Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Prometheus - Sugar-Free Eye Candy

I finally saw Prometheus the other night. Really, if you haven't seen it but intend to you really just shouldn't read this post at all. There, that's your spoiler alert...

It had some beautiful visuals and tense moments, but the story was completely impenetrable. It's in the same style as Lost: frustratingly complicated with a promise of depth and meaning that ultimately is just an illusion. Like they just threw a bunch of shit together and thought "this will keep internet forums busy for the rest of eternity." As if that was their goal instead of trying to actually tell a good story.

Don't get me wrong, I "enjoyed" it, even though I had problems with it. It's biggest problem is that it's trying to be something that it's not. That's why I enjoyed Alien vs. Predator more, because it never pretends to be anything more than a ridiculously premised action film. And Prometheus is basically just an art-house remake of AVP.
A group of scientists, industrialists, and soldiers with competing agendas are sent to a far-off isolated location to explore a startling connection between ancient cultures and aliens that could hold clues to our origins, only to end up in the middle of a hostile conflict they don't understand that gets them all killed.  
That's your summary for both movies.

The fact that Prometheus's premise is grounded in the idea that aliens seeded human life on Earth is particularly cringe-worthy. That's the stuff of bad cable TV, late night radio talk-shows, and B movies like Alien vs. Predator. Then they go one step further and make the origin of man gigantic over-sized white men. So the idea that we evolved and originated in Africa doesn't work for you? You've got to find some way to reclaim male-dominated white supremacy?

But there I'm just disagreeing with the premise. That's not bad storytelling, which this movie has in spades.

Let's take David for instance. Michael Fassbender gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the android, but David's motivations are problematic. At first it seems like this is a typical "Alien" set-up. The Company knows more than it's letting on. It's sent these people in to this place knowing they'll get slaughtered, and David's job is to make sure the aliens get back to Earth so the Company can make weapons out of them. Except then Mr. Weyland emerges from hypersleep, and we find out he's really just trying to cheat death. Why exactly he thinks the "Engineers" can help him cheat death is beyond me. That seems a pretty big leap.

So why did David take a canister back to the ship? Why did he infect Holloway? The only way I can make sense of it is if, when David says "Don't all children want their parents dead?" he's referring to all of humanity as his parents, not just Weyland. That's actually a pretty brilliant idea, but if it's true, it's not developed properly.

Now let's look at Noomi Rapace. She's wonderful as Dr. Shaw. My problem isn't with her, it's with events that center upon her. She's beats the crap out of two crew members in order to escape being put into hyper sleep. Then she runs into Vickers' quarters to use the medpod she's been told not to touch in order to have invasive surgery to remove an alien growing inside of her. (As a side note, why was the medpod only calibrated for male patients? Do you really expect me to believe you'd build a complicated surgery robot that only works on one sex? That seems like a pretty big flaw in the design concept. If the point is to be another not-so-subtle clue that Weyland is on the ship, why would you be so opaque about David's motivations and then beat us over the face with the obvious stick that Weyland's on board?). She leaves a bloody alien in the medpod room, and then runs around the ship covered in blood sporting a giant abdominal scar, and there are NO CONSEQUENCES OF ANY KIND. The crew members she beats didn't follow her or raise an alarm and apparently weren't hurt and don't hold grudges. Vickers never scolds her about trashing her apartment. No one even gets freaked out that SHE HAD A ALIEN SQUID THING GROWING INSIDE HER. WTF?

Then there's Charlize Theron. Why was Vickers in that movie? She serves no purpose other than eye-candy. Why go to all that trouble to give her a life boat only to have her escape in a pod. Why have her escape at all if she's just going to get crushed by the crashing ship because she's too dumb to run at a right angle to the falling object? She doesn't DO anything, except sleep with the captain. Which makes me wonder... She calls Weyland "father" and clearly we're supposed to wonder if she's a robot. (If you didn't get that, the fact that the Captain asks her if she's a robot should have enlightened you.) Which makes me wonder if her sole purpose in the film is to be a bridge between the Alien universe and the Blade Runner prequel Scott's working on next. Is she meant to be an early prototype of Pris? Is she meant to be an android/replicant who doesn't know she's an android/replicant? It would have been much more interesting if both Shaw and Vickers had survived.

I'm not going to try to make sense of the nonsensical mythology or plot holes, because that's exactly what they want you to do. I could forgive it for that if any of these people went on a satisfying enough character journey, but they don't. Clearly this movie is missing at least 30 minutes of character development that will probably end up in the DVD, which only makes me even more frustrated.

Now there were a couple good things. I actually quite liked that the "Engineer" was immediately violent and hostile. Whether they created the aliens or the aliens created them (and us), it's fitting. And watching the ship come together and emerge was wonderful. There are a lot of almost brilliant things in this film. They just never really pay off quite well enough.

In the end, it's a mostly fun ride hung around a lot of pretentious bullshit. There's talk of a sequel or maybe two sequels. One to wrap up Shaw's storyline and another to bridge the gap to Alien. I don't know if I hope they get made or not. 

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.