No matter how mixed (or just plain nauseated) the early reviews for the film are, the release of The Hobbit this weekend really just means the return of Gollum, one of the more memorable non-human characters in recent film history. Add at least one dragon into the fray and more dwarves than you can throw an ax at, and The Hobbit could very well end up being reminiscent of the old-school creature features of (some of our) youths. Join us as we take a look back at some of our favorite film and TV beasties, in all their lo-fi, animatronic, puppeteered, fur/glue/latex glory.
My weekend was peppered with some NCAA hoops (Go 'Cuse!), some Knicks (three in a row, baby), some 21 Jump Street (a hilarious, meta action-comedy), and of course some green beer and bagels. But my mind, my thoughts, my focus was elsewhere. For the last 72 hours, I’ve been unhealthily fixated on the slew of new Prometheus content slung onto the web.
There’s been such an overabundance of visuals, dialogue, and talking points to sift through. So in an effort to piece them all together in some king of satisfyingly comprehensive way, I figured it’d be best to break them all down into three categories.
What We Saw
Much of the hype around this film is centered on the question of “is Prometheus a prequel to Alien”? As I previously stated, I believe the answer is unequivocally yes, and much of the confusion is due to cleverly crafted talking points delivered from Ridley Scott (the film's director), Damon Lindelof (the writer), and 20th Century Fox (the studio). And why not? It’s hard to make a summer film stand out, much less one possibly (definitely) linked to a once-praised but now irrelevant and mocked movie series. So I have no problem with these folks stoking the fanboy fire with vague and sometimes conflicting messages.
For those who don't know, Prometheus is a new sci-fi thriller directed by Ridley Scott. Since it first went into development, the film has been touted as Scott's return to "the genre he redefined" with films like Blade Runner and Alien. (That would be, well, Sci-Fi). The film has also been rumored to be a prequel to Scott's own Alien film. Up to this point, fans have been given very little a few leaked photos, some official photos, a poster, and lots and lots of speaking through the media (by Scott, the writer Damon Lindelof, and Fox studios).
And now, with the release of the teaser trailer, we finally get a glimpse of the actual film.
As we get ready to open our Christmas presents from Hollywood (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo! Tin Tin! Uh, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked!) we thought it was worth remembering that eternal truism: Sometimes the wrapping is prettier than the gift. So, with that, let's look at the greatest packaging Hollywood has ever bestowed on moviegoers: the greatest movie trailers of all time.
The Black Dragon (1975)
Alex Pappademas:0:13: Voice-over guy tells us that after Bruce Lee’s death, “Kung Fu people especially mourned the loss of their most popular hero,” and then we see some kung fu people in traditional Chinese dragon-dance costumes, presumably grieving. This movie is part of the Brucesploitation genre, which thrived after Lee’s demise turned him into the Tupac of chop-socky. The true masterpiece of the category is probably The Clones of Bruce Lee, a.k.a. Death Penalty on Three Robots, which starred Lee impersonators Bruce Le, Bruce Lai, Bruce Thai, and Dragon Lee.
0:18: “The early reports of his death were unclear and confusing.” Implication: This movie’s going to clear everything up. Implication-undercutting hint that maybe this movie itself operates in the same zone of ambiguity its marketing promises to dispel: The fact that the title cards can’t decide if the movie is called The Black Dragon or The Death of Bruce Lee. (On IMDb, it’s listed as The Black Dragon’s Revenge.)
0:21: Our hero, would-be Jim Kelly successor Ron Van Clief, is introduced; he has received an autopsy photo of Bruce Lee in the mail. Ron Van Clief, to camera: “Man.” He looks confused. This is going to be an amazing documentary.
0:32: “A Chinese millionaire from San Francisco was willing to pay $100,000 up front to find out the truth. The assignment went to the most feared man in America — Ron Van Clief.” Wikipedia facts about Ron Van Clief: He was the fight choreographer on The Last Dragon; he made history in 1997 as the oldest man ever to fight in a UFC event (and get choked out after four minutes by Royce Gracie); he was supposed to be in a movie called The Art of Cliefing, but funding was pulled at the last minute “due to widespread protests in Korea,” a nation historically inhospitable to Cliefing after Hawkeye Pierce invented it during the war.
0:38-1:19: Voice-over guy lists Van Clief’s qualifications for this fake job; Van Clief meat-tenderizes a bunch of dudes. You just experienced the Art of Cliefing, motherfuckers!
1:30: “No, baby, it’s the real shit.”
1:39: Fast-motion eye-gouge!
1:55: “His connection: Charles 'La Pantera' Bonet — the Puerto Rican Terror!” Who looks like a nunchaku-wielding Pete Townsend, kind of, but who we’re assured is “unsuspectingly, one hell of a kung fu man, something the Chinese didn’t expect to see.” No one expects the unsuspected!
2:36: Slow-motion groin-stomp!
2:54: Sleazy porn-funk groove over title-card reading “Serafim Karalexis presents THE BLACK DRAGON.” Karalexis was still in the picture business as late as 1995, associate-producing something called The Steal, with Alfred Molina. The IMDb page for The Steal has a picture of the DVD box for another, unrelated movie called Steal. Wiki-synopsis of that one: “Slim, Frank, Otis and Alex are a group of youthful bank robbers who commit their crimes in innovative ways involving extreme sports such as skating and snowboarding.” Because there are so, so many banks located at the top of sweet black-diamond snowboarding runs. Stars of this “Steal” include Stephen Dorff and Natasha Henstridge, the Stephen Dorff of women.
3:22: “We’ve said enough. Now we’ll let him do the talking.” Someone kicks Van Clief from behind. “Why, you creep!” he says. Maybe he should not do the talking.
3:44: V/O: “None of that jumpin' around and flying through the air, because this is the real shit!” For your consideration: THE BLACK DRAGON!
4:18: “Also starring the Latin Terror — Jorge Esparga,” and his Freddy Fender mustache. There is some real transcultural outreach going on here; you get the sense that only scheduling conflicts and/or DGA rules about one movie being too awesome prevented them from including Patrick “The Human Shillelagh” O’Flanrahan, the Hebrew Hammer, and some guy from Finland who gets mean when he drinks.
One of the biggest and most-anticipated projects at Comic-Con this year is Prometheus, a secrecy-shrouded possible-prequel to Alien directed by the man responsible for creating the franchise back in 1979, Ridley Scott. Wisely, the 73-year-old Scott declined to make the trek himself, instead sending screenwriter Damon Lindelof to face the seething, geeky masses. (Scott made a cameo appearance via Skype, no doubt interrupting a cracking polo match or some well-deserved Scrooge McDucking.) Lindelof was a perfect choice: Not only did he spend much of the last decade perfecting the art of getting people excited (and, inevitably, furious) by saying very little of substance he also speaks fluent Klingon, er, Nerd. (Actually, he very well might also speak Klingon.)