Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Lucas Mistake

I have come up with a new catchphrase for the entertainment media, and I want to see if it will gain traction. I call it "The Lucas Mistake." Boiled down to its essence, the Lucas Mistake is, "waiting too long to answer unnecessary questions and doing it badly." George Lucas was not the first person to do this with Episodes I, II, and III (a.k.a. "Aaaaaahhh...what the !$!@# did you do??!!"), but The JarJar Menace was such a spectacular failure to those of us who grew up with the original, that I believe George should forever have his name associated with this phenomenon.
Others have made the Lucas Mistake. Spielberg made the Lucas Mistake with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" when he asked the unnecessary questions, "Whatever happened to Marian?" and "What would Indy be like as a grandpa?" and "What if Indiana Jones met...aliens."

The most recent perpetrator of the Lucas Mistake was Ridley Scott with "Prometheus." Roger Ebert gave it four stars. Roger Ebert is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.


The biggest problem to me was that the entire movie felt cobbled together from sci fi movies and themes that have already been explored ad nauseum. Human evolution being guided by an alien intelligent species? It's been done. A lot. An android forcing his makers to evaluate their own humanity? Also done. A lot. Strange genetic material that accelerates cellular development and tissue growth to the level of the ridiculuous? Um...can anyone say "Species" (1995) or "Evolution" (2001).
Even worse, the film violated the rule of Chekov's gun, "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." Why would you put Guy Pearce in mediocre age make-up if you don't plan to remove the make-up later? Why would you create a hackneyed theory of human existence only to leave unanswered all the questions that you posed to the audience?

I'm always eager to give a director the benefit of the doubt for a movie that pushes the limits of storyline, special effects, and general creativity. "Avatar", for example, was a great success story, even though I'm sure the producer went to the studio and said, "Picture 'Dances With Wolves' only with big blue aliens!"

"Prometheus," unfortunately, is not a success story. Although I enjoyed the special effects on the big screen, they didn't have the colorful flair of "Avatar", nor did the movie elicit the effective claustrophobia of the first "Alien" movie.  The story didn't hold together, the motivation of the characters was poorly explored, and the plot elements were jumbled. More importantly, the movie suffered from the Lucas Mistake by asking the question, "Where did the Ridley Scott aliens first come from?"
I don't care. It doesn't matter. They're "aliens". That's all you need to know. Just leave it alone and move on.

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