It seems to be some kind of large metaphor…
If there’s one thing that can be gleaned from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus it’s that following in the footsteps of gods isn’t a very good idea. Not only would that have spared the crew of the titular spacecraft such indignities as being crushed by a giant space donut, oral violation by a space cobra, or dressing up like a cross between Robocop and one of Hugh Hefner’s testes, but it would also have saved these punishments being doled out to writer Damon Lindelof on Twitter and internet message boards.
Clearly Lindelof is in awe of Scott. And who wouldn’t be? I imagine their first meeting was a bit like the end of Back the Future: Lindelof sat in his house trying to crack the story of More Cowboys and More Aliens, or trying to figure out what LOST was all about, when suddenly Ridley Scott appears behind the wheel of the nearest real-life incarnation to a flying time travelling DeLorean and asks for help returning to the Alien universe. Only a fool would pass that chance up – especially when the alternative is to find thematic and narrative sense in LOST, or over-think a film about Cowboys and Aliens twatting each other.
But the metaphorical goo-mutated snake that is being force fed to Lindelof seems a little harsh to me. In exploring the secrets of the universe he’s managed to uncover the one great truth: humans are fucking stupid and probably deserve to travel halfway across the galaxy only to be punched across a room by a giant wax bodybuilding space scientist. People can complain about a biologist who’s terrified of what is, in essence, the remnants of an interstellar KFC variety bucket one minute, only to play grab ass with a space vagina the next, but they’re missing the clues that are spelled out from the very beginning of the film…
Prometheus opens with a supposedly advanced alien life form walking through what appears to be a typical Northumbrian summer wearing nothing but a brown curtain and a nappy. He walks up to a giant dangerous waterfall and finds an equally enlarged poisoned Rolo, which he precedes to eat. He is then surprised to find that eating food left precariously on the edge of a giant waterfall is a bad idea and falls to his doom. Sadly – in a tragic display of prescience – this leads to the creation of the human race.
From there we meet his descendants: a plucky Christian scientist (uh oh) and a handsome man wearing a silly hat. They discover a piece of ancient space art which is enough to convince a mechanical prune who resembles Guy Pearce to fund their interstellar expedition to meet the artist on his not-at-all-ill-named spacecraft Prometheus. It’s a bit like naming your cruise ship ‘Spirit of Titanic’, or your child ‘Gaddafi Hitler’ and expecting shit to be Bisto.
Similarly, the approach to the mission itself is not unlike our descendants finding a piece of graffiti in an entombed urinal that suggests you should call ‘Dave’ for ‘a good time’, only to travel thousands of miles at great expense to find that not only is a hibernating Dave not up for ‘a good time’, but he’s also pretty pissed off that someone once suggested he was. It’s worth pointing out that one crew-member does describe this plan as ‘bullshit’, but he’s also a geologist who later manages to get lost in a straight cave made of stone. I would say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks, but he probably wouldn’t understand that, or the word ‘rock’.
Anyway, from there we are presented with behavioural patterns that appear to have been plotted with a broken Spirograph. Much has been made of the scientists taking their helmets off in an unknown alien climate, the aforementioned snake petting, opening the door to the missing geologist who’s about four-foot shorter with a head like a balloon and yellow eyes and my personal favourite: the scientist who throws his toys out of the pram when he finds out that the aliens are unable to high-five him, despite the fact that he has made the most significant discovery in the history of the human race – save for the Northumbrian waterfall Rolo that opened the film.
Clearly neither Scott nor Lindelof are dumb; in fact I’d say that they’re both very intelligent, which suggests that these plot holes and leaps in logic – not to mention the additional meta-displays of idiocy that come from the filmmakers – intentionally serve to highlight the one character who displays slightly more rational thought and intelligence than all the other characters combined: Michael Fassbender’s charming android David.
Through strange physical quirks David brings an arch-awareness and relatable humanity that’s curiously absent in every other area of the film. While much has been made of the deleted footage from Prometheus, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a large part of it consisting of David uploading footage from the crew’s helmet cams to YouTube for LOLs. It’s not uncommon ground for Scott: Bladerunner’s most overt displays of humanity came from the artificial replicants and not from the ‘humans’ themselves.
While I’m not going to suggest Prometheus is a worthy companion to what is officially recognised as the second best film of all time*, I will say that I enjoyed it more than most seemed to, despite the overt flaws – whether intentional or otherwise. It’s a very enjoyable mood-piece, which is probably Scott’s most consistent trait as a director. I only hope that when we regain the adventures of proto-Ripley and her head in a bag, not only have they discovered a little more about the origins of their creators, but they’ve also found a more complete script.
*Note: by me.
The main problem with Robin Hood 2010 is not necessarily Russell Crowe’s accent, which veers from a low-rent impression of Fred Trueman from the Indoor League, to broad scouse, before taking a wrong turn up a Jamaican patois cul-de-sac; it’s not even the fact that by now Ridley Scott has been back to the medieval well so much that he seems to have caught creative leprosy from the water, and could theoretically direct a castle siege in his sleep (and probably did – lulz).
No, the real problem is the fact that when going for a theoretically realistic retelling, of what is quite clearly bollocks, they decided to cast Russell Crowe. Now, suspension of disbelief plays a large part in any cinematic entertainment but when you have someone who is in medieval terms, and putting it as politely as possible, is not so much reaching his twilight years as wondering where the light’s gone, playing a common archer you can’t help but feel that he’s perhaps been kept back in the ‘special group’ for a few years.
If archery were studied at degree level, you get the impression that Russell Crowe’s character is about to take his attempt at an NVQ into double figures. Then again, he’s really good with a bow and arrow, so maybe he’s only recently taken it up, like old people who volunteer for work in their retirement. That would make sense I suppose.
Digressions aside, I kind of enjoyed the film, despite the age and accent of the lead, the fact that the merry men’s personalities were so interchangeable they were more like a bearded hydra, obsessed with ale, song and wenchery; despite the ride of the midget army at the end – and basically, the end itself.
I think if the problems of the film are symptomatic of anything it’s when the major creative forces on a film are allowed to do whatever they want, because, short of hiring a music video director, there is no surer way of creating a cinematic shark sandwich.
Of course the example of this phenomena that’s so text book it should be given its own ‘ism’, is George Lucas, whose ‘Lucasism’ was to return from a 20 year directorial break with The Phantom Menace. By producing Howard the Duck and not a lot else in the interim, he wasn’t spending all this time working on the script and VFX, he was essentially taking an extended gap year – though I’ve had friends spend a single gap year more productively, and all they did was blow up a cow with a rocket launcher and investigate the lady-boy paradox before (or maybe after) going mental.
Another, more tragic case of Lucasi-sm is Peter Jackson, who not only managed to make elves cool but also broke the curse of the third part of a trilogy being total balls and helping to create one of the best visual effects of all time: Orlando Bloom appearing to have screen presence. But when he’s earned the right to do whatever he wished, he came back with King Kong, which despite being half-decent, was needlessly over-long and featured a dinosaur chase sequence that was so poor, it appeared to have been created using the world’s largest treadmill and the processing muscle of a computer bearing Alan Sugar’s company logo.
Following Gladiator, Ridley and Russell’s return must have seemed as impressive on paper as it is in alliteration. And with a reputation of assaulting workers in the service industry, what would Crowe do to a well-paid film producer were they to dare suggest that Robin Hood probably didn’t sound like Bubbler Ranx in a Lilt advert?
Now I’m not suggesting that film producers should solely have their way, but if the creative forces can be reigned in by money men with occasional interjections of common sense then we may get more enjoyable films. But with news of Mafia Wars and Ice Road Truckers films being green-lit then perhaps common sense, as a commodity in Hollywood, is rarer than finding the word ‘good’ in their eventual reviews.
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