July 5, 2009
I decided to take a break for the Fourth of July holiday, but I’m back to wrap up Movie Week. All week long I have examined notable examples of cinematic cephalopods, but tonight I am going to end things with a look at films that are, from a squid’s-eye view, a bit disappointing, if not down right embarrassing. So, without further ado, I present to you the Indie Squid Kid Movie Hall of Shame:
1. Clash of the Titans (MGM, 1981)
Loosely based on the myth of Perseus, this movie featured stop motion special effects by Ray Harryhausen, making it a reluctant classic, despite its unintentional campiness and complete butchery of the source material. Clash of the Titans makes the Hall of Shame because the film’s main monster, the so-called Kraken, is not a proper Kraken at all! The Kraken is traditionally (and almost universally) depicted as a gigantic cephalopod, usually a squid. So, if a toga-clad Lawrence Olivier says he is going to send a Kraken to destroy your city, you would have a certain set of expectations, a giant four-armed humanoid lizard-fish not being among them. But even accepting a bit of creative license in the monster department, the Kraken is most definitely NOT part of the Perseus myth, or any Greek myth for that matter. In fact, the tales of the Kraken originate in Scandinavian and Germanic folklore. Why the filmmakers chose not to use Cetus, the actual sea monster from the story of Perseus and Andromeda, is beyond me.
Warner Bros. is currently in production on a remake of Clash of the Titans which is due to be released March of 2010. From what little information I can find, the updated plot still includes “the Kraken”, so I am not optimistic that this movie won’t end up joining its namesake in the Hall of Shame.
2. The Harry Potter movie franchise (Warner Bros., 2001 – present)
In each and every Harry Potter book, J.K. Rowling makes a point of mentioning the giant squid that lives in the lake that is part of the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unfortunately, the giant squid has been left out of every Harry Potter film to date—even Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which features the lake quite prominently in a number of scenes. The sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, comes out later this month, but, sadly, I have no reason to believe that this won’t perpetuate the chronic squidlessness of the movie series.
3. Batman: The Movie (20th Century Fox, 1966)
I really love this movie, so it pains me to include it in the Indie Squid Kid Movie Hall of Shame. However, I can’t ignore the fact that the film promises an exploding octopus but fails to deliver on that promise. This movie was a spin-off of the hugely successful television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, and it features Batman’s four main villains: The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether). Together they are the United Underworld, and they have hatched a diabolical plan to do away with Batman. The plan, in a nutshell, involves luring Batman to their headquarters where a jack-in-the box will launch him through the window and out to sea into the waiting arms of an exploding octopus. During the inevitable fight, a goon accidentally springs the trap and gets sent flying into the ocean. The instant he hits the water, there is an explosion, but no octopus is seen. Is a cheesy rubber octopus really too much to ask for? Did the rubber exploding shark that attacks Batman at the beginning of the movie blow the budget?
I do have to admit that the United Underworld emblem, an octopus enveloping the globe, is pretty cool (I wonder if Michelle at Vulgar Army knows about this?), but what’s up with the bird beak?
4. Sphere (Warner Bros., 1998)
Based on the Michael Crichton novel of the same name, Sphere stars Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson. It not a good movie. In fact, it is widely considered to be Dustin Hoffman’s worst. It is so bad, I am not even going to bother trying to summarize the plot. Sure, I could expound on all the reasons why this underwater psychological sci-fi thriller is such a dud, but to my mind, it can all be boiled down to this one scene—the giant squid “attack.”
Seriously, what the hell was that about? If you had asked me to think of what the scariest possible thing about getting attacked by a giant squid at the bottom of the ocean would be, I would not have come up with “rain of eggs.” You know what’s scarier than a bunch of squid eggs? ANYTHING! Also, is the vague outline of a squid on the sonar screen really the best that a big-budget Hollywood production could come up with? WEAK. I think I know why Sam Jackson’s character is reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea…he wishes he was in a movie with a legitimately frightening cephalopod! And that, my friends, is why Sphere wins the ISKy for Worst Movie Cephalopod of All Time.