Just watched the new Total Recall and I watched Prometheus in the theater when it came out and I think I can safely say that these two movies are what’s wrong with Hollywood.
- Single Flavor
- Dependence Upon Stupidity
- Lack of Innovation
Spoiler Alert. (If you haven’t seen either of these turds and actually desire to (or the original Total Recall, Ghostbusters, or Alien), it’s probably best that you not read any further.)
(Also, this post is a long one.)
Remember how Ghostbusters was capable of being a suspenseful, science fiction comedy with well-developed characters? Very occasionally Hollywood chokes and coughs up another one of these (Evolution, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon) but for the most part such things are no longer allowed. If something is a horror, it is just a horror (more appropriately described as murder-porn). No suspense, just people putting drills into one another a la Hostel or any of the Saw movies beyond the first.
Movies used to have this thing called character development. Almost like even though they were supposed to be funny or scary, they were still expected to be a story as well. Modern movies have “plot” in the same sense that the girls at a strip club wear “clothing”. It’s kind of there, but mostly just out of habit.
The original Total Recall you actually got to know some of the characters. Quaid, the crooked cab driver, Tony (guy in the resistance with the half melty face), midget hooker, even Kohagen, Richter and Lori (the bad guys) had their own back stories that affected who they were. There was dialogue, plot development and all that good stuff going on.
The remake cut out all but the very, very bare minimum of this and replaced it with wall to wall action sequences. No Mars. No motivations but greed and fear (the easiest most basic motivations to describe). They even cut out Richter’s whole character. Why bother when you could just give the hot wife, Lori, more screen time? I mean originally Richter was gunning to kill Quaid against orders because Lori used to be Richter’s girlfriend, but in the re-make Lori is gunning to kill Quaid against orders for what reason again?
Think about it this way, if we go through the cast in order of billing down to the doc at Rekall (everyone who originally had a major speaking/plot development role) in the 1990 version they had 11 actors. In 2012 they whittled it down to 7. That’s more than a 30% reduction and each role got less speaking time even considering several of them were, in essence, two roles mashed into one.
For example, at Rekall the doc and salesman roles were not only combined, but they also removed the following conversations: convincing Quaid to use the service, Q&A to tailor the memory, Quaid’s freak-out and the argument between the doc and salesman about what happened to and what to do with Quaid. And this was typical of the conversational/plot reduction. Basically they boiled it down to a single flavor movie about fight scenes and car chases. Sad.
Dependence Upon Stupidity
The dependence upon stupidity comes in two types: stupidity of characters and the stupidity of viewers.
Example of the first type:
In Prometheus the team goes into the big alien structure to search it. Along the way they encounter a decapitated, eons dead alien corpse; the first alien ever found by humans I’d like to add. And who is the first person on the team to look at this find, freak out and decide it’s time to GTFO? The biologist of course. I mean really, why would the team’s biologist have any interest in examining the first alien corpse humanity has ever found? This is the same biologist, by the way, who, in his very next scene, finds some nasty looking alien snakes with lots of sharp teeth swimming around in black goo and goes up to pet them like they’re kittens. The biologist.
Also, who in this scenario of investigating the alien structure is the first person to get lost? The guy with the nifty map-making drones that had the whole building mapped out before they even went inside of course. Silly me. Why wouldn’t the dude with the map be the leader of not just the first group to get lost, but the only group in the whole move that gets lost?
Example of the second type:
In Prometheus there was a scene in which the protagonist uses an automated surgeon to remove an alien from their body. This alien is about the size of a cat when removed. Afterward it gets sealed inside of the room with the automated surgeon: specifically, a sterile operating theater. An undetermined amount of time later that door is opened again and the alien attacks the first thing it sees. Only now it is the size of a horse. Where did the extra mass come from while it was locked in that sterile operating theater? Was there a buffet setup in the background and I just missed it? No. Bah. Who cares? The audience will probably be largely composed of unquestioning Neanderthals anyway.
Basically, no one bothers writing logical stories with believable characters or sequences of events anymore. Remember in Ghostbusters what the biggest mistake made by our protagonists was? They forgot to get a permit from the EPA. Kind of believable for a bunch of academics turned professionals, wouldn’t you say? And was it really that difficult or take that much away from the rest of the movie to include a little logic there? I don’t think so.
Or in Alien the biggest mistake they made was not waiting for the full quarentine time period to pass before bringing Kane back aboard. However, there was one person there who wanted to wait, the people who argued against (a bunch of untrained spaceage long-haul truckers) it did so advocating saving the life of their crew member and friend, and in the end the decision was made by someone who turned out to be a traitor anyway. It was a mistake, but the motivations made sense.
This kind of crap has to be what Hollywood *wants* in their movies though considdering what they pay for this drivel. I mean, Ridley Scott made both Prometheus ($130 Million) and the original Alien ($11 Million). The cost was more than 10 times as much for Prometheus and the same person in the driver’s seat on both projects.
Lack of Innovation
Well remakes aside, let me just point something out to you if you haven’t noticed it already.
Tough female protagonist, ship arrives at alien planet, team heads down to surface, investigation of structure there, dead alien corpse, room full of cylindrical objects, they contain living violent alien creatures, team member gets infected, murderous alien attacks, betrayal by duplicitous android, mass slaughter of crew members, female protagonist facing off with virtually unbeatable alien foe, defeats alien, escapes in a ship, final log entry “last survivor of the…” blah blah blah.
Now you tell me, which movie did I just describe? Alien (1979) or Prometheus (2012)? Nuff said?