Tuesday, June 12, 2012

PROMETHEUS, Or How I Learned To Manage My Disappointment and Enjoy the Lesser Things in Life by Scott M. Baker

No, this is not another review of Ridley Scott's Prometheus.  Believe me, I could rant on for pages about what I thought was wrong with the movie.  But I first want to express my key complaints about the key flaws in this film.  [Begin spoiler alert]  Why is it that every movie in the franchise feels the need to have an android that, in the end, gets ripped apart with copious amounts of white fluid spraying everywhere and innards that contain small white globes?  Why does every encounter with the aliens have to be the result of someone/some entity wanting to militarize the species for profit or exploit it for other selfish motives?  And why does Ridley Scott feel the need to include a twist ending that turns our understanding of the aliens' origin on its head?  [End spoiler alert]

I bring this up only because it bears on a topic of conversation I've heard a lot lately at conventions and on the Internet about whether fans are killing the horror genre (and for purposes of this post I'm including Sci-Fi in that category) by watering it down.  That argument is being made by people who don't fully understand the genre.

I cite Prometheus as an example.  This movie has been hyped for months as Ridley Scott's epic prequel that would be the crowning of the Alien franchise and show us the origins of the species.  I found Prometheus to be all hype.  Sure, the special effects were nominal and Charlize Theron has now been enshrined in my pantheon of epic bad guys.  But overall, I found the movie to be a blockbuster rehashing of old themes. 

Now before everyone skips to the end of this post and starts commenting on how I wouldn't know a good movie if it hit me in the face with 3D, I am using this movie to emphasize my point that there is a general consensus among those who think that if a movie is artistic it somehow brings respectability to the genre, and anything else detracts from it.  That's where I totally disagree. 

It's the schlock that makes the genre so vibrant. 

Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931) are both recognized as a classic movies that set the trend for horror until the 1930s, yet Monster Kids and fans loved all the various permutations of these films, from Ghost to Houses to Abbott and Costello.  The Thing from Another World (1951) and Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) are the quintessential extra-terrestrial movies, yet we got just as much of a thrill from being invaded by the giant carrot from It Conquered the World and the Green SlimeNightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th scared the shit out of us so much that we continued going back through endless sequels until our two favorite modern monsters finally squared off.  And two of the most well-known names of classic 1950s horror, Roger Corman and William Castle, based their entire careers on a proliferation of cheap B-grade movies, and we love them for it. 

The same holds true for fiction.  For every Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Richard Matheson novel, there are hundreds more than fill the bookshelves, many by authors few people have heard of. 

Does it mean that fans' standards have sunk so low that we're strangling our own genre?  Hell no.  It means we embrace the genre as a whole, from the phenomenal to the laughable.  We don't ask for an Academy Award or a Bram Stoker winner with every movie or book.  That would become boring after awhile.  What we ask for is honesty.  I love the SyFy Channel original movies not because of their quality but because they are purposefully made to be like a B-grade drive-in film.  I love the occasional zombie book with little plot or character development as long as there's at least one gore-laden zombie on every page. 

What I don't like are pretentious movies or novels that pawn themselves off as masterpieces but only live up to the expectations of the critics who do not know better. 

1 comment:

  1. I've got no beef at all with schlock; it is what it is, and occasionally rises to the level of art, in its way (see: THE BLOB, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, or HOUSE OF WAX, for example).

    I DO object to pretension. A pig with lipstick is not a pretty girl (see: BATTLESHIP for a current example).

    Sometimes you can get both; while many really bad Stephen King movies have been filmed, CARRIE and THE SHINING were high art.