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June 11, 2012

Prometheus…But First, Charts!

Confession time: I’m not all that familiar with the franchise.  Yeah, yeah, I know -- how can I call myself a man if I only remember the bare details about one of the most famous intellectual properties ever to grace the medium?  Well, you know me.  My expertise lies in video games; while I certainly have gaps in that medium as well (partly because I was a Genesis kid in the great console wars of the nineties), I’ll admit I fare better with those than with things like this.

That said, I try to expose myself to stories no matter what form they appear in, or what kind of story they have to tell.  For example, even though I’m not a fan of horror, I’ll still give it a shot…assuming that someone forces me to watch it.  Granted, every time I try to expose myself to horror I end up disappointed or left with a headache, but I just figured that I’m missing the GOOD bits in exchange for the bad.

And you know what?  After last night, I’m starting to see the appeal.  Not just of the genre, but the franchise as a whole.  It’s genuinely good!  Full of mysteries!  And I’ll be honest:  it had me laughing the entire time!  In fact -- against my better judgment and theater etiquette -- I managed to record some footage on my cell phone.  Have a look.

...I got that wrong somehow, didn’t I?

"Oh giant head from an ancient civilization, you're the only one that understands me..."

I had a bad feeling about this movie for a while.  A while back, one of my Facebook friends said that he was hyped for it, and with him being a movie buff I figured I could take his word as a measure of its impending quality.  When I eventually saw the trailer for it -- during a showing of The Hunger Games, I think -- I thought, “Huh.  It looks all right.  It’s not for me, but it’ll probably be good.”  Of course, my brother seemed to really enjoy it, and having a stronger knowledge of the Alien franchise he had a higher stake in the proclaimed prequel.  The hype machine started gearing up, its wheels spinning faster and faster until, ultimately, my brother and a friend made plans to go see it.  And of course, they wanted me to go along.

“How bad could it be?” I said to myself.  After all, I’d let them drag me to theaters before on movies I wasn’t sure about, and it turned out fine.  V for Vendetta and Kick-Ass are two notable examples, but I’m sure there are others. 

…On the other hand, I’d let them drag me to theaters before on movies I wasn’t sure about, and walked away feeling like I’d been walloped with a sledgehammer.  The 2009 Friday the 13th movie is one such example, and 2011’s The Thing is among one of my worst movies ever.  Even The Hunger Games, in spite of its hype and undeniable similarity to Battle Royale (a book that in spite of its premise I enjoyed), didn’t exactly get me amped up.

"...What the hell is she doing?"

So with all that said, with all that in mind, what can I say about Prometheus?  Is it good?  Is it bad?  Should you go see it?  And to those questions, I say…ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…well, you know.

I guess I’ll start with what I’d say if my parents asked me what I thought of the movie.  “It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s not as good as I expected.”  Or perhaps “It has some good ideas and moments, but you won’t be missing anything if you don’t see it.”  At times, I want to defend Prometheus and say it’s not a bad movie.  At others, I think of the time I wasted, and time I could have spent writing, playing video games, or even sleeping.

So as I’ve done before, I’m gonna sort through this movie bit by bit.  Look for that in the next few days.  But first -- and for the sake of keeping this post a manageable length -- let’s set some framework.

We all know that Hollywood is an ace at pumping out dumb movies.  You know the type: blue- and orange-tinted, explosion-riddled schlock that thinks character development is zooming in on an improbably buxom lady’s fun parts.  Those are “stupid movies.”  Alternatively, you have intelligent movies -- dramas, character studies, period pieces, what have you -- that know how to make you think, and leave you walking away with lots of questions, and maybe a new outlook on life.  Let’s call them “smart movies,” because for all intents and purposes they are.

But if The Avengers taught us one thing (besides why bringing the Hulk anywhere is a bad idea), it’s that just because your movie is full of explosions and punching doesn’t make it inherently bad.  If you have good execution, good ideas, good humor, or a mastery of basic storytelling elements -- and as a bonus, include some thoughtful themes and ideas -- you can make your dumb movie seem a whole lot smarter.  Conversely, you can have a movie like Southland Tales that KNOWS about good ideas and TRIES to use them meaningfully, but the effort comes off as flawed (and if there are quotes from other, smarter people used liberally, and misused, then consider your credibility shot).  So you can try to make a smart movie, but screwing it up makes it stupid.

So let’s take our line and spruce it up a bit.

Add a few qualifiers to each quadrant…

And with a few examples…

You start to see what I’m getting at, right?  A stupid movie may have traits that make it inherently stupid, but you can move it into a different area by taking ideas and motions and using them effectively.  And inversely, try to make your story intelligent without understanding the meaning behind them -- or make any number of flubs with the story in general -- and suddenly your intelligent-by-design movie just lost a whole bunch of IQ points.

Now to be fair, the chart I’ve got here is just a demonstration and an approximation, based on my opinions and recollection.  Just because I put the 1994 Street Fighter movie above the Percy Jackson movie doesn’t mean that the former is objectively better than the latter (well, one could argue…but I digress).  What’s important is the main idea here: if you’ve got good execution, you can be right where you want to be, which is -- unless you’re Michael Bay -- above the x-axis in the chart. 

With that said, note where I placed the Prometheus poster.  Yeah…this isn’t going to be pretty.

Stick around.  I’ll have my full thoughts posted soon.  But for now, I'll just say this: David the android is one of the biggest trolls ever to appear on film.


  1. Did you make those charts?

    I watched Prometheus too, so I'm staying around to see your thoughts on the actual movie.

    1. I did indeed make those charts, through the magic of PowerPoint. A lot of the stuff I make for the blog is done via PowerPoint and Paint; it's certainly a cheaper alternative to, say, Photoshop.

      Yeah, Prometheus...I'm really at odds with that movie. I don't WANT to hate it, but a part of me (the "I told you so!" part of me) kind of does. Hopefully this little dissection of the movie should help me decide once and for all how I feel.

  2. I'm currently waiting at my keyboard so I can share my nerd rage with you, because I absolutely loved this movie.

    Though I will give you that certain elements of it were unnecessary/poorly used, I'm going to try and defend THE SHIT out of it.

    Also, David wasn't so much of a troll than he was a Bender-bot. He was a bitter, black-hearted, soulless son of a bitch, but goddamn I fucking like the guy.