6. Ocean’s 12 / 13 (Steven Soderbergh, 2004, 2007) [Main Picture]
The first Ocean’s movie (2001) was a slick update of a Rat Pack flick from 1960 in which indie auteur Steven Soderbergh assembled a cast of pretty rising stars to rob a Las Vegas casino in the most stylish way possible – and he succeeded wonderfully, with a sexy heist caper that remains hugely enjoyable a full decade on from its release. When critics fell over it and the box office was set alight sequels were inevitable but for once we could look forward to them – but boy, did they lose their way quickly. The moment that the series really starts to fall apart is when Tess (Julia Roberts) poses as a movie star… Julia Roberts. That in itself is an interesting idea, but when she meets up with Bruce Willis in a hotel lobby it quickly falls into embarrassing self-parody and the movie winks at the audience so much all I really wanted to do was stand up and punch it in the face. The third entry is the most smug of all though – it involves a giant drill which is going to tip the casino building, and from there the crew will carry away the treasure-lined safe on a winch attached to a helicopter. It’s almost as if everybody stopped caring so they just made it all up as they went along – certainly Matt Damon’s prosthetic nose looks like a leftover from The Hours (2002) which somehow made it onto set. Not only do the films create their own level of cliché by the end of the second entry, they adhere to it slavishly in the third film, and the only reason it remains unpredictable is because of how eye-rollingly stupid it is. The faces are still pretty and their banter still charming, but instead of existing in a slick heist caper they just form a self-satisfied vacuum for naïve summer crowds. It makes the first film look relatively feasible… which is no easy feat.
5. Spider-Man 3 (Sam Raimi, 2007)
Despite offending me more I’m actually giving this shark jump the benefit of the doubt over Ocean’s because I actually love the whole trilogy up until a certain point in this entry. Despite being too crowded and badly lit I thought Spider-Man 3 had a cracking pace, exciting set-pieces and a stronger sense of humour than the first two films (Bruce Campbell as the comedy Maitre d? Sold.) – but then it all falls apart when an alien symbiote infects Peter (Tobey Maguire) and he undergoes a bafflingly ill-advised emo shift, morphing the nerdy martyr we know and love into a smug, abrasive asshole. But the worst part is Peter strutting down the street making 70s advances to easily impressed Barbie cut-outs, with the heavy jazz score undermining any subtlety the series might once have had. It’s like being stuck in a really embarrassing time warp and is, above all else, just plain creepy. Then he goes dancing with Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and suddenly you can’t even see sharks for the interplanetary heights this jump has reached. Sam Raimi was able to rebuild his reputation with horror gem Drag Me To Hell (2009) but the Spider-Man series as we know it was killed stone dead.
4. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009)
The first half of District 9 is a really innovative, interesting slice of cinéma vérité sci-fi, charting the containment of an alien presence in Johannesburg, inferring allegory to South Africa’s recently tragic past. Sharlto Copley is terrific in the lead role as Wikus, who is exposed to an alien chemical which starts to transform him, leading to banishment from his world and refuge in the Prawn camp. What evolves here is kind of like a David Cronenberg movie in terms of theme; infection and eradication. There is a desperation to the unfolding action, and also a claustrophobic fear. But then things go off the deep end as Wikus and his new Prawn friend Christopher break into MNU (Multinational United) and kill quite a lot of people in a hyper-violent way that totally undermines the emphasis on atmosphere and realism that had come before. Instead it turns into a splatter-fest as gooey, claret red blood exploitatively splashes onto the lens and makes us reach for our sick bags. This isn’t the really shark jumping moment though – soon Wikus makes use of a huge techno suit and the film regresses into middling Transformers (2007) territory. Subtlety? Makes a great film, but doesn’t put bums on seats. Shame on you Blomkamp for conforming to that standard.
3. Die Hard 4.0 (Len Wiseman, 2007)
In a post Terminator (1984) world, perhaps the best feature of Die Hard was the fact that John McClane (Bruce Willis) was a recognizably flawed human being – a divorcee who likes his drink and resents being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being the hero was never a part of the plan, but he got on with it and was injured along the way – who could forget the scene in which Gruber’s henchmen shoot all the glass surrounding McClane and he gets the fragments stuck in his feet. By the finale he looks physically and emotionally destroyed. This is largely the reason why the finale to Die Hard 4.0 feels so much like being slapped in the face by a wet fish – because McClane somehow turns into Superman in the final stretch of this abysmally cluttered film (no vest, no swearing, no point), going up against a fighter jet and winning. The jet rips through McClane’s truck with its machine guns and lays waste to an entire freeway – McClane even jumps onto the back of the damn thing and somehow, falling off it from a great height as it explodes, he survives – landing right next to the enemy hideout, with only a bit of a limp to show for his effort. Shocking, appalling, sacrilegious and downright stupid, consider the shark well and truly jumped.
2. Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori, 2002)
Where to begin listing the problems with this shockingly bad entry into the decades-old Bond franchise, which was such a critical and fan disaster that it almost sunk the series forever? Well, you could start right after that green-screened-to-hell hovercraft chase and the quick quip which ends it; “saved by the bell”, or the fact that Madonna makes an appearance as a fencing teacher (so bad I’d even forgotten it) or just the so sci-fi it hurts concept of regeneration and weather-controlling robot suits. Yep, it’s all pretty bad and I’d need a whole essay to detail the soul crushing ineptitude of a scene where John Cleese turns up to introduce a car that can turn invisible – also acting as some subtle-as-ever product placement. Indeed, there is very little positive to say about Die Another Day except that its ‘jump the shark’ moment is among the most laughable in cinema history. In fact, they almost deserve a medal for it. I’m recalling this from memory, so bear with mistakes… after being chased by a space laser in an impossibly fast ice-traversing vehicle Bond tips over the edge of a cliff, removes the airbag from the vehicle and uses it to windsurf through waves so rough they’re likely the same ones that sunk Poseidon. Terrible CGI and barnstorming stupidity combine to create a (sadly) unforgettable set-piece that even Roger Moore hated.
1. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (Steven Spielberg, 2008)
Okay, so Indiana Jones was never rooted in realism – in fact, its whole selling point was exploring mythic McGuffin’s such as The Ark Of The Covenant and The Holy Grail, and framing them in the mold of a serial adventure yarn à la Allan Quartermain. I have no problems with the aliens in Indy IV as they transplant the aforementioned serial mold to 50s science fiction and Roswell, which is just as fantastical and believable in context as The Holy Grail was in The Last Crusade (1989). But no matter which parallel universe you live in nuclear power is still nuclear power, and it would certainly send a fridge into molecule melting oblivion. So how is it that Lucas and Spielberg thought the ideal way for Indy to survive the blast would be to climb inside a fridge and wait it out? Easy answer is: they didn’t, it’s just dumb, lazy screenwriting. As the blast hits the fridge is propelled into the air and lands somewhere outside of the desert, miles away from its original location. Ignoring the fact that the sheer force and power of that drop would have likely smashed the fridge to pieces and broken every bone in Indy’s body it’s just not even hyper-realistically possible that the fridge would have survived that kind of blast. It’s not just stupid, it’s intergalactically stupid – and for me sunk a franchise that was actually getting better, a rarity in contemporary Hollywood.