Great movies have something that elevates them above the conventions and standards of their time. Easy examples are Casablanca and Charade which, while “old” when you watch, are still entertaining for new audiences. I watched a pair of movies over the weekend that did not rise above their peers. Actually, I watched 1 and a half movies. We gave up on Crocodile Dundee.
I know you are cringing at that. How could you give up on a classic that gave us such memorable lines as, “That’s not a kni-afe. THIS is a kni-afe!” Simply put, it wasn’t entertaining after 30 years. They don’t make movies like that anymore. If you have fond memories of that film, don’t revisit it.
The disappointment of CD led me to consider an observation I made back in the 90s when I was a fan but not a student of film. Some of the movies I loved and watched all the time lost their luster and seemed cheesy 5 or 6 years later (or less). When Iron Eagle came out it was amazing. Everyone loved it. There were even a ton of sequals. But it’s not a good movie. The year after IE, Top Gun was released. It’s still good. Somehow it rose above the genre and became more than just a summer blockbuster.
I freely admit to having been a fan of Steven Segal back in the day. I must have watched Hard to Kill and Marked for Death a hundred times. But they got old quickly. I haven’t watched either in decades because the last time around they were so awful. Yet other action movies from the same time, like Die Hard and it’s first sequel are still great movies (just remember they’re ‘R’ for a reason). I’d argue that the first Die Hard is still far superior to the last installment. (There was also my recent post about Red Dawn.)
So why are Terminator and True Lies so much better than Raw Deal and Red Heat? What made Kindergarten Cop superior to Twins? (You don’t get to blame James Belushi or Danny DeVito.)
I think it’s character. Crocodile Dundee was larger than life, we can’t relate to him anymore. But we all know somebody we think just might be Harry Tasker. I certainly have met my fair share of fighter pilots who make Pete Mitchell seem humble.