Here’s the lowdown: if we want to be baffled and perplexed, we’ll read a quantum physics textbook or listen to Gary Busey expound on Buddhist philosophy. Otherwise, life needs to make g-darn sense. This rule applies doubly for movies. In the realm of cinema, there’s nothing too criminal about an errant storyline or the occasional bizarre character motive. But the below films are in a league of their own; they’re grade-A noodle scratchers that leave us way more irritated than intrigued.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Okay, Mr. Kubrick, we were with you for most of the movie: astronauts find a mysterious monolith on the surface of the moon, then subsequently embark on a manned voyage to Jupiter to see what’s up. Then HAL, the onboard computer, turns into a kill-crazy diva and croons a few bars of Daisy. Easy peasy. But those last fifteen minutes of run-time are something out of a peyote-fuelled cyber-nightmare. Below is just a sample. And it doesn’t even touch on the insane ‘old man reaching out to the monolith at the foot of his bed’ sequence.
Even writer/director Darren Aranofsky’s NAME is confusing — it sounds like you can keep saying it for all eternity (“Darrenaranaranaranaranofsky”). His first major studio release was Pi, a brain-slap of a film about a man struggling to uncover the power behind humanity’s nerdiest number. In addition to the endless math talk, there’s an unreliable narrative, plus more conspiracies and hallucinations than you can shake an abacus at. And oh, that weird, weird ending.
Spoiler alert: the real impossible mission here involves following the storyline after the first 20 minutes. What should have been a fun, simple spy mission flick quickly turns into an intricate matrix of people, places, names and action, all seemingly related, yet somehow not quite. Imagine watching a DVD of Memento with the chapters on ‘shuffle.’ That’s the level of narrative cohesion you should expect. But with helicopters and big ‘splosions.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Given the sprawling special effects budget for the third Pirates installment, there clearly wasn’t enough money kicking around for lucid storytelling. The basic gist, as best as we can piece it together: Will and Elizabeth are being chased by a Chinese pirate guarding the entranceway to World’s End, where Captain Jack is behind held. Well, not there, per se, but in Davy Jones’ Locker. Meanwhile, formerly dead Captain Barbossa and Lord Cutler Beckett also want in on the Sparrow action, the latter doing some potential bargaining with Jones, given that he possess a chest containing his heart for some reason. Guh? Hey, remember when these movies used to be about pirates? Of the Caribbean?
It ain’t just us here at MovieTime thinking this: in an online poll, Vanilla Sky was actually voted the most confusing film of all time. The weird title should have been the first red flag: what the frig is a ‘vanilla sky’? That aside, we’re handed a story about a guy (Tom Cruise) who’s been pretty badly disfigured in a car crash. So far so good. Alas, then it ventures into dealing with dreams within reality within dreams within cryogenics (!) within randomness. And not in an Inception kinda way, where as long as you can count to four you can still keep up with the action. A triple doctorate in filmmaking, medicine and psychology won’t save you from this muddy confusion.