Erik didn’t want to talk about Prometheus. At all. But that’s okay, because I will.
Prometheus is the feel-good comedy of the year.
Some of you who haven’t seen it might be searching desperately for the exit button right now to avoid spoilers. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Be spoiled. Welcome it. There is no “surprise” in this movie that is not either entirely predictable or 99 & 44/100% stupid. In fact, by thoroughly spoilering yourself you will be inoculated against the possibility that you may expect intriguing questions raised in the first half to have some sort of coherent answer by movie’s end, much less a coherent tie-in to the Alien franchise. You can just relax, kick back, and have a good laugh.
Well, okay, yeah, it’s not meant to be a comedy. But it is. You can’t film the sci-fi equivalent of the old cartoon gag of “run from the falling tree in a straight line until it crushes you” and expect anything except guffaws.
Prometheus has at least two “dramatic” sequences where the music score could have easily (and appropriately) been replaced by Yakety Sax, and despite that stunning oversight I still had burst out laughing by the end of the scenes.
In fact, another stunning oversight was the complete lack of a sitcom laugh track, which I had to fill in mentally after listening to the film’s cast of SINOs (Scientists-In-Name-Only) exchange dialogue along these lines:
SINO #1: “Do you have any evidence for your complete disregard of Darwinism?” (yes, the supposed biologist refers to the entirety of the Theory of Evolution as Darwinism)
SINO #2: “No, I don’t. But it’s what I choose to believe.”
I have to hand it to Noomi Rapace, she delivers that response with a deadpan expression that rivals Leslie Nielsen in Airplane! I mean, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think the filmmakers actually meant it to be taken seriously. Thus, the laughtrack. It would eliminate confusion. Otherwise Ridley Scott will have to start explaining to everyone a few months down the road that Prometheus was always meant as a comedy, just like Tommy Wiseau had to do with The Room.
I wouldn’t be surprised. Just like Tommy, Scott has no fucking clue what his movies are supposed to mean. Oh, they look prettier. They seem more epic. But Ridley Scott asking “big questions” is akin to a chimp throwing very cinematic feces at a canvas, and most critics are still too afraid to call him out on it. In this interview with Hero Complex he talks about how his movies are like an art canvas, and that they’re “never finished”, which could be why he keeps changing his mind on what Blade Runner is about. It’s like listening to a more pretentious version of George Lucas.
This is not simply what I choose to believe, Scott has a track record. He changes his mind on fundamental things. He weasels. Listen to his answer to movies.com (as commented on by The Playlist) on whether the cryptic beginning sequence of Prometheus takes place on Earth:
“…[the] sequence at the beginning of the film that is fundamentally creation. It’s a donation, in the sense that the weight and the construction of the DNA of those aliens is way beyond what we can possibly imagine,” Scott said. Adding that the planet isn’t necessarily Earth, he says, “No, it doesn’t have to be. That could be anywhere. That could be a planet anywhere. All he’s doing is acting as a gardener in space. And the plant life, in fact, is the disintegration of himself. If you parallel that idea with other sacrificial elements in history – which are clearly illustrated with the Mayans and the Incas – he would live for one year as a prince, and at the end of that year, he would be taken and donated to the gods in hopes of improving what might happen next year, be it with crops or weather, et cetera.”
I highly recommend reading the rest of the interview, both because it proves my point, and because it’s where Scott drops the bomb of “Space Jesus” which was none-too-elegantly cut from the final film. He’s not saying it’s Jesus… but it’s Jesus.
By the way, there is clearly plant life present in the landscape prior to the “gardener’s” disintegration (and why not call them Gardeners? Makes as much sense as Engineers). I’m going to just gloss over the idea of DNA having weight and construction beyond what we can possibly imagine. Well actually I can’t, since the film takes pains to point out later that said DNA is an exact match for our own. Science really is whatever Ridley Scott chooses to believe, and Ridley Scott’s idea of good science (as he has freely admitted in interviews) is, at best, Chariots of the Gods.
Now I don’t know how much blame there is to also pass to Damon Lindelof, a man who similarly likes to throw a bunch of random elements and “big questions” at an audience without necessarily knowing where he’s going with it. Getting him together with a director of similar bent means no boots on the ground, and sometimes you really need that grounding element. Perhaps the movie was only titled Prometheus because Lost In Space was already taken.
All this still might have been forgivable had there been a halfway decent narrative or believable characters to cling onto like an angry vagina-snake, but… well, for one thing, if you don’t believe me about calling them SINOs, google up “Prometheus bad science” and gorge yourself. It’s not just a matter of nitpicking scientific inaccuracies, it’s people who seem to lack any enthusiasm or competence in their supposed fields of study… though actually that extends out to the whole cast. As my friend Bryn succinctly put it:
“The number of fucks not given in relation to what would reasonably be completely mindblowing crap is noteworthy.”
As a result, you never feel like you’re watching actual people. They’re just not reacting anywhere near appropriately to their situation(s), in many cases having no discernable reactions at all, and so it’s not just science that gets trampled over in this movie’s rush to get to its half-assed metaphors, it’s human beings (and one blond android, who to be fair is perhaps “more human than human”). Plus you gotta love the Black Goo, enabler of lazy writing. Black Goo is the new Evil Voodoo Magic. It’s the new Sonic Screwdriver. And yet not one character ever ponders what it is or how it works, besides one guy just out of nowhere deciding it’s a weapon. Black Goo shows you not even the writers give a fuck.
It’s bad. It’s so bad that this review (which I highly recommend if you need a more thorough dose of snark than mine) finishes off by telling you to watch Starcrash instead. Why?
“Everybody cares in Starcrash.”
Or, y’know, maybe this theatrical release doesn’t properly represent the comedic vision Scott intended. Thus, I’m looking forwards to the Director’s Cut where Scott will add that laugh track back in, along with 20 extra minutes of slapstick where the team bumps against each other in the airlock. Or he might add several minutes of a cow chewing cud and pooping. Or oooh! A Unicorn! This might as well happen, because there is nothing, nothing on that cutting room floor which could salvage this mess.
Do I have any evidence to support that? No, I don’t. But it’s what I choose to believe!
A unicorn pooping would be nice.
Pooping black goo.
I talked to a friend yesterday and decided that the ending creature that emerges in Prometheus should definitely have been a unicorn. With piston jaws and acid rainbows for blood.
Then I would at least know Scott had reached the point where he could take the piss out of himself a little…
“…the ending creature that emerges in Prometheus should definitely have been a unicorn.”
Actually it did kind of have a pointy horn thing going on at the back of its head.
Maybe lindelof really is a genius!
And everyone over the age of 12 is just to stupid, jealous and critical to see it.
Great article BTW.
The Henry Rothwell article linked me here.
Ah! The wonder of pingback.
I briefly (very briefly, because my brain started to rebel) toyed with the idea of ways to make the narrative have a kind of logical sense in terms of what was actually happening in front of us, rather than what Ridley Scott is claiming is happening.
So I thought about maybe Vickers staffing this ship full of discredited crackpots and incompetent idiots in an effort to get her father killed off and finally inherit her birthright, ingeniously doing so in a way that plays right into his delusions of immortality. As a bonus, of course he’d bring along his golden boy android and she’d be rid of her “brother” as well.
Alas, this theory falls apart. Because she went WITH them.
My wife also pointed out the comedy of having an archaeologist fall into “fuck it all”, alcohol-fueled depression because his Engineers turn out to be dead. Which is like the scientists who opened up the pyramids getting depressed and feeling everything was pointless because it turned out nobody in there was still alive…
This is one (of MANY) things that … bugged… me about the film. If you’re going to bother telling the audience that a character is an archeologist (or, say, a geologist or biologist) maybe bother to have some concept of what that might tell you about their interests. It’s not like those are people that took up that profession like a janitor or waitress or office drone might just fall into such an career. I don’t care how much a “geologist” screams about loving rocks, if he pretty much solely looks and acts like a deranged convict with possible head-trauma he’s not convincing me is a geologist.
I hold to the theory that he was a Trollslayer from Warhammer Fantasy. Sure, he seems too tall for that, but then again the Engineers sure shrank in stature from the first movie, so scale shmale.
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