Films of the Decade: Adventure

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Top Five Adventure Films

5. Gladiator

Sword and sandals epics have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I love Spartacus and Ben Hur, and I even managed to derive a very meagre amount of enjoyment out of Cleopatra. Therefore I was delighted when Gladiator came around. I was hoping that it would kick ass and thankfully it did. With a big burly lump of man meat called Russell Crowe killing people in a very bloody fashion while wearing a skirt, it was kind of hard to go wrong.

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

While a fine film in its own right, The Return of the King, for my money, is the weakest of the trilogy. The film’s major weakness is the size of the final battle sequence. It becomes unrelenting and tiring. Battle fatigue quickly sets in. The rest, though, is excellent. In particular, I love the sequence with Shelob and the scaling of Mount Doom. The latter gives the movie the epic quality that millions of trolls fighting a huge CGI battle can’t. And people might criticise the final act for going on too long and for being too teary-eyed (look at those bouncing hobbits!), but I think Jackson gets it spot on. You’ve spent so long with these characters that you can’t just quickly say goodbye to them. You need a proper resolution. And thankfully Jackson provides that.

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Two Towers has one major flaw. Those goddamn trees. If it wasn’t for that, it would be able to challenge The Fellowship of the Ring as the best film in the trilogy. As it stands, though, it’s a wonderful piece of work. Gollum is magnificently realised and the final battle sequence is far better than the one in The Return of the King.

2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Easily the best film in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring raised the bar for the rest of the series – a standard that Peter Jackson wasn’t quite able to maintain. One of the reasons it’s my favourite is that it’s the only film where the Fellowship are together. Consequently there’s a lot of room for internal conflict within the group. Also the story isn’t as fragmented as the rest. In the subsequent films, there are always story threads that I preferred over the rest. For instance, I would always lose a little interest whenever those goddamn trees would turn up. But here you just have concentrated awesomeness. And the film is also a lot more atmospheric and scary than the rest. The Ring Wraiths are incredibly spooky here – a quality they lose the second they start flying on weird lizard things. And the prologue is the best thing in the entire series.

1. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

What could have been a very routine adventure movie is elevated by Peter Weir. Yes there are plentiful thrills and spills (all of which are expertly directed), but it’s the friendship between Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany’s characters that allows the film to develop into something more meaningful. Both representing opposite points of view, they’re somehow able to find a common ground. It’s a film of subtle pleasures, with the highlight being a trip to the Galapagos Islands. I also have to point out the excellent effects work. You hardly even notice the CGI, which is surely the highest compliment you can give the visual effects department – rather than look fake and phoney, they manage to make everything look like a Turner painting.

Five Worst Adventure Films

5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I was tentatively excited about the new Indiana Jones film. I mean, I love Indy, but Harrison Ford is ancient and George Lucas is a fat-necked fuck up. But with Spielberg at the helm, how bad could it be? Fucking awful was the answer. With gophers, aliens, refrigerators and idiots swinging with monkeys, Lucas and Spielberg managed to take a giant dump in Indy’s fedora and then smash it on his head. Painful to watch.

4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I haven’t read any of the books and so therefore I went into the movie with an open mind. But what an irredeemably dull film this was. It was all set-up and no pay off. I get that there’s a bigger story that they’re trying to build, but if a film doesn’t work in a self-contained way, then the bigger story is pointless. Honestly, I think that every line in this film is exposition. There was absolutely no depth to the piece – there are no layers. And the acting from the children is atrocious. Shove those wands up your arses.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean fell into the same trap as The Matrix. They took an enjoyable first film and then decided to get all po-faced about everything. Suddenly the filmmakers take the material seriously and want to build a ‘mythology’. But rather than laughs and enjoyable hijinks, we get tedious squid-faced characters and a scene concerning an incomprehensible board game that seems to go on forever. On the plus side, Keira Knightley looks good as a boy sailor. For a brief time I felt like a drooling, paedophilic old seadog that wanted to make a shipmate walk the plank…which is the only compliment I can give this film.

2. The Golden Compass

The book was pretty poor, but the film is far worse. It tinkers idiotically with the chronology of events and cuts the ending short of where the novel ended. Both my wife and I looked at one another once the credits begun, not believing that they’d decided to end the movie on such an anti-climatic note. There really aren’t any redeeming features to the film and it’s not surprising that they haven’t adapted the other two novels. They really fucked up the chance to create a franchise here.

1. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

A lame attempt to make a female Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider is a charmless, feckless piece of shit. The story is meaningless, the action is completely over the top and Angelina Jolie is uncomfortable as the heroine. She pouts and she preens but she doesn’t exude an ounce of believability. Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones exuded toughness and world weariness. For all the fantastical elements of the films, you always believed in him. Angelina Jolie, though, is just pretending to be an action hero. It’s all an act. And for the teenage boy audience that the film is aiming at, it’s a relentless tease. It’s all side boob and no nipple. If you’re not going to give us anything else (like a good script or stunning action sequences) at least give us some nipple. Fuckers.

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  1. cudos great films, please be sending to my Email,, such that i open and watch any time i open my box, without pirating them.

    from Nigeria.