Movies whose general crapitude you've excused because they're so visually compelling

#1, of course, which will still be #1 300 years from now, is “Avatar.” Idiotic plot stolen from “Dances With Wolves,” horrible dialogue, and no acting. But it really is a sight to see.

I also would include all the “Stupid Fucking Hobbit” movies, because they were shot in all those otherworldly New Zealand landscapes. I’ve been there, and when I told my niece, yes, that’s really the way the place looks, she didn’t believe me. But New Zealand’s landscapes are as mind-blowing as the movie depicts them.

There was also a movie with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin called “The Edge,” which because it was shot in the Canadian Rockies and had a great soundtrack, I enjoyed, even though the plot would insult an eight-year-old’s intelligence.

Your picks?

“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Lots to look at, camera won’t stay still, Helena Bonham Carter: “Ooooooo, Puddy! You a weck!” But come on: DeNiro–JEEEZ!


Tron: Legacy.

A mediocre/generic film if I’ve ever seen one, and a poor sequel to the original…

Yet the imagery and sound effects just completely engrossed me.

Great visual effects all around.


Avatar and Prometheus certainly.

I have some that are not generally crappy, but whose crappy parts can be excused by their visual style.

The Fifth Element. Generally a solid movie, but a little uneven–it has some parts that just don’t work as well as others. All is forgiven though, because everything from the set decoration to the wardrobe to the effects to the makeup/prostheses just kicks ass. It has the best “look” since Blade Runner.

Delicatessen. Actually I could probably include the whole Jeunet/Caro oeuvre. Again, a fairly solid film, one of my favorites, but the odd goings-on within the hallways of the little tenement building do not work as well without the surreal look the film has. The short lenses, heavy color grading, grainy stock, and often smoky backdrops are a necessary component to draw you into the fantasy. It is a visual feast and it works.

And for a film that is more on the nose:

Predator. Cheesy, 80’s crapness, but it just looks so good. I have never seen a jungle look that jungle-ly before.

The three original Star Wars Clunkiest dialogue EVER! Paper-thin characters. But the visuals! OH yes, the visuals. Check out the opening scene from the first movie.

Coppola’s interpretation of Dracula. Some really amazing visuals and editing, along with a strong, moody soundtrack. It’s not a “crappy” movie by any means, but many of the scenes feel strung together without a strong narrative to keep everything moving.

Just saw the latest Zhang Yimou film (Chinese director), The Flowers of War, with Christian Bale, about events during the Rape of Nanking. For much of the film, I was thinking it would fit this OP well: wonderful visual style (as in all his films I’ve seen: gorgeous, atmospheric, painterly shots of textures, light, architectural details, cloth…), BUT overstylized plot, almost hokey screenwriting. But once I relaxed and let it be more of a legend than a realistic war film, I started to enjoy it more, and by the end I was quite moved – so it wound up not fitting this OP after all.

My favorite story about that movie (no idea if it’s a true story or not):

The studio wanted an original screenplay from David Mamet. Whoever it was who got the privilege of calling Mamet on the phone made the pitch:
“We want something primal”
Mamet replied:
“A guy trying to kill another guy”
and hung up the phone.

It wasn’t clear whether or not that meant Mamet had agreed to write a script until a few days later he called back and said:
“And a bear”
and again hung up the phone.

The 1999 movie “The Haunting” with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones is pretty subpar plotwise, but the visual design of the haunted house is so colorfully over-the-top and gothic that I half-enjoyed the movie in spite of myself.

“What Dreams May Come” had some beautiful visuals but holy crap was it a terrible film. In fact it probably doesn’t count for this thread because even with the beautiful visuals the film is inexcusable.

WHOA WHOA WHOA…don’t put The Edge in line with Avatar.

“Never apologize”

Having just seen it on TV last night, my vote goes to Sucker Punch. A complete mess, but admittedly a pretty one.

Oblivion. The plot is completely nonsensical. However, it does have some very spectacular post-apocalyptic visuals and a great score by M83.

YMMV. I can forgive the plot for the visuals on this one.

Most of Zack Snyder’s movies.

An oldie – Kronos. this was a 1950s science fiction epic. It was black and white, but made in widescreen. Some of the people involved had worked on Forbidden Planet. I rank that film in the very top tier of great SF films, not only because of the effects, but also the writing (which unfairly gets denigrated by reviewers who, I am convinced, Just Don’t Know Any Better). Kronos, on the other hand, has positively stupid science, but the visuals are gorgeous.

A LOT of thought went into the visuals. The titular robot Kronos is a simple pair of metal boxes, connected by a shaft, with a dome and two antennae on top and four pillar-like legs on the bottom. Three of these move up and down like piledrivers, while to fourth rotates.

More than one critic has excused the film because of its striking and very different imagery, making it stand out from the run of 1950s Monster movies. and it really is incredibly striking. Until you see it, you wouldn’t think that so simple a design could be so visually interesting – but it is. Every time it’s onscreen it gives the aura of high-tech, and of being simply enormous. It could easily have looked laughable, but Kronos never looks like a model.

And its destruction at the end is wonderfully realized, the same way the Krel Door at the end of Forbidden Planet doesn’t just break, but melts in stages. Kronos’ dome gets mottled, its covering melts off. The antennae arc over, and those brushed metal sides develop corrosion. it’s just fascinating to watch.

As I’ve remarked before, Kronos obviously had a big influence on animation director Brad Bird – you can see touches of it in The Iron Giant (another invading robot from space, who first appears at sea, and attacks a power plant) and in The Incredibles (where the Omnidroid is a similarly virtually indestructible geometric shape that conveys menace – and its project is code-named “Kronos”)

“Far and Away”. The beginning and end anyway (Ireland, Oklahoma) and the middle if we can count Nicole Kidman (YMMV).