Friday, December 14, 2012

Catching Up: The Blockbusters

Not better known as Alien 5, the recent Ridley Scott flick Prometheus (2012 Ridley Scott [uh.. d'uh?]), is kinda sorta maybe a prequel to the Alien franchise.  If I do recall correctly, it started out as a state of denial from Ridley, a "nope not a prequel, nope it ain't" before things started becoming clearer it was. What I am not sure was whether he bent to the pressure of the windy studio producers or it was his plan all along and just didn't want to have all the marketing focused on it being the latest Alien movie.

It would have done better as an independent movie, removed from the franchise entirely.  It most definitely is a prequel but it tries so hard to fit everything into what a sequel-prequel expects and even tosses in easter egg references to other movies in the franchise, just for the fun of it.  Conspiracy voice says, "The Producers demanded it !!"  So, being a prequel we must have eggs (new shiny black metal ones), face huggers (or even arm hugging penis/vagina monsters), a chest burster (or abdomen abortion), quickly growing monsters and a friendly milk blooded robot. I honestly would have preferred them excised from the production and focused on the separate plot --- the Engineers.  Even just that very faint tie to the original, in giving some explanation to the space jockey, would have been fine by me.

The movie is about a race of beings that seeded earth with their own DNA, participating in the uplift of mankind from apes to homo sapien.  A pair of scientists in a near future (but before Alien) have been exploring this concept for a long time and have finally found the puzzle piece they needed -- the map back to the likely home of these Engineers.  And thus the Weylund Corporation outfits a team and a spaceship to travel to this planet and find these Engineers.

As is expected of a movie seen months ago, as this whole "catching up" thread is dealing with, I am left with the vague memories left to a guy who has too much useless work info in his head to hang onto the important stuff, like the movies he sees and claims to review.  What remains was a sense of enjoyment but overall disappointment, better yet... lack of enthusiasm.  It looks great, has great tension and acting but that is the least I should expect from a  Ridley Scott movie.  What I want is memorable story and characters!

What I got was a muddled adventure with tenuous ties to the universe it claims to be part of and plot holes that just seem oblivious to the plot.  Why would a geologist with mapping bots get lost?  The biologist is afraid of dead bodies (and just about everything else) but sticks his hand out to an alien snake.  We all know what snakes do.  Always run perpendicular to a falling spaceship; you cannot outrun it.  And nobody does anything logically though I would assumed the entire crew was hired to be logical and useful considering the trillion dollar budget in the whole mission.  These are not kids thinking exploring the basement is a good idea; these are scientists and skilled starship crew. Next time Weylund should just send all robots.

So, from an unnecessary prequel we get an unnecessary reboot -- The Amazing Spider-Man (2012, Marc Webb).  I get it, the Batman reboot movies were brilliant and did a wonderful thing raising the character out the technicolor muck he had been left in.  But the Spiderman movies were still pretty recent and while the third was pretty terrible (emo Parker) I think a reboot was not needed, let alone a reboot that basically recreates all the primary elements of the first movie -- the by the numbers origin.

But still, it looked and ran well.  Seriously, it looks so good.  Spidey swings marvellously from building to skyscraper to subway bridges to skyscraper cranes in a heart pounding and stomach churning (ok, maybe just me) manner.  Though I could have done without the sequence that rips off the video game Mirror's Edge.  The choice of the Lizard as the villain in this one was great, but once again, they seem to be basing the backward reflection for the Spider-Man character to the cartoon, not the actual comics. Oh well, at least it wasn't Mephisto Mysterio and his fishbowl helmet.  Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane was different (different good not different bad) and I liked the immature feel that Andrew Garfield instilled in teenage Peter Parker, more a Ultimate Spider-Man than amazing, despite the movie title.

But at the end of the day, or the movie, I was still left wondering why.  Are we now making movies for a generation that hasn't seen anything made older than 7.5 years ago?  Is the Internet generation so addicted to the next next next thing that they cannot find a download of an old movie?  Or even worse, will not ever do by choice? It wasn't even as if they wanted to tie Spider-Man into the Avengers franchise, which will never happen due to competing studios.  So, a good movie ruined (for me) by meh.

Speaking of remembering and unnecessary reboots or recreations, why was Total Recall (2012, Len Wiseman) done? More importantly why was a remake of an Arnie movie only barely based on a PK Dick story even less based on the original story? No Mars, just a lame tunnel dug through the centre of the Earth to Chin... I mean Australia. And if the kids are that fuzzy on the older Spider-Man movies how the fuck could they even know an older Total Recall was made starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his pre-Governor role?

But I saw it didn't I ?  Both.  And in the theatre.  But I must confess I had ulterior motives.  It was because Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel were in it.  Well, yes, but really it was because I was almost in it.  Last year for my birthday I took a few days off and spent time on the set as an extra.  But of course, I was cut.  Still, I absolutely love seeing a movie that I have seen from the inside.  I knew exactly what the grotty, rainy streets of the Colony smelled liked not just looked like.

The movie itself is a by the books action flick in classic neo-scifi feel, sort of like I, Robot or Minority Report.   While not good movies in the least, I like the scifi settings they portray and can enjoy them solely for that.  This one has flying cars, robot cops, hand-phones and vid screens galore.  The action is over the top and non-sensical but really, I didn't care.  I had a good time and the girls were pretty.

Referencing Will Smith and Tom Cruise (see referenced movies above) is it odd that they are both in post-apocalypse Earth with spaceship flying humans living off Earth movies, this year?

Aaaand speaking of over-the-top and non-sensical, we have the only download of the bunch -- Battleship (2012, Peter Berg).  Seriously?  Not a remake, not a reboot but a honest to goodness movie based on a classic boardgame.  Yes, that one.  But not the classic one you grew up with (OK, maybe your parents grew up with) but a version few played that had aliens in it !  At least, that is what I kept on telling myself.  You see, this one has aliens invading Hawaii (Pearl Harbour wasn't enough?) and encasing the islands in a force field which ... forces the battleships (on maneuvers) to fight a losing battle with the aliens.

This reminded me a lot of another alien movie,  in fact the one that started this whole blog of Battle: LA.  If you squint real hard at the aliens you can almost assume that while they were building force fields in Hawaii they were invading the LA coast.  But unlike the former which had a gritty war movie feel, Battleship was more a rah-rah Transformers kind of movie.  Big explosions, massive patriotism and more nonsense than you can fit in a battleship.  And not once, not a single time did Liam Neeson utter, "You sunk my battleship!!"  Insert pouty emoticon.