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Suffering mostly from execution


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A lot of movies one sees start out great but fade as the story evolves. For some reason, several of these (more than I can recall) are from the science fiction genre. I think I know one of the reasons - it's easy to think of a far out possibility (e.g. unrestricted by reality) that's captivating enough, it's just difficult to finish the thought (and/or make it into a complete film). Several examples come to mind, from Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (aka Doppelg?nger (1969)), to The Boys from Brazil (1974), to Brainstorm (1983). Each has a startling, mind blowing concept; each runs out of steam or suffers in its totality as a film. I think the film-makers of The Matrix (1999) more or less finished their job well enough (though I wouldn't include its sequels in this assessment), but I find it to be a sci-fi genre exception.

 

Outside of this genre, there are certainly a lot of other movies whose first third is (or even first two thirds are) compelling enough, but suffer in their final act. Mysteries that aren't so mysterious (it's easy to guess "who done it"), horror movies that aren't scary enough (or even become laughable) as the film progresses, musicals with few (or only one) good number(s), romances that aren't credible (no chemistry between the leads), comedies that aren't funny (or whose trailers showed all the gags), etc..

 

Sometimes, these are the films that are ripe for a remake, yet Hollywood keeps trying to capture the magic (via sequel, in some cases) of the classics, retreating or updating films that 'worked' initially (vs. these aforementioned ones, with problems) for today's audience. I think that's a mistake. Of course, within the sci-fi genre, once an idea has been put 'out there' on the celluloid, it's nearly impossible to 'put the genie back in the bottle' and ask audiences to forget the original concept. However, the technology (e.g. CGI) is so 'available', it doesn't stop them from trying (the Matrix trilogy).

 

And now I fear this post, like its premise, has gone on too long to make any kind of a point;-) Still, I'd be interested in reading your ideas on the subject.

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Path, that is a really smart observation. Right now I can't come up with a single example because there are so darn many movies that just sort of "peter out" by the end. Well, I guess "The Lost Weekend" is an example - after all the horrible, lurid suffering the protagonist endures, he simply promises to be good, and we're suppose to believe it will all work out by tomorrow.

 

I think part of the problem is that, just like writers of novels, the writers of films shop around a treatment that is essentially the first three or four chapters of the story, and they haven't really thought about tying up all the lose ends. I can't even remember all the times I've literally shouted out in frustration at the stupid, unsatisfying movie endings I've seen in my long, long, long movie-going career.

 

Sometimes with classic films the problem can be that the story line had to be changed to meet censorship standards. "The Big Sleep" is something of a plot mess because the story was changed from a pornography ring to something I still can't quite figure out. There are surely hundreds of similar cases.

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Good observation.

 

Kris Kristofferson?s ?Millennium? was like that. It had a good start, some good ideas, some good effects, then half-way through it, it turned into a love story between an old man and an old lady.

 

?The Boys from Brazil? was a big disappointment. It would have been better as a half-hour Twilight Zone show. It was exciting until about half-way through it, when the finally revealed the plot, and then it got so dull they had to bring in the pack of dogs and the two old guys fighting for half an hour.

 

So many bad Sci-Fi movies are made today, they all wind up on the Sci-Fi channel. Giant snakes, giant pre-historic monsters, giant crocks, even a giant Catfish. They chase the same group of people, three or four guys and three or four girls, the same types of characters over and over again, being chased either through a swamp, the woods, or some kind of futuristic indoor facility. At the end, they always kill the monster by cutting him up or electrocuting him or something like that.

 

The old films like King Kong, The Panther Man, and Cat People, still scare me more than these modern films.

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I think the reason that the Hammer Horror Films are so good is that they followed a general rule for all of their movies. No horror/Sci-Fi film should be more that 90 minutes long. The story has a beginning which sets up the characters, a middle where they have a conflict with the supernatural and an end where it gets resolved. Throw in plenty of graveyard scenes with fog, killing off a few pretty women and drunks at the local pub. Then the end where the hero saves the day and all demons turn to dust.

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No sci fi film should ever include ewoks.

 

If I want teddy bears, I listen to the Teddy Bear Picnic or whatever that song was that was so popular when I was a kid.

 

But I don't want to see ewoks in sci fi films.

 

And apes are not the same thing as ewoks, for the record.

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Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange," and "Eyes Wide Shut" come to mind and as much as I admire Steven Spielberg, I found his" A.I. Artificial Intelligence" movie to be so on and off, a couple of times I thought it was going to end when it just kept rambling on.It was almost as if there were various writers fighting it out and the end result was a spur of the moment had to be put to make the deadline type of ending, if you know what I mean.

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