Monday, October 12, 2015

Ask JKM a Question: Well-Regarded Films that I Don't Like?

A regular reader, Chuck, writes:

"I have a secret confession: I dislike Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I have tried…TRIED…to like this movie. I have looked deep within myself, hoping it will finally somehow register with me, so I might finally join the masses who sing its praises as one of the greatest, most celebrated and groundbreaking cinematic achievements of all time. 

But, try as I might, I just don’t get it. I think its dull, depressing, over-rated and pretentious. And I know you disagree with me. The entire world (it seems) disagrees with me too. I am in the vast minority, I know that. 

Unfortunately, this sometimes makes it difficult to share my opinion with others, given how passionate fans of that particular film can be. And, unlike Star Trek or Star Wars fans—who have always been accustomed to dealing with at least some measure of detractors—many film buffs seem flat-out baffled (sometime even furious) when I mention my feelings towards 2001.

Which leads me to my question: Is there a classic, critically acclaimed, and much-beloved film (or franchise) that, try as you might, you just do not “get it.”

That's a great question, Chuck! I feel for you! 

I do love 2001: A Space Odyssey (as you noted), but I have indeed felt like you do regarding films that others cherish.  

So I can sympathize.  

Not trying to change your mind, but perhaps you can get to the point where you admire the film's artistry, even while maintaining your points of criticism.  That way, you get it, you just don't like it.

Or maybe not!

As for me, The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), and The Avengers (2012) all fall into the category where the Kubrick film landed for you. These films are widely and wildly lauded, and yet I wouldn't give one of them an unreserved positive review. 

Vast swaths of my demographic group  -- middle-aged fan-boys -- love, love, LOVE these movies, and I don't even like them a whit. 


The Dark Knight is visually-muddled and thematically deplorable (an apology, basically, for the post-9/11 surveillance state).

The Avengers is over-long and, approximately, about nothing. It's such a dull movie, in fact, that I fell asleep in it the first two times I attempted to watch it. I find The Avengers absolutely lacking in any human interest at all.  It's a great hype machine, but notthing else. And, of course, I'm a huge admirer of Joss Whedon's, so I am baffled by how little of the artist's personality or humor made it into the film.

But Inception is the one that gets me, really.  It is regularly ranked in the top 200 at IMDB -- currently ranked at #14 -- almost 80 slots higher than 2001: A Space Odyssey.   Other film it ranks higher than: Unforgiven (1994), Raging Bull (1980), Chinatown (1974), and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).

I have seen this film's praises sung so many times. And yet, as I've written before, the concept is inherently ludicrous.  The film also moves at the pace of slow molasses.

In Inception, a group of people delve into multiple levels of dreams to "plant" an idea into the psyche of an unsuspecting individual.  The same task was routinely accomplished on the original Mission: Impossible (1966-1972) series using either psychological manipulation or psychotropic drugs.  

But no, Inception takes us into layers and layers of dreams, all moving at different rates, and runs over two-and-a-half hours to get us exactly where Mission: Impossible got audiences more plausibly, and with greater economy, several times a season.

Why is Inception so beloved? It's the Nolan effect, I think. (And hey, I like Batman Begins and Interstellar, Insomnia, and Memento).  He was riding a high after Dark Knight, and his next film received the benefit of the doubt, I suppose.

So I do understand your feelings even if I disagree with your assessment of 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

And I'm absolutely certain many, many movie scholars and fans disagree with my selections too. 

The thing is: people don't really have to agree with you. If you can make the case for your view of a film -- and its consistent -- you really don't need anyone else to agree with you.  


  1. Thought I was the only one who got that Inception was Mission Impossible
    Anyway I like Inception more than Nolan's Batman films. When the Joker asks "Where does he get those wonderful toys? " I didn't want to see 2 hours of Bruce Wayne going through catalogs.
    The Avengers was very Whedonesque and re-watchable, one of the better Marvel films. Of course this is all "IMHO".

  2. Anonymous5:22 PM

    Inception is the ultimate heist movie with an interesting love story that goes to explore the depths of the human psyche. Combined with the dream worlds and surreal environments it is a great movie. For me the dream planting and layering is almost irrelevant. It's there but it is not the most important thing.


  3. While I don't dislike "Inception" as much as you. I really don't get how it can be rated so highly. I find it to be one of Nolan's most interesting films (but I think "Interstellar" passed it as his best). But I find his execution of the dreamworlds to be so bland and lifeless. He was given unlimited imagination and what he comes up with is so pedestrian... it just depressed me on one level. The anime film "Paprika" used the similar concept of entering and experiencing other peoples dreams and just jumped into the surreal and the amazing. It still managed to capture the horror and uncanny feel of dream logic while still being visually interesting (and astounding at times). While "Inception" went for more realism, it sacrificed imagination for a grey and dower dreamscape. Really a missed opportunity in my book.

  4. Interesting comments all around.

    Count me in as one of the those who doesn't get "2001". It just doesn't resonate as this awes-inspiring work of profound science fiction. Although over the years I have come to appreciate its artistry, I still have trouble making it through a viewing without nodding off. And keep in mind I LOVE films from that era. "Silent Running" is one of my all time favorite films and I'd take it over 2001 any day. Yeah, I am speaking heresy I know. Also keep in mind, I love "The Shining", "Full Metal Jacket", and especially "Eyes Wide Shut", and "A.I." is my favorite science fiction film of all time without an "Apes" in the title. (Spielberg I know, but the material, including the controversial ending, was all developed by Kubrick).

    I sort of agree about "Avengers". Although I admittedly was entertained watching it, I literally forgot about it the second I leave the theater. It felt like filmmaking by committee, not the work of an auteur with a vision. Classic movies should stay with you and leave you dying to come back for a second and third viewing. At least that is how it works for me.

    I know from reading your past reviews and articles that you are not exactly the biggest Nolan fan. I guess this is where we part company. I read the politics of "The Dark Knight" slightly different than you. There is an end justifies the means aspect to Batman as a character so I think his tactics in the film are true to who he is. But I don't think the film is necessarily telling us we should applaud those actions and uses Lucius Fox's protest to set the Dark Knight straight. But yeah, the damage was done...I get that. But I like the fact Nolan is willing to delve into these grey areas in the same way "24" and "Homeland" do.

    Although I love 'Inception", it does suffer, like "The Dark Knight", from just being too damn long. Ironically, Nolan finally got the pacing issue licked with his longest, and by far best film yet, "Interstellar:" The thing is, "Interstellar" did not feel like a Nolan movie at all. It felt like a Robert Zemickis film! It reminded me of "Contact" so much with its terrific sense of wonder and awe.

    Anyway, great discussion as always and thanks for letting me ramble.