The Sci-Fi News: 'Ender' and 'Trek' and Nothing Much of Interest, Quite Frankly
Another Sci-Fi blog, another piece of Ender's Game casting news! Thus is my burden in life. Then again, writing a science fiction blog is tough when there is a terrifying scarcity of decent related news to talk about. Since it's one of the few major science fiction films getting ready to shoot in the coming months, I suppose I'll just have to lean on Gavin Hood's adaptation of Orson Scott Card's classic novel for consistent, Hunger Games-esque casting updates to provide this column with sweet, sweet content.
Anyway, know that Harrison Ford has officially signed on the dotted line and will be playing the role of Col. Graff, the military man who drags young Ender Wiggin off to Battle School so he can learn to fight an alien menace. The same report states that Abigail Breslin has also joined the film, but her role isn't specified (you can count on her playing Valentine, Ender's genius sister). Finally, "teen star" Brendan Meyer will play Stilson, a school bully who is in the original novel for about six pages but is incredibly important nonetheless. I put teen star in quotations because I have no idea what a Brendan Meyer is. Apparently, I'm an old man.
Along with countless Ender's Game updates, we're entering the phase where we'll start hearing all about JJ Abrams' upcoming Star Trek sequel. The first film remains a bit of miracle (bad script and shaky concept rescued by a perfect cast and assured direction), so seeing how the sequel shakes out should be interesting. If they can secure a solid script -- and this time there's no looming writer's strike -- we could be in for a pretty spectacular experience. Since Abrams is all about his "mystery box" production tactics ("What? Oh, there's no Kahn in this movie. Now, excuse me while I hunt for hispanic actors to play a villain in my Star Trek sequel."), an interview with him will never lead to much solid information, but we'll take what we can get: the sequel will be shot on film, converted to 3D for release and chunks of the film may be shot on IMAX cameras like The Dark Knight and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. My feelings on post-conversion 3D can be summed up as "Boo! Hiss!", but my feelings on genuine 70mm projection sound like "Huzzah!" Seeing the new Mission: Impossible on a true IMAX screen last week was a highlight of my 2011, and the thought of seeing the Trek universe on a screen that large makes my leg twitch a little. At least I hope that's why my leg is twitching. I should call my doctor.
By the way, that's the new poster for Prometheus to the left. You've probably already seen it, but I'm including it here because it's a great poster and because it'll look better than slapping an Ender's Game book cover there.
The Sci-Fi Discussion: The Trailer for 'Prometheus'
The trailer for the science fiction event of 2011 is here. Go ahead and give it a watch. You know what? Go ahead and give it two watches. The second watch is on the house.
Because I'm too cool to say something like "Holy crap, what an amazing teaser! Prometheus is my most anticipated movie of 2012 and I want it now! Waaaaah!", let's take one step back and examine this exceptional piece of marketing in greater detail, shall we?
1. It is an 'Alien' prequel.
Well, at least it takes place in the same universe and on the same planet where Ripley and the doomed crew of the Nostromo set down in the original Alien. This isn't a huge surprise -- Prometheus being some kind of precursor to Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece has been the worst kept secret in the world for some time now -- but it's fun to see how they're selling it as a prequel. There aren't any shots of Xenomorphs or facehuggers lurking about (and if Scott is to be believed, they may not actually be in the movie), but the style of the trailer, with the title slowly appearing and that nervewracking, discordant musical score playing over images both beautiful and terrifying, mirrors the iconic trailer for the original film. It looks like Prometheus will showcase humanity's first journey to LV-421, but what will they find there? It may or may not be an alien, but whatever it is, it looks like it'll f*ck them up real good.
2. That cast is crazy good.
The teaser, being a teaser, goes a long way to sell the film's mood and atmosphere. What it doesn't do is sell the story or the film's kinda' jawdropping cast (many of whom can be quickly glimpsed in extreme duress throughout the trailer's runtime). You have Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Wilson, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce, all of them donning form-fitting space suits and ready to not be heard while they scream (because they're in space, you see). It's been a rough couple of years for Scott (Robin Hood, anyone?), but when he returns to the genre that produced his best films, the talent lines up and says "Yes, please." I can't wait to see what kind of horrible demise awaits Theron and I hope Idris Elba punches the space jockey in the face.
3. It looks gorgeous.
Even Scott's stinkers have at least looked great, so it's no surprise that Prometheus looks like it'll be a visually stunning film. Although the action looks significantly bigger than the eerily intimate Alien, the two films definitely share a color and design scheme. Although the images flash by quickly (this is a trailer that begs to be seen on the big screen), it's easy to admire the gorgeous desolation of the planet and the creepy interiors of what-we-can-assume is a treacherous alien vessel.
4. Is it a horror film?
Remember how the first Alien film presented an unstoppable and unknowable threat and used said threat to instill sheer panic in the characters and, by extension, the audience? Remember how later films in the series reduced this terrible threat to little more than cannon fodder? Although we can't be sure since the trailer isn't giving up the plot, the tone we're shown suggests that we'll be getting something more disturbing than your standard summer blockbuster. Although the concept of space explorers discovering the terrible truth about life in the universe sounds like Mission to Mars territory, I have a feeling that the man who made Alien can mine genuine terror from man learning more than he meant to learn. It reminds me of the basic point of most HP Lovecraft stories: there are some universal mysteries that mankind should never seek to answer, no matter what.
5. Which Ridley Scott is showing up to the party?
The idea of Ridley Scott, the man who made the original Alien and Blade Runner, returning to this universe should fill any science fiction fan with childlike glee. Alien, like Jaws, Star Wars, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Psycho, is an institution. It's a landmark in two separate genres, tying together concepts and ideas that had rarely been melded together so perfectly before. However, Scott's recent track record has been spotty. For ever Gladiator or director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven, you have a Robin Hood or a A Good Year. Some of his films (Body of Lies, American Gangster, Matchstick Men) seemed to vanish immediately after their release after middling audience and critical reactions. My enthusiasm for Prometheus is tempered only because I opened IMDB and glanced over Scott's spot filmography. His masterpieces ensure that he'll be remembered forever, but his failures fill me with caution. It's important that we keep our expectations in check for any movie. A failure can be heartbreaking and a minor success can be a letdown if we expect a masterpiece.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go watch the trailer for Prometheus again.
The Sci-Fi Horizon: Why Are They Hiding 'The Darkest Hour'? And What's Up With 'John Carter'?
There is one major science fiction release this month and that's Chris Gorak's alien invasion film The Darkest Hour. While most genre releases these days inundate the internet with posters and trailers and do their damnedest to hype and tease, this one has been pretty quiet. Then, a few days before it's set to open, this video was dropped on us:
A superbly crafted viral campaign this is not. I know we're not supposed to judge books on their covers (or movies by their internet promotional videos), but it's looking pretty clear as to why this one isn't being screened for the critics.
While The Darkest Hour is being quietly dumped on Christmas day, Disney seems to be entering the hype phase for John Carter, which is only a few months away from its March 9 release date. Unfortunately, what they've been showing us has been, er…let's just say underwhelming. Let's start with these two TV spots, shall we?
John Carter is a science fiction/fantasy epic about a Civil War soldier who finds himself transported to Mars, where he becomes warrior and leader of men/aliens. The trailers and TV spots sidestep story entirely and concentrate entirely on special effects and battle scenes, which wouldn't be a problem if: A). the battle scenes and special effects didn't look like something we've seen countless times before and B). the general public were familiar with the source material. If you showed this footage to the average joe (AKA, your mom), they'd probably think it's a sequel to Prince of Persia.
For the record, any kind of connection to Prince of Persia is a very, very bad thing.
Disney is afraid to sell John Carter for what it is. They're afraid of selling it as science fiction. Hell, they've removed "Mars" from the title! For all we know, those CGI creatures will be filled with personality and the battles will be incredibly exciting (and since Oscar-winning Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton is in the director's seat, I sure hope so), but the Disney marketing department is doing everything in its power to dull my excitement.
What do you think? If you're like me, you're going to see John Carter on opening day out of sheer principle, but have your expectations bee tempered by the ho-hum marketing?