profile of clembastow

Right then, let's talk about Prometheus

PLEASE NOTE: if you somehow managed to wander in here without seeing the "spoileriffic" blurb, turn away now. At the very least, no whining about spoilers. Have some personal responsibility, people. 

* * *

So this past Thursday night, I lined up with the hundreds of other chumps (unscientific audience gender ratio based on a quick scan of the cinema, men to women: 20:2) to go see Ridley Scott's Prometheus at the Arclight Cinerama Dome. 

One of the world's only concrete geodesic domes felt like an appropriate place to witness what we were all certain would turn out to be an instant sci-fi classic. 

Well, we were wrong, we were so wrong. 



Like many other people around the world, for the past week I have been suffering from a Prometheus-induced funk. 

The more I think about it, the more this is my assessment: it wasn't very good. In fact, it was very nearly bad. 

Yes, it looked great - much has (rightly) been made of Dariusz Wolski's cinematography - and Michael Fassbender was terrific as David, the elegant, slightly sinister cyborg. 

But the buck stops there, really.

The good actors (Idris Elba, Charlize Theron) were lumped with the worst dialogue, and the bad actors (particularly the odious Logan Marshall-Greene) hogged the screen time. Some actors seemed to disappear for entire reels and then pop up again, with the expectation that we would care about their fate. 

(As for the mystifying decision to have Guy Pearce shuffle around under a mountain of latex and silicone as the aged Peter Weyland - as opposed to an actual old man, like, say, Robert Duvall - the less said the better.)

So who's at fault here? My instinct is to look to Damon "Lost" Lindelof's script rewrite.

Thanks to the Pentagon-level security/secrecy that surrounded the production from the word go, we will likely never be able to see Jon Spaihts' original drafts, but based on various interviews with the screenwriter (as well as knowledge of some of his other unproduced but very impressive scripts), the guy knows enough about sci-fi that had Prometheus been penned solely by him, it likely wouldn't have ended up Swiss cheesed full of plot holes you could drive the Nostromo through. 

Check this out: 

In the universe of Alien, you look hard at the duality between humanity and the beast. You look hard at the duality between humanity and artificial man, the android. And that duality is always present in an Alien film. You look hard at the duality between humanity and the corporation. And that duality is always present, that rift. I think those forces need to be active in any story you tell in the Alien universe or you are breaking the franchise. [...] I think the story properly told in that universe, the menaces should be few in number but very terrible. The world should be dark and claustrophobic, and there should be many shadows and hiding places. You should be removed and isolated with no hope that help will come. You should be confronted by a sense not just of menace, but an ancient menace of stories set in motion long before your arrival that are bigger than you. I think all of those are qualities of that first film that it was very important to me to honor going forward, or in this case, going back.

I mean, does that sound like the sort of guy who'd write a scene where a BIOLOGIST (i.e. someone who should know better) gets all Dennis Nedry with a terrifying vagina-snake alien in a room full of cosmic goo? 

Look, that could have been Spaihts' doing, I don't know (feel free to join us in the comments, Lindelof), but there was enough of a heavy scent of Lost-style plot jiggery pokery about the rest of the film for me to be unable not to blame Lindelof. 

My friend Adam and I were emailing in a frenzy as we tried to process our disappointment about the film, and he agreed to let me provide an excerpt from his issues with the plot: 

  • - Noomi Rapace is all like ‘yo aborsh me’ and then Future biff from back to the future II and Charlize “I’m fierce and nothing else” Theron is all “whatev” despite the fact she’s covered in blood and has stomach staples.  Does anyone care about anything that happens in this movie?
  • - “MY PUPS, AWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” - I AM HERE BECAUSE I LIKE ROCKS, NOT FRIENDS. My corpse will turn into a zombie for NO REASON.
  • This interview with ridley scott where he announces that the engineers wanted to destroy humanity because an engineer was jesus christ and they were angry that jesus-engineer was crucified I cant believe this is actually canon. 
  • - The engineers are clearly inspired by some shitty tool video-clip circa 1995.  Surprised they didn’t have skinny puppy tshirts on underneath their giger-suits.

    TL;DR SUMMARY:

     

    Thanks, Adam. 

    So what gives? I don't think the problem was the proliferation of trailers (though I discussed them many times), and the viral content that was released (the David-8 promo, Peter Weyland's TED talk) was terrific. 

    In the end, it just felt dumbed-down. The brilliance of Scott's other sci-fi efforts, Alien and Blade Runner, is that they never slowed down to play "As you know, Bob..." with the audience; you were expected to either know what was going on, or catch up. Too many times throughout Prometheus a scientist would go into a dreary speech about what they were doing, or what a breathable atmosphere contains, and so on.

    The flip side of that were plot holes and "WTF?" moments so incredibly stupid I'm having trouble spelling while I type this. If the Prometheus control room could see every nook and cranny of the alien ship, why couldn't they talk Milburn and Fifield back to the "front door" to await rescue; why tell them to bunk down and wait 'til morning?  

    The inevitable sequel is already getting its gears whirring (it looks like it will be called Paradise, a riff on Paradise Lost, or at least the idea that paradise isn't actually somewhere you want to go), and I'm 110% certain that whatever small amount of magic remained in Prometheus will go out the window. 

    It'll be like the time SeaQuest: DSV decided to get those silicone sand aliens back in: the first episode with them was sort of mysterious and wonderful, and in the second one, the aliens were just hanging out chilling at a naval base. 
     
    Finally, here's a four-minute Red Letter Media video packed full of Prometheus questions, which ought to cover everything I've covered and a helluva lot more, too. It was originally 30-minutes long. 



    "Whyyyyyyy" indeed. 

    26 comments so far..

    • Hotef's avatar
      Commenter
      Hotef
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 1:48 PM
      I have so much to add, but it's jammed at my brain door like a bunch of Boxing Day shoppers at 6am... Suffice to say many peeps feel the same re crazy plot holes, puzzling character logic, ruthless editing and gorgeous visuals.
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    • LOL-1's avatar
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      LOL-1
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 1:51 PM
      I really dont understand all the Prometheus bashing that is going around. I thought it was a great film and answered alot of my questions. 'Where did the Xenomorph's come from?' was one. The architects sent out many ships to various, remote planets (presumebly from their home planet) to create a 'super weapon' which eventually turned on thier creators (the movie even touched on that, stating that 'you wouldn't want to create such a powerful weapon in your own backyard' or something like that). LV227 (from Prometheus) is one such testing planet. LV426 (from the original movies) would be another. The weapon created turns out to be the Xenomorph of the previous films. The reason they didn't guide Milburn and Fifield back to the 'front door' to be rescued is because of the insane storm happening outside making it hard to communicate and impossible to rescue in. That is said in the movie. Did you even pay attention? The ONLY thing i found a little strange is that in the original Alien film, the Space Jockey (compared to the humans that board the ship) is enourmous (http://images.wikia.com/aliens/images/2/26/SpaceJockey.jpg). In Prometheus, they are only slightly larger than us. Sure, Prometheus promotes more questions as well - Why did the Architects create us? But, that will be answered in the following sequels.
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    • clembastow's avatar
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      clembastow
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 2:09 PM
      No, LOL-1, I didn't "even pay attention". That's why I spent my morning writing this. If communication was so difficult, how come Janek was chatting to them about the storm ("sit tight") like they were in a Telecom ad with two old ladies having a cup of International Roast on different sides of the country?
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    • Hotef's avatar
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      Hotef
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 3:13 PM
      PS. What is that song on the International Roast ad? The one with pan pipes?
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    • clembastow's avatar
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      clembastow
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 3:25 PM
      Silly Hotef, that was Nescafe Blend 43! (Wasn't it?) I think it was one of the pieces from 'Picnic At Hanging Rock'?
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    • clembastow's avatar
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      clembastow
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 3:25 PM
      I remember when they introduced the final ad in the series on 'Hey Hey It's Saturday'.
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    • Hotef's avatar
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      Hotef
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 3:30 PM
      Ah, Blend 43 has vexed me again... Correct me if I'm wrong, but was the mum from the Sultana Bran ads ALSO in the Blend 43 commercial? She was definitely two-timing some big name brands... I'm sorry this is so off topic, but I think I'm asking the right people!
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    • clembastow's avatar
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      clembastow
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 3:37 PM
      It's possible (side-side note: Rebecca OMGLOLou in the Sultana Bran commercials and Marg Downey's spot-on pastiche on Fast Forward). I just wish more of the Nescafe ads were online; the British ones (starring Anthony Head, if I recall correctly!) are, it was probably the same story BUT IT'S NOT THE SAME
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    • CliffyD's avatar
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      CliffyD
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 4:04 PM
      Yup, buck stops with Lindelost methinks for the endless plot holes and crappy characters, but I was able to look past that to the good. The first 15 mins (so before the non-characters all woke up) was a ballsy and genuinely intriguing opening. I was ready to come out defending the film all the way up to when the geologist doofuses got lost in the cave. After that I took what I could from the flick and tried not to let the rest get in the way of my enjoyment. Not to come across as a Prometheus apologist, because I am aware of its flaws – which are legion – but I think a few of the really bad script decisions have made people sharpen their knives against the rest of the film a little harshly. Some of the things everyone is saying were script holes/weaknesses I didn’t have a problem with: Got no qualms with the black goo reacting differently to everyone and creating different aliens etc (which lots of geeks have) – once you accept that as the film’s sci-fi ‘logic’ it’s easy to go with, and while yes it poses some questions around what it is/does/did/can do... well, that’s sci-fi. If they presented all the answers they’d be accused of spoon-feeding and crappy exposition. Can’t please everyone... Again some peeps seem to have issues with Stringer Bell flying his plane into the ship to stop it from heading to earth. Problem I had there was the ‘there’s other ships’ bit. Such an easy out - why did this advanced race all chill on the one ship if the planet was covered with them? Pretty rookie mistake for an advanced race. Literally was just a plot devise to move things onto the sequel. Sloppy-slop slop writing. Guy Pearce – well, yes, the mystery there is why Guy Pearce? Surely not just for the marketing stuff they pushed out? Character wise assume he pretended he was dead to hide his ‘eternal life’ agenda thinking the crew would react differently if they knew the mission was selfish instead of for the betterment of humankind. It was so heavily sign-posted I didn’t even count this as a ‘surprise’ in the film. The red haired frantic guy and the smug giggling geologist – well, they have no counter-argument. They are the Dumb & Dumber of scientists and space-travellers. Scientists who panic and want to leave, get lost, and then take refuge in the room with all sorts of weird stuff they were initially trying to escape from …yep. Craptastic. The betting co-pilots were completely unnecessary too. Such terrible character writing. Except for David of course, who got all the good lines, and to some degree Vickers – an odd performance from Theron perhaps, and while I don’t buy into the “she was a robot” thing, that she might have acted like one because her daddy loved David more than her is at least interesting. Shaw was less a character than a mouthpiece for the film’s themes and while the religious and philosophical stuff was bashed into the audience, I appreciated that they attempted something more than a straight up action film, or straight
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    • CliffyD's avatar
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      CliffyD
      Date and time
      Thursday 14 Jun 2012 - 4:06 PM
      OOPS, 2/2 ...or straight-up retread of Alien. It’s clear Ridley re-watched Alien and looked at the ‘Space Jockey’ and like other geeks was intrigued and so followed his imagination there – and thinking that this very mystery was somehow key to the enjoyment of Alien, through Lindelost multiplied that factor by 20 to create a bunch of other unsolved mysteries. It’s the Bobba Fett complex of giving the geeks what they think we want, and ending up being way too much of a good thing that should have stayed an awesome cameo/mystery. As sloppy as the messages & themes were handled, and even with stupid Lindelost doing his usual mysteries-posing-as-story tricks, and even the fact the film is no way as clever as it positions itself to be – despite all of this its still refreshing to have a film provoke this debate and conversation and interest. Half the cinema stayed back in my session after the end credits last night debating things. Sure, it might have been “Was that film crap, or really crap” but still, when does that happen? And yes, while that level of geek debate is symptomatic of the Matrix movies and Lost, (and we all know how they turned geek interest into crushing disappointment as they vanished up their own areses) I still think there’s enough interesting titbits scattered somewhere in the Prometheus c-section (note: not abortion) to cling onto. I hate that I might be snagged on Lindelost’s hooks but I still want to see where they take some of these ideas. Gonna be interesting to see if the added footage explains any of the irrational antics of the characters, or just confounds things more. Keep coming back to this being like the ‘Matrix’, and how the next film/s in the series will retrospectively either lift Prometheus up or reinforce its utter storytelling sloppiness. If they get rid of Lindelost we have a chance at the former….
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