August 22nd, 2011
|10:35 am - The Thing Prequel|
They are making prequels to The Thing and Alien, and Blade Runner, which are my favourite SF films. I adore all three, and have since the first time I saw them. Each one blew me away. Obviously I feel very dubious about what these prequels will mean. Will they sully the live hosts that they latch onto?
Here is the trailer for The Thing which is due out this autumn. It is set in the Norwegian Camp, and I'll be honest - it looks pretty good. It looks like a competent and authentic extension of the original film. Not a degrading of the concept.
But now I think about it: in this new film I see much less variation in the physical type of the men, who are (nearly*) all stocky blond bearded thirty-somethings. Also there's a lone woman* - gimmick or inclusion? I don't know how those two differences will change the dynamic. A crucial theme of the original film was the diverse individuality of the crew, trapped within a contained setting, and the conflict between different types who at times barely tolerated each other. The human granularity of community, in contrast to the viscid alien homogeneity of The Thing. Will this theme be lost in favour of monster-shooting? Now I am talking myself out of enjoying the prequel. I must wait and see.
Perhaps the relative physical homogeneity I see in the trailer is an authentic representation of a Norwegian antarctic camp in the early 1980s, and a wide range of lively personalities will be vividly embodied by a clever script. I worry that an American production company might see 'Norwegian' as a type, with a number of iterations, if i can put it like that, rather than massively diverse individuals in their own right.
Anyway, talking about clever script, here is a YouTube analysis of the abiding question over the ending of the Carpenter film- is Childs infected?
Part one (12 mins)
Part two (5 mins)
The ending is ambiguous: has humanity defeated the invasion, or is one of the men a hidden alien? Here is a lengthy metafilter discussion of the issue.
Rant mode ON - I think that Hollywood studios are stupid to churn out vapid spectacle film which gross quick and fizzle out, and don't stand rewatch let alone analysis. Oh, how annoyed I am about how they waste SF opportunities nowadays. It would be relatively easy to give a film like Cowboys and Aliens a core narrative authenticity - because I am sure there are story telling geniuses out there asking to be hired. The young audience who want to see spaceships go boom would still go to the film, if it had a proper grown up storyline, plus it would have a thirty-year money-generating lifespan. Why not do it?
* ETA - on rewatching I see a second woman, and a black guy, but the blond-and-beardy ratio is high.
Yeah, the trailer for The Thing looks good - effectively a remake, even if it is technically a prequel. As for the Antarctic base crew, they looked like the real thing to me - stocky, bearded thirtysomethings are pretty much the rule - except that their beards were unrealistically well-trimmed.
The inclusion of the female scientist is quite clever, intentionally or otherwise. At that time it was quite difficult for women to go to Antarctica. The British Antarctic Survey only started sending women South at all in the late eighties, and I'm pretty sure wintering jobs were male-only until the mid nineties. I don't know the relevant dates for American bases, but I know they were very hostile to the idea of taking women South for a long time. Norway, by contrast, was sending female scientists South from the seventies - so a female scientist who wanted to spend time in Antarctica would have been well advised to get involved with a Norwegian research team.
Very interesting. I think from the trailer she's a paleobiologist, gone to check out their strange find? And then, the greater gender equality of the Norwegian base would make that more plausible.
It's true the physical homogeneity of the crew seems authentic. I am just concerned that it might be translated into homogeneity of characterisation. But that's me jumping to a negative reading.
The whole film is an extended bottle episode, and I think it will stand or fall by the personalities, and the strength of the story. Hop they realise that. Not sure who is directing, can't remember.
|Date:||August 22nd, 2011 02:05 pm (UTC)|| |
Norway, by contrast, was sending female scientists South from the seventies - so a female scientist who wanted to spend time in Antarctica would have been well advised to get involved with a Norwegian research team
That's interesting, and does make sense.
Inspired by this I looked at the Wikipedia entry
, three named female characters, but importantly the makers were very keen to not remake Carpenter's version because it's too good, have to say I pretty much agree with them there, they had a good quality 70mm print at Bradford's FFW a few years back, it was still a bloody good film.
I see the new one is directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, who hasn't directed anything since 1996. I will try to remain optimistic.
|Date:||August 22nd, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)|| |
Oh, how annoyed I am about how they waste SF opportunities nowadays. It would be relatively easy to give a film like Cowboys and Aliens a core narrative authenticity - because I am sure there are story telling geniuses out there asking to be hired. The young audience who want to see spaceships go boom would still go to the film, if it had a proper grown up storyline, plus it would have a thirty-year money-generating lifespan. Why not do it?
I agree with this-there've always been nice bubblegum movies with minimal plot, but even minimal plot wasn't no plot, some of the modern spectacle films, especially Michael Bay films, seem to be "big fight, plot hook to get us to the next fight, another fight, something to link it to the next one", and you just can't remember what's going on, or even care.
They're not all like that though-the recent Batman films (and indeed Inception) are story/plot driven and massively succesful.
I guess at some point they'll notice overall sales for some films, including DVD sales, is much higher than for others, and possibly then figure out the cause?
There was a discussion on Crooked Timber which attributed the modern dilution of scripts to endless rewrites. I think writing-by-committee can be excellent - from The King James Bible to The Simpsons - but that's different from writing-by-dithering, trying to please everyone, and ending up with a big damn mess.
Not to mention one little point about how the money works. In the US system at least, you stand to make a lot more money out of a movie if you have a screenwriting credit than if you just take a flat fee and no credit for some minor work. So when more than one writer is involved (which is most of the time) there can be big fights about who is or is not entitled to a credit. This entitlement is based on whether you have substantially altered the script, and is adjudicated by the WGA comparing the draft you worked on to the one preceding your involvement. If all you've done is make the love interest a redhead and added a couple of dick jokes, I guess you'll have to settle for a flat fee, but if you rewrote a load of dialogue, completely changed a subplot and merged two characters into one you're probably in line for a credit and potentially more money.
Which all sounds fair enough, but it does mean that if you are asked to revise a script, and you read and think it's pretty great, all it needs is a couple more dick jokes and the love interest should probably be a redhead, then you're choosing to make a lot less money. Whereas if you think it's pretty great, but decide to massively rewrite it anyway, then you can maybe afford to pay off that increasingly insistent loan shark.
|Date:||August 25th, 2011 10:29 am (UTC)|| |
Prequels? I usually run away. George Lucas has scarred me for life.
Yes, I know what you mean. I am trying now to think of a prequel that was worth watching. I'm not saying there never has been one, but none comes to mind right now.