January 28, 2014

9 Movies Which Became Dated in Unexpected Ways

Like the all of us, movies age, some better than others. Changes in hairstyles, clothing, culture, technology and special effects are just a few things which render beloved films products of their time. It's unavoidable. Sure, the special effects in War of the Worlds are archaic, Blazing Saddles is more shocking today because of its liberal use of the n-word (uttered exclusively by white folks), Warren Beatty's 70's hair is hilarious and the Judgment Day of Terminator 2 has come and gone without my toaster trying to kill me.

But this list isn't about those movies.

Sometimes, as the old saying goes, shit happens. Unexpected things no one could have seen coming can forever-change the way we look at certain movies in an instant (sometimes with a single mugshot, as you'll see). 

For example...

Lance Armstrong plays himself in an amusing cameo towards the end of the movie. His story was once one of the most inspirational in all of sports...a guy who overcame testicular cancer to win a slew of Tour de France titles. Playing-up what we all thought we knew of him, his appearance in Dodgeball provided one of the biggest laughs in the movie. Since then, it's been revealed Armstrong doped his way to all those victories (while simultaneously belittling those who questioned his athletic integrity). He's since been stripped of all his titles and is now a douchebag poster boy.

Clive Cussler's novel was originally published in 1976, and the subsequent film was released in 1980. Both speculated the possibility of the famous ship being salvaged by lifting it from the ocean floor intact. It was assumed at the time Titanic was still in one piece, proven wrong in 1985 when a deep-sea expedition discovered the ship had actually broken in half while going down. Revised accounts of the sinking have also rendered A Night to Remember and Titanic (1953) unexpectedly dated as well.

KING KONG (1976) 
The classic original story got a 70's style upgrade in this ambitious (and idiotic) remake. Instead of journeying to Skull Island to shoot a movie, our heroes are looking for precious oil (a sign of the times back then). However, the biggest change is during the climax, when Kong decides to climb the recently-constructed World Trade Center rather than the rickety old Empire State Building. Eventually, the Twin Towers became the most iconic image of the New York skyline. After they fell down on 9/11, it became difficult to see any previously-made film featuring a shot of the Towers without feeling momentarily sad. Most such scenes were simply used to quickly establish New York as the setting (i.e. Men in Black, The Usual Suspects, Deep Impact, half of Woody Allen's entire filmography). But in this version of King Kong, the World Trade Center is crucial to the plot.

The Twin Towers were also prominently featured (to a lesser extent) in Escape from New York, in which Manhattan Island has become a maximum security prison. While the ruins of New York may have been depicted as an urban hellhole in 1997 (they year the film takes place), at least the towers were still standing.

This 1993 film features Sylvester Stallone as John Spartan, a wrongfully-convicted cop sentenced to be cryogenically frozen for his crimes. He's thawed-out in 2032 when the police of San Angeles have no idea how to contain another escaped criminal, Simon Phoenix, a sociopath Spartan was trying to capture back in the 90s. Late in the movie, Phoenix has taken control of the cryo-prison and is releasing various murderers, rapists and psychos to help him take over. He sees that Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the frozen inmates and spouts, “I love that guy!” At the time of this film's release, Dahmer was a household name as a recently-captured serial killer who had a penchant for raping, murdering and eating his male victims. He's name-dropped in Demolition Man for a cheap laugh, but only a year later, Dahmer was killed in prison by another inmate, obviously making it impossible for him to be revived in 2032.

Aside from Deems Taylor's cornball narration, the only thing which truly dates this classic animated film is the “Rite of Spring” segment, which chronicles the evolution of life all the way through the extinction of the dinosaurs. At the time (1940), there were various theories of how dinosaurs became extinct. Fantasia depicts their demise as something which happened slowly, through drought and starvation. Since then, the commonly-accepted theory is the dinosaurs were wiped out by a sudden cataclysmic event, like a comet or asteroid.

Helen Mirren...hot in ANY century.
When this sequel to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1984, the Soviet Union was still a global threat to democracy everywhere (just ask Ronald Reagan...oh, wait). 2010 didn't envision things changing too much over the next 26 years, so the main tension in the film stemmed from the U.S. and Soviets on the brink of nuclear war. However, the Soviet Union was totally dissolved by 1991.

This is a very minor detail, but renders the movie dated nonetheless. The crew of the Enterprise is trying to save Earth from a malevolent alien entity known as V'Ger. It turns out V'Ger is actually Voyager 6, a space probe launched in the 90s by NASA a few hundred years earlier. The Voyager Program was a real-life NASA endeavor, with two probes launched in 1977, roughly around the time shooting for this film began. For the sake of timeliness & realism, the writers of Star Trek understandably incorporated it into their story. Unfortunately for them, NASA killed the Voyager program shorty afterwards, meaning there wasn't even a Voyager 3, let alone a Voyager 6.

I suppose whether or not Mel Gibson's religious snuff film belongs on this list depends on one's perspective. Upon its initial release, many groups labeled it anti-sematic, while legions of others viewed as the ultimate depiction of the final hours of Jesus' life. Another revisionist argument is the movie was already dated because of the time-honored depiction of Jesus as a white guy. But what truly changes one's perspective of this movie comes from writer-director Gibson's actions afterwards, such as defending his dad's beliefs as a Holocaust denier and Mel's drunken, anti-sematic run-ins with cops. I cannot speak for everyone, but for me (I truly admired the film at first), it's now hard to watch such a skillfully-created movie without wondering if it's simply one man spilling his own hatred onto the screen.

THE NAKED GUN (and its sequels) 
All three films in this franchise were made back when everyone loved O.J. Simpson. It was arguably because of his image as a nice guy that he was cast in the role of Nordberg (originally played by Peter Lupus in the TV series), even though he wasn't exactly what one would consider a gifted actor. Then he was involved in the trial of the 20th Century when accused of stabbing his wife and her lover to death. While he was eventually found not-guilty, it was obvious to everyone with a pulse he got away with murder. O.J.'s pathetic later attempts to cash-in on his new notoriety left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, including those who once championed his innocence. Watching The Naked Gun today, while the movie's still hilarious, seeing Simpson as the loveable buffoon we all thought he once was is a bit disturbing.

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