Lessons bad movies have taught me

The best place to learn about life, the universe and everything is at the movies! Hollywood has always been both our patient teacher and nursemaid and we have sucked the knowledge from its considerable teats! While some films are clear-cut in the lessons they impart–Megaforce’s controversial pro flying motorcycle stance, for instance–the wires sometimes get crossed, as per these particularly unfortunate examples.

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace

If you’ve ever caught one of the Superman films on cable, chances are it was different. If that channel was TBS, it was definitely this one. In this 1987 outing, Superman (played by Christopher Reeve) has had enough of the looming nuclear threat facing the world and has a three-step plan to deal with it. Step 1: chuck all nuclear weaponry in the world into the sun. Step 2: ?. Step 3: World peace.

The niggle in his plan, as always, Lex Luthor (played by Gene Hackman). Inspired by the impish ad campaign in which strangers have their mundane coffees replaced by Folger’s Crystals, Luthor hijacks the missiles slated for solar hurling and added a secret ingredient: Superman’s DNA. The end result? Nuclear Man (played by a WWF Wrestling Buddy with Gene Hackman’s voice dubbed in), a lump of muscle and cheap lightning fx that obeys Luthor’s every whim. Downside: Nuclear Man is solar-powered, meaning he can be defeated by so much as tossing a blanket on him.

Intended Message: Nukes are bad

Actual Message: With a lot of nuclear warheads and just a smidge of Kryptonian DNA, we could be waited on hand and foot by an army of solar-powered slaves in muscle shirts! Think of all the manual labour we could avoid when, capitalizing on the trademark Luthor genius, North America finally decides to get a few pyramids. We’ll have supermen to build them and we can put all sorts of crazy crap in there, like slot machines or a revolving buffet or something. And, when all is said done, they can sing us to sleep with the dulcet tones of Gene Hackman. Just be sure to bring a sun lamp.

True cinemasochists owe it to themselves to pick the film up on DVD, as it contains deleted scenes of a second Nuclear Man tormenting the Man Of Steel. Well, technically he’s the first Nuclear Man. It’s complicated.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The late eighties housed a lot of disappointing sequels, as the further adventures of an aging Rocky, an aging Karate Kid and dozens of aging boogeymen were ushered into theatres. Yet, like the aforementioned Superman film, this is a gold standard for good-bad cinema. Here we meet Spock’s long-lost brother who was never mentioned before or since (played by a fatter version of Mystery Science Theatre 3000’s Kevin Murphy) kidnaps the Enterprise crew, converts them to his religion and sends them to the heart of the universe where they hope to find the true god. Curiously enough, they actually find God, who doesn’t take kindly to questioning from a certain, hairpiece-sporting starship captain. Both Sybok and God die in the fracas, but the Enterprise crew escape unscathed barring a sense of collectively lost dignity. In a touching coda, Spock, Bones and Kirk pontificate the search for God, the meaning of life and sing “Row Your Boat”.

Intended Message: God can’t be found externally. It lies in the human (or Vulcan or Klingon) heart.

Actual Message: William Shatner is the one true God. He travelled to the centre of the damn universe and punched God in his stupid face. Shatner was the only one brave enough and hammy enough to stand up to the old, bearded man in the sky (er, in space) and it was his cleverness and a lucky shot from a certain Vulcan that caused God’s head to explode like he was in Scanners. Rumour has it that the shooting script had a scene where Shatner then viciously tore the heart out of the floating-head deity and screamed and gained its power and courage thricefold.

Oh, and when in doubt, always ask “what does God need with a starship?” It got me out of jury duty once. The power of that phrase is without limit.

An American Carol

When a Michael Moore stand-in (played by a Chris Farley stand-in) begins a campaign to abolish the fourth of July, he is visited by patriotic ghosts from the past (and Bill O’Reilly) that show him the true glory of the American right-wing. Ghosts like Gen. George S. Patton and noted arch-conservative John F. Kennedy.

Intended Message: Left-wingers are killing America! If you just go with the flow, support the troops and git the letter R done, you too can make a real difference if you just shut up once in a while.

Actual Message: Barring the Freemason-bashing commonly housed on the website, The Scope is an apolitical outfit. However, doesn’t it seem a touch odd that a character will only appreciate “the land of the free” by doing what others tell you? Yes, because if there’s anyone who can teach us about keeping our heads down and following the rules, it’s the ghosts of the people who changed history (and Bill O’Reilly).

Avatar

You know the plot of this one by now. Corporate baddies run afoul of woodland cat-creatures native to the planet who look like a cross between King from Tekken and Squishington from Bump In The Night. Only the ex-soldier who betrayed them to The Man has the power to save them.

Intended Message: Respect the Earth! Change your ways! The power is yours! GO PLANET.

Actual Message: Appreciate and respect the beauty of the Earth by immersing yourself forever in an electricity-guzzling device that allows you to pretend to be a blue cat person. That won’t leave a footprint on the planet. Also, Avatar action figures our available from the gift shop. Please enjoy your 3-D disposable glasses and your Big Gulp. Recycling is not available at this theatre.

Ahh, films. I keep watching the damn things because I know that they’ll eventually provide me with the key to the univers. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to re-acquaint myself with my favourite meditation on a peace-loving man’s war against the elements and himself: Roadhouse with the late Patrick Swayze.