Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dr. Strangefilm OR How I Stopped Worrying And Tried To Figure Out Prometheus

Prometheus was one of my most anticipated films this year, along with The Dark Knight Rises. I love the Alien franchise dearly. It scared the living hell out of me as a kid, so much as to where I could barely be in the same room when it was on the television. Yet, I loved it. My Dad would buy me the action figures of xenomorphs and sit half-listening (or perhaps not really listening at all) as I asked about all the film universe. I asked him questions that he didn’t know the answers to, yet he gave them a shot. I was in love. Terrified, awe-struck love.
As I grew older I came to view the first film as a masterpiece. One of the few almost perfect films. So when I found out that not only was there going to be a pseudo-prequel to Alien I was ecstatic, and to top it off Ridley Scott would be directing. There was no way it wasn’t going to be anything more than awesome. Right?
Well here I am, two days after seeing the film and I just don’t really know how to put into words my reactions to the film. And I don’t mean that as “too good for words” or “two crappy for words” I mean that I literally don’t know that I can categorize it as a film that I “like” or “dis-like.” At least not yet.
Yes, the movie had flaws galore. Underdeveloped characters that made stupid decisions (even thought they were “intelligent scientists”) that served only to move the plot forward. I mean really, if an alien snake that came from a mysterious black goo is hissing at you, I cant imagine anyone would think it’d be a good idea to pet it. Characters, who I felt were intended by the filmmakers to be villainous or amoral, seemed to be the only characters making rational decisions. For instance Charlize Theron’s character seems as though she is supposed to be the Weyland Corp ambassador with ulterior motives, that takes place in every Alien movie—in fact she basically admits it in the beginning. Yet, she seemed to be the only person on board the ship that was thinking clearly. There is even the parallel scene with Alien where she refused to allow an infected human on board the ship—just like our beloved Ripley did in Alien.
But enough of these issues, enough has been written about how almost all of the characters in Prometheus are underdeveloped, strangely written, and exist only to move the plot forward.
It’s safe to say that for each film in the Alien franchise there is an underlying theme(s). For example: Alien-The Female Voice in a Male World, Aliens-The Mechanics of Family, Alien3-Religious/Cultish Group-think, Alien: Resurrection-Science and Ethics. Following the trend, Prometheus had its own theme, a big broad vague one: Creation. Why are we here? Why were we created? What purpose do we serve.
Now I’m not going to turn this into a religious/philosophical blog so I’m going to keep to what is addressed in the film, and try to keep it focused on the film’s reality and that of it’s characters.
Prometheus’ biggest problem it had going in was the fact that it was being touted as a non-prequel to Alien, which of course, doesn’t really make sense. But also, saying that something is the “not really a prequel” is like asking people not to think about pink elephants. The entire time I was in the film I was inadvertently making “connections” to Alien, which of course was my first big mistake. When I came out of the film I was a bit angered at how sloppily Mr Scott had connected his franchise. At the end of the film we see the birth of a xenomorph, thus starting the chain of events that would lead to our characters on the Nostromo, right? But that doesn’t make sense because the Space Jockey that the crew in Alien found was in his pilots seat, with a bursted chest—NOT in a human ship. Well, see this is where my assumptions got the best of me. See after chatting with a friend I realized, this is a different space jockey. In fact, this is a different planet altogether. Why did I assume it was the same planet when it didn’t even look the same—well it’s the “don’t think about pink elephants” paradox, unfortunately.
It all made, well, some sort of sense to me after I had this revelation. After chatting with my fellow film cohort we came to a few conclusions (assumptions) which led us to a couple of possible theories. After seeing the mural on the wall inside the Space Jockey’s vessel, it’s safe to say that they held the xenomorphs in rather high regard—perhaps as the ultimate harbingers of death (the ultimate biological weapon of mass destruction) or, perhaps they worshipped them as deity figures. Now, it is safe to say that the mysterious black goo is the secret to the space jockey’s bio-technology. It seems to be able to make their ship work—and even create life.
Now here are my two theories:
1) The space jockeys were trying to harness the ultimate weapon to become ultimate rulers of the universe. They engineered humans to basically produce the xenomorphs in order to take over the world. Now of course we know that probably wont work out well—considering we know the xenomorphs are the ultimate death dealers. The xenomorphs got out of control, hilarity ensues, and the Space Jockeys abandon their plans. Once our crew on Prometheus goes to find our creators, the Jockeys decide, in order to fully prevent the xenomorph DNA strand from ever reproducing again—they need to destroy their creation, us.
2) The Space Jockeys were on the same mission the Prometheus was on, to find their creators or Gods, the xenomorphs. The only way they thought they could do this was to actually try to create their God. Obviously this was a big mistake.
To me one of the most interesting exchanges in the film was between David and Charlie (or as my buddy, and I like to refer to him, B-Grade Tom Hardy). Charlie taunts David, telling him that he was created just “because we could.” David responds by asking Charlie how he would feel if he met his maker only to hear “Because I could.”
Its an interesting premise, to assume that our engineers are not benevolent, and perhaps not even malevolent—but indifferent. How would that affect the human psyche? Do we actually need a physical purpose to feel important? Would it make our actions insignificant to all of the sudden find out that we were basically a science project?
Prometheus does not attempt to answer these questions. In my opinion, it doesn’t really even directly ask them. It hints at the possibility that perhaps these questions are worth a ponder.
Prometheus is not a perfect film. Far from it really. But it got me thinking, and it got me talking. And really isn’t that what we want from movies in a film-era full of Transformer films and lovelorn vampires?