any assumptions that there will be a treasure in this movie. (So sayeth the Fine Print.)

After they find dear old dad, the team, who inexplicably is able to move around the city without being notices--let me pause. I can't go on without airing my complaints. This is my charge list. This film is guilty of the following:

1. Misleading title, as there is no treasure
2. Misrepresenting the god Quetzalcotl and defamation of character
3. Misrepresenting the entire race of the Aztecs
4. Greatly reducing the impressiveness of the Aztec empire and their culture by forcing them into some unknown portion of the Grand Canyon
4. Forcing Michael Shanks (MICHAEL FREAKING SHANKS) into such a terrible movie that even his acting can't save it
5. Forcing the audience to endure the lightly bandied three-way love triangle with a robot lady, a macho I'm Number One, and Greatly!Reduced! Michael Shanks (P.S. He's an archaeologist? Again? REALLY?)
6. Reducing the Aztec warriors into giant pansies who wear diapers
7. Making the Aztecs white
8. (and here's a spoiler for ya'll, because I really don't think many of you will hate me for it) Bad!Feminist! survives, apparently keeps running into the same Aztec guy and exchanging looks (though a real warrior would take a stranger prisoner), and when he unearths her from a giant pile of fallen rock which should have killed her, she stands up, gives him a goofy grin, and that's the last we see of her. I am assuming she remained in the city, though she was desperate to get out and was fiendish enough to push everyone out of her way to get out. Oh, the humanity! Apparently she wasn't liked well enough by ANYONE, as they didn't even address her absence.
9. Making the Aztecs sacrifice anyone and everyone for no reason at all; for greatly reducing the significance of said sacrifices, and for having no one screaming in pain; I guess they all died quietly
10. The guy who gets shot in the leg and can't possibly move by himself, is practically skipping as they leave the city at the end.
11. Everyone is shot by an arrow. And everyone can shoot arrows. Clean, straight through the head or back shots. Uh-huh.
11. Michael Shanks suddenly speaks Aztec. Fluently.
12. M.S. displays ability to summon a donkey out of thin air
13. Bad!Feminist!, OnlyOutForHimself Guy, Headstrong Daughter, Emotionally Constitpated Guy who Needs the Love of a Good Woman: BAD CHARACTERS

So. The group manages to get inside a temple, foiling fiendish booby traps, (Generic Guy gets shot with an arrow laced with "suffocating poison" and is unable to walk, thus depending on Selfish Guy to help him out), and they come face to face with the dreaded Flying Rubber Monster. While the Monster quite smartly and yet quizzically decides not to eat Shannon Doherty (probably because there was no Mylanta to take afterwards), it does appear attracted to people with pointy sticks. Dad decides to sacrifice himself for daughter, and he is abandoned to his fate.

However, apparently Monster decides self-sacrifice is bravery, and does not eat dad. The whole gang is reunited, only to be faced by the High Priest who is about to sacrifice Bad!Feminist! Michael Shanks has remained behind in a room of hearts, comes out to sacrifice himself with the very neat trick of pretending to pull out his own heart.

To make a long story short (TOO LATE), Michael Shanks defeats Flying Monster, assumes the people believe he is now their god, and speaks ancient Aztec language with ease. And yet, he somehow cannot really negotiate for the people to leave; I guess the Aztecs are so damn bloodthirsty they just don't know what to do without a good bloodbath.

Making it out are Generic Guy who is suddenly full of hop and skip and needs no one's help, Susan/Shannon, Dear Old Dad, and Michael Shanks. Bad!Feminist! apparently met some dude when she was being crushed by falling rocks in her attempt to flee for her own life, and we're left to assume that they find a nice bloody altar to make hot sweet love on.

Michael/Dr. Thain has finally professed his ability to express emotion and proclaims his love for Shannon/Susan, and as they all leave the terrible place, Michael/Dr. Thain summons a donkey from somewhere.

No treasure. No interesting look into Aztec culture. No hot and steamy romance on the way.

As long-winded as this is, and I apologize for boring you, it's nothing compared to the movie itself. It's not even MST worthy. The worst part? I've just spent a very long time writing out a long review of this thing. But hey, I have to share the misery :)


  1. It is my opinion that Michael Shanks' donkey-conjuring was a direct message to the makers of the film; possibly to SyFy directly as well. After all, his Stargate money must have run out; it's the only explanation for how such a great actor has been sent into such depravity.

    Also I believe that Michael Shanks has been blackmailed with the promise of a better script. Before he gets said script, he had to play a man who falls for Shannon Doherty.

    In her defense, however, she was given almost nothing to work with.

  2. I have the same gripe about your book Mrs Mater. granted it is your first and you have much more creative juices since then i bet you have a better one coming .. i hope just try not to have every famous guy fall for the heroine especially a very opaque heroine at that the premise was good but like the move... b- movie style... i repeat b- movie style. and besides if if michael shanks is such a good actor how come he was turned away from several gigs... bad actor.. yeah bad actor, at one time good actor and now bad actor.