The Sci-fi News: Did 'Prometheus' Murder 'At the Mountains of Madness,' Is Edgar Wright Making a Science Fiction Film and Pondering '1952'
I think my wounds caused by Guillermo Del Toro's At the Mountains of Madness being canceled had just started to heal (I'm a selfish Lovecraft nut, after all) before they were once again ripped open by the news that Prometheus was a key factor in said cancelation. You can read all of the nasty details here. At the Mountains of Madness is one of the great horror/science fiction stories of all time and while we've long thought that Prometheus looked to share some DNA with HP Lovecraft's epic tale, the news that it's similar enough to get it canceled is troubling. As exciting as Ridley Scott's return to science fiction is, the thought that it's cribbing great swaths of its story from an 80-year-old classic should rightfully irk some genre fans. Of course, I say this as someone who's going to be at Prometheus on opening night.
We've known for awhile that Edgar Wright was prepping a film called The World's End but plot details have been scarce. With filming set to start in a few months, a synopsis has emerged. Let's chew on this:
"20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by mate Gary King, a 40-year old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their home town and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub, The World’s End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s. Reaching The World’s End is the least of their worries."
Hmmm…the future of mankind? A title that implies the end of the world? The thought of the man behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz taking on a movie about the apocalypse (which is what I'm going to assume this is about) is pretty exciting. Will it be a science fiction apocalypse (Giant asteroid!) or a horror apocalypse (Demons rising to Earth from the bowels of Hell!)? The answer will decide whether or not this column will be able to continue covering this film.
What the heck in 1952? We know Disney wants it to be a major tentpole release. We know it's written by Damon Lindelof. We know it's being directed by Brad Bird. And that's about it. But isn't that enough? Lindelof was one of the key minds behind Lost and the last time Bird made a science fiction movie, we were blessed with The Iron Giant (not to mention Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which is spectacular). Who cares about the details? I want to get in line now.
The Sci-fi Discussion: What's Up With 'Men in Black 3'?
Below this paragraph, I've embedded a new featurette on the making of Men in Black 3. Now, this video doesn't supply any new footage or offer any kind of insight (it's mostly Will Smith and Josh Brolin ensuring you that their movie is cool, which, you know, could be entirely untrue), but it gives us an excuse to talk about the Men in Black franchise.
This first film, while a comedy, is grounded in some pretty cool science fiction, all of it stemming from a fun and original sci-fi universe. The world of the Men in Black feels lived-in, it makes sense and it's filled with so many little details that you can't help but be hungry for more. Beyond that, the villain that the characters face is a real threat, a truly nasty bad guy. Think about the climax, which finds our heroes battling for the fate of the entire planet against an alien bug that has racked up quite a body count throughout the running time, proving he's no lightweight comic threat. When Agent J and Agent K break out the big guns for the final battle, you just know that something huge is about to go down. The action carries enough weight to actually be, you know, exciting. It's the same basic concept found in Ghostbusters: build your comedy into a story where the stakes matter and witness a big dramatic payoff in addition to the laughter. Granted, Men in Black is no Ghostbusters, but you get the point.
Interestingly, while the first Men in Black parallels Ghostbusters, Men in Black 2 makes the same mistake as Ghostbusters 2: it emphasizes the comedy and ups the silliness to such a point that any genre touches or real character beats are completely lost (although to be fair, Ghostbusters 2 is not nearly as bad as Men in Black 2, which is probably one of the worst blockbusters ever made). The world of the first Men in Black feels natural, like it could support a non-comedic science fiction story. The sequel turns every alien and every science fiction aspect into a joke. Everyone remember the alien with genitalia on his face? I rest my case.
What direction will Men in Black 3 take? There are some cool things going on in the trailer (especially Rick Baker's alien make-up), but I can't shake that icky Men in Black 2 feeling. What think you, movie fans?