Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Great Expectations - Separating the Slip-Ups From the Unforgivable Sins Since...

Or - I Throw My Hat In On the Mountain of Internet Chatter On Prometheus

For the record, while I can appreciate a good bit of fanservice
as much as the next guy...Ridley, you really should have known
playing up the ties to Alien was gonna bite you here.

So...it's technically a bit behind, but what the Hell?

There's been a lot of buzz on the web over the last two weeks about Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus.'  It's been a rather curious mix.  On the one hand, it's doing fairly well critically, sitting at a comfortable 73% on Rotten Tomatoes and having enjoyed a 2 week stay at the #2 spot at the box office, even this week only sliding down to 4th.

When you look on the web, however, it's a different story.  Just going on the internet's reviews, this movie would seem an absolute flop.  Sure, some people have liked it, but there has been a LOT of hate for this movie.  I mean genuine, venomous hatred.  Entire articles about putting one's finger in the plot holes and wiggling around to get more blood to come out of them.  People acting like this is one of the worst films to come out of Hollywood this summer (I'm going to guess this is partially because their survival instinct has allowed them to forget things like last week's 'That's My Boy' coming out.)

I'm going to start by saying, I'm not going to defend this...not entirely, anyway.  I'm not going to say the movie is perfect.  I do feel the story had some very good ideas at its core, but the execution DID leave a lot to be desired (sorry Lindelof, those stunts work well when you only need to keep people distracted for an hour a week.  It loses much of its allure when you only get one shot to keep people busy and you're still expected to have an explanation for why you kept them so busy.) 

I'd also like to mention on an aside, though this is only a partial slight against this movie and more a general complaint about the current industry in general, that Guy Pearce's makeup as old man Weyland was, for a film with this much attention paid to its visuals, downright awful.  It looked rather last minute and was definitely another strike against the film, albeit not one as damning as the script.  Plus, again, I can't say this one's so much exclusively a fault of this movie, as there has been a fair amount of terrible aging jobs in recent film these days.  Especially sad when films from decades earlier, using more basic makeup, can manage to add 30 or more years to an actor's face and be much more convincing for it.  Or, as others have asked, they could have simply cast an older actor from the get-go and leave Pearce to the viral videos.

But, like I said, that's an aside and not fully prevalent to my main point.

Despite these complaints, I do feel the hatred for this film is rather exaggerated.  To put it mildly.  I mean, from the way some of these people have declared it, you'd think the film had absolutely nothing of value to offer for it.  Which isn't the case.  Yes, the script was a mess of conveniences, awkwardly telegraphed symbolism and interesting, if half-formed ideas.  At the same time, the cast mostly still manage to make good work of what they're given, despite some receiving pretty underwhelming tools to work with (especially Fassbender, who even many of the most angry reviews can still manage to speak well for) and the visuals are some of the best I've seen in a film this year thus far.

At worst, I'd say it's still about a B- in terms of its quality.  The script is certainly a weak point, but it's not bad enough to sink the whole deal when the rest of the pieces mostly manage to carry themselves well.

So why the hate?  Why is it there are people that act like this movie was such an utter waste of their time, even as crappier films can and have been released this year.

Honestly, I think it's a large part the inevitable backlash that occurs from heightened expectation.

It's easy to forget a dismissable abortion like the above-mentioned TMB because no one had high hopes for it.  Sandler's career has been limping along for ages now and this is just another nail in its casket, albeit not as damning as Jack and Jill.  Prometheus, however, was something people legitimately wanted to be good.  As they had every reason to, mind you.  I'm not saying people are to blame for the fact that the movie is being hated.  Simply that a lot of the dislike for this seems to be more an exaggerated response.

People in general were expecting a lot of this film, both with regards to its relationship to Alien, and as the next big summer blockbuster after The Avengers.  Unfortunately for the crew here, with an opening act like that, they REALLY needed to bring an A-game on all fronts.  So when one of the team's star players underperformed with a script that expected its viewers to accept his 'build a lot of mysteries, answer none of them' style that managed to keep him working on TV well enough, people were quick to catch his failure.

This was a film that should have been better than what it was.  Does this necessarily make it a bad film?  Not particularly.  Nor does it make it a great one.  It's a pretty decent film that I'd argue is at least worth seeing in theaters to really get the most out of the visuals. 

Unfortunately, because people were expecting more of it (and again, that's not entirely their fault,) and thanks to the general 'love it or hate it' extremes that have become so prevalent on the web in the last decade or so, this in turn has translated to people calling it an unforgivable mess of a movie and acting like it has absolutely nothing of any value to give to a moviegoer.

Of course, part of this may also be a matter of timing.  We're still in the first weeks of release for a film that had spent a LOT of time building to a boil with viral marketing campaigns and general hype being played as far as the studios could get them to go.  The promotion was handled as such to work a good chunk of the web fanbase into a mild frenzy for this.  A risky game to play no matter who you are.  I mean, if you can please the people, great.  But if you're film stumbles, that crowd you've worked up won't hesitate to turn on you in an instant.

Consider, if you will, the infamous summer of 1999, for example.  Granted, the web wasn't quite as connected back then, so this didn't have quite the same levels, but the principle will remain the same here.
That summer saw the release of the much awaited, and hyped, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.  We had a lot of hopes riding on that movie...and, despite bringing some serious star power, Lucas managed to completely underwhelm everyone.

At the time, admittedly somewhat understandably, the web was PISSED.  Episode I hate became a sport in some circles of the web (in some, it till is, but that's a matter for another discussion.)  You'd swear everyone who saw this movie got treated to a reel of George Lucas punching their parents and then violating their most beloved family pets before he wiped is buttocks with the money they'd just shelled out for tickets.  It angered people THAT much.

Flash forward to now.  Sure, some people still REALLY hate the movie...but for the most part, people have calmed down.  The general consensus is more that it was just a disappointment or a forgettably bad movie rather than something that would drive people to absolute hatred.

I suspect, given time, Prometheus will follow along similar lines.  It hasn't even been a month since its release, so a lot of the hype and subsequent disappointment are still pretty fresh in everyone's minds.  The further it gets from its initial public consciousness, the absolute "Fuck this movie!" mentality will likely cool to "Eh.  It was a letdown." or "It was OK.  Could have been better." or any number of iterations in between.

As it stands, I'm still marking the film as 'watchable, if flawed.'  I plan to give it a rewatch later down the line when the hype has died down to see if my opinion changes any now that I won't have it being constantly out there to effect me in any way, though I suspect I may still look at it with the same level of "Just OK."  That I currently see it as.

Unless Ridley Scott plans to replay his 'Kingdom of Heaven' hat trick and turn up a director's cut that SERIOUSLY reinvents the movie, anyway.  That will be a whole other matter to discuss when the time comes.  For now, I'm just going to leave it at not really worth the hype, but not really deserving of the contempt either.  A largely pretty good effort sadly hindered in one of its vital spots by two writers who, based off their resumes, were probably not the most experienced people for the job (between them only two other feature films had been written prior to this.  Of them one tanked horribly and the other was based on an existing piece of media, so he kind of had half the story structured for him.)

A shame, certainly, but not one to really get as angry as some people have over.

...interestingly on the note of Lindelof, no one seemed to mind the holes in his Star Trek reboot as badly.  Though it probably helps that expectations seemed to be generally lower for that movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment