Monday, April 3, 2017

A Reel Opinion: Why ALIEN, PREDATOR, and JURASSIC PARK Need to Change or Die

In storytelling, it has been widely accepted that there are only seven basic plots to choose from. In cinema, the most popular choice for the last 100 years has been the Overcoming the Monster plot. From KING KONG to DRACULA to GODZILLA, mainstream and independent Hollywood has embraced stories of human beings being chased down by fantastic beasts in ways that only the silver screen could deliver. In the 1980’s, the horror genre experienced a surge of popularity with franchises such as HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET…in which masked or scarred ghouls with hatchets and knives hunted characters down in the darkness in one sequel after another.

Eventually, audiences seemed to catch onto the fact that all these annoyingly endless sequels were all ending in the same way; with people being chased down by monsters. Sure, the sequels worked on beefing up the mythology and mixing up the settings and characters with stunt-casting, but the last half-hour would always end up the same way; running from the monster who wants to kill. This sub-genre of horror, often called the slasher-genre, went stale and eventually died.

But filmmakers have more than one way to scramble an egg. Outside of the slashers, there were three franchises which experienced immense popularity and critical love. It started in 1979 with Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, which is now deemed as a classic horror and sci-fi film. ALIEN was followed up by an excellent sequel in 1986, and two miserable sequels in 1992 and 1997. Running right alongside of ALIEN was another sci-fi horror creature in PREDATOR, which wowed audiences in 1987 before sputtering with two shitty sequels. Later, both ALIEN and PREDATOR would share the screen in two crappy showdowns. Also in the mix was Steven Spielberg’s magnificent dinosaur flick JURASSIC PARK in 1993, which was a game-changer for the industry and is also considered a classic, but also fell victim to one too many sequels which never quite recaptured the original magic.

Today, the franchises of ALIEN, PREDATOR, and JURASSIC PARK are dangerously close to suffering the same fate as the dead-and-buried slasher-genre. The ALIEN series introduced a prequel film in 2012 with more on the way in an attempt to build the mythology which leads to the events in the first film, while PREDATOR will see a new film in 2018 which serves as a sequel and a fresh start. For JURASSIC PARK, Steven Spielberg has stepped away from the chair, but the third sequel,  JURASSIC WORLD, was a smash-hit in 2015 and will see a direct sequel in 2018. But guess what…these movies still have a hard ceiling to get through…because they will inevitably end up in the same place; characters running from the monster. Audiences will love it, but just like the slashers, will eventually catch on to the same old thing happening.  After all, when an egg is thrown into a hot pan, only one thing happens. It cooks. It is then up the chef to decide what happens to it next. If the iconic names of ALIEN, PREDATOR, and JURASSIC PARK want to live on or at least preserve some dignity, they need to change…or quietly go away.

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