Column: Terrible movies’ appeal comes from personal standards

Shelby Niehaus, Opinions Editor

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a scourge on our hands.

Remember when I opened up about my love for terrible movies? Last semester I printed a manifesto on the beauty and unadulterated joy that is truly awful cinema. But over winter break, when my parents suggested we take a trip to the shabby local mall to see Assassin’s Creed on New Years’ Day, even I balked.

You see, video game tie-in movies have a pretty bad track record. From 2001’s Lara Croft – Tomb Raider (holding down a paltry 20% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes) to 1993’s Super Mario Bros. (trailing behind with a 15%) to 2005’s Alone in the Dark (at 1%, and noted as “inept at every level”), many game-based movies suffer significantly in format transfer, and are marred by poor decisions in multiple areas.

I should note, before we descend too far into the realm of tie-in films, that most video game-inspired films I looked at scored on par with or below junk cinema poster child Birdemic (20% on Rotten Tomatoes), a flick noted for its jarring audio transitions, royalty-free soundtrack, horrendous CGI and robotic cast. With this column, we have reached terrible movie bedrock.

When my family suggested Assassin’s Creed, though, I at least thanked my lucky stars that I was not a fan of the original game series. Someone’s favorite intellectual property was about to be trampled on, I thought.

A quick glance at the reviews on the way to the film solidified my worries. Early reviewers pointed out Assassin’s Creed’s weak characters, convoluted plot and shoddy special effects. As I settled into my seat, I steeled myself for a long and boring film.

To be blunt, the reviewers were right. I have never cared so little about any characters in a film, I could barely follow the plot (nor did I want to) and the special effects were not quite as special as they needed to be.

But there was one redeeming factor.

He sat next to me on my left, this man; he must have been a fan of the games, because I could find no other explanation for his being. Throughout the entire film he was on the edge of his seat, alternating between childlike joy and near-academic scrutiny. His eyes did not wander to his bitten nails like mine did. When the Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag character got a slice of screen time, he thrust his hands in the air. He stayed to watch the entire credits.

I wish I saw what he saw in Assassin’s Creed. Surely he noted the weak acting and lackluster CGI, but none of that mattered to this man. He was happy to see his favorite video game make it to the silver screen, and nothing could spoil that innocent joy for him.

None of my favorite games have seen movie tie-in releases. Stardew Valley will never be a film. Nobody in their right mind would scramble to get the rights to Age of Mythology or Baldur’s Gate.

I imagine that seeing your favorite game recreated as film is some kind of thrill. Ideally your favorite game would become a great movie, but any movie, even a bad one, is still exciting when it represents something you love.

Assassin’s Creed may be the worst kind of terrible movie from my standpoint– weak all around with none of that trainwreck appeal I love in other bad movies– but it really just represents a different kind of bad movie.

All bad movies are equally bad at their core. Just because my criteria for a good bad movie is different from my moviegoer friend does not mean that Assassin’s Creed is objectively less fun to watch than, say, Fateful Findings, or that Battleship was more of a spectacle than the 1995 Mortal Kombat.

So, my friends, we do have a scourge on our hands. But while, for some of us, this nasty brute is a blemish on the face of the terrible movie scene, for others it is just a guilty pleasure.

I love bad movies for my own reasons. I will no longer begrudge other people for liking different bad movies.


Shelby Niehaus is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].