“Building Better Worlds”

The trailer for Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS broke last week. Here it is. It’s rather good.

Bleeding Cool have already exhaustedly dissected it in relation to ALIEN, of which it is clearly antecedent.

What the trailer confirms is that the connection goes further than the fact of the two films being situated in the same sprawling storyverse. Even with the poster released a couple of weeks ago (see below) it seemed evident that what’s being sold here is a reboot, albeit one with a poise and finesse that’s only possible when your director has been talking ‘transmedia’ since you were in facehuggies (note to self: might sell).

It brings to mind a talk I gave at EAVE just over a year ago in which I framed film production in terms of a new paradigm for popular entertainment: Content, Community and Application.

Content is story, but also universe, the universe through which the story arc passes. Community is audience, but also inhabitants, from stakeholder to smallholder across the spectrum of participation. Applications are anything that realise and extend the relationship between the two. That means anything.

The ALIEN franchise is a perfect example of this. Four principle films over twenty years, each helmed by a director with his own distinctive style and creative vision. As it expands, the universe fragments. Certain truths remain intact, while others lie out of sight, on the dark sides of as yet undiscovered moons.

Franchises are interwoven, and universes collide. Do your homework and you’ll find that the Giger-designed xenomorph has crossed paths at one time or another with Predator, The Terminator, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Judge Dredd and the WildC.A.T.S., in myriad spun-off movies, comics, novels and video games.

Then there’s the fan fiction, with the Alien vs. Predator crossover pulling the biggest crowd. One fan movie, by CrippleHawk, comes in twenty-nine parts and has a four hour running time. And there’s an audience for this stuff: the opening instalment has notched up over a quarter of a million views.

Another, baseballguy11avp’s Aliens vs. Predator: Dark World is closing in on three hundred thousand plays, despite being stop-motion animated with action figures and subtitled throughout. Sure, a few people probably leave before the end, but I bet plenty, like me, watch on a little longer than they’d expect to, if only to enjoy the sheer resourcefulness and ingenuity (shot for shot) of the ultimate in micro-budget film-making:

All of these are ‘Applications’ as I understand them, each as legitimate as the last. Questions of authority are secondary: story belongs to those who write it. CrippleHawk and baseballguy11avp have painstakingly created their own little corners of this infinite universe precisely for the purpose of autonomously owning and exploring them.

So what if exploration sometimes leads to exploitation? Do I see Ridley Scott chasing take-downs when some YouTuber runs some ads over the top of Alien vs. Bladerunner? (note to self: make this).

No, I see him too busy terraforming, taking talents as immense as the resources he can bring to bear on them and carving out new worlds and new dogma, a modern day Prometheus, stealing fire from the heavens of the imagination and making it a plaything for mortal hands.

And this is what S.O.P.A. means to me, this is the price it asks us to pay. A world in which Content, Community and Application remain in corporate hands, regulated and restricted, whole civilisations neutered in the name of outright ownership, and ‘quality control’.

How long do we expect the master story-tellers to accept these terms, how long will the universe-builders choose to labour under the badge of Weyland-Yutani? Sure, they might be career control freaks, but will they always want a sandbox only they can play in?

Especially when they wake up in the not-so-distant future and discover that, for all the industry’s best efforts, all the take-downs and law-suits, all the lobbying and land-grabs, it’s a broken business model.

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  • This:

    “Content is story, but also universe, the universe through which the story arc passes.”

    Is everything that I love about Ridley Scott’s sci-fi. I used to have the Alien Quadrilogy* and spent hours poring over the extra features, just watching and re-watching the amount of effort that went into, as you say, creating that universe. Same for Bladerunner… (and perhaps, tangentially, Spielberg’s efforts in Minority Report).

    It’s also why I have a soft spot for Pitch Black / Dark Fury / Chronicles of Riddick (DC) too; the courage of defining a universe for your characters (and many others) to exist in is something that I have to sit back and admire, if done properly at least.

    Good words Mr Light, as per.

    JW.

  • One of the best franchise deconstructions I’ve read in a long while.

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