The title should have been the biggest clue as to what was in store. If not the name, then the various ads that have run throughout the last month could have provided some insight. Yet it seems that some critics walked into the Timur Bekmambetov’s unsane Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter expecting something other than a rousing, ridiculous insane reexamination of the War between the North and South. Retracing the steps of our celebrated 16th President and turning him into a lifelong vampire hunter with a personal vendetta, this incredibly surreal experience was never going to warrant mass appreciation. On the other hand, the amount of vitriol aimed at the film and its makers may have little to do with what’s up on the screen and more to do with industries out of touch with each other and their own individual best intentions.
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There was never going to be consensus. The property was too prickly (and old) to guarantee an aesthetic group hug. But with most of the reviews in and an aggregate standing of 74% at Rotten Tomatoes (and a supposedly more ‘accurate’ 64% at Metacritic), it is clear that some element of the legitimate press were equally upset with Ridley Scott’s return to Alien territory. Even worse, the social media and comment boards have been lighting up with fascinating flame wars, all centering on whether or not the aging auteur did his foundational franchise any good. In many of the discussions, there’s limited middle ground. Indeed, the vast majority of opinions on Prometheus run the gamut from absolutely love to…well, absolutely hate.
Again, it’s not hard to see why. When you say “prequel” - even one disowned by the creator as having anything other than a “DNA” connection to the source - you parse expectations. Those heavily invested in the film series and the stories they’ve told demand answers, anticipate connections, and create a kind of fan fiction fantasy in their head about what and how this introductory movie will function. They are so ensconced in the idea of an Alien prologue that anything other than the vision reflected in their mind’s eye will do. Mythos can only manage so much, almost guaranteeing disappointment. It’s a byproduct of the age we live in and the media marketplace where ideas tend to flourish before flying wildly out of control.
It began life as the most normative of soap operas, a typical Nor-eastern sudser where small town intrigue and family feuds led to deception, drama…and sometimes death. Creator Dan Curtis wanted to evoke a kind of House of the Seven Gables feel, using mood and tone to differentiate his Gothic serial from the rest. Still, audiences weren’t interested, and ABC was threatening cancelation. Inspired by something his daughter said (“Why not add a ghost?”) and realizing he could jumpstart his show’s failing fortunes, Curtis offered up ‘the Lady in White.’ It wouldn’t be long before the town of Collinsport, Maine and its chief residing brood, The Collinses, were bedeviled by all manner of monsters, myths, and legends.
Indeed, over the course of its late ‘60s/ early ‘70s run, Dark Shadows would become a pure cult phenomenon, catching on with the hung-over members of the Peace Generation while inspiring a new generation of underage fright fans. Anyone who grew up in the era remembered running home from school, grabbing a snack, and sitting down in front of the TV awaiting the latest installment of the creature-driven diversion. Once he discovered that audiences would eat up a supernatural storyline, Curtis dug deep into the reservoir of dread. During it’s time, Dark Shadows would explore such classic macabre icons as Frankenstein, the Werewolf, and of course, Dracula.
It’s already got geek boy nation in a frothy uproar. In fact, outside of the announcement (and then eventual cancellation) of George Miller’s Justice League film, few in the comic book nerd universe have thought of little except the final teaming of The Avengers... and it’s just about here. Now, granted, this isn’t the most complete of pictures—there is no Ant-Man, Wasp, or a number of noted names—and has been carefully constructed on a foundation of (sometimes flawed) origin films, but with the Summer season about to start in full swing, Marvel’s mammoth undertaking is the first picture pimping for the almighty popcorn dollar. And it appears destined to make a mint. Already earning heavy praise and heated buzz, it looks to be one of the leaders once 31 August rolls around.
Even better, writer/director Joss Whedon has done something remarkable, something unheard of in the echelons of superhero movies - he’s managed to make something that just might capture the female demographic. For the most part, the genre is considered the domain of male members of AA—no, not Alcoholics Anonymous—a far more lethal organization, the arrested adolescent. Symbolizing the subjugation of cinema to the whims of trolls and comment page obsessives, the kowtowing by and to Marvel and DC has routinely been blamed on “the guys”, while gals get to share the blame for making Nicholas Sparks, Stephanie Meyer, and any number of Cupie of the Moment actresses box office gold.
Back when Napster was a big deal (when Lars Ulrich and the rest of the still rich musical biz were calling it the digital devil incarnate), an argument - among many - was made amongst ‘file sharers’ (read: pirates) regarding their desire to download millions upon millions of mp3s. While price fixing and ‘sticking it to the man’ was the veiled rallying cry, the real reason was rather obvious - availability. Way back in the days before ITunes and Rhapsody, in the zygote like stage of the transition from bricks and mortar to material rich sites, labels would frequently let albums and artists go out of print. Makes perfect sense under the old business model, especially when you consider that record stores would return product they couldn’t push…or, even better, subject it to the dreaded “cut out bin.”
In the eyes of the P-n-P proponent, the lack of certain titles at their local music hang-out justified the dialing up of their Internet connection and the ‘borrowing’ of necessary tunes from their fellow audiophile. Granted, a lot of said trading dealt directly with product still bountiful on store shelves, but if you were looking for The Right to Be Italian by Holly and the Italians or Distinguishing Marks by Fingerprintz, you were out of luck. Even worse, with no legitimate outlet for such niche artists, corporate was more than happy to ignore demand and continue to work from the supply side of the situation. In fact, those in favor of what we now call ‘piracy’ point to the fact that such actions reconfigured the music industry for the better and are done with any further discussion.