June 6, 2012

THE WRITE STUFF: PROMETHEUS, OR: "LOST" IN SPACE


See what I did there? With the headline?

I was being oh so very clever, right?

Because that's what this is going to be about, this entry, it's about being oh so very clever, and if there is one thing that describes the movie Prometheus, it's that. People (writers and director) trying to be oh so very clever... and failing miserably.

I admit it, I am a big Alien fan. And a fan of Aliens, not so much of Alien 3, and Alien 4 I consider to be a proto-concept of Serenity (Firefly) and with the exception of Sigourney Weaver's tough assery as a clone, it is mostly uneven and with an ending that is both ridiculous and shameful (and yes, before some idiot comes, I am perfectly aware that Joss Whedon wanted to set the third act on Earth, which would have been better).

Having said all that, I was in anticipation of Ridley Scott's latest (and no, I will not call him Sir Ridley, for I don't give a fuck who the Queen knights, okay?), not because it could have, might have been, will possibly be, oh gosh, the excitement, a prequel to Alien, but because it was Ridley Scott! Doing Science Fiction! The guy who directed Blade Runner and Alien, finally coming back to us...

... as opposed to Jim Cameron, who never really left us, and you can hate him for Avatar and Titanic, if you like, but Cameron also did Terminator and Aliens and, heck, even Abyss, which I loved (in its Director's Cut)...

... and what could possibly go wrong?

Everything. Everything went wrong with this movie.

Especially with Damon Lindelof writing the most expensive, bloated episode of Lost, ever, with this movie. Good one, Lindelof! And Jon Spaiths finally proves he can't write shit, that his Darkest Hour piece of crap released at the end of last year... that's the level he writes on, kids, that's the level that is enough in Hollywood to be told "you're awesome, here's a turd sandwich".

So, by now you'll all know the plot. Big 1 trillion "science expedition" funded by eccentric Howard-Hughes-like Quadrillionaire (Guy Pierce in the most horrific ageing make-up) goes out to find the roots of our existence, which just happens to be in outer space, blah blah, read Von Däniken for a deeper understanding of the semi-science bullshit that Scott and his writers force feed you from the very beginning of the movie.

If you really care, think of the plot as Aliens vs. Predators set in deep space, with the "Engineers" standing in as the Predators, and how pathetic is it that Ridley Scott takes the plot from a Paul Anderson movie? Even down to the "all cultures have the same things in them" speech roughly 20 minutes into this one.


See, the whole thing that they marketed it as was "It's not a prequel to Alien, no, really, it isn't, it just takes place in the same universe", which is like saying that any German movie isn't really about Hitler, when we all know that the ones who make it out of Germany clearly are.

But here, it's "Do you remember that elephant dude in the ship at the beginning of Alien? We gonna tell you who or what he is". Boah! Awesome, I know, right?

Well, now that dude is called an "Engineer", because, get it, they engineered us, life on Earth, or maybe just mankind, the movie never really makes that fully clear, but it is apparent that he's a humanoid dude underneath all that Elephantman gear, just with a bald head and no eyebrows. Boah!

And that one of them killed himself (right at the beginning of the movie, spoiler!) to "seed life on Earth" through his DNA goo. Why?

Uh, wait for the sequel.

Oh, I'm sorry, that was a spoiler.

And then, 2,000 years ago, the same race decided, "you know what, let's kill mankind".

Why?

Uh, wait for the sequel.

Oh, I'm sorry. Another spoiler, that.

Anyway, here's the joke. A creationist, a darwinist and a robot walk into a spaceship...

The creationist says "Are you god?"

The darwinist says "You're some ugly motherfucker."

The robot says "Fascinating."

... and they pretty much all die, without rhyme or reason. Yes, that's the movie. A joke without a punchline, a joke without characters that are credible or even memorable.

Much has been made of Fassbender's portrayal of the android David, but to be perfectly honest, it's Data. Yes, a upper English class Data, but Data nonetheless, detached and polite and with some creepy that made me go "the butler did it! Yes, I know it! It's you, David!"

Charlize Theron is a character that is meaningless (except for that obvious Blade Runner reference, you'll know it when you see it... "father"). If you had cut every scene with here from the movie, I shit you not, none of the plot would have been altered. Always a bad thing for a character, especially in a movie, where every minute counts, where everybody and everything must have a reason for being included, you are talking 120 minutes here, kids, don't waste them.

Also, Theron does here the exact same thing that Weaver's Ripley did, only when Ripley did it in the first movie, you find yourself thinking "yeah, she is fucking right, don't you take fucking John Hurt back to the Nostromo, this is a bad fucking idea, this is a really bad fucking idea", while the same moment here is played to only show Theron's cruelty, a complete 180 from what a scene like that should be, and it's because there is nothing to Theron's character other than frozen blood and cruelty, so the scene itself becomes wasted.

Noomi Rapace's Shaw is a scientist only nominally, she's there as a stand in for a point of view, for the bullshit that will most likely please the American Religious Right, she's a creationist looking for god (tough shit, lady), and remember when Sigourney Weaver's Ripley went back for Jones the cat in Alien and we all groaned (and when she went back for Newt in Aliens, and we all went "fuck, hell, yes, don't you fucking fuck with Mum!")

Well, Rapace also retrieves something at the end of this movie, she doesn't have to go all ballistic for it, but while Fassbender's David has lost his head (there seems to be an inherent weakness for androids in the Alienverse, their heads all become quite detachable, see also: Ash, Bishop), Rapace comes back to... wait for it...

... get back her cross! Yes, that's fucking right!

The movie even ends out with Rapace's voice over stating "in the year of our lord", I mean, thanks, I really wanted to get hit over the head with that (of course, since we are being oh so very clever, we can interpret that the reason the "Engineers" want to kill us... hm, 2,000 years ago, oh gosh, is it because Jesus came around?), that bullshit religious moralizing in deep space.

But even that, that religious crap, isn't an answer in the movie.

I'm not going to go too much into the actual "murder monster massacres" that happen here, some of it is grisly, some of it is creepy (much has been made of Rapace's surgery, I actually thought, meh), because they are murders by the numbers, and most of them happen because the characters in this movie behave without any intelligence, so they all deserve to die.

I wanted to like this movie, I really did, and some may say that I'm just bitter, because this isn't really an Alien movie, to which I say, bullshit. It's trying to tell it isn't a movie about the Alien, while everything in the plot is a rehash of Alien and Aliens, just without the actual damn thing showing up until a very silly 30 seconds at the very end...

I'm disappointed, because this movie has no character to root for, no plot to be dazzled or even surprised by, because this movie has no beginning, middle or an end, it just moves along to a sputtering halt that has Rapace and Fassbender be the only survivors, about to set sail on an Engineer ship to the Engineer homeworld, without supplies, without oxygen, without tools, because Rapace wants to...

... wait for it...

... she wants to know who created our creators!

Dun DUN Dun!

And the search for "God" continues... and I want to warn everyone that this is it. That's how far the movie goes. There are no answers here, just goo and glib bullshit, don't want to offend anyone, do we, especially not in America, gosh, no, not when this movie is done by Fox...

A lot of the things could have been fixed, quite easily, even.

For example, they find a living "Engineer", and David can even talk to him, explaining that "hey, it's us, your kids, surprise?" And what does that superior race dude do? He just squeals and starts thrashing shit around. Oh, my.

What if there had been a glimmer of recognition in his eyes?

What if there had been just a word coming from him, with David trying to translate him (since we actually don't get subtitles here), and David goes...

"What do you mean? I'm sorry, I don't quite understand... flawed?"

Just that single moment would have given some meaning to the whole plot underneath the movie, you can say they created us... and we were a mistake!

(That would seriously fuck up some people's heads, right?)

And even when the movie ends, witht he "Engineer" just being another "monster of the week", coming for Rapace as she is in the yacht part of the Prometheus, with the other alien "baby" being still locked in the med bay (having grown to a super squid), there is nothing there's just rage, grrrr grrr grrr... he comes for her in a way that is both ridiculous and cliche...

... and again, that scene could have been saved by what I wrote about here (we are flawed!) and then transport it to that sequence...

... with Rapace releasing that alien squid on him, and a simple line.

"Time to meet your creation, motherfucker."

But none of this happens. It's just sequences that are put on a string, without payoff.

And that is why Prometheus, in the end, is a vanity project for an aging, increasingly delusional director who is interested in visuals but has no longer an idea about telling a story.

If you want to be entertained, put that Alien disc into your Blu Ray or DVD player.