Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Jenny Ringo in print! Ten Dead Men in France! A video in which I nod a lot!

Three awesome things happened today - 

Jenny Ringo reviewed in SFX magazine!!!

Issue 230 of SFX features an incredibly flattering review of Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw on page 41. Here's what the issue looks like...


The review says things like 'The film moves at a rapid pace with plenty of humour.' and 'It looks and sounds more expensive than it probably was, with the highlight being a song and dance routine in which the Magician explains the origins of the eponymous Monkey's Paw.'

Which is nice.

It's available in most newsagentey-magazine-selling-type places so shouldn't be too hard to find if you'd like to read the whole review. Which you should because it's really good.

And if you haven't seen the film yet it's right here.

Ten Dead Men re-released in France!

Ten Dead Men, the feature film I wrote around five years ago (just prior to starting this blog) has been re-released in a limited edition steelcase! In France!!!


I don't know why but I do know that I definitely want one.

I interview the cast and crew of House Trafalgar!

A few weeks ago I was invited to interview the cast and crew of the most epic short film ever made, House Trafalgar. The first video from that session has just been released online, and here it is...

HOUSE TRAFALGAR - The Q&A Sessions 1 from Future Sun Film on Vimeo.

If you've never been to MovieBar, the short film night I run in Brighton, it's a lot like this... only darker, everyone has usually had a lot more to drink and I would be wearing a hat.

Check out the House Trafalgar website for more information on the film and details of upcoming screenings.

In other news...

Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell is now even closer to completion after Ross and I put the finishing touches to the edit earlier this week. It now has effects, a couple of extra scenes and is slightly shorter in places! Now there's just the final sound mix and grading left to do...

As always you can keep up to date on the progress of Jenny Ringo by signing up to the mailing list at www.jennyringo.com.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Jenny Ringo update (including where you can see the trailer!)

Been a bit crap at blogging recently, too much stuff going on. Was going to do a whole post about the ADR session we did a few weeks ago, and while I'm on the subject I should actually finish off the production diary seeing as I only made it as far as the second day. But I've been busy working on finishing the actual film itself, which is very nearly done.

Sort of very nearly anyway. I still need to get the effects shots edited into the film, sort out some of the voice-over sequences now I have the actual dialogue to go with them, co-ordinate the final sound mix and get the whole thing graded, but other than that it's nearly there!

Last week I spent an evening with editor Ross putting together a trailer for the film. It's not quite finished yet so I won't be putting it online anytime soon BUT I will be screening it as part of Halloween MovieBar TOMORROW NIGHT!

Whether you are interested in seeing the Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell trailer or not, if you are anywhere near Brighton you should definitely come along to MovieBar because it is going to be an amazing night. We'll be screening an eclectic mix of fantastic short horror films from 7.30pm at the Caroline of Brunswick in Brighton.

Full details can be found here - www.moviebar.co.uk

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Amber Heard...

I wrote this ages ago, then had one of those 'aw, why should anyone care what I think' moments and didn't post it. I've now had one of those 'I haven't blogged for ages but I can't be bothered to write anything new' moments so here it is...

Amber Heard represents one of the biggest problems with the way films are being made at the moment. Because she's really good.

It just takes one really good performance in a good film for me to want to see more of that actor. With Amber Heard that film was All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which is perhaps the only post-Scream slasher film to do anything at all interesting with the genre (that, and Cabin in the Woods obviously). And Amber Heard is really good in it. 



I can't really explain why without spoiling the ending, but it's one of those films where the story (and particularly the major plot twist) is entirely dependent on the central performance, which in this case is really strong.

Around the same time I also went to see the teen MMA film Never Back Down at the cinema. I'm not sure why I thought this was a good idea.



Amber Heard plays the main character's girlfriend and doesn't do anything at all interesting. Her lines could easily have been copied and pasted from similar characters a thousand other films. Unfortunately she would go on to play that same character over and over again.

She played Jesse Eisenberg's zombie girlfriend at the beginning of Zombieland.



She was Nicholas Cage's sidekick in Drive Angry (basically the same girlfriend character but seeing her and Nicholas Cage have sex would be weird like it was with him and Jessica Biel in Next so they skip over any relationship stuff and have her following him around for no reason at all other than the film needs a girl in it).



And who could forget her standout performance as Seth Rogen's girlfriend in Pineapple Express. Me, that's who. I forgot, because it's not memorable at all.



But just as I'm about to give up on Amber Heard I see her in The Ward, a film that again hinges on the strength of her performance which is again very strong indeed (The Ward is kind of like Sucker Punch but with a script and acting and other things that proper films have).



From this I learn I should only watch Amber Heard films in which she looks slightly dishevelled in all the promotional stills (with the exception of the remake of And Soon the Darkness in which she spends a lot of time looking slightly dishevelled and doesn't play a girlfriend. It's also not very good and is therefore at odds with my thesis so I'm not going to talk about it here). 

So the other night I sat down to watch The Rum Diary, a film I'm very much looking forward to because I like Bruce Robinson, I like Hunter S. Thompson (although from the films based on his work I can't help thinking he would've achieved so much more without all the drugs and alcohol) and I like Johnny Depp when he's not being a pirate or having anything to do with Tim Burton. There are also four of my favourite actors in the supporting cast - Richard Jenkins, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi and ... Amber Heard. I think this is going to be brilliant.

Unfortunately it's not brilliant because Amber Heard plays Aaron Eckhart's girlfriend. A bit later she is Johnny Depp's girlfriend. 



At various points in the film she disappears. The script is such that it really wouldn't matter if any of those moments were the last time we saw her on screen. She is completely superfluous to the plot of the film. If you cut out all her scenes it would be the exact same film, no question.

By now I'm so sick of this it completely ruins the film for me. The film itself is actually quite good. At its best moments it recreates the tone of Withnail and I perfectly. And in a way that's the problem. Imagine Withnail and I if one of the characters had a girlfriend. Imagine the same film, same set-up, same tone but someone high up suggests the story needs a woman in it somewhere because us blokes feel a bit weird and insecure if we're just watching other blokes all the time so now Richard E Grant and Paul McGann are competing for the affections of the local barmaid. It wouldn't work. It would be horrible. 

I would like to think that's what happened with The Rum Diary; that the girlfriend character wasn't put in there on purpose but instead was inserted at the insistence of a random executive. Either way the result is the same. Here is a fairly decent story which is for the most part quite believable but every now and again we have to put common sense to one side so we accept the awkward romance plot that's been copied and pasted into the script from a thousand similar films, some of them the same films Amber Heard's previous roles were copied from.

Let's compare the above to another actor I really like of a similar age. Let's take Joseph Gordon-Levitt for example. I really liked him in Brick where he plays a high school detective. Then I saw him in The Lookout where he plays a young man living with brain damage who somehow gets involved in a bank heist. In Stop-Loss he played a soldier struggling with the return to civilian life. In Inception he plays Leonardo DiCaprio's right-hand man and gets to wear awesome waistcoats and have a spectacular floating-around-in-a-corridor fight scene. The point is his least interesting role was as the bad guy in GI Joe, and even that was more interesting than any of the supporting characters Amber Heard ever played.

You may ask, what do I know? Maybe Amber Heard was offered all kinds of interesting parts and she just prefers playing girlfriends. Maybe that's okay.

But there is a bigger picture here.

Part of what makes the above examples stand out is that quite often Amber Heard is the only female character in those films. Which means that in the world those films expect us to buy into Amber Heard represents all women. Which means for the most part women aren't very interesting. Not only that but in only having one woman in the whole story the films then fail to represent any kind of reality I'm familiar with. 

There is rarely a good reason for not having more than one female character in a script. But if for some reason that has to be the case (the only reason being someone high up thinks the film needs a woman for the blokes in the audience to look at in case they get confused) then there are things that can be done to make it work. They don't have to be written as one-dimensional pin-ups for the male characters to fight over, even if in reality that's exactly why they've been added into the story. There are examples of this being done well, like with Brittany Murphy's character in Drive (not the Ryan Gosling one, the Mark Dacascos one with lots of people kicking each other that features the line 'You cheese-eating dick monkey!'). Or Ally Walker's character in Universal Soldier (which stands out in my mind as being interesting but it's been a while since I've seen it). There are probably loads more too (but I can't think of any which is the other reason I didn't post this right away in case more examples came to me. They didn't.)

But there is another solution. Sometimes its okay not to have roles for women in a film. Sometimes it's better that way, like in Withnail and I or Reservoir Dogs or 12 Angry Men and probably a thousand more examples (and these I could list here but you get the idea). If Amber Heard hadn't been in any of the films I mentioned above except for The Ward and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane I really wouldn't have noticed. In some cases it would've been an improvement. And you never know, maybe, just maybe she could have made something more interesting instead...

Friday, 21 September 2012

From 1st place to 24th!

It all started so well! Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw was in 1st place in Shooting People's Film of the  Month competition for the first few days of the contest. It held onto a spot in the top 5 for the whole of the first week. In the second week there was a battle to stay in fifth place and though the film frequently dropped out of the top 5 we always managed to claw back enough votes to get us up there again.

But by the end of last week it had all started to go a little bit wrong. And now, half an hour before the end of the first round, the leaderboard looks like this:



That's my film, down in 24th place.

It's not a complete loss. Last month the top film in Round 1 won by around 450 stars. I figured this month would be more competitive so I decided we needed at least 500 and there were times when I wasn't sure we'd ever hit more than 250. But we made it past 500 in the end, it's just that everyone else did way better.

The film did get the most views, which means very little in the competition but it makes me smile. As a result of this and me mentioning it at every available opportunity it has also been played over 1,000 times on vimeo which was my other big target for this year (now we just need 1,000 Facebook likes and 1,000 people signed up to the mailing list).

I think the fact that it had more views than plays is the root of the problem. I think people were put off by the running time. The fact is, I know where pretty much every single one of those 505 votes came from. The majority came from people I know or have worked with or have helped out in some way or another. The rest came from people I approached directly. What we missed out on was the casual voter, because I think the casual voter clicked the link, saw that it would take 25 minutes of their time and moved on (I refuse to learn anything from this). Also, surprisingly few of my filmmaker friends are Shooting People members, which didn't help. 

But the fact that we made it so far in spite of all this is pretty amazing. I'm really grateful to everyone who checked out the film and voted and to all the people who shared the link and were almost as relentless in promoting it as I was.

The film also received some great comments which you can read in full here, below are some of the best - 

"Really liked the ending. Also, the mess in the kitchen reminds me a lot of my time at uni of course. You've nailed the layabout student to a tee with his character."

"Love this, especially the Jeff Awesome character and the musical number. Looking forward to the sequel."


"Talking washing up = awesome."


"I love this piece of work. It's funny and disturbing - but it had the potential to have been so much more intense."


"Terrific film. Great story, love the leads, excellent camera work - and very, very funny (particularly liked the chanting hippies!!)"


"It made me smile, cheered me up, amused me greatly and left me looking for more!"


"One of the best shorts I've seen in ages. Very ambitious and delivers, Jenny Ringo needs her own series!"


Overall it's been an exhausting, time-consuming and occasionally stress-inducing experience but one that was totally worthwhile for all the extra people that got to see the film because of it. 

Would I enter again?

Ask me that question when I've finished Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell. Speaking of which, I have work to do...

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Film of the Month Update!

It's been an exciting, exhausting week. The Shooting People Film of the Month leaderboard now looks like this:



Okay, so it's not as pretty-looking as when Jenny Ringo was in first place like it was at the beginning of the week, but we are still in the top 5 which means we're still in with a chance of getting through to the next round! It just needs to stay in the top 5 for the next 12 days, which is a really long time!

Hope it goes without saying at this point but if you are a Shooting People member, please click the link and give it some stars!

https://shootingpeople.org/watch/111251/jenny-ringo-and-the-monkey-s-paw

Competition has been fierce and at one point the film fell to 9th place and didn't look like it had much chance of getting any higher. I've spent pretty much every non-working, non-nappy-changing minute online pleading with people to vote which is probably a bit annoying now, but like Gabriel Byrne says to Albert Finney in Miller's Crossing - 'I don't ask much and I don't ask often.'

Okay, the second part of that sentence may not be true anymore, but once this competition is out of the way I promise I will get on with the business of actually making stuff again.

It's been really hard work to get this far, but pretty rewarding too. All kinds of people have seen the film now and I've had some fantastic feedback. When we were shooting Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell I made the assertion that I wouldn't even think about releasing it until the first film had been seen by at least a thousand people. This seemed an over-ambitious target and for a while I thought we would never make it, but as a result of the Shooting People competition the film has now been seen 711 times on vimeo which is fantastic! I've also seen some great films by other people and have lined up a number of them to show at MovieBar in the coming months (speaking of which, MovieBar on Monday was amazing! Standing room only, some of the best films we've screened and a wonderful audience that included my mum and dad).

The support I've had from friends and fans of the film has been incredible and I'm really grateful to everyone who has shared the link or voted for it or left a comment. It makes me wonder what we could achieve if there was a similar competition that didn't require you to be a paid member to vote, so if anyone is aware of anything like that let me know!

But it's not over yet. I still need stars to be in with a chance of winning and I'm starting to run out of contacts! If you're reading this and you're not a Shooting People member you can still help! Just share the link on Facebook and Twitter and ask if any filmmaking types you know are able to vote. The more views we get the better so please do encourage people to watch the film anyway.

I suspect this coming week is going to be even harder than the previous week so wish me luck and I'll check in with you when I can!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Jenny Ringo in Shooting People's Film of the Month!

As of right now, Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw is in first place in Shooting People's Film of the Month competition!!!


So here's how this works.

We're currently in Round 1 which is open until the 20th of September. In order to get through to Round 2 we need to stay in the Top 5 until then.

In Round 2 the votes get reset and the process starts again. If we can get into the top 3 in Round 2 this months guest judge, Danny Boyle, watches the film and gives us some feedback. He also picks a winner, but to be honest having the film seen by Danny Boyle is a big enough achievement in itself!

The only problem is only Shooting People members can vote and you have to pay to be a member. So here's what I need -

If you are a Shooting People member please vote for us by clicking this link and giving the film a star rating. Feel free to e-mail me at whatwritesatmidnight[at]gmail.com telling me you've done it and I'll send you an extremely grateful message back. I'll also happily do anything I can to help you out with your own projects, which is perhaps more useful!

If you're not a member, please click the link anyway and play the film. If there's a tie, like we end up with the same amount of stars as another film, then the number of views you have becomes the deciding factor so every click helps!

Also, if you know any filmmaking people chances are they could be members so please pass on the link. Here's the link in full -

https://shootingpeople.org/watch/111251/jenny-ringo-and-the-monkey-s-paw

Even if you don't know anyone who's a member, you could always tweet the link anyway, just in case!

My strategy is to try to stay at the top for as long as possible in the hope of picking up a few extra stars from curious passers-by. It's going to be a massive challenge to stay in the competition. Our film is about five times longer than most of the other entries so it's a bigger ask to get strangers to watch it. Last month the films that made it through Round 1 all had around 400 stars so we've got a really long way to go yet! But I have a few more tricks up my sleeve yet and have only called in favours from a handful of the filmmakers I know so far, so I'm confident we're in with a good chance.

I'll post updates as the month goes on. If we do win I'm going to record a commentary track for the film and post it online.

Oh, and I'm still trying to get as many people signed up to the mailing list as possible. We're on 317 at the moment so edging closer to 500, at which point I'll upload the outtakes video. Please sign up at www.jennyringo.com

Wish me luck!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Adventures in shameless self-promotion...

My plan was simple. Set a high but not unrealistic target for new subscribers to the Jenny Ringo website. Write a direct and slightly dictatorial blog post about how people can help me hit that target. Sit back and let the internet work its magic!

Then I went on holiday to teach my son about the important things in life, like the names of all the gangs in Warriors.


When I came back I found there were a handful of new subscribers but not the 500 I was aiming for. The list was up to 250. From 245.

I know this is starting to look a little like maths with all these numbers but bear with me.

It's now up to 316, which isn't a crazy amount but it's pretty good all the same. It took a lot of effort to get that far. I've risked being a bit annoying and I'm guilty of spamming forums and Facebook and practically sabotaging my twitter account, but I have been sure to reply to any responses and have always offered to check out other peoples' stuff in return. I've also made good on that offer whenever people have taken me up on it. 

At the risk of repeating myself, I honestly feel this is how the internet should work. We're all creators now, whether it's our blogs or films or ebooks or whatever. It's not enough to put something online and say 'look at me! look what I made!'. I knew this already, even before I went away and expected the internet to do all the work for me, I just hadn't properly put it into practice yet.

It doesn't always work. The majority of people I contact about the film ignore me, just like I used to ignore most people promoting their stuff online. But sometimes it does work, and that's mostly where the extra subscribers have come from.

I've learnt a great many things from this.

I've learnt you can't check out peoples' stuff, leave them nice/helpful feedback and then expect them to seek out your stuff in return. It happens sometimes, but mostly those people just say thanks and you never hear from them again. 

I've learnt that I really need to catch up with the rest of the world and get a magic phone instead of the primitive rubber bouncy phone I got because I kept getting posh phones and dropping them on the floor and down toilets. My rubber bouncy phone is specially made for construction workers and people doing extreme sports (who obviously need to make important calls when they're like jumping off mountains or whatever). And presumably clumsy people like me. But at the moment I can't do any of this stuff on the move so have to cram all my networking into the few minutes spare between work and teaching my son about important things like the complex history of the Geth/Quarian dispute.


I've learnt that there are a lot of people out there making stuff. Some of the stuff is really good and should be more popular than it is, some of the stuff is not so good but all of it is very creative.

I've learnt that it's a great way to find more films to show at MovieBar (if you're in Brighton next Monday head over to the Caroline of Brunswick at 7.30pm for a night of truly awesome short films, some of which I found by bugging people online)

I've learnt that mostly people are really nice and genuinely appreciate random strangers taking the time to check out their work, much like I do. I'm actually rather depressed about the fact that despite the film being on vimeo and YouTube and a few dozen forums I haven't encountered a single troll to date. I should probably be careful what I wish for.

I've learnt that sometimes people are so nice they go above and beyond the call of duty and write stuff about my film online - 




I've also learnt that Shooting People don't let people join their site for free anymore. They probably haven't for years, it's just I've been a fully paid up member since it started so just assumed it worked the way it used to. This is a significant blow as the focus of pushing up my numbers was to get an army of people to vote for Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw in Shooting People's Film of the Month competition next month. Obviously I can't expect people to pay a membership fee just to vote for me so I now have to rely on the small proportion of subscribers who are actually Shooting People members to help.

But that's okay, because I like a challenge. Plus if I had realised that sooner I may not have bothered with all this networking nonsense, would have 70 or so less subscribers to the Jenny Ringo mailing list and wouldn't have chatted to a bunch of awesome people all over the world about their projects. Online distribution for short films may not be as glamourous or prestigious as the traditional film festival and awards route but it's certainly a lot more interesting!

So I'm still entering the competition next month (sign up to the mailing list at www.jennyringo.com to get details of how you can help) and I'm still going for 500 subscribers. It may take a while but as promised I will post that 10 minute outtake video once we hit 500.

As always, if you help me out with this I'll happily return the favour.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

So last weekend I challenged Jenny Ringo fans to get the views of Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw on vimeo up to 300. It's now on 343. Not massive numbers, I know, but for a 25 minute film 343 views is pretty awesome. And it gave me the idea for the next target.


People watching the film is fantastic. I hugely appreciate anyone taking the time to watch it and I'm thrilled that so many people have done so. However, if I'm going to take this any further I need people to get a bit more involved.

When I finished Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw I set up a mailing list. The purpose of this was to gather an audience for the films all in one place. The problem was I didn't really know what I wanted to use it for. Now I do know.


As I mentioned in my last post, next month I'm entering Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw into an online competition and I intend to win. For that I will need an army of voters, ready to sacrifice a couple of minutes and a few mouse clicks for the cause. That's where you come in.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help me get 500 subscribers to the Jenny Ringo mailing list. I know that sounds like a lot, but we're on 245 so we're already halfway there. You can do this by posting something like 'Sign up to the mailing list at www.jennyringo.com because it's awesome!!!' in all the usual places.

Here are some things to consider -

Why should you help?

BECAUSE I WILL POST AWESOME VIDEOS!!!

If we hit 500 subscribers by the end of the month I will upload the full ten minute outtakes video from the first film. This is not just any outtakes video - these are the outtakes of a bunch of people who don't really know what they're doing. On watching this video you will wonder how we ever managed to finish a film at all. It's quite funny. But I'm only going to upload it if we hit 500 subscriptions.

Why would you want to sign up to the mailing list in the first place?

BECAUSE I WILL SEND OUT AWESOME E-MAILS!!!

I'm planning on taking this campaign a little further each month so there should be some exciting stuff on the horizon. Plus I totally shot a sequel this year! It's a couple of months off being finished, but if you're not signed up to the list that won't mean anything because you won't be able to see it anyway. I plan on doing exactly the same thing I did with the first film - those who are signed up to the mailing list get to see it way before anyone else does.

I also have loads of extra awesomeness to upload as we go along so I will make it worth your while!

And don't worry about being inundated with e-mails. At most it will be one a month, usually less frequent than that. And I use Mail Chimp so it's easy to unsubscribe whenever you like.

What can I do for you?

I WILL REVIEW/LIKE/SHARE YOUR STUFF TOO!!!

As I've said before if you help me out I'm happy to return the favour. If you need support for your project and you've helped me out with mine just e-mail me at whatwritesatmidnight[at]googlemail.com with the details and I'll see what I can do.

If you don't have stuff to promote then I will just be very very grateful for your help.

I'm going away for a week now. When I get back I expect the numbers to be up near the 500 mark.


Thank you for your help!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Everyday Joe...

A few years ago my brother was working on a film that turned into an animation that ended up as a radio play. At one stage I was helping with the script, although in reality I was probably contributing to some of the setbacks by giving endless notes every time he wrote a new draft. In the end he did it his own way and it's all the better for it.

Pete has detailed the troubled production history of the project on his blog and it's worth a read because in some ways it ties into what the play is about. The fact that it started life as a film, turned into an animation and ended up as a radio play simply drives the point of the story home. It's a story about creativity and boredom and how sometimes things don't work out the way we plan them to, and how sometimes that's okay. It's a story about ambition and how sometimes it's hard to see what's really important because of it.

Pete wrote it when he was unemployed and making the most of the time between finishing his A-levels at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College and leaving for university in Newport. It reminds me of the summer I spent making a short film when I was unemployed between finishing my A-levels at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College and going to university in Norwich (although films from that era of my existence will never ever be shown, mostly because I act in them. It's not pretty). Like Pete I abandoned that project when ambition gave way to reality, but unlike Pete I didn't go back and finish it.

That's partly what makes this awesome. The story of Everyday Joe is a story that started a decade ago, but it's also a story us creative types will be re-living over and over again. If you've ever worked on any kind of project that took over your life for a while, you will relate to Everyday Joe. Please listen, leave comments and share with the internet - 


Monday, 13 August 2012

Jenny Ringo 2 update...

So Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw hit 300 views over the weekend, mostly due to awesome people sharing the link on Facebook and Twitter. In return I promised an update on where I am with the sequel. Along with some photos, like this one.


To recap, the edit was finished a few months ago but then progress stopped for a bit because of this bloke...


But before my son was born I managed to get it to a sound designer and a composer who have been working on it ever since, plus I have a sound mixer helping to get things organised for when the various elements are ready to be put together. I've had the first few sound and music samples through and it's all sounding fantastic. I still need to arrange a session to re-record some dialogue but hopefully that will be the last thing I need to do when it comes to the sound. Yes, that's a pretty big, time-consuming thing, but on my to do list it looks no more intimidating than one of the lesser jobs like 'write new blog post'.


On the visual side of things there is one major effects shot that needs to be done, and then there are a couple of other bits that would vastly improve things if they are possible so I need to find someone who can do effects-type stuff.

I'm also hoping I can get a trailer and a music video edited too.

If all goes to plan I think we're probably two or three months off being finished. It's taken a bit longer than I wanted it to, but all things considered I think we're making good progress. And it's given me some time to start pushing the first film a bit more in the hope of creating an audience for the second.

(You have seen the first film, right? And you've signed up to the mailing list? And liked our Facebook page? Have you considered leaving a comment on vimeo or YouTube? Maybe even an imdb review?)


The next phase of my evil plan to take over the world is to get more people to sign up to the mailing list. Getting more people to see the film is awesome, obviously, but what I need are people who will stick around for the next one. In September I'm going to enter it into a competition that requires a public vote and I fully intend to win. For that I will need help. I'll post full details later in the week, and this time I promise the rewards will be much more awesome than a blog post like this one (although you did get to see baby Eric in a Batman top - is there anything more awesome than that?)

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw...

Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw was finished around this time last year. It had its first public screening at MovieBar in September and subsequently screened at Cinecity in Brighton, Cine East in London and the Edge of the City Film Festival where it picked up an award. The film has also had some fantastic support from bloggers and a full list of reviews can be found here.

AWESOME NEWS!!! THE WHOLE FILM IS NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE!!!

Look, you can watch it right here - 



This is the part I've really been looking forward to. My plan for Jenny Ringo has never been limited to one film. We've already shot a second film, Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell, and we have an excellent script for a third. However, if I'm going to take this any further I need to get as many people to see it and share it as possible, and to do that I'll need help.


 First, please watch the film. Finished? Okay, what did you think?

If it's not your thing then that's okay. I really appreciate you taking the time to watch it and if you get chance to leave some feedback in the comments here or on vimeo that would be awesome.

If you liked it, even if you only liked bits of it, then here's a list of stuff you can do to help. Now I realise some of these things are a big ask but if you stick with me I will get to the part about what I can offer in return. First, here are your instructions...

1) Sign up to our mailing list at www.jennyringo.com. That way you can keep up to date on the progress of the second film and any other related projects. At the moment we send out an update once every two months so you won't be bombarded with e-mails. My wife Andrea writes most of the e-mails and she is funnier than I am so that's an added bonus.

2) 'Like' our Facebook page. We tend to post more regular updates on there plus you can interact with other people who liked the film. And then all your friends will wonder what this awesome-looking thing you're a fan of is all about and maybe they'll sign up too! You can also 'like' the film on vimeo or on YouTube.

3) Leave a comment telling me and the rest of the world what you think. You can do that at the end of this post, or on vimeo or on YouTube, or on the Facebook page or even write a review on the imdb page. I'm not after 100% positive feedback here, be as critical as you like (and yes I may regret saying that), but what I'm interested in is starting some interaction and generating discussions.

4) Like what Batman said, 'Tell all your friends about me.' i.e. share the video on Facebook, retweet the link, e-mail people, maybe even use good old-fashioned talking with your mouth.

5) If you have a blog of your own, or a vlog, or contribute to anything that is vaguely related to films at all then consider writing a review all of your own. Then send me the link and I'll publicise your blog/vlog/whatever on here. 

6) If you know anyone who writes a blog or contributes to a film review website, pass on the link to the film and see if they will consider reviewing it.
 
As I said, a big ask. I am aware that I am but one of a billion online artists craving your time and attention. However, what I can offer is this. If you have a creative project of your own, whether it's a film, a band, a blog or anything at all, let me know and I'll return the favour. If you do any of the above for Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw I'll do the same for your project. I can't promise to like everything, but as regular readers will know I'm not big on negativity here so I will always highlight the positives. If this is something you are interested in here's what you need to do -

- E-mail me at whatwritesatmidnight[at]gmail.com

- Say something to the effect of 'Hey! I liked/reviewed/blogged about Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw! Please do the same for my film/band/art/blog/stuff [insert link here].

- I will confirm that you are awesome and that I have reciprocated your awesomeness.

I can't promise a quick turnaround due to dad duties but I will definitely return the favour.

That is all. Thank you in advance.


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Judex and The Dark Knight Rises...

I wasn't going to write anything about The Dark Knight Rises. I mean, I loved it. It was kind of perfect. I cried at the end. But no one needs to know that. Besides, I have a son now and the days when I had the time or the inclination to write 5,000 word blog posts about films seem like they belong to a different person.

Then I saw Georges Franju's Judex and the film theorist in me wanted to come out and play.


My dad has a habit of handing me copies of obscure French films with no explanation. Every time he comes over there will be a DVD or two deposited somewhere in my flat with titles I can't pronounce. Which would be great except I've become a bit of a philistine when it comes to foreign-language films recently. I'm not sure why, I just went through a phase of wanting to watch easy stuff with things exploding. And playing Xbox games in which you make things explode. So these obscure French films piled up. Until I had a son and decided to give him some culture.

So I picked up Judex, a 1963 remake of a 1916 serial by Louis Feuillade (who also made Fantômas and Les Vampires - neither of which I've seen, but I have seen Irma Vep, a 1996 film about a filmmaker attempting to remake Les Vampires, which is worth mentioning here because it's awesome). I had no idea what it was about, other than I knew that Georges Franju had directed Eyes Without a Face, one of my favourite horror films.

To summarise the plot (and this blog post), Judex is kind of like Batman. He fights crime, he has a secret idenity and he even has a secret lair. Judex is out to get this evil banker dude, Favraux (because bankers were evil even way back in 1963). We don't really know why Favraux is evil at first, we just see him get these notes from Judex telling him he is. In fact, for the first ten minutes of the film I almost thought Judex was going to be the bad guy as we have no idea who he is or what his motivations are. Then we see Favraux run over an old guy in his car and we realise this Judex bloke is probably onto something.

The first time we see Judex is possibly the most awesome introduction of a character ever. As always I seriously recommend you check out the whole film but if you would like to see the most awesome introduction of a character ever the whole scene is here -


So Judex kidnaps Favraux and initially sentences him to death, but then has a change of heart because he falls for his daughter so he figures life imprisonment will do just as well. Meanwhile there's a Catwoman-type character called Diana Monti who was hoping to steal some valuable documents from Favraux's house but is then spotted by his daughter so makes various attempts to kill her. Judex obviously doesn't like this too much. Hijinks ensue. 


There are more kidnappings and dastardly plots and chases and fights. And there is a scene towards the end in which Diana Monti (who is a bit like Catwoman), has tied up Judex (who is a bit like Batman) and confesses that she has a huge crush on him and suggests they run away together. In spite of this I didn't make the connection to The Dark Knight Rises until I watched an interview with Jacques Champreux who co-wrote the film, because it's not the narrative similarities that I'm interested in.

According to Champreux, Franju had a bit of an odd approach to Judex. On the one hand he had been a fan of Louis Feuillade and wanted to make a tribute to the silent adventure serials. At the same time he regarded the original Judex as one of Feuillade's worst and had no real interest in the character. So he made the film his own way. He cut out key elements of exposition and backstory, such as the fact that in the original film Judex is shown as a child witnessing the death of his father at the hands of Favraux and being sworn to seek revenge by his mother. Franju decided we didn't need all that, so he cut it all. And now Judex just turns up dressed as a bird. The film is full of incongruous moments like this and yet it is never difficult to follow and still tells a solid story. Franju just had a lot more faith in his audience than many filmmakers do now.

Franju was also happy to allow symbolism to take precedence over a clear narrative. At one point the detective working with Judex notices a passing circus and asks an acrobat dressed in white to give him a hand. We don't know anything about her, but within moments she becomes one of the main players in the climax of the film and ends up in a fight with Monti who is dressed in black. During this fight Franju focuses on the characters' legs, emphasising the contrast between the colours. A fight scene in which we only see legs is one of those things that will divide an audience. I thought it was awesome.

And then there's the speed of the film, which glides along at a consistent pace without ever ramping up to emphasise the tension or highlight the action. This makes the whole piece feel rather dream-like and not like an adventure film at all.

My point is that Franju made an art film out of a popular adventure series. On the surface there are chases and fights and dastardly plots and all the other elements that make up an adventure story. But the film never feels like an adventure story and as a result compels the viewer to look deeper into the material. This is exactly what Nolan did with Batman.

There were hints of it in Batman Begins but I don't think Nolan really made the material his own until The Dark Knight. The Joker does not belong in a mainstream superhero blockbuster. For a start he does not exist until the moment he appears on screen; he has no backstory. He describes himself as an agent of chaos, but in fact he is chaos itself in human form meaning he isn't really a human character at all and therefore obeys none of the rules we have come to expect from characters in films. He is unpredictable, he has no real character arc, and at the end of the film he wins. This is what makes the film different and interesting, and Nolan took this approach to the next level with The Dark Knight Rises.



There may be spoilers.

Instead of throwing one or two interesting ideas into the mix, Nolan has constructed a whole film around allegory and symbolism. The best example of this is the prison where Bane came from and where he sends Bruce Wayne after his defeat. There is no attempt to even pretend this prison is a real place. As a result the comparisons come easy - it is the Nietzschean abyss, it is Kafka's Penal Colony, it is Foucoult comparing modern society to Bentham's Panopticon; it is pure allegory. And because it is pure allegory it throws the rest of the film into a different light. Gotham no longer feels like a real city and so may as well be every city. Just as it's not clear whether Batman survives at the end or not, it's not even clear whether he makes it out of the prison at all. Then there's the kangaroo court scene, a reference to Fritz Lang's M and another example of the narrative taking a back seat so Nolan can play with images.



Except the narrative never really does take a back seat. That is why Nolan is a genius. If you want The Dark Knight Rises to be nothing more than a film about a man in a daft costume kicking people in the head then all of that is there and it works just fine. But if you want it to be a film about the financial crisis, if you want it to be a film about terrorism, if you want it to be a film about where the Occupy movement would've ended up, if you want it to be a film about a crazy millionaire day-dreaming about the man he could have been, all that is there too. Few filmmakers are able to accomplish that balance successfully and certainly not with a much-loved and well-established franchise, but like Franju before him Nolan has cracked it. 

Decades from now it won't matter whether we've had twenty more incarnations of Batman or whether, like Judex, the character himself has become a relic of past popular culture, people will still be talking about The Dark Knight Rises.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Eric Thomas Regan...

So this happened...


Probably won't be any blog posts for a while as I need to teach the little guy about all the important stuff like existentialism and quantum physics. That's why they take up so much time, isn't it?

Friday, 15 June 2012

Why it's okay to like Prometheus...

A few months ago I didn't care all that much about Prometheus. I'm not the biggest Ridley Scott fan and always thought most of his work was a little over-rated, with the exception of Alien. I'm not even that keen on Bladerunner - I always preferred the original version with the miserable Harrison Ford voiceover. That doesn't mean to say I think any of his films are bad, I just didn't happen to enjoy them and that's kind of what this post is about - the distinction between whether you enjoy a film and whether it is good or bad. If you don't fancy reading 5000+ words about that last sentence then take that as a handy summary.


Meanwhile everyone else in the world seemed to be bubbling over with excitement at the prospect of a master returning to the genre he built his career on. It quickly became the must-see film of the year, without anyone really knowing anything about it. If you stopped a random person in the street and asked them which film they were most looking forward to this year the majority would say 'Prometheus'. People even sneered at Avengers, with a kind of 'You thought that was good? Just wait until you see what Sir Ridley has up his sleeve' attitude.

So I went to see it the weekend it opened, like most other people. And rather surprisingly I quite enjoyed it. Not my favourite film of the year (that would be Avengers, obviously) and probably not a masterpiece but I was never bored, I liked the ideas and I left the cinema thinking about life and the universe and other suitably big questions. Even the 3D didn't bother me. You can't ask for anything more than that really.

Apparently you can.

As soon as I went online I found the whole world telling me how wrong I am about what I just saw. How could I have missed the terrible script? The awful characters? The downright implausibility of everything that happened onscreen? We had all been conned into paying a ridiculous amount of money to see poorly constructed garbage. Some people were gloating because they knew all along it would be awful, others were really quite seriously upset by what they considered a desecration of cinema itself, but most were just angry. Really really angry.

Doesn't matter, I thought to myself. I liked it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

And still the anger flooded the internet. Day after day of negative reviews and status updates and debates over which was the most ridiculous plot point.

Let it go, I thought to myself. I can live with being in the minority here (especially when that minority includes Philip French and Roger Ebert).

But something about this barrage of unnecessary criticism started to really bother me. It wasn't about the film itself, it was about the attitude to films in general. It was about the fact that at some point we've decided we have a right to be entertained and that filmmakers have an obligation to entertain us. We've paid our money, we demand entertainment! And if we don't get the level of entertainment we are promised we all get a bit angry and indignant about something that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't really matter.

The problem is, art doesn't really work like that. Never has really. We've just decided it should.

And now I'm going to write a really long blog post to explain myself.

Before I start -

!!!MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!

Consider yourselves warned.

So what I thought I'd do is run though each of the apparent problems with the film and try to explain why they aren't really problems at all.

1) It didn't live up to the hype -

It has to be said the marketing team on this film did an outstanding job and in many ways the advertising strategy was the real genius at the heart of the whole project. That thing I mentioned, where everyone you spoke to was excited about seeing it - THAT NEVER HAPPENS!

I actually found this rather refreshing. For once people seemed to be looking forward to seeing a film without wanting it to fail. Why would they want it to fail? I have no idea, but sometimes after I've read too many sneering, angry blog posts or have spent too much time on Twitter or Facebook I start to wonder why most self-proclaimed film fans bother going to the cinema at all. It mostly seems to make them miserable. There are other things out there, you know, like books and stuff. You really don't have to watch films if you don't want to.

But this time it was different. People went into Prometheus wanting to like it. That is a good and wonderful thing. Three cheers for the advertising folks!

The downside of this is that that the film could never live up to the life-changing experience it promised to be. But then, it never actually promised to change your life did it?

No. It mostly promised to be loud.

From the reaction some people had to the film it certainly seemed like a life changing experience was what they were expecting. It was as if this would be the film to end all films; that after Prometheus one need not go to the cinema ever again because one would have seen all there is to see.

All the marketing really did, and this was a genuinely smart move, was to hit the right balance between showing you enough to get you interested whilst not telling you anything about the film itself. This is how film marketing should work, and if every film was advertised like this one we would probably all go to the cinema a lot more because most trailers don't keep anything hidden. Most trailers show you the big set pieces along with all the major plot points in narrative order. Most trailers seem to want to show you exactly what to expect so you know what you're getting. No surprises. And maybe that's a sensible approach, because the reaction to Prometheus seems to suggest that surprises are unwelcome.

So what did the dissatisfied Prometheus audience really want? A remake of Alien? Would that have been any better? Considering that what they got was more like a remake of Bladerunner and that wasn't good enough either then it appears that people didn't want a remake at all. I would really like someone to explain to me what they expected from this film. Please, leave a comment explaining what you expected so I can perhaps understand why I should be more angry.

Anyway, the point is any sane person should know that a marketing campaign does not have any bearing on the quality of the finished product. You want proof? Witness the best trailer ever made...


...for a truly terrible film.

2) Bad characters -

This one I don't get at all. In fact, at the risk of sounding patronising, this and the script complaint (which I'll come onto later) seem a bit like lazy criticism. Bad characters is something proper film critics point to all the time so now when the rest of us don't like a film that's what we say too. I actually think that the majority of the characters in Prometheus were well written, well performed and generally well constructed.

First, some concessions. I agree the supporting characters are pretty poor. The two pilot guys, Chance and Ravel, weren't really set up very well. But do they need to be? Do we really care about who they are beyond the fact that they'll do what their Captain tells them to do? Are we really suggesting we wanted more screen time for those guys?

Aside from that I'll also agree that the numerous red shirts (i.e. the unnamed characters who were only there as cannon fodder) could have been used (or rather not used) less obviously, because there was no effort to even pretend that the extra numbers on the ship weren't there for any reason other than to bump up the bodycount. But these are minor issues that you can apply to pretty much every film (except maybe Avengers because Joss Whedon is the ultimate plate-spinner when it comes to making the audience care about lots of people at the same time). If we're honest, we don't care about those random background guys because we like our films under 3 hours, so let's stop complaining about a lack of screen time for wallpaper.

How about we look at the rest of the central characters in the film (except David - I'll get to him later)?

Vickers (Charlize Theron) is obsessively trying to impress her father; to be everything Weyland wanted her to be (or perhaps thought she could never be).


What makes this work is that it doesn't come out until much later in the film. So we spend most of our time wondering if she's an android when in fact she's probably the most human character we meet in that she's the most flawed. And the second her father fails to recognise her achievements she instantly goes from being one of the strongest characters in the story to one of the least important. Her physical involvement in the events of the film begins to resemble her relationship with her father and the effect it has on her personality. In that moment her whole life is laid out for the audience because we now know that no matter what she did to impress him in the past it  was never enough.

Janek (Idris Elba) has a fondness for history; for long-dead art and culture, hence all the junk he keeps around.


This serves various functions in the film -

a) it sets him up as a direct contrast to Theron's character who's all about the future which is smart and shiny. This contrast sets up enough of a shorthand to make it believable that they would be interested enough in each other to have sex, which turns out to be critical to the plot because if they weren't off having sex they would've heard the distress call from the guys getting eaten by monsters and the film would have taken a very different turn.

b) it draws a parallel between his character and David who also has fondness for old stuff, if for different reasons.

c) most importantly, it explains why he is willing to sacrifice everything, without hesitation, when Shaw tells him Earth will be destroyed if he doesn't stop the escaping ship.

On top of that he's the one character in the film that the average audience member can relate to, because in a way he is from our time.

Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) is striving for the ultimate human endeavour - a conversation with God. When he doesn't get that he has to confront the fact that his life may not have the meaning he thought it did. That's what makes him and Shaw (Noomi Rapace) such an interesting couple. He only cares about the destination, whereas she's all about the journey. At least that's how it is until the end of the film when she's lost so much she becomes just like him and is destined for the same crushing disappointment we see him fail to deal with.

This feeds neatly into the plot - Holloway is so ravaged by disappointment he turns to alcohol. This means a) he's vulnerable and b) he's drinking which allows David to slip him the evil black goo and turn him into a walking science experiment.What makes this moment work is that it's easy to relate to - it's the disappointment that follows any kind of event or achievement because his sights were set on the destination and not the journey (see above). His expectations were so high that the destination could only ever be a disappointment, and thus Holloway's journey becomes a representation of audience reactions to the film. All you people drowning your sorrows after the film finished and ranting about how awful it is, you better watch out for your robot buddy because...the analogy kind of runs out of steam after the drinking bit, but you see what I'm getting at.

Meanwhile Shaw has become obsessed with finding out the origin of life because she can't create life herself. This contradiction manifests itself in her own flesh when she becomes pregnant and suddenly has to deal with a miracle. And yet she is forced to terminate the thing that she once wanted because she feels threatened by it. It's a bit of a clumsy interpretation, but do you see where I'm going with this? I doubt it, because you were too busy sneering through 3D glasses at all the crazy stuff we're supposed to believe people do on alien planets, in space, in a world that doesn't exist. Sorry, I'll get onto the implausibility issue later...


My points it that when it comes to Shaw every question raised by the film is answered in her internal conflict and subsequent actions. In the film she asks why the Engineers want to destroy humanity, but she already has the answer because what happens to her can be taken as a microcosm of what happened to the Engineers. So all the big ideas and grand themes of the film can be explored by looking at this one character. That doesn't seem like bad character work to me.

This is, of course, just my interpretation. Why not try it yourself? It's fun and you might learn something!

The reason the characters come off as 'bad' is that all the character work is done fairly minimally - a few lines here and there. No one gets a proper monologue about who they are and where they came from, and other than Shaw there are no flashbacks (and in Shaw's case the importance of the flashback is not that we see it, it's that David sees it).

This is how characters should be written - they should complement the main plot, not obstruct it. If you look at the characters in any film pre-1960 you'll find the same approach. Take one of my favourite films, The Magnificent Seven. In that film you have seven well-rounded main characters who all have backstories and their own reasons for taking part in the fight. And yet the film isn't 7 hours long, it gets all this information across with an odd line here or there. That's what's happening here. Vickers doesn't have a 20 minute scene with her father explaining that she wanted to be like him and that she just wanted him to hug her just that one time, because the filmmakers have trusted us the audience to not need it.

Why?

Because we don't. Or at least we shouldn't. The information we need about all the characters is there, we just have to join the dots. That's the part that requires some effort, which we are apparently unwilling to put in.

3) Bad script -

Okay, fine. I'll give you bad script. But not for the reason you think. Bad scriptwriting is another one of those lazy criticisms people like to throw around because it's what proper critics say. But mostly they just mean the dialogue, and that's barely scratching the surface of what makes a good script.

First of all, let's look at what's good about the script. All that character stuff I mentioned above? The actors don't come up with that stuff on their own. That's writing. Also it's proper film writing, in that it's minimal and gets the story across without boring us to death with asides about what they're having for dinner that night and needless pop culture references. And at the same time it has just enough reality to it to stop most people (well, me anyway) questioning whether 'people really talk like that'.

But of course you may not have agreed with me about the other characters, so let's turn to something we are all agreed on. Let's talk about Michael Fassbender's Oscar-worthy performance as David.



David is by far the most interesting character in the film because he's a constant enigma. We never quite know what he's doing or what his motives are. We never know how human he really is and thinking about this makes us question what makes us human anyway. At the end of the film it's unclear whether this was the resolution he was aiming for. Was there some kind of Machiavellian plot at work at all times, or was he simply driven by a childlike curiosity to find out how all this stuff works? Every question raised by that character could spawn a thousand blogs longer than this one. It's brilliant, fascinating stuff. And it's all in the script.

Where else did you think it came from? Fassbender did a great job but he wasn't writing the lines. All he really had to do was not fuck it up. And he did very well at not fucking it up, but then it was so well written that other than winking at the camera every time he did something with ambiguous motives it would have been impossible to fuck it up. I'm not trying to take anything away from Fassbender's performance which I agree was sublime, but film is a collaborative medium and the part everyone agrees is perfect would not be there without the script everyone agrees is garbage.

But wait, I agreed that the script was bad. And it is, because the structure falls down after the second act. As you can probably tell I'm not here to criticise the film but if you must know the part that disappointed me was the sequence immediately after the 'birth' scene. I had been loving the slow pace of the film until that point, but suddenly it was like someone reminded Sir Ridley that in films stuff must explode and people must run about a lot, because otherwise the marketing people don't have anything to put in their trailer. The pace went out the window and that last half hour turned into a lot of running and shouting and stuff. Which is fine, because films should have running and shouting and stuff, just not at the expense of plot and character and all the things Prometheus was doing really well with until that point.

I'm not going to start going on about screenplay structure because it's as dull as it sounds, but there is a school of thought that says the best films actually follow a 5 Act structure (like what Shakespeare did) rather than the traditional (and rather simplistic) 3 Acts (here's a handy summary). Prometheus definitely needed another two Acts, or at the very least an extra twenty minutes to give the final Act time to breathe. That is the only real flaw in the screenplay, and I'm pretty confident it wasn't the writers (or the director for the that matter) who decided to sacrifice that all important extra time to cut to the running and shouting.

4) Implausibility -

Okay, now we're through the heavy stuff let's take a look at something much less important - whether you as a human person in 2012, believe that what you're seeing on the screen (in a film set in space in the future with aliens) is actually happening. This is what people seem to have been getting most angry about.

Let's break it up into the most common complaints -

Complaint #1 - Why does Vickers have a medical pod that's only designed for males?


This question has come up a lot and it's the easiest to answer. The medical pod is Chekhov's gun (speaking of which, if you want to see a clever and hilarious misinterpretation of Chekhov's gun may I recommend the short film Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw which you can see by going here and signing up to the mailing list? Thank you!)

We see the pod in the first Act so we know it will be used in the second or third. At the same time it makes sense in terms of the plot because it, along with Vickers' quarters, is there for Weyland. By the time the pod is put to use we already know Weyland is on the ship because we saw David talking to him. So as well as becoming a further obstacle for our protagonist it also gives us further insight into the selfishness of a father who would have his daughter on a ship and build a medical pod that can only save him.

The only way to make this more obvious would be for the medical pod to say 'Sorry, I am only designed for males because although you thought these quarters were for a woman they are actually for the old man we've got hidden out the back.' Would that have made it better? No, it would be ridiculous. But if you complained about this then the next time a character in a film delivers a 15 minute monologue of non-stop exposition please remember that you asked for further clarification on such matters.

Complaint # 2 - Why are Fifield (Sean Harris) and Millburn (Rafe Spall) so dumb? Why are they hanging out in the room with all the gloopy scary stuff? Why do they poke the evil snake thing until it eats them?


For a start, hanging out in the room of evil didn't seem all that implausible to me. I could actually relate to it. Possibly because I have been trapped in a lift.

When you are trapped in a lift common sense says to wait. Someone will get you out eventually. Just stand there, wait for help and don't panic. After all, you're in a tiny box suspended over empty space - you don't really want to be tempting fate by trying to escape. But after about five minutes I was looking at the ceiling in case there was a hatch like in films, another guy was prising the doors open with a penknife and someone else was making himself at home on the floor and offering his lunch around. The point is that the way you relate to your environment changes when the context shifts i.e. when the small metal box stops being the means to get between floors with minimal exercise and instead becomes a prison for the next two hours you tend to stop caring about how far up you are and become fixated on how to get out. At least the five of us trapped in that lift did. In those situations the combination of boredom and panic will always get the better of common sense. That's what happened to Fifield and Milburn.

You may be thinking I'm making excuses, but that's honestly the moment I flashed back to while watching Fifield and Millburn in that room. I was thinking 'They're going to start prising the doors open!' and that scene worked for me.

As for poking the alien snake thing yes, that was a pretty dumb move. But then, so was this...


Remember that moment? From everyones' favourite sci-fi/horror film Alien, the greatest sci-fi/horror film ever made in the whole history of cinema ever? That's the scene where John Hurt STICKS HIS FACE INTO AN ALIEN EGG.

But that's not dumb or anything because it's like, you know, a classic and stuff.

Complaint #3 - Moments after slicing open her abdomen and performing a self-administered c-section Shaw is then seen running all over the place as if nothing happened.


Let's start by looking at the alternative. Let's say this is happening in real life. Let's imagine that having watched Shaw slice herself open with super medical robot things from the future, extracting the alien creature from her womb and then putting herself back together with staples she spends the next week recovering. And we wait.

Meanwhile, the rest of the film carries on without her which means she's still hanging out on the ship while the Engineer is setting off to destroy Earth. The fact is if you can't put up with the implausibility of someone recovering from childbirth in a matter of minutes then I guarantee you won't put up with watching someone sitting around doing nothing while the world ends.

From my perspective, the film showed her pumping herself full of future drugs and if Sir Ridley says that's all we need to get her back in the plot then that's fine by me. It's not like we've never seen something like this before. Every Rambo film features at least one occasion where Stallone has to carry out major surgery on himself. In fact action heroes do it all the time, and though we know that getting up and running about after pulling an arrow out of your gut or whatever is unrealistic we don't question it. Because it's a film, and all films would be over a lot quicker if the main characters weren't a little more resilient than the rest of us.

The real problem here is that people are asking these questions in the first place. That's usually a sign that there's a bigger issue with the film because the audience is paying attention to irrelevant details rather than the bigger picture. And if I'd felt the same way about any of the above complaints I would agree that it suggests deeper flaws in the film. However, what I actually think is that we've become too quick to pick holes in film plots. Like the minimal dialogue that used to deliver the most character information in the shortest time, we've forgotten how to take in film shorthand. Do we really want a film in which everything is explained to death? In which characters stay on the ship where it's safe then decide to leave because it's all a bit too creepy? In fact, why do they even leave Earth at all? Why not just stay at home picking holes in far-fetched sci-fi films like the rest of us.

Fiction, particularly genre fiction, puts us in situations and places that we can't possibly relate to. It relies on us to be okay with that so the writers/filmmakers can get on with telling a story. If we're suddenly not okay with that then there's always reality TV.

5) Unanswered questions -

The biggest criticism of the film seems to be about the fact that it was sold on the premise of explaining the origin of the alien in Alien and then didn't. On top of that it posed new questions about the origin of life itself and then didn't answer those either. Not only that, but we're told that these answers and more will be provided in the forthcoming sequels. So this whole thing that we were all looking forward to and paid loads of money to see was actually just an advert for two more films that haven't even been made yet?

Well, you could look at it like that but you would basically be looking at the finger rather than the moon...



Since you got this far, here are the answers most people couldn't be bothered to look for.

First of all, forget about the sequels. That's just more marketing stuff in case the film makes enough money to justify making more in which case they can guarantee some of us will go see the next one.

All the answers you need are in the film. This film, Prometheus - not Alien, not Bladerunner, not the as yet unproduced sequels. Let's take it as read that in the story of the film the Engineers created human life (and probably other life too). They then create the black gooey stuff to destroy it. The black gooey stuff is not only a weapon but a lifeform itself and it evolves - that's why it reacts differently depending on how it is applied and who it is applied to. The ultimate evolutionary state of the the evil black stuff is the Alien. So the Alien was created as a weapon, but the evolution of that weapon also has parallels with the evolution of human life. It even starts of as a kind of amphibious/reptile type creature and at the end emerges as humanoid. That, as far as I'm concerned, connects this film to Alien just fine.

The next question, and the question that will apparently be answered in the sequel, is why? Why would the Engineers go to the trouble of creating life only to design a way to destroy their creation? Remember all that stuff about Shaw and what she does when she feels threatened by the life she created? There's one answer. Another answer is stated more explicitly by David in conversation with Holloway - they do it because they can.

That's just what I thought and other opinions are available, like this one.

Of course this may not be anything like the story the filmmakers were trying to tell, but is it really their job to provide the answers? No, it's not. Films are supposed to ask questions, not answer them. That job is supposed to be down to the audience. And this, 5000 words later, is the real reason that the reaction to Prometheus concerns me so much. Audiences should have been leaving those screenings discussing what the film was about, not complaining that they didn't get what they wanted.

Let's recap on what audiences apparently want. Endless exposition so all questions are answered? A film that devotes much more screen time to character moments which ultimately don't drive the plot forward? A film that gives us more of what we've already seen in the trailer and nothing else? A film that does not ask anything of its audience other than to sit there and be entertained? If this is what you want then fear not for there is a filmmaker out there making films just for you...


The point of this is not to say anyone who doesn't like the film is wrong. If I'm honest I didn't like it all that much. What I'm saying is something I've said many times before. There is value in any film, as in any piece of art. Whether we like or dislike something is purely subjective. I'm not saying there's no such thing as a bad film (actually I am but that's another argument for another day) but if we don't even try to look for the interesting stuff; if we just sit back and expect to be entertained with the least amount of input from ourselves, then we may as well be watching a montage of flashing colours and loud noises.

Popular opinion would have us believe that no one wanted a filmmaker like Michael Bay, but the fact is if we keep going into films without wanting to think about what we're watching, without wanting to contribute anything to the experience at all, then frankly Michael Bay is the filmmaker we deserve.