Even though she said she had no interest in seeing it, Loki takes a look at Ridley Scott’s new scifi adventure: Prometheus! CAUTION THERE ARE SPOILERS.
Let’s Talk About Prometheus, The Movie I Swore I Would Never See
I’m a bit of a confusing person. I have a love/hate relationship with horror.
There are certain aspects of horror that I can’t stand. Mainly comprised of Torture Porn, Slasher Flicks and Infection/Zombie Movies. I know that cuts out a giant chunk of great classics, but I like to be able to sleep at night thank you very much.
Then there of course is my least favourite Narrative Trope which can be found in ALL OF THESE MOVIES. It goes as follows.
Take a small group of people (for it to be effective you need at least two) put them in a dangerous cut-off location (the bottom of the sea, in space, the outside world flooded with radiation, you know the drill).Then something horrible happen to them, like an alien invasion, an infection, the air supply starts leaking, someone becomes a murderer. But of course our group of characters can’t get out.
Cue the slaughter.
So along comes Prometheus.
I immediately became obsessed with the trailer. I loved the pacing, I loved the visuals. I just loved everything about it. It was one of the best trailers I have seen in a long time. The trailer also scared the crap out of me. Most of this came from the sound effects. Specifically the alarm like screaming that begins at 1:43 minutes into the trailer. I’m going to refer to that noise as a trigger noise.
Trigger Noises are sound effects that become tied to their movie and are there to invoke a specific reaction from the viewer. They’re the noises (and sometimes music) that when you hear them or someone does an impression of them, you know exactly what movie they’re from. Think of the Fog Horn in Inception, The Alarm in Kill Bill and the Jaws Theme (Dun Da Dun Dah) for Jaws. In the case of Prometheus, the noise causes panic, fear and terror. It’s supposed to set up the dark and dangerous environment and the decent into the horror the characters feel. This noise managed to make me feel uncomfortable every time I watched the trailer.
Like a good trailer should, it did not give away the plot of the film, it gave us a feel of what the film was supposed to be like. To me, Prometheus seemed like a throw back to the older scifi movies I have seen with a nice injection of modern science fiction. It clearly was to take place in the Alien world (which was another reason for uncomfort from me) but it wasn’t going to be about Alien. People questioned Ridley Scott about the tie ins to Alien and many of the articles I read referred to it as the Alien Prequel.
This really isn’t the case.
So What is it Then?
I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing how Prometheus and Alien relate to one another, it’s pretty clear and can be summed up nicely in this one graphic:
So What About the Actual Movie?
Character Writing: Or How I Learned to Make Realistic Characters and Not Murder Fodder.
Coming into Prometheus, you are fully aware that most of the characters who are paraded infront of you in the first 20 minutes aren’t going to make it to the end of the film. We all know how this genre works. We all know how to tell which characters are going to bite it first. When you look at the crew of The Prometheus, a handfull of the people do not even get names. You know they’re done for. I went into this with as much of an open mind as possible, but within the introduction of the crew I knew that the only one to survive had to be Shaw. She was the only human who had a somewhat rounded character. She also seemed like the kind of character that a Director would just love to torture. And how how Ridley does.
Say hello to Doctor Shaw.
She’s one of the two scientists who discover the cave paintings that kickstart the mission to the home world of the Engineers. She’s romantically involved with her partner scientist, Holloway. The kicker is that even though she is a scientist she is still devoutly religious. Shaw comes to represent the “religion” aspect of the plot. Never giving up on the God that she “chooses” to believe in, even though the movie constantly is throwing reasons in her face why she should. The other defining point of her character is that she is sterile. Unlike other women (and unlike the Engineers), Shaw is unable to bring forth life and as it can be guessed this really upsets her. It is also one of her driving motivations in her quest to find out why we were created.
This is when the Director torture begins. Holloway becomes infected with an alien substance and when the two of them have sex… he impregnates her with an alien baby.
An Alien Friggin Baby.
This begins Shaw’s best acted scene. She decides that she needs to cut the thing out of herself and runs to a surgical pod. Sadly for her the pod is meant for male use only (Director Torture Number 2). So saw pumps herself up full of painkillers and tels that machine that there is a foreign object in her body and needs to have it removed. The machine then proceeds to slice her open with a laser, drop down a Toy Story inspired claw and rip that little sucker out of her. Shaw is then stapled shut and proceeds through the movie on sheer force of will and super human pain tolerance. She also is popping pain killers to the point where I was expecting the entire second half of the movie to have been a vivid hallucination.
That could have been fun.
What I’m trying to say is, if you’re running around with your stomach stapled closed… then your probably going to survive the rest of the film. We all know about The Last Girl Horror Theory.
As for the other human characters, they’re kind of meh.
What we need to discuss here is character motivation and character actions.
Characters in films need to make mistakes. If they didn’t the film wouldn’t be worth watching. There are two different kinds of mistakes that characters can make. There are the logical ones that fit with their characterization and then there are the ones that are clearly there just to make the plot move forward and are stupid.
Take for example the characters taking their helmets off in the caves. NOT SMART
David poisoning Holloway. LOGICAL
Prometheus bounced between these two kinds of actions, the characters bumbling along stupidly with looks of horror on their faces till a moment of unspeakable clarity. After that… well it was back to being in the dark.
You Clearly Really Want to Talk About David.
David was by far the most fascinating character in the entire film and the best acted. With the release of the viral marketing add Happy Birthday David. I realized we were going to be in for a treat. David is an android… as Faassbender described him in an interview: “The butler of the ship”. While everyone else is in stasis, David is wandering around, taking care of them and making sure the entire ship is running smoothly. He is also teaching
himself how to speak many different languages to try and find the root language that he could speak to the Engineers with.
He also obsessively watches Lawrence of Arabia to the point where he dyes his hair blonde and tries out lines from the film as catchphrases. He’s adorable.
I do really like how Roger Ebert described him:
David (Michael Fassbender), an android, who knows or can figure out more or less everything, even alien languages, and is sort of a walking, talking, utterly fearless HAL 9000.
David brings a third level of creation to this film. We have the Engineers who created us, and then there is us who created the Android. The relationship between David and the crew can kind of be read as the relationship that the humans could possibly have with the Engineers. Like the humans, David is obsessively curious, and needs to touch everything. Unlike the humans he doesn’t have the emotions (like fear) to stop him from doing anything stupid.
David does everything to try and fit in with the human population and make them feel comfortable around him. He is there to help them even if he has a hidden agenda. You see David is hiding an old Peter Weyland on board and the two of them sneak off and have councils every once in a while.
Then comes the Holloway poisoning scene.
The stage is set as follows. Holloway is drinking in a common area of the ship. David walks in. The two of them banter for a while and David asks him what he is willing to do to find out more about the Engineers. Silly Holloway responds: anything and everything. David smiles, pours Holloway a drink and spikes it with the black goo he brought back from to the ship. I’ve heard a lot of arguments about this scene. Some people think that this was just David being one of the “bad guys” in the movie. I’m going to argue that if Holloway had said something negative, David would have wandered off with the black goo on his finger to try and find someone else to experiment on. David was working within his protocol… and due to the response of Holloway… well he could technically do anything and everything to him. Hell, I’m not saying that this was the right thing to do. This is David’s lack of emotions rearing it’s ugly head again.
Creepy Crawlies, Aliens and Things That Go Bump in the Night
First off. I really really really need to say this:
In all seriousness, the Engineers were interesting and I would have liked to see more of the movie about them.
One of the major problems with this movie is that it tries to do so much. If it had dialed it back they would have been able to go into more detail on things. Instead we have to try and make leaps between the Engineers, the Proto-type Face-Huggers, the Black Goo with Worms in it and the Blue-Alien-like-Alien at the very end of the film. Not to mention they keep jumping around with what each creature can do.
We see the black goo eat through someone’s helmet, but David an safely hold it on his finger.
The only creature that really got to me, was when they found one of the crew members all bent up outside of their ship. It wasn’t him specifically that freaked me out, it was the idea that he crawled all the way from the cave in that malformed messed up way. That really got my skin crawling.
So Long Mom, I’m Off to Drop the Bomb…
All in all Prometheus was a good summer blockbuster. It was pretty to look at, it held my attention and it gives you something to talk about. It is not the best scifi film I have ever seen, but it’s not the worst either. You can’t really read into it too much without realizing just how shallow it actually is. And I think that’s what has upset the critics and reviewers.
Everyone went into this movie thinking it was going to be the big movie of the summer and that it was going to be perfect. Maybe the viral campaign was too good for it? I don’t know.
I was a little let down with the ending and the severe tonal shift.
Shaw and David, the only two surviving members of the crew decide not to head back to earth, instead they take an Engineer Ship and head towards the Engineer Homeworld for answers.
That’s all good and fine.
It’s the buddy-cop feel that the film devolved into that kind of upset me. I could just hear the cheesy music as the two of them went off adventuring into the stars.
But maybe that’s just me.
So if you haven’t already, go out and see this one. Even if it’s for visuals alone.