Thursday, 12 July 2012

what we watched

so we're off on the pharmacy run and, maybe it's a habit thing, but i find myself in waterstones which, while nominally a bookshop, isn't really. needs must tho and the notion of browsing bookshelves dies hard. anyway while i'm mulling away i overhear two young guys discussing prometheus. bookshop guy likes it so i eavesdrop a while until it's all too much. sorry, i say, i don't mean to butt in but you liked the concept? really?

i tell t this and she sighs and says, you know that you're really starting to turn into that old guy as if it's some sort of surprise. and to be honest, i really don't mind as, most likely, that's always been the plan.

but we did go to see prometheus, the best thing i can find to say about it was that the opening landscape scenes in iceland were about the only thing we actually enjoyed. true, it did continue to be lovely to look at but the rest of it was so vacuous it was overwhelming. in space no-one can hear your boredom. the underlying premise, that maybe we were created by aliens, seems so trite that i'm sure if i went back to my school days i would find something about it scribbled in a notebook, right alongside the copied artwork of various heavy metal album covers heavily influenced by large breasted barbarian women. in fact, if memory serves i believe i wrote just such a story in my second year english class to be told by my teacher it was all a bit pish and had been done to death. no need to stop ridley scott tho.

that aside there were many howlers. what fan of sci fi, or anyone who's watched galaxy quest, could honestly watch the bit where they take off their helmets on the alien planet without suppressing a snort. and the mapping guy,the one with the rinky dinky devices that can chart the labyrinth, he's the guy who's going to get lost. and that's before charlize theron's character who, not unlike the hapless derek zoolander, cannot turn left or right when she runs. oh but it was dire and the moreso because the alien movies occupy such a warm fuzzy place for those who like that sort of thing. we were so disappointed and progressively more angry on the way back we had to watch original star trek episodes to get over it. and all this before we hear ridley scott is going to make blade runner 2!!

which brings us neatly to john carter. outside of jules verne i think john carter may have been the first science fiction i ever read, long before i knew there was such a thing as science fiction (not that i'm convinced that john carter really counts as science fiction but that's a by the by). it may even be that i owned some of the comics when i was wee. come film time all i can remember is the name barsoom and something about tall aliens and distant worlds.which when i was a wee boy was all i needed.

off to the moviehouse and the first scene monologues into a predator city and ships that sail on light. we were hooked and that was it. true, you're not going to be going to see john carter for great cinema any more that you're going to watch johnny weissmuller in tarzan for the same reason but after years of watching and hearing speilberg and lucas drone on about the films of their childhood at last here was something that put me right back to when flash gordon (the series not the movie) on the tv seemed liked something truly amazing.

in due course the dvd comes out and, along with the rest of the woeful marketing of the film, sports a truly dire cover. again i say to f at my work she should get and watch it and finally she does. omg, she txts me later, this is everything star wars never was. it's totally my new favourite film. later we'll discuss it and, while it may be that the plot isn't super far removed from a good episode of scooby-doo, among other things we'll express surprise that 100 years ago you could have a female heroine who is easily the equal of her male counterpart for intelligence, fighting and whatnot and yet today you can count her genre equivalents on one hand.

aside from all of that there's loads of lovely design, from t waxing lyrical about the textiles on the thirns to a myriad of red tattoos which we all agree we would have had if there'd be a tattooist available immediately after watching. and that's not to forget that nice plot device that this is a story being told by a fictional character to another fictional character called edgar rice burroughs who is being written by an actual person called edgar rice burroughs but who is disguising himself under the name norman bean. ah, if only such complexity had been manifested in avatar to which many poorly made comparisons have been drawn, esp the amusingly ironic one that somehow johm carter 'wasn't original'. then again maybe we shouldn't be looking for too much depth in big dumbass blockbusters. or maybe perhaps we should.

some sort of cinematic redemption came in the form of the descendants which had those twin neat tricks that so many larger budget movies manage to overlook i.e. a plot and characters. no cars are chased, no stuff blows up, there is no neat denouement - the dying woman around whom the plot revolves even looks like she's actually dying. true, i had expectations - this is the alexander payne of both sideways and election and the former especially can be seen in the george clooney character (payne apparently bumped clooney for sideways as he was 'too famous'). not that payne can take all the credit for this. it is totally worth reading the book after watching the film if only to see just how well it's been adapted. but the book does give some insights that the film only hints at.

aside form the script there was so much to like. the performances are uniformly excellent but it's the younger characters who really steal the show and clooney does well to stand back and act as bewildered as he feels alongside them.

in short, if you're loaded on painkiller, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, the rain is pouring outside and walking from one end of the house is a major endeavour then john carter will press all the switch your brain off and enjoy the ride buttons. but, once you're thru being violated at the hospital and wellness is more than a concept then the descendants is a fine choice. and prometheus? maybe if you were trapped on a desert island you could use the dvd to signal for help....

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