A Case for Prometheus (SPOILERS FOLLOW)
Okay, it’s about time I took my turn trying to defend something in our nerdy universe that I think you, dear readers, may have misjudged. I think you misjudged Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.
“RobbieRobTown,” you will say, “firstly, where have you been, and secondly, what happened to your brain to make you so retarded?”.
Well, to answer you first question, I have been writing report cards for Grade 1 and 2 children, and it is a style of writing I intend on making use of for future films I hate. For example “George Lucas is an energetic and filmmaker who has an emerging understanding of narrative and character writing. With continuous support, George completed several films. Although he has not yet met grade level expectations, George has demonstrated a basic ability to point a camera at things. George likes bright colours and stupid names.”. That’s all written from the point of view of a teacher who had no idea that he made good films before the prequels….
To answer your second question, I have been writing Grade 1 and 2 report cards, and that is what made my brain so retarded. Open letter to North America: Pay teachers more.
No more dilly dallying, here is my case for Prometheus:
The Whole Promethean Thing
Prometheus created man from the clay and stole fire from the gods for us. It was pretty cool of him to do that. So, the film tells two parallel stories of creators, and the search for the meaning in creation. Just as Dr. Shaw searches for the Engineers of the human race, a race which she discovers may be (based on the information she has) dissatisfied with us, we see Weyland dissatisfied with his two creations, David (android, made in his image but incomplete and without a soul) and what’s-her-face (a chick).
A lot of people ask what the purpose of having what’s-her-face on board the ship is at all. She seems secondary to the plot. She is. She is an extension of the characterization of Weyland, and therefore a narrative tool to reveal to you more about David. That’s why she is there. That’s why Weyland is there too.
The black goo seems both to spawn life and destroy it. What is it? Well, it serves a promethean purpose. First, it’s goo- you know, black muddy goo, or, well, mud. Like clay. GET IT?
You know the scene everyone bitches about? The belaboured expository introduction of the automated medical bed? I agree, painful. But what about the inevitable scene that does take place in the medical bed where Shaw is being disemboweled? I humbly submit that it is not only supremely distressing It’s a thriller, after all), but it is also an allegorical reference to Prometheus being tied to a rock in hades and having his innards snacked upon by a cranky eagle. Furthermore, but at the same time, there is Shaw, unable to have children, suddenly pregnant, and quite unambiguously dissatisfied with her creation. If I birthed an angry calamari platter, I’d be mad too.
Oh, sublist item 1a; why did they machine say it was calibrated for men? Answer: Because we knew Shaw wanted to use it urgently, and that was a another minor obstacle in her way. Simple, I thought it was rather effective. When I argued this with a friend, he couldn’t come up with a better plot device to prevent Shaw from immediately and successfully using the medical bed.
There are more examples, but I want to move on. See the film again, watch for the motif of fire, watch for the Prometheosity of the whole deal, reconsider, won’t you?
David is possibly the best thing about the film. Are his decisions clearly motivated? I think they are. Why did he poison Holloway with black goo? Perhaps because David and Weyland had a hunch about what the goo might do. Possibly he did it to see what the result of his own creation would be. Possibly he’s just scary.
David had time to reconstruct the Promethean language enough to read it, he could certainly have been picking up clues about what was written on all those wall signs, like “Instructions for Prometheating a Dude: Step one: Open jar away from face…”
I like that David seems to care about irrelevant things. Why does he love Lawrence of Arabia? How is Michael Fassbender so handsome? Nobody knows.
We are already aware, from the Alien universe that these androids are a bit touchy, and possibly homicidal, so this also raises the suspense.
Also, I like that David starts the film off for us, raising some concerns that he has cabin fever from the long , lonely journey. I also like that even if you don’t care as much for the other characters, you do begin to like David, despite his ethical killiness….
The Wrong Aliens?
“That’s not how the aliens are supposed to work!” said everyone around me. No, it’s not, and it’s better this way. First of all, we introduce the black alien goo. Is it from the original Geiger aliens, or is it designed by the Engineers? Doesn’t matter.
What matters a lot is that the resulting aliens are very disorienting. Remember the first time you saw Alien? Try to think back, I know it’s a part of your psyche now like The Wrath of Khan is, but remember the uh, alien feeling which resulted from your confusion about which weird life cycle led to what, and which psycho-sexual doohickey was going to burst out of whose orifice or non-orifice. That’s the purpose of these new aliens.
To build suspense, Ridley Scott had to give you new, weird aliens. Some of them are MacGuffins, meant to confuse you about the purpose of the black goo to build suspense. Others, I suspect, have an internal logic which would become clear in future stories. The main point is that as an audience member, I honestly had no idea what to expect, and that heightened the terror.
Look at that movie. LOOK AT IT. Even if you hated it, you kind of want to hate fuck it! The universe looks plausible, and functional. Why is it so squeaky clean? Because this is an expensive science vessel, not a worn out long-haul truck.
I was just watching the David Lynch Dune the other day, which is composed as artfully as a dog turd on a summer sidewalk. Prometheus, on the other hand, has something worth seeing in every frame. That Ridley Scott knows a thing or two about composition. That’s just science.
Technically a concertina, but it once belonged to Stephen Stills.
added by Admin_Rock
The Christian Allegory
Apart from the Promethean myth aspect, there is a STRONG tie to Christian allegory. We have the first Engineer (purportedly called “The Gardener”) literally gives his body and blood to create life. We have the Christian faith of Shaw being brought up from time to time. We have the fact that the movie is set at Christmas, that can’t be a co-incidence. It’s very likely that “Jesus” was an Engineer that was killed by us. It explains why they abandoned us, why they’re annoyed. Regardless, the movie is filled with Christian references. We have the “virgin birth” (more really a birth from the barren womb), we have the failure of the rich man to enter heaven.
Yes, the screenplay is a mess. Yes, it really, really, really looks like someone wrote a pure sci-fi story about the origins of man, and someone else decided to shoehorn it in to the Aliens universe, and a third someone punched it up (horribly) with jumps, scares, and unnecessary extra aliens. Yes, the result is a dog’s breakfast. But you have to appreciate the effort here, the attempt to be more than the sum of its parts (it’s not). There’s so much that isn’t in the film that is hinted at. The inevitable extended cut will bring some of this back. Until that time, we can to fill the gaps in ourselves. Because you KNOW there’s a screenwriter out there with a gag order in place just screaming inside about the atrocities committed on his script.