Modern Storytelling

I used to be a big fan of Marvel Comics in my younger days. The original stories by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were a breath of fresh air compared to the drek being offered to us youngsters by DC. It didn’t take long before the stories began to intertwine between the various titles, which made for some good story possibilities and helped some of the struggling titles sell, since you had to buy them all to follow the plot. By the late seventies though, it was becoming an effort to keep up with the convoluted machinations of writers who kept tinkering with the characters to jack up sales. I finally gave up around my thirtieth birthday.

Movies and TV have gone down this road as well. Remember the season of Dallas that turned out to be a dream, so that Bobby Ewing’s death and resurrection could be explained? And in the latest incarnation of Star Trek , the writers employed the well-worn time paradox ploy to wipe out forty years of future history so that they could restart the adventures of Kirk and Spock with a clean slate.

Spoiler alert – If you haven’t seen the movie ‘Prometheus’ and plan to, you may want to skip the rest of this post.  -RL

I have been a fan of Ridley Scott’s movies since he scared the bejesus out of me with the original Alien movie back in 1979. Scott introduced us to the tough-as-nails female heroine Ripley, whose survival instincts carried her through three sequels, the best being Aliens, by a young James Cameron. The others were not as good, but they did keep the storyline intact.

So I was excited to learn that Scott was returning to the franchise with a prequel called Prometheus. The story was a closely guarded secret, but there were tantilizing tidbits in the trailers on the internet. Questions of the aliens’ origin would be answered, along with their connection to human evolution. I had to see it.

And I did, but came away with a mixture of confusion and disappointment. First off, we learn that we humans owe our existance to a race of aliens known only as the engineers. When ancient cave-drawings lead us to a desolate moon in a far-off constellation, we find out that these engineers are the same aliens that fell victim to the creatures introduced in the original movie, but their elephantine features were only masks (helmets?) hiding human-like features. Worse yet, it appears that the engineers were having second thoughts about their creations (us) and were developing a race of predatory monsters to wipe the slate clean. Something went wrong though, and the engineers themselves fell victim to their evolving uglies. Apparently, these engineers weren’t too good at their profession.

But wait a minute…This story takes place in the waning years of the 22nd Century. If the aliens hadn’t evolved yet, then how did they get under the ice of Antarctica in a Mayan temple with yet another advanced race in Alien vs. Predator, which takes place in the 20th Century? Maybe that one was a dream.

As usually happens in the series, the crew of Prometheus is whittled down to one feisty female who outdoes Ripley by giving herself a caesarian to abort an alien inside her, and jumps off the operating table to do battle with the monsters. Then she, along with the obligatory treacherous decapitated android, takes off in yet another unseen alien ship to confront the engineers on their home turf. We’ll have to wait a few more years to see how that turns out, but I already feel sorry for the aliens/engineers.

I guess this is par for the course with modern storytelling. It’s no wonder the engineers want to squelch a race that can’t seem to stop tinkering with the past. We do it all the time with our own reality, rewriting history over and over to make it fit our own perceptions and prejudices. Coming up next: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I kid you not.

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12 Responses to Modern Storytelling

  1. TD Pittsford says:

    How right you are, Bob. What passes for “entertainment” these days is an insult to the early pioneers whose dedication was shown by the quality of their art. They actually CARED about their audiences because they instinctively knew that their reputations depended on what they presented. Today it seems the “suits” upstairs know better than we what constitutes real entertainment and the primary goal is to make oodles of money for what amounts to pure crap.

  2. Judith Lowry says:

    I dunno, there’s precedent.
    Abe Lincoln made an appearance on Star Trek.
    He fought with Genghis Kahn, along side brave Captain Kirk.
    What’s not to love?

    • RL Crabb says:

      Yeah, well, I was kidding about being offended by the Abe movie. I’ve done some historical mangling in my comics from time to time, but that’s not really what I’m getting at. When I saw the first ‘Alien’ movie, there was some mystery surrounding the alien craft with the elephant man. It was up to the individual’s imagination to figure out what happened, although it was apparent that it was something similar to the fate of Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo.
      Now we find out that the alien crew was doing all this on purpose, and it’s all about earth, blah, blah, blah. It’s just too convoluted for my tastes. With Star Trek, it seems like the writers got lazy and didn’t want to deal with the Federation history. It’s not very clever or original.
      Art is always interpreted differently by everyone who experiences it. When you provide too many details, it kind of destroys the magic.

  3. Judith Lowry says:

    Then you might like “Monsters”, an sleeper indie sci-fi flick.
    Very unique, good acting with lots of mystery.

  4. RL Crabb says:

    Thanks, I’ll check it out. And there are some good movies out there. I like a movie that has credible plot twists, and makes you gasp when it climaxes…Like “The Sixth Sense.” Really good writing, leads you down one road and ends up somewhere totally unexpected. I’m really tired of crummy remakes of good movies, and movies that rely too much on dazzling effects at the expense of the story.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      Bob, did you like “12 Monkeys”?… No dazzling effects at all, but solid acting by dazzling number of A list actors, none of whom were doing it for the money, as Gilliam has a reputation for barely having enough money to make his movies, and a great end.

  5. Greg Goodknight says:

    [more spoiler alerts for Prometheus]

    “then how did they get under the ice of Antarctica in a Mayan temple with yet another advanced race in Alien vs. Predator?”

    First, I have to admit I didn’t waste the price of admission on A vs. P, but I think that shark jump was the result was arrived at the same way Frankenstein met the Wolfman: Lousy writing for one sequel too many… South Part handled that issue with their “The China Probrem” episode where they depict Spielberg and Lucas raping Indiana Jones, the result of “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull”.

    I liked “Prometheus” (I saw it last night) but thought it way too derivative of the Jodie Foster movie “Contact”, with Noomi Rapace and Guy Pearce filling the roles played by Foster and John Hurt. It takes a reclusive industrialist with massive fortunes to really fund a science fiction fiction.

    The ending struck me as a stretch intended only as an intro into the next sequel, and while I can imagine a tortured timeline that would allow this stuff to mesh with what we know of molecular biology and the history of life on earth over the last 500+ million years, I think they’ll spend more time spinning a global warming scare. The toxic levels of atmospheric CO2 on that moon is just too much the McGuffin.

    • RL Crabb says:

      Spoiler alert: My sources in Hollywood inform me that the plot of “Prometheus II” reveals that the engineers decide to destroy the human race when the Adam Sandler movies reach their planet.

  6. Greg Goodknight says:

    From the sacred Futurama texts we know Lrrr, ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8, is slated to invade Earth in about a millenia because the transmission of the final episode of his favorite soap opera, “Single Female Lawyer”, was interrupted when pizza delivery guy Fry of the past spilled a soda into the station’s Grass Valley Group switcher.

    Just how “Single Female Scientist” unfolds should be interesting.

    Back to Alien, I am happy they’ve plugged what I thought the biggest hole in the original plot … that there would be some bizzare species that, despite being very extraterrestrial, was perfectly evolved to use people as hosts for gestation.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      The PuffHost’s Fineman seems to have confused Ridley S. with Philip K. Dick (the source of the magic of BladeRunner), and science fiction with reality. Any attempt at revealing the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything will fail, so Prometheus wisely moves towards “let’s get the f*** out of here”. I’m good with it. 🙂 In fact, that was most of Alien.

      P was reasonably well done, and Scott is on the record stating it will take two more movies to link back to Alien… his bio clock is ticking and might manage to finish them. With luck, the collapsing AGW story will scare Scott away from that as a focus.

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