Really, it is simple to understand part of it. Just because you're a bankable actor, or a proven director (having graduated from music videos to feature films), doesn't mean that your life is guaranteed, that you will always have money. Sometimes, you have to make bad movies, or at least not so great movies, to stay alive, and for your career to stay alive. Michael Caine, for example, quite famously said of Jaws: The Revenge, "I have never seen it... but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific." Not every actor can make $20 million a film, and even if they can, you cannot live on that forever if you plan to stay in the limelight. You gotta keep making movies to be able to keep making movies. And, they can't all be the greatest film ever, they can't all be Oscar-caliber, they can't all be blockbusters.
For example, it's hard to find the original source for this (it's quoted all over the Internet), Michael Ironside, who plays Katana, supposedly said:
I hated that script. We all did. Me, Sean, Chris... we all were in it for the money on this one. I mean, it read as if it had been written by a thirteen year old boy. But I'd never played a barbarian swordsman before, and this was my first big evil mastermind type. I figured if I was going to do this stupid movie, I might as well have fun, and go as far over the top as I possibly could. All that eye-rolling and foaming at the mouth was me deciding that if I was going to be in a piece of shit, like that movie, I was going to be the most memorable fucking thing in it. And I think I succeeded.
I mean, how fun would it be to make this movie. I mean, without the interventions of the film's producers and insurance companies, and without the economic problems in Argentina at the time. Sword fights, flying harnesses, stuntwork on top of trains and trucks, the opportunity for seriou over-the-top performance. Highlander II is playing now on my TV but I also went to the theater today to see Brigsby Bear (which I won't SPOIL much because it is awesome and worth seeing if you're in for a quirky, heartfelt drama made by the guys from Lonely Island). That film, at least in part, is about a group of friends making a movie to complete a TV show that will never be completed. They've got the costumes, they've got a camera, and they've got the gumption and creativity to just go out there and make something. And, I love that. It's the kind of thing I wish I had the will to do when I was younger. Just go out there and make it myself. I wrote a few screenplays (that I still think are pretty good) that would have been cool to put out there as actual films. Even if their budgets never got above what I could scrape together myself. Even if the actors involved weren't really that great. Even if hardly anyone ever actually say the thing. It's the reason I can forgive, and actually enjoy, Troll 2 because Rossella Drudi had an idea, had something to say, got together with her husband and they made that movie. They cast nobodies and locals and just did it. That's a good excuse for a movie being bad. A better one than what I said above. Highlander II may have had to deal with economic issues, and producers and insurance folks taking creative control once production had problems, but up front, before they got that far, they had Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside and John C McGinley, they had millions of dollars, and they had a built-in audience, even if that audience might not have been huge. It was their ball to drop and they dropped it. Taking that metaphor further, just getting the ball of Troll 2 off the ground was enough of a feat.
I was going to say that it's far easier to imagine people enjoying the Troll 2 set than the Highlander II set, but maybe that's not much of an example. The crew there, notably spoke mostly Italian, the actors were a bunch of locals who auditioned to be extras, and there was a lot of confusion on the set, and no complete script. Something like El Mariachi might be a better example. Detailed stunts, action sequences, a simple, straightforward revenge plot. And, nary a wasted shot.
Highlander II just feels like no one was having a good time. Director hated it and wanted his name taken off. Actors were just in it for the money or to get to visit Argentina (reportedly, that's the only reason Madsen took the job), and the backers were (appropriately) nervous and forced the film into a corner they thought would mean the most money. The actually artistry was bankrupted by the need for money. Cynical "Hollywood" at its worst.
Still, sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do, so you can keep on doing it.
And, you (I) gotta watch bad movies so you (I) can keep watching good movies...
In fact, one of the problems with being too strict with my theme this month is there's little room to talk about good movies. Wind River, The Glass Castle, Annabelle: Creation, Detroit--I've mentioned them but not said enough. And today, Brigsby Bear was awesome, quirky and weird but with heart.