9 Supporting Characters That (Nearly) Ruined Great Movies
No matter how good a movie is, if the characters aren’t convincing, things start to fall apart. While that means a flop if the lead is bad, it might not be the end if just a supporting character doesn’t make the grade. And there have been lots of supporting characters who came up short. Here are 9 of them.
FILM: The Godfather III (1990) DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola
Let’s just get this one right out the way, as Ms Coppola has long been chastised for her wooden performance in her father’s second sequel to the Godfather. While a lot of that criticism has escalated to unfair levels, admittedly, Coppola does lack the presence and weight the crucial character needs, playing the daughter of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), the former godfather who wants out but keeps getting pulled back in. But as this is about the supporting character and not the actor, the character itself is simply uninteresting. As Mary Corleone has gotten a lot of flack over the years, we’ll put on the list and move on.
FILM: Species (1995) DIRECTOR: Roger Donaldson
Admittedly not a great movie as it is, Species suffers from a lot of problems, but it is the usually very good Forest Whitaker as Dan Smithson, an “empath” who joins a government team to track down and kill an escaped alien/human hybrid that nearly derails the film totally. In the plot, Sil (Natasha Henstridge), a beautiful female made from spliced human and alien DNA, has broken out of the research facility where she was kept and goes on a murderous breeding rampage. The government team, led by Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) needs to stop her, and Dan can “sense” the girl. An over-the-top character with great (sarcasm) insight like “she didn’t like being locked up like that” after he learns the child was kept in an isolated room. Duh. However does he do it?
FILM: Crash (2004) DIRECTOR: Paul Haggis
This controversial Academy Award-winning drama about converging tragedies of racism in Los Angeles is a stylized melodramatic film with lots of hits and lots of misses. As multiple story-lines see social tensions bring ethnic groups face-to-face, Brendan Fraser plays local district attorney Rick Cabot and husband to Jean Cabot (Sandra Bullock), a white woman frightened of minorities. While Bullock demonstrates a serious dramatic side she rarely (to this point) let shine, Fraser’s character is a sort of hollow stand in that doesn’t do much but be the opposite of her. With the remaining ensemble cast having far more weight in the story, Rick Cabot feels wasted and Fraser’s performance stilted. Back to the center of the Earth for you!
Dr. Jonas Miller
FILM: Twister (1996) DIRECTOR: Jan de Bont
A movie that follows the adventures of storm-chasers already has a built-in villain: Tornadoes. Why do we need another? The tornadoes of this amazing visual-effects film are some of the best ever put on screen and provide some truly awe-inspiring and even frightening moments (Cow). But, apparently they weren’t enough. The movie also gives us Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes), a heavily-financed corporate meteorologist who rides into the movies in a caravan of big black SUVs, his smug, overbearing, always-right attitude constantly at odds with the film’s heroes, Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) and her estranged ex-husband William “Bill” Harding (Bill Paxton). Every moment with Miller is laughably bad and sucks the life out of thi otherwise fun action adventure. At least he gets what’s coming.
Lt. Jonathan Kendrick
FILM: A Few Good Men (1992) DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner
After two Marines in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base are accused of murder, a Navy lawyer, Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) is convinced it was a Code Red, an unwritten arm of justice that is delivered with violence. She asks for the case, but it is given to a smooth-talking deal-maker named Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), who ends up working with her. They head to Cuba to talk with the base commander Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) and meet Lt. Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland), a subordinate who answers to Jessup. A bit over-the-top that is nothing more than a textbook Marine stereotype, the character feels unnecessary, and only becomes aggravating, detracting and from the momentum of the main story conflict. Hope you can handle the truth.
FILM: Apollo 13 DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
The dramatic retelling of this true event sees the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission face a life-or-death situation when an explosion aboard their ship causes them to abort their trip to the moon. Now a rescue mission, NASA puts all their best people on the job to bring the three-man crew home. Part of the team at mission control is Dr. Chuck (Christian Clemenson), who oversees and monitors the medical condition of the flight crew. Based a real person, in the film, he’s portrayed as overly-sensitive and even highly gullible, the character becoming a bit of joke, and when he thinks all three astronauts have flat-lined, it’s played for a laugh but the character is so out of touch with what’s happening around him, the moment weakens the authenticity (despite many of the lines in the control being fed to actors by technical advisors). Houston, . . . you know the rest.
FILM: Dangerous Liaisons (1989) DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears
This historical drama based on the French play follows the sexually manipulative adventures of a pair of wealthy Parisian socialites. Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) hatches a plan with Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) to seduce a beautiful young virgin (Uma Thurman), the arranged future wife of an ex-lover. Meanwhile, Valmont sets out to conquer the lovely and pure Madame Marie de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), unexpectedly falling in love. On the side of all this is fresh-faced Keanu Reeves, who despite his best efforts, is well out of his league. Dancey is a wimpy, contrived character that drags every scene he’s in to screeching halt. A year before Reeves’ career-defining character (until Neo) in the hit Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, we can already see that breathless surfer boy busting out of his 18th Century knee breeches and vested waistcoat.
FILM: The Lord of the Rings (Trilogy) DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
Easily the most controversial pick on the list, Arwen (Liv Tyler) certainly has her fans, and Tyler is in no way a bad actress and does her best, but comes up short sharing the stage as it were with others that simply command far more authenticity. As the elvish princess who chooses a mortal life to be with her lover Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Tyler has a few good moments but lacks the deeper emotional punch that her character needed. Ironically, there is no humanity to her tortured princess and while Tyler looks incredibly convincing as an elf, compared to her co-stars, can’t reach the level where they are performing. Arwen, who starts out great in an exciting chase sequence, ends up a woman in waiting, reduced to lots of tears and mournful moments. She shall not pass.
Mary Jane Watson
FILM: Spider-Man 2 DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi
Spider-Man 2 is considered one of the greatest superhero movies ever made, and deservedly so. In it, the titular hero (Tobey Maguire) battles a new nemesis, a former good guy turned bad, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) while trying to woo the girl of his dreams, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Much like the first film, poor Mary Jane spends most of the time in jeopardy, but she’s also underdeveloped, a one-dimensional character that is designed solely as a plot device rather than an interesting part of the story. While Peter Parker/Spider-Man were fleshed out and given some real opportunities to do more with the character, Watson became a thing to possess or be saved. Dunst too, whom we really love, is a bit lifeless as well, and while she has a few good moments, her character lacks the depth and presence that would have truly made her memorable. At least that’s what our Spidey senses tell us.
Who are some supporting characters you think nearly ruined your favorite films?