Re: Michael Crichton on science & the media

From: John Marlow (
Date: Wed Apr 18 2001 - 22:54:20 MDT

Well, you may be asking the wrong guy. Hollywood keeps telling me my
action and high concepts are fantastic, but I need to work more on my
characters. (Hey, what about CRICHTON??? I say.) I show 'em a
character piece, they say they want more action. [See earlier
Crichton quote for possible explanation. Me, I think they don't wanna
spend $130 million to make the things.] On the other hand, New York--
said to be even more picky regarding such matters--has bought a
novel. (Tried to get me to change the ending, too. (Hey, says I, I
can get this kind of abuse in Hollywood--for a lot more money!))

But I digress...

I'll give your Q a shot. I saw the picture. Liked it more than I
thought I would, but it's no great drama. Personally, I liked the
"You make me want to be a better man" scene, and the tiny tiles when
he opens the door. Truthfully, this is about all I remember from the
picture. Contrast this with the fact that I recall in vivid detail
the contents of scenes cut from The Terminator when it went to video
16 years ago and you may indeed conclude I'm the wrong guy to ask
about As Good As It Gets. (But, hey, I cry watching Little women,
okay? Silent, manly tears when no one is watching, of course...) I
think Nicholson was basically playing Nicholson, maybe a little

SF character development? Hmmmm. Paul Atreides? (Books, not films.
They blew the theatrical film big-time.) If you subscribe to the
philosophy voiced in Totall Recall (based upon Dick's We Can Remember
It For You Wholesale)--"You are what you do"--SF and action films
have megatons of character development! But you must remember, the
single genre which is expected to have the least "character arc" (I
DESPISE that term!) is action--and most SF films are action.
Typically, the hero is a tough guy who already has the training and
the guts and just goes into a tougher-than-usual situation. Notable
exceptions: Die Hard (somewhat, but not SF) and many of Cameron's
films, where Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor, e.g., both shape and are
shaped by events--so you've got some real character development
there, with Connor in particular. Mace in Strange Days did not follow
this path, and of course Harry Tasker was already Mr. Superspy in
scene one.

SF is and always has been a literature of ideas.

(marlow slaps forehead)


On 18 Apr 2001, at 19:58, Spike Jones wrote:

> John Marlow wrote:
> > You should pass this along to him; it might have a profound effect.
> > You must remember that he was not in control of the films,
> So Ive been told, regarding the ER debacle.
> > As to characters, I thought Ian was very cool. Very very cool, okay?
> Ian was my favorite too, but do rent a movie that really does
> a terrific job at developing *real* human characters: As Good
> As It Gets. Now, this might be out of your genre, for it is not
> sci-fi at all, but do make an exception for this shining jewel of
> a film. Note especially the skilled character development by
> the three leads, Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear,
> who form the odd trio.
> Consider especially one scene which *defines* the actor's task of
> good character development. Hunt's character (Carol) has been
> bitchy to Jack's character (Udall, who richly deserved the poor
> treatment). Udall arranges to get a doctor to heal Carol's child,
> the most precious thing in her life. Jack honestly expects
> *nothing* in return, he just wants Carol to do her job (a waitress).
> All he wants is for her to bring his breakfast, thats all! Carol
> pens a 30 page letter expressing her gratitude and apology, etc.
> Jack hates people, hates emotion, doesnt want anything like this.
> Note the scene in the restaurant where Carol is pouring
> herself on the floor for this wretch, and he honestly cannot handle
> the emotional display. Udall loves this young woman, but he
> just isnt ready for a normal human relationship. That scene
> describes life as it is, or humanity as I know it. People are a
> curious bag of intellect and emotion, interacting with each other
> in strange and wonderful ways. Both Nicholson and Hunt won
> academy awards for that performance.
> Sci-fi has nothing really analogous to this in character
> development. The closest I can think of is Jodie Foster
> in Contact, who does a fine job, but the slightly flawed
> story cannot contain her soaring talent.
> What say ye? spike

John Marlow

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