Tag Archives: Prometheus

This is not a post, it’s a preview for a trailer for an upcoming post

Xzibit, you are all too knowing. Memegenerator.net.

It’s been said that we live in an age of lowered expectations; schools expect less from students, audiences expect less from television, voters expect less from their leaders.  But every time you think we’ve bottomed out at the nadir of what is meant to impress us, someone finds a way to dig further down and underwhelm even more.  Recently, we’ve seen the rise of a new low in the aspirations of marketing, like a badly mixed soufflé sputtering to inflate itself in an oven with the fuse burnt out:  the movie trailer trailer.  And that’s not a message from the Department of Redundancy Department.

Yes, studios have decided now to capitalize on an audience’s hunger for any tidbit of information about an upcoming blockbuster by releasing trailers not for the movie itself, but for a more detailed trailer about the movie.  Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s enigmatic sci-fi prequel to his 1979 classic Alien, got the ball rolling last month, and in the last few days we have had a trailer for the trailer of the unclamored-for remake of Total Recall.  Honestly, if there was any more recycling going on they would have to pack film reels in blue boxes.  Faced with an appalling glut of unoriginality, studio marketers have decided to double down by trying to create buzz not for the projects themselves, but for the very ads promoting the projects.  There is a very popular Internet meme involving Xzibit and Pimp My Ride which comes to mind, an appropriate variation on which would be thus:  “Yo dawg, I heard you like trailers so we made a trailer for a trailer that you can watch in your trailer while you wait for the new trailer.”

I suppose it might be forgivable if the advertisements being advertised (God, the mind implodes at that) were anything of substance.  The complaint used to be that trailers gave away too much (Cast Away, I still haven’t forgiven you for giving away that Tom Hanks gets off the damn island!), now, they are a big pile of nothing.  The Total Recall trailer trailer tries to entice you by showing everything you’ve seen before:  Colin Farrell being strapped into the same machine Arnold Schwarzenegger was 22 years ago, Kate Beckinsale looking hot and carrying a gun, futuristic cars flying around, some stunt guy leaping out a window.  Even worse than this is the teaser for Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the ultimate Seinfeld of a trailer whose big draw is a shot of Kristen Stewart wearing the same facial expression she’s used in the previous four Twilight movies, only this time with red eyes.  Oooh.  (Of course this movie is ad- and critic-proof as its legions of worshippers will show up at theatres even if the movie is just Stewart and Robert Pattinson staring at each other for two and a half hours – oh, wait, that’s exactly what it is!)

Naturally, we have only ourselves to blame.  Collectively we’re like the kid shaking his presents three weeks before Christmas listening for the telltale rattle of the Lego set inside, in our obsessive need to know every last detail of a movie before it ever opens – who’s in it, what changes they made from the book, what the characters look like, what stars are actually dating off the set, the shape and substance of every major action sequence down to a beat-by-beat plot description and excerpts of dialogue.  There is a theory among movie marketers, the people who actually cut the trailers together, that audiences won’t go to a movie unless they’ve already seen the best parts.  But thanks to entertainment magazines and Internet gossip sites, we already have, before a frame of actual film crosses in front of our eyeballs.  We know exactly what’s coming, because we don’t want to be surprised – the potential of a surprise carries with it the equal potential of disappointment, and who wants that on a summer night at the theatre?  So the natural response by the people selling these things is to reassure you that you’re going to get exactly what you’re expecting, and it’s why they make trailers for trailers.  It’s a mere taste of the pablum cooking on the stove before Mom spoons out an entire bowl for you; warm, comforting and utterly without flavour.  There is no there there, so all they can sell is hype.  And if you lap it up and buy a ticket to the movie anyway, two hours later that’s all you’re going to come away with.

An embarrassment of riches

There's gold in them thar cranial recesses.

Writing is one of the easiest things in the world not to do.  That’s the primary reason most people don’t do it, and why those of us who profess to be writers are always struggling to force the words out.  It’s doubly ironic in that no one is born a literary wunderkind, and like muscles, writing only improves the more you do it – so why do the distractions and excuses continue to mount?  It’s too nice a day outside.  The game’s on.  My partner is lonely.  I was in front of the computer at work for nine hours already.  The new trailer for Prometheus just turned up on YouTube.  I’m just not feeling it today.  I need chocolate.

Here’s the problem, I think.  When you go to the gym, if you can’t do 150 pushups in one attempt, no big deal.  You’re not going to wallow in the pit of failure and whine about how you’re never going to get to that magic number.  You might be satisfied with doing 60.  The next day you go back, and you do 70.  Then 80, then 100, slowly and methodically increasing your stamina until you reach your goal and strut around with pecs and guns like The Incredible Hulk.  And really, although you might feel a little inadequate next to the no neck wonder at the leg press who looks like he’s never eaten anything other than chicken breasts, raw eggs and protein shakes, you’re really only competing against your own physical limits.  And you always have a reassuring notion in the back of your mind that it is just a matter of persistence, that eventually your body will toughen up.

Doesn’t work the same way with writing.  When you write something you know is bad, it’s a bodyblow to your ego.  The pathetic cobbling-together of syllables in front of you might as well have been scrawled in crayon by a three-year-old, you hate it that much.  Off to another blog to find some inspiration.  Wow, that’s really good, I can’t write that well.  Everyone is so much better than I am.  Why can’t I show a penetrating insight into humanity like Jonathan Franzen or be as witty as Terry Pratchett or sound as intellectual as Christopher Hitchens, or even be as effortlessly funny as that 19-year-old girl who blogged about her missing underwear?  Hitchens in particular is incredibly intimidating with his line about how most people have a book inside them, and that’s where it should stay.  If you are looking externally for validation of your self-criticism, throw a stone, you’ll hit some piece of literature that will make you feel hopeless.

We like to mock those daily affirmation exercises where you are instructed to stand in front of a mirror and tell your reflection over and over again how special you truly are, no matter how silly you feel doing it.  I suggest that perhaps there is a writer’s equivalent that isn’t quite so Stuart Smalley.  Because the praise we get from others doesn’t ever seem to crack that veneer of insecurity that is always telling us that “no, we actually do suck.”  When I’m mired in that self-loathing spiral, I like to give some thought to some of the other ideas in the hopper that I would like eventually to put to paper.  As I’ve mentioned, I have a novel that I’m finishing.  I also have its partially-written sequel and, because I cannot tell the entire story in only two books, the eventual third installment.  I have a young adult book that is a reflection on a personal tragedy from my teenage years, of which I’ve penned a single chapter.  I have a premise and outlines for a thirteen-episode television series.  I have what I think is a killer idea for a high-concept screenplay which came to me in a dream a while back.  And I have this blog – this is my ninety-first post and I’ll likely pass 100 before the end of the month.  That’s not an insubstantial volume of work.  And there very well may be more lurking in the corners of my brain yet to be discovered, and I’m kind of excited to find out what they are.  That is enough to keep me going, to silence the voice of Pazuzu ever taunting me with visions of spectacular failure.  To throw the foul-mouthed bastard down the Georgetown steps.

With all due respect to the late Mr. Hitchens, if you think you have a book inside you, then write the damn thing.  Maybe you won’t get past the first page, maybe no one will ever read it but your significant other.  And you know what?  That’s perfectly fine.  It may be gold, it may be merely pyrite, but you won’t find out unless you dig it up.  Isn’t the promise alone worth getting out the shovel?