This weeks main thing is The Predator.
It was not the greatest movie ever, and the larger problem at play here is the problem of world building, which includes the general, ever present problem of building an idea that moves in a dramatic space coherently while generating maximal interestedness in the viewer.
Allow me to explain.
A movie, or a script, or an idea often starts as a simple thing.
In this case, the idea was basically ”an intergalactic badass alien that likes to hunt meets Arnold & other tough guys on his hunting trip”. Which sounds almost like a romantic comedy.
It was a killer idea, and more complicated than people – including me – often think.
Sequels of really cool movies often fail, but why? In the first iteration of a cool idea the problem is essentially that of insufficient world building. In the second iteration the problem is not understanding enough about the underlying mechanics that made an idea cool in the first place, plus having to deal with the first iteration left over problem(s).
This is a totally understandable phenomenon. When you create a movie like Predator or Alien you have created enough to have a cool, coherent original idea that exists within a contained dramatic space, which means you can make a groovy movie and that is of course just great.
What you have not done is created enough to make a coherent fictional universe that expands upon what made the original idea cool in the first place in a way that is preferably equally cool.
This might be totally alright if cool original ideas were as plenty as the fish used to be in the sea.
But a cool original idea is essentially the french fried potato of creative things, you gotta have more of that yummy stuff, one is just never enough. Which explains the need to go suck every cool idea dry via reboots, sequels, shared universes and the like.
To illustrate the problem with The Predator in general take a look at the world around you, the complexity of it, and then take the premise of Predator and try to stretch that idea to become as vast and complicated as the world we live in.
Shane Black, the man behind The Predator did try to do just that to an extent.
But it is not easy to put a civilization around beings that apparently love hunting more than anything and are also intelligent enough to create spaceships. I mean, that would imply the possible presence of human-like questioning of ones motives – which the film does touch upon – which in turn implies that there are at least a few predator philosophers around, maybe meaning at least a few different ways of looking at the predatorial existence. Then the search for existential meaning comes to play, probably art, entertainment, different cuisines etc.
That is unless they are a really different life form from humans, which is cool, but then you have to answer the question of how exactly are they different, preferably in a way that also makes sense.
This is called The Event Horizon Dilemma, seen here from 2:00 to about as far as you can take quality cinema.
A dimension of pure evil? Fine, but what does this pure evil do amongst themselves on a typical Sunday? After all, it’s not everyday that you get a ship from another dimension to torment. Seems like there’d be a lot of spare time for chaotic and evil loitering around going on in that evil dimension.
Now, I feel like I have to clarify that I am writing this only partially because I am a huge nerd.
The main reason is that well created worlds, or ideas with coherence, add to the entertainment value of the end product and make it possible to avoid complete disasters that make one want to shed a tear or two.
And even Prometheus was sort of okay. A somewhat valiant effort to reverse engineer a handful of really cool ideas into an entire fictional universe.
Look at it this way: if you ever watch a program about a chef making a broth, that chef always puts an incredible amount of ingredients into what ends up as a simple-esque liquid, yet it’s of course not a simple liquid but a harmonious sum total of all the very specific ingredients needed for that harmony to occur, and you can taste that very thing.
Our minds are so that they are able to detect a harmonious occurrence of things in a manner that part of what we see is actually the meta-elements of that harmonious occurrence.
A movie is like a partial formula that we see and hear, while our intelligence is looking if that particular constellation of events has an intelligible connectivity with events that extend beyond what we see.
That is why characters having a full, logical backstory that is not even fully shown on screen, Tolkien inventing languages, Westeros having a history and Marvel a proper comic book universe decades in the making adds value – taste – to the entertainment.
Ergo creating sequels or extended worlds on the back of a simple cool idea is not an easy thing to do.
Unless you’re James f*cking Cameron, that is.