The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Friday, January 01, 2016

The Search For More Money

The way movies work - if I am not severely oversimplifying things - is that someone gotta pay for 'em. The people what pay are Producers. As Miss Piggy put it in The Muppets Take Manhattan, "they fire Directors".

Sometimes the producers seek out a script and a director not because the movie might make profit, but because - the producers calculate - it is guaranteed profit. Usually some other movie has come out first that has reported $X million. The suckers who'd seen that first movie - more to the point, saw it more than once / bought the video - will likely see another movie like this once. Such suckers are the target for the next.

The Producers don't always play it safe with sequels as such. Silence of the Lambs was a sequel. A super-secret sequel that didn't acknowledge its predecessor. *ahem* And then you get those famous counterexamples like "Godfather 2" and "Empire Strikes Back" whose original was just so popular that the director made enough bank that he could become a producer himself.

But the producers do play it safe for knockoffs - including sequels - that get started up after the original movie's opening week, when that original movie was either just okay or else came from some other producer. So those later producers will start with a lower budget than that original did. The result will usually be pretty bad, as a result. Wishmaster 2; Starship Troopers 2. Or Starcrash. Or *ulp* Troll 2.

If we are lucky, though, the people who get that budget for The Search For More Money will rebel against their lot in life:

  • Flash Gordon. George Lucas's original Star Wars inspired, if that's the word, several other Space Operas in the 1978-1982 halfdecade; like the aforementioned Starcrash. Most of these were, to my knowledge, awful. During this era someone decided to dig an old Star Wars inspiration, Flash Gordon, out of its grave but to restrict its budget. The people they assigned to this turkey figured, screw it. So they released about the gayest, cocainiest movie since I don't know when and not seen again since I don't know when. It is, of course, brilliant.
  • Gremlins 2. According to the commentary-track of the DVD, which is worth the price of the DVD itself, nobody here thought a sequel was necessary. Nobody here wanted to be here. So they spent the whole running-time making mock of the original movie's premise and of the original (Jewish) director's malice against Christianity. I hope Spielberg saw this movie and felt every ounce of the shame he deserved for the original.
  • Aliens. (This came up in AOSHQ comments recently.) Ridley Scott as director for Alien intended a brutal exploration of humankind as atoms in the void. Unfortunately for Scott, but fortunately for us, he'd teamed up with HR Giger who snuck in his own obsessions with human sexuality; which obsessions contradicted Scott's. In the sequel, Giger's fellow biomechanical artist James Cameron got to direct. Cameron was and remains more idealistic than anyone involved in that first movie... excepting maybe the lead actress Sigourney Weaver, who returned to the set. Cameron and Weaver duly flushed Scott out the airlock and delivered the best pure-action SF of the 1980s. (So, pace the AOS "moron", an "ode to motherhood" was implied all along in Giger's nightmare; Giger feared because he cared.)

posted by Zimri on 18:20 | link | 0 comments

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