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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Sequels Nobody Asked For

Box office receipts can be deceiving.  Most studios will look at the box office results of the latest tent-pole blockbuster and based on those results, decide whether or not the film merits a sequel.  Besides the fact that that is clearly not an artistic decision in any way, it’s also incredibly short-sighted.  Just because a large portion of people saw a particular film, does that necessarily mean that they liked it?

I’m not convinced that this is always so and that sometimes sequels are released to films that don’t merit it on an artistic level or on an audience-pleasing level; rather simply because the box office compelled the studio to greenlight one.  And maybe audience did enjoy the original film, but weren’t clamoring for a sequel either.

I look at a film like Terminator: Salvation – which I still haven’t seen since I’m in Hawaii still – and I wonder what the impetus was for that film being made.  The third film in the franchise was pretty much a disappointment to most people – although I enjoy it quite a bit – but it was moderately successful at the box office, proving there was an audience there for the franchise. So somewhere in the chain of command, there was an executive who decided it might be a good idea to make another Terminator film. Think about how backwards that is; it wasn’t the creator of the original film, James Cameron, who had mapped out a few sequels and the studio decided to put money into them. This was a money decision first and then it’s about trying to shoehorn in some artistry to make it a decent motion picture.

Can you imagine how strange it must be to write and direct two films, as Cameron did, in a franchise and then have somebody else put their grubby hands on this property you created and take it in directions you never would think to take it?  The character of John Connor was created by James Cameron and no doubt, he had a story he wanted to tell about the leader of the future resistance. And you know what? He told that story in the first two Terminatorfilms. The story was completely finished and it ended in a perfect way. Then this new crew comes along and decides to just add a little bit here, change a little bit here and it doesn’t only just add to the original story, it hurts those original films. In Terminator 3, we learn that Sarah Connor has died before the film begins, so now when we watch T2 we know what her fate is, ruining the ending that Cameron had in mind for her.

But the real issue is this: I never met a single person who said to me, “you know, the only real problem with the Terminator films is that we didn’t see enough of the future war between the cyborgs and the humans.” This was something that nobody was begging to see, nobody needed to see that war in order to better appreciate the series. The whole point of that future war was that it was…that’s right, in the future. It was something that our heroes were trying to change.  In the second film, they are able to stave off Judgment Day; but when you find a way around that in the third film, it’s not playing fair, it’s not playing by the rules.

And by showing us the world after the bombs have dropped, you’re showing us a lot of something that works better in small doses.  When Cameron showed a brief glimpse of that apocalyptic future in the second Terminator film, it was shocking and cool because we only saw a little bit of it.  Now that McG is setting a film entirely within that future, wouldn’t it just make that part in Cameron’s film a little bit less cool?  Once we’ve seen the war on a large scale in the fourth film, seeing a little bit of it in the second film doesn’t seem so awesome.  And the people that suffer here is the audience whose biggest crime was to be curious about a franchise they enjoyed.

And then there’s Transformers. I have not met or spoken to a single person – and I know at least ten people, I swear! – who enjoyed the first Transformers film.  I know that it made over three hundred million dollars at the domestic box office, but does that mean that the people who forked over all the cash enjoyed what they paid for?  Considering the sequel will probably do extremely well at the box office, I’m assuming at least a few people enjoyed it, but I don’t know where these people are.  It almost seems like a massive conspiracy theory to me.

Megan Fox said recently, “”Transformers is what it is. Everybody should shut the fuck up and go have fun!” As much as I would like to oblige Miss Fox, I don’t think I can just shut the fuck up and have fun. In fact, I don’t think I can do either. I’m assuming what Miss Fox is saying is something akin to, “just turn off your brain!” Well, I can’t really do that. Sure, I can be entertained by silly films, but I can’t just shut off my brain and I would hope that a film wouldn’t ask me to do that. Iron Man was a really entertaining film that did not ask me to shut off my brain to enjoy it, even if it did ask me to suspend disbelief.

The problem with the first Transformers film is that it demands that you shut off all cognitive functions in order to enjoy the film. In fact, it’s asking you to forget that you’ve ever seen a film before. It’s shiny and glossy and it moves quickly and it just tries to hit you again and again with distractions, but I was never once distracted from the fact that I was watching a horrible film.

There is no story, the action lacks focus, the characters are trite and the thrust of the plot is idiotic. I used to watch the cartoon as a kid and the best part about it was that it took place in a world where human beings didn’t exist. Now, they make a live-action film where human beings are the main characters and the Autobots are just kind of there in the background wreaking havoc by fighting the Decepticons. But because it made a ton of cash, here comes another movie that nobody will enjoy.

If you enjoyed the first Transformers film, please e-mail me and tell me why.  Best response gets quoted in next week’s column.  I’m guessing I won’t get one.

– Noah Forrest
June 8, 2009
Noah Forrest is a 26-year-old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon