SF and Hollywood's Dumbness: A Question About Burton's _Apes_ Movie

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jack Briggs, Jan 4, 2002.

  1. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    We have had a number of interesting discussions here regarding how Hollywood possesses a fundamental misunderstanding as to what constitutes "true" science fiction--as opposed to the nonsensical, implausible fantasies it passes off as SF. In the process, directors of big-budget Hollywood summer fare almost completely ignore scientific accuracy.

    And one of the most common failings is Hollywood's universal tendency to make over-optimistic guesses as to when certain events might be possible.

    In the beginning of the overrated but endearing original 1968 version of Planet of the Apes, we see Charlton Heston's Taylor seated in the cockpit of an interstellar spacecraft on a mission that takes place in the last years of the 20th century. Never mind all the rest of the story's implausibilities (apes speaking perfect English, among other things), but that's so typical of what Hollywood calls SF.

    Now, I haven't seen Tim Burton's "re-imagining" of the film. But I have read numerous reviews. What I know is this: somehow Wahlberg's spaceship crashes on an "Earthlike" planet in the year 2029.

    My question: Was he supposed to be on an interstellar mission? If so, did Tim Burton really think that such would be possible just thirty years from now? Really?

    If we're lucky, a manned expedition to Mars will probably have occurred by then. But interstellar travel is at least five-hundred--maybe a thousand or more--years away.

    Why does Hollywood adamantly refuse to do any sort of homework? It would be nice to have some genuine science fiction coming our way.

    Please advise. Thanks.
     
  2. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    I am no expert on these matters myself. Hollywood, quite frankly, is in it for the buck. The last true SF film was Contact, and it was not by any means, hard SF. People rarely attend a movie to be challenged, and the SCIENCE part of science fiction often requires thought and reflection. Many moviegoers were upset that there weren't any "aliens" in Contact and worse, it committed the grevious Hollywood error of only doing OK business. One year later, Armageddon did incredible business. So guess which blueprint they followed. SF does exist in the film world, but not on many movies that require a big-budget.
    Sorry for the doom-and-gloom forecast. Maybe 3001 will help[​IMG] It can have the sweeping glory of the next step of human development take place in my rectum, oops, arse[​IMG]
    Just kidding Jack,
    Chuck
     
  3. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    Well, I can't give you Burton's excuse, but as for the original POTA, you need to remember that in 1968, NASA was one year away from landing on the moon. Everyone expected that once they did land, NASA would keep going...lumar colonization, missions to Mars, and more would have been accomplished by the 1990s. Instead, budget cuts got in the way (which is something that even "true" science fiction doesn't always deal with).

    The last mission to the moon was in 1972. We haven't been back since, and I doubt we could do it in less than 10 years anymore, like we did back in the 60s. But in the 60s, they didn't know that budget cuts would force NASA never to send people beyond LEO.
     
  4. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Jack:

    I think Burton's reason is that it simply doesn't matter to him. I'm reminded of an interview with Alfred Hitchcock, in which he said that he didn't care about the story. Why? Because, he said, it would be like asking whether the fruit in a still life was sweet or sour. All that mattered was the style. 2039 is just a number to Burton. The syle is all that matters to him. He's not interested in science, and I doubt that many people in Hollywood truly are. They are artistic oriented. I happen to think that you can be both artistic and scientifically accurate, but it doesn't matter if the person just doesn't CARE.
     
  5. Steve Enemark

    Steve Enemark Second Unit

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    I hate to defend that awful movie, but Mark Wahlberg was stationed on a space station orbiting Saturn, IIRC. He was in a maintenance pod (very "2001"ish) and got sucked into a vortex of some sort that shot him into another star system.
     
  6. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Jack, applying thought to Planet Of The Apes '01 is wasted effort.

    As to why moviemakers insist on putting everything so near in the future... Personally, I blame "Star Trek". The current generation (yes, I know that includes me) grew up with the idea of going to a new planet every week firmly implanted in their brains, and it probably never occurs to them how many intermediate steps will be necessary before humankind reaches that point.
     
  7. JoeDelan

    JoeDelan Stunt Coordinator

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    Anyone know what Fiction is?

    And who's to say what Earth it is?

    People, it's a movie, lets take it at it's entertainment Value, not it's plausibility...There is NO fact in the movie, It's not a documentary, it's just a movie...

    Do you think Clark thought that interstellar travel would be attainable by 2001? Come on! Be entertained!!!

    Course, this movie did not entertain...
     
  8. Tom-G

    Tom-G Screenwriter

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  9. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    As for the contention that "it's just a movie"--if it fails in a crucial area, it's hard to take everything else with more than a grain of salt.

    Jason notes correctly that the non-thinking powers-that-be in Hollywood are themselves influenced by pop culture's habit of taking television viewers to a new star system every week. And RobertR is equally as correct in noting that some (most, actually) filmmakers simply do not care for scientific veracity or plausibility.

    This also accelerates the trend in pop culture to ignore the historical fact--as Joe noted--that humans have not escaped from the confines of low Earth orbit since the Apollo 17 mission of December 1972. To rebuild an Apollo-type space infrastructure would take much longer now than it did in the 1960s when lunar flight was a national priority.

    Bottom line, though, even for films intended as mere entertainment: Give us scientific accuracy, and we will be genuinely entertained. But for now all we can do is count the gaffes and howlers in every movie Hollywood calls "science fiction."
     
  10. Rain

    Rain Producer

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    I agree that there is a lack of scientific accuracy in many films that are passed off as Sci Fi, but is there not also room for the genre of "fantasy," where all rules are simply out the window?

    For example, I wouldn't argue that Star Wars is scientifically accurate, but it is one hell of a fantasy.

    I personally have never considered Planet of the Apes (1968) to be Sci Fi. Can't comment on the "Burton thing," as I've never seen it.
     
  11. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Also, about the 2001 reference: Dave Bowman entered through a Stargate that was put there by an unimaginably advanced civilization. That counts as valid science fiction.
     
  12. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    First you have the play, then you have the set. Sci-Fi is the set. Since all the elements of the play have been established, each new generation just performs the play with new actors and sets. I have seen Shakespeare's Pericles performed on stage with a Sci-Fi motif. What is AI but Pinnocchio? Not that this is bad, but any of us who are techno-geeks would probably be better served with The Discovery Channel and shows like that.
    If a movie (play)is made about space exploration or exploits, then humans will be be included in the plot. Never mind that space explorations using humans is incredibly ego-centric and cost prohibitive. A man landing on the moon 30+ years ago was exciting, but the real science in space has been provided my unmanned probes and Hubble. If anything human space flight is acting as a huge regressive factor in doing space science.
    Star Trek still conveys a romantic notion of human exploration, but as far as this series of plays reflecting in any way the trend of human exploration it shows a complete disregard for science.
    The Enterprise and other ships are nothing more than a souped up version of Columbus, Magellan, or Darwin's ships. Albeit with a little more horsepower, but what are these vessels doing but transporting a rather low grade computer; humans.
    The Saturn rocket and the Space Shuttle still transported computers (humans) that added slower than the onboard mechanical computers, but were capable of making reasoned decisions.
    When we cross the threshold of creating a computer that thinks and can investigate and do research in space, why whould we risk a human? The computer can be made so small that the cost to send it in space would be negligible. We are only a few generations away from a maching the size of a grain of sand that can think and reason at a level of the current world population and all the computers we now possess. Within a few hundred years we can send a billion of these machines to explose the galaxy. It will take a million years, but in the scale of the universe it will be an eyeblink.
    For us to write about putting humans in space ships for exploration is a warm fuzzy. If the plot device sells a few movies, so what? I will enjoy.
     
  13. Terrell

    Terrell Producer

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    Jack, it is just a movie. If you get that worked up over details as small as that, then I don't see how you can enjoy any film. Going by your statements, you could throw the whole POTA movies out the window. Apes ruling humans is ridiculous. You could throw most movies today out the window. You can point to any fantasy or sci-fi film and point out dozens of implausible things. Heck, most films in Hollywood are that way.

    Yes, some things need to be researched and brought to the screen accurately. But does every little detail of every sci-fi film have to be 100% explainable for it to be a good movie? That seems to be what you're saying. Please, correct me if I misunderstood you.
     
  14. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    Terrell,

    I think Jack is simply asking for more intelligent premises in films. He is asking for a little science with his fiction. No one is expecting perfection (I hope). I have no doubt Jack enjoys a fantasy movie as much as anyone, but why not an intelligent sci-fi movie where the concepts are thought out and rationally explained. I do believe that people like to learn. I enjoy the popcorn movie myself, but I enjoy the smart ones more than the stupid ones.

    Take care,

    Chuck
     
  15. Rain

    Rain Producer

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  16. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Oh, yes, there are indeed fantasies I like. One of my favorites is Robert Wise's incomparable 1963 version of The Haunting. I also like Romero's (and Savini's) Night of the Living Dead. But even fantasy has its rules, the most important being internal consistency--which these two films possess in abundance.

    Here's what I've maintained all along: portraying good science in a film is no more expensive than showing bad science. All it would take is for Tim Burton and his ilk to hire a graduate student in physics or astronomy as an intern--and listen to him or her.

    If I am told that a certain film is science fiction, I expect it to at least try to meet the standards to which writers of literary SF hold themselves. Otherwise, I cannot enjoy it for counting all the errors. (One that's so bad that it's almost fun to watch is Independence Day--several errors are made in the very first frames. Then there's the rest of the movie. ...)

    What saves the original POTA to a certain extent is some of the artful direction. It's a flawed movie with some superbly cinematic moments.
     
  17. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Also, Ashley--nice post.
     
  18. Terrell

    Terrell Producer

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    I can agree with that.[​IMG]
     
  19. Rain

    Rain Producer

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    To me, it is less important that a Sci Fi or Fantasy film contain plausible sciene than whether or not all of the elements of the film making come together in such a way as to create a "believable" world in which I can dwell for 2 hours or so.

    Again, I use Star Wars as an example. It is far from being scienficially plausible, but still manages to be absorbing and thoroughly entertaining simply because it is so well executed. In no way is Star Wars "believable" in terms of science, but it remains completely "believable" within the context of the "reality" that the film has so well created.

    To borrow Jack's example of Independence Day, the same cannot be said of that film. Neither is it scientifically plausible, nor does it do an adequate job of absorbing me into its "reality."

    That being said, Jack, though I may feel slightly different than you do on this topic, nobody can ever accuse you of not starting threads that require some thought.
     
  20. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Rain:
    I keep posting in this thread and leaving for some other thread at, apparently, precisely the same time you do. Hence, this delayed response to your question.
    No, I am not making an exception for 2001. However, the Stargate sequence is the fiction in its science fiction; the unseen aliens, as you know, are the story's anchor point, ramping up humanity's key evolutionary advancements with the appearance of each Monolith.
    It is, therefore, a given within the framework of its story that this alien race is incomparably more advanced than we are--so much so that they demonstrate Arthur C. Clarke's credo that "any sufficiently advanced civilization would be indistinguishable from magic."
    Who's to say that such an advanced civilization isn't out there somewhere?
    What say you, kind sir? [​IMG]
     

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