Prometheus (This is Brett’s Fault)
Brett told me to offer my thoughts on Prometheus. So I am.
(Note: I saw this with @MisterMattMayer, and we discussed its faults and strengths for a while after, so I may be unintentionally stealing what he said at points. If so, woops.)
Spoilers, obviously. I’m going to assume you’ve seen the movie, so I won’t bother with too much re-capping.
This is going to basically be all spoilers so, to start, I basically agree with everything Curtis said. The movie is absolutely gorgeous. It is literally the first time I’ve ever seen a movie in 3D and thought it added something. That first hour, I was just staring in awe. Then I started getting the feeling that nothing was making a lick of sense.
Now onto the other stuff…
I was reading a (generally positive with hesitations) review after the movie and it complained that Prometheus needs some villains. This really is the main problem. I was watching the original Alien and I realized that the thing Prometheus really needed was a scene like the one where Ian Holm’s head explains why everything in Alien has happened (the company wants a weapon, crew is expendable, they can’t kill it). The mystery of the creature itself remains, but the plot makes complete sense and the reveal is fairly terrifying (their employers sent them to die).
In Prometheus we get two scenes that are close to this. We have Shaw discover Weyland is onboard and we have Janek theorize that the moon was just some kind of military installation. But, while these are both creepy reveals, they don’t explain anything the way the Holm scene does (I know I’m going back and forth on character and actor names, I apologize). Weyland being there is creepy (and it gives us the great “There’s nothing” exchange), but it doesn’t explain any of, say, David’s actions in the movie beforehand (when we left the theater, I just kept asking “Did David infect Charlie purely out of spite?! Was that it?). And Curtis pointed out the problems with Janek’s sudden theories.
I’ve given it a lot of thought and read a bunch of stuff online and nearly all the plot stuff can be explained:
- The black oil was a weapon similar to the egg sacks from the first movie. Consider this the iPad to that iPhone.
- The black oil causes DNA to alter, transforming something affected into some kind of mutated monster.
- This first happened to those alien snakes. Those were actually the worms we saw earlier that had been mutated when they caused the oil to begin spilling out.
- The mohawk guy was transformed when he fell after getting splashed with acid and the oil got on him.
- Charlie was going to transform like the mohawk guy had Vickers not killed him. That’s what was happening there.
- David knew the oil was a weapon because he could read the alien language. That’s why he took the vase secretly.
All of this stuff does make sense if you think about it like that. However, it needed (like Curtis said) another draft to really make it clear. Add a clearer insert shot of David looking at a cave painting of the vase before he takes it. Have David explain what the oil is doing to Charlie or mohawk guy. Do any of these things.
A lot of people are pinning all the blame for the movie’s failings on Damon Lindelof. I’m happy to jump on this bandwagon because of my all-encompassing Lost hatred. It does make sense though. He apparently came in and (with Ridley Scott) rewrote a straight prequel script to be something “more original.” I think the problem is that this just led to two warring movies.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lindelof’s big change was replacing the eggs with the vases. Then, like Lost, he just didn’t take the time to think through or explain what the fuck the oil was.
The movie is basically two movies fighting. And I’m just talking about the idea of a thoughtful, spiritual movie fighting with a gooey, alien horror film. Those can coincide. The problem is that it’s two real stories fighting:
- Humans go to meet their creators. Humans discover the creators may have had no big plan and had actually planned to kill us all. We attempt to discover why. We get killed.
- A robot rebels against his creators (humans) and uses alien technology to infect them.
Imagine if they had cut the living Engineer out of the movie. The crew gets there and they’re all dead. David discovers the Engineers’ plan to kill humanity, decides that he agrees with it, and just takes it upon himself to begin murdering the crew and taking the oil back to earth. With one set story and one clear villain, the movie would have had a much stronger structure to hang all of its ideas upon. You could have even kept the mystery as well as David’s ambiguous nature by never having him reveal what it was that persuaded both he and the Engineers that humans needed to die. That would have been interesting.
Had either of those stories been fully fleshed out (and not with stupid, fucking Lost-style flashbacks with, ugh, dream reading), this movie could have been incredible and not just an incredibly beautiful and fascinating mess. The script just bit off more than it could chew and choked on it.
ps. I thought the first scene was fairly clear. An Engineer goes to Earth (or another Earth-like planet), injests the oil, mutates, and creates human life. I loved that scene. My favorite part of the movie.
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