Question: What do these movies have in common?
- Seventh Heaven (1927)
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
- Pinocchio (1940)
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
- E.T. the Extraterrestrial
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Deja Vu
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
- Edge of Tomorrow
Is Hollywood obsessed with resurrection, aka the denial of death?
1. Like watching someone else play a video game for hours on end. Someone with a cheat code. In Groundhog’s Day, the repetition was not a good thing and Murray tried to stop it, without success. In this film, repetition is what enables Cruise to win. Without it, he, and all of humanity, would lose. Why should we care about someone who has an unfair advantage in the game? Like I said, it’s like watching someone play a game and win only because they have the cheat code. Not cool and more than a little boring.
2. The first part of the film is about getting beyond the main battlefield. The third act is about confronting the aliens in an entirely new location. I think this was a mistake. It’s ok that they left the main battlefield, but I think it would have been more interesting if they discovered that what they were seeking was on the main battlefield all along, so the third act should have been a return, once again, to the main battlefield. Sorta like an ABA’ structure.
3. The setup didn’t make sense. Why would they send a PR guy like Cruise, inexperienced in combat, into battle on such an important day? Is his superior officer secretly working for the other side, intentionally trying to sabotage the war effort? It might make sense if the guy somehow knew what was going to happen to Cruise. But he’s just as clueless about the future as anyone at this point.
I had multiple issues with Ender’s Game, but I’m going to talk about just one: the twist. It makes little sense that Ender, having been presented as super smart and distrustful of Harrison Ford throughout the movie, does not suspect something’s up when he and his squad destroy the planet in what they think is nothing more than a simulation exercise for graduation.
This weakness could have been resolved if Harrison Ford said something like this in reply to Ender’s, “You tricked me.” “That’s bullshit, Wiggin, and you know it. You’re too smart not to have suspected the truth. We needed someone who would go all the way, and only a psychopath could go all the way. We chose you because you repeatedly showed signs of being a psychopath. That’s what we wanted, and that’s what you gave us. Deep down inside, you knew that. You wanted to destroy the planet. You wanted permission to kill a species. And that’s what you did. So don’t give me that bullshit about being tricked.”
Of course, I doubt the filmmakers intended us to see Ender as a psychopath, but it’s unavoidable and if that’s the impression, then the best thing is to embrace it. Perhaps the main problem is the setup. An alien invasion sets everything in motion, but we never see any real fighting or real aliens until the end. The would be second invasion functions more as a MacGuffin, but it’s a MacGuffin gone wrong because what happens to the aliens cannot be avoided. I get the impression that the story could have been better told had something with lower stakes than an alien invasion and the fate of the entire planet been chosen because the story that ends up being told would seem to be best setup with preliminaries closer to Starship Trooper (that is, a story about fighting aliens mano a mano, up close and personal) than a story about kids in a military academy.
I recently stumbled upon an article in the old Jim Steranko mag Mediascene about two books both the mag and the article refer to as “graphic novels.” It’s in the November/December 1975 issue, three years before Will Eisner’s 1978 A Contract With God. Although the books, one by Richard Corben, King of the Northern Abyss, one by Gil Kane, The Flame Horse, were never published, they apparently were widely advertised as graphic novels and it’s likely Eisner learned about these books on the convention circuit as well as picking up the term that he later used to publicize his own book. The article makes clear both the concept of the graphic novel and the phrase “graphic novel” were very much in the air at the time Eisner was conceiving and working on his book. Even though the books were never published, the y helped put the idea out there. So let’s give credit where credit’s due.
Anyone else notice the remarkable similarity between the major plot points of Star Trek Into Darkness and William Friedkin’s 1985 To Live and Die in L. A.?
To Live and Die in L. A.:
William Petersen’s older, father-figure type partner, Michael Greene, is killed by bad guy Willem Dafoe. Petersen seeks revenge, but his new partner, John Pankow, is a stickler for the law. Eventually, Petersen is killed by Dafoe, but his partner, having seen the error of his ways, pursues and dispatches the bad buy. Along the way, a friend, Debra Feuer, betrays and almost gets them killed.
Star Trek Into Darkness:
Kirk’s father-figure, Captain Pike, is killed by bad guy Khan. Kirk seeks revenge, but his new (again) first officer Spock is a stickler for the law. Eventually, Kirk dies (although not in hand to hand combat), but his first officer, Spock, having seen the error of his ways, pursues and dispatches the bad guy. Along the way, a friend, Admiral Marcus, betrays and almost gets them killed.
It’s hard to see the plot of To Live and Die in L.A. as anything other than a string of cliches. Except, perhaps, its ending. Killing off a character before he can fulfill his goal, then having him replaced by someone else who goes on to fulfill that goal, is something that usually happens in the first act. Happening as late into the film as it does in Friedkin’s film is unusual. Here’s what Friedkin says about it in his book, The Friedkin Connection:
Halfway through production, it occurred to me that Petersen’s character, Chance, had to die. This was not in the script or the novel, but I though it was unexpected and justified, given that he lived constantly on the edge. He wasn’t a superhero immune to danger. In the final confrontation between Chance and Masters (Dafoe), it would be Chance who was killed. I didn’t have an ending until discovering during production that Vukovich (Pankow) becomes Chance in appearance and attitude after Chance’s death. (The Friedkin Connection, p. 391)
At first I thought that the similarity between the plots was nothing more than a coincidence. As they say, there are no new plots. There are enough differences between the two films that there’s no danger anyone will be sued, but the fact that the each of Friedkin’s major plot points, including its most unusual one, shows up in Star Trek makes me wonder:
Did the Star Trek Into Darkness writers steal their plot from To Live and Die in L. A. ?