Beneath Ridley Scott’s planet

In my Hojas Susurrantes I recount how I liked Planet of the Apes (1968) the same year I watched Kubrick’s magnum opus on the big screen. When I learned as a child that they were filming the second part of the Planet, I loved the idea and thought it would be a fascinating film that would respect the original story. I remember that I found very long the months that, with great anxiety, I expected Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) to be released.

When it finally was released in Mexico City and went with my cousin Julio to the Cine de los Insurgentes I was shocked. The film was light-years apart from what I imagined it should be a legitimate sequel. As a child I didn’t have the faintest idea of what Hollywood really was, much less did I imagine that much of Hollywood’s interests had nothing to do with art or with an indictment of humankind—the main theme of the 1968 film. The sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which was released in Mexico about three years after the masterpiece of Franklin Schaffner, proved to be an absolute crap and the worst was that it made the boy I was feel completely cheated.

As a personal vignette I would say that, after watching the movie with my cousin, in the confusion we passed directly to the large roundabout which is in front of the now defunct Cine de los Insurgentes instead of going around it. (Incidentally, twenty years later they would film scenes of the 1990 Total Recall with Arnold Shwarzenegger in the commercial part beneath the roundabout.) We got stuck on it and the speed of the cars would not let us escape the roundabout. It was not built for pedestrians and Julio and I, who were about ten and twelve years old respectively, had gone to the theater without our parents. I discovered the roundabout was not made for pedestrians when I realized that the “sidewalk” had no room for my feet. In a sense we had risked our lives by rushing directly into the upper side of the roundabout when we left the movie theater. The chaotic and noisy Avenida de los Insurgentes and the congestion of the two children alone in the large roundabout turned out to be a pertinent corollary to my great disappointment.

Decades, and a dozen more disappointments of traitorous prequels, sequels and remakes to great sci-fi movies, passed until I grasped the fact that a market-driven society does not always coincide with my artistic sensibilities. In “Ridley Scott’s Prometheus” Trevor Lynch (Greg Johnson) recently put it this way:

As the credits rolled, I took off my 3-D glasses and rubbed by eyes in disbelief, trying to fathom the vulgarity of spirit behind this godawful movie. It is the same vulgarity of spirit that took the mysteries of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and gave us Peter Hyam’s sequel 2010 (1984), where the monoliths work to prevent nuclear war. It is the same vulgarity of spirit that took “the Force” of the original Star Wars trilogy and explained it in terms of little measurable material widgets called “midichlorians” in The Phantom Menace (1999). It is the same vulgarity of spirit that took the mysteries of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and gave us Rick Rosenthal’s made-for-TV sequel The Birds II: Land’s End (1994), in which we are informed that the bird attacks are due to pollution.

Heidegger tells us that this vulgarization is the essence of modernity, which seeks to abolish all mystery and transcendence, replacing them with the transparent and available, which in cultural terms boils down to the vulgar and the trite.

But some of us are more modern than others, and it all fell into place when I spied the name of screenwriter Damon Lindelof, one of the principal culprits behind Lost […]. Prometheus is the same kind of portentous swindle: just Jews making millions peddling myths for morons. Don’t lose your money, or your lunch, at Prometheus.

I lost my money today watching this grotesque film and I agree. But about Star Wars Johnson failed to say that the real abomination started not with The Phantom Menace but with The Return of the Jedi: where an idiotic George Lucas completely betrayed the character of Darth Vader that had impressed many adolescents that had watched the splendid The Empire Strikes Back.

In the interview “Alien Special Features” of my DVD, Special Edition I heard a Ridley Scott saying that after Blade Runner he would never direct another sci-fi movie unless the story was really good, referring to the original script of the first Alien. With Prometheus Scott has just betrayed what he said.

Worst of all, of course, was 2010: Odyssey Two. Fuck you Arthur Clarke for having accepted the green bill, according to your own confession, to write a sequel you had promised never to write…

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