Seems lots of people didn’t like the movie Prometheus. Well, I loved it. Start to finish. Sure there are issues… show me a movie that doesn’t have the odd glitch, or more than the odd glitch. What I loved is the spectacle and the attention to rising action. The pace is elegant. We’re given hooks, a little bit of conflict, some scene setting, a little more conflict, and more and more action. I’m not sure why so many of the reviews seem to have the thought that “it’s not as good as Alien“. To my mind it’s a different movie, in the way that Aliens is different to Alien: related but standing on its own feet. Granted Aliens was always a direct sequel, but they’re different movies. I guess Scott has a lot to live up to in that he directed Alien, but he’s changed as a film-maker and made a film that follows a different path (though at times almost the same path), and is fun to watch, especially in terms of its spectacle and story-telling. If you haven’t seen it, go see it. You might love it, you might hate it, but doesn’t that go for lots of things?
Following yesterday’s post on movie voice-over as a telling rather than showing technique, I was thinking about the seminal cult movie Blade Runner whose initial release included a narration, but later “Director’s Cut” versions eliminated that – making the movie, to my mind, stronger and more engaging. I sometimes wish I’d never seen that original, which seems to diminish the later “Final Cut”.
The invention of telling
One of the popular credos of creative writing is “show, don’t tell”. This is a kind of multi-cellular thing – sometimes for the sake of brevity or pace you’ve just got to write some exposition or state an emotion – but mostly not. I’m guessing it also depends on your audience too – who are you writing for?
Last weekend I watched the first few minutes of The Invention of Lying before switching it off. Now the movie has garnered some good reviews, and I do admire Ricky Gervais’s talent – his moment was the best thing about Night at the Museum (don’t get me started on that movie, whew) – and his energy, his comic timing and skills both on and off screen. The premise behind The Invention of Lying seems pretty cool too: a world where no one can tell a lie, upset by someone who discovers how to. The thing was – and here’s the point about show, don’t tell – the movie begins with a voice-over explaining all that.
Why explain so explicitly? Where’s the elegance, the subtlety, the build? I guess it’s worked on a level, given the positive reviews on IMDB, and since I didn’t watch the rest of the movie I can’t speak about it’s merits later on (just that the first voice over, and the first couple of lines of dialogue were enough to put me off). From the cover and blurb I already knew enough about all that – I guess I was looking for some chance to discover this world, to learn and grow with it, rather than being slammed with the obvious right off.
I’m in no position to dis the film – that’s not my intention – I just want to examine that technique and question it. What if they’d begun just with that city fly-over, then in the building as the nervous man (shown through his demeanour and actions) heads to his blind-date’s door, without the voice-over? What if their first moment of conversation was a little more subtle? Certainly, that would have engaged me more – and I likely would have watched beyond that.
Iron Man 2
I went to see Iron Man 2 last night and I would say that it’s mixed and fragmented. Some moments are superb, others lackluster. The action didn’t live up to my expectations, there were too many baddies and the story seemed to drift around without real urgency (perhaps a bit too much set up for an Avengers movie?). I guess I like my action flicks simple – one big threat, escalating danger and lots of stuff blowing up. When I start noticing continuity glitches (the angle of the box of strawberries on the table) then I know I’m not fully engaged.
The highlights, however, were anytime Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow were on screen together – the dialogue is busy and natural, their characters so real and fluid: those scenes alone made the movie worth seeing.
Certainly some of the effects are extraordinary, but given that just about anything can be done digitally now I guess I’m getting harder to amaze. I went with a mate, who loved it, says it’s better than the first, so it’s all just opinion anyway.
To double feature or not.
Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. So I watched Alien versus Predator, which, although a bit light and breezy (and filled with factual inconsistencies) still has some cool elements. Then, right after that I watched Aliens versus Predator Requiem.
Hmmm. So AVPR has its problems, but does have some cool elements too – I do like the dark forest with face-huggers. I’m not sure that it works so well as part two of a double feature. Maybe I should just watch it stand-alone with the commentary.
Another time I watched Pitch Black – one of my favourite low-budget movies. Again it has some problems and some logical inconsistencies, but it’s fun for what it is. Then I watched The Chronicles of Riddick. Hmmm, again. Riddick has its problems and its cool elements (I like the opening chase, with the bearded Diesel, and some of the prison scenes), but as a double with Pitch Black, I can’t recommend it.
What would I recommend? We stayed home to watch Stone of Destiny followed by Moon. Both intense, character studies, but wildly different – different enough that it’s easy to stay engaged. Another time, last year, I think, we saw The Hangover, followed by Inglourious Basterds. We had meant to see Bruno, but had misread the movie schedule, but had organised the time, so chose The Hangover – probably enjoyed it more since we had low expectations and it was better than those. When we got around to seeing Bruno, didn’t like it as much. Hmm. Anyway, back to that combo – Hangover then Tarantino – certainly no boredom, both such different movies, and both above average (though I struggle with Tarantino at any time … though he did do the Grindhouse thing, which I never saw). I wonder how that mixing up would work though for movies I’ve seen before and want to revist on DVD? I guess I’ll try it sometime – Bull Durham and AVPR, or Pitch Black and Wedding Crashers. Or maybe not.
In a brief moment I had to spare (well 98 minutes), I watched Suspension, an indie film with a cool concept – that time can be stopped by an individual, and the world manipulated while the rest of us are in suspension. It was hard to identify with the main character, sure he’d lost his family in a wreck, but he became creepy and scary. It was cool, plotwise, to think that there were alternatives the writers could have taken, but didn’t – not that it’s bad, just at times it didn’t quite gel for me. The end, though, brought it home well. I think it’s cool to see low-budget indie films like this from time to time since the hollywoodmachinery hasn’t cloyed it into romcom banality. And, surprisingly, the production values were excellent – those moments of stopped time kept me wondering “how did they do that?”: enough that I watched “the making of” (oops, so that’s more than 98 minutes of my life gone).
Green Zone is not Bourne, nor should it be
I got along to see Green Zone and enjoyed it for what it was – a well-paced political/military thriller. Some of the promotion for the movie – guns levelled, helicopters crashing and the star/director combo – seems to suggest that this is just Bourne by another name. A pity because it stands on its own as well-made cinema. Perhaps they should have made it before Ultimatum?
Avatar by Roger Dean
I’ve been a fan of Roger Dean’s art for a long time now – I bought his book Views when I was a teenager. As soon as I saw the Avatar previews, I could see the similarity to Dean’s work from the nineties. There is a bit of controversy about how much Avatar’s designers have borrowed Dean’s ideas – a quick Google search will give you a sense.
I did love Avatar. It’s a great rollercoaster ride that kept me mostly engaged for the three hours and it was worth travelling to a city with a 3D theatre to see it with specs on (yes, I live in a rural city). I do think the designs and ideas were extraordinary, and the 3D unobtrusive.
Certainly the covers of the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe – Live and Yes – Keys to Ascension albums predate Avatar’s design. I would guess that many of the Avatar designers were infants when ABWH came out. There is some good discussion of the similarities – like this post: more than I can say. I guess if it had been my paintings at the very least, a credit would have been nice, some consultation would have been nice, too, even without the idea of remuneration. I wonder now, though, how Dean’s long-held idea of a movie dealing with his floating islands would pitch to the studios.