Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Comments on the Prometheus Movie (Spoilers)

For the last few years I've been frustrated with the types of movies Hollywood has produced. The endless stream of remakes, for one, is especially disappointing. The fact that they are remaking Total Recall bothers the hell out of me, but I digress.

I'm a big fan of Alien and Bladerunner, so for the first time in a long time I was excited to go to the theater. It was a mixed bag. I'm going to whine and complain a bit, so bear with me!

I wouldn't say it's horrible, but it wasn't that great either. Too many things went unexplained to the point that parts were incomprehensible. Leaving something of a mystery is fine, but it wasn't handled well. For example, in the beginning scene, what was up with the alien guy dissolving? Why did he kill himself? Was that CGI animation of his DNA dissolving into the water significant in some way, and if so, how? My wife suggested that his DNA "seeded" the Earth, leading to humans, but if that were the case why were their pictograms around the world indicating people worshiped the aliens? Clearly they contributed more than just their DNA.

I also didn't get how one of the alien-movie-type creatures emerged from the alien guy at the end...weren't we dealing with a different alien menace earlier? Did it mutate? What the hell is going on, anyway? Ok, so they created us, and they want to destroy us. Given that they started making this alien bioweapon when humans were still using bows and arrows, wouldn't it have just been easier to swing on by the ol' planet earth and carpet bomb it? Is it that complicated?

Also, I realize over-the-top action is probably to be expected, but come on. You can't have an emergency cesarean, staple up your stomach after all those muscles have been severed, then go running around, leaping across crevasses, etc. in that condition.

But probably the biggest disappointment for me is the origin explanation for humans. By and large I don't like it when this type of thing is done to explain human origins, though I did like the more recent way it was done in the Battlestar Gallactica series.

I've heard that some cops can't stand to watch crime shows because of the way crime scenes and police behavior is depicted, and that lawyers often have a hard time watching courtroom shows. Similarly, since I am an anthropologist who specializes in human evolution, it is painful to me to see them setup a totally implausible scenario for the origin of humans. I get it, this is sci-fi, but it ruins my ability to suspend disbelief. There is too much evidence for the evolution of humans on Earth to just say we were plopped down here by aliens. Without going into technical detail, that is the long and short of it. It is lazy writing, not to mention an overdone concept.

So in the end it was an ok way to spend a couple of hours if you have no expectations. I liked the synthetic's character. I don't mind the philosophizing about what it means to be human, (I'm a big fan of Philip K. Dick) but the way the movie handled it was sophomoric. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a movie elitist, and I generally like movies that are not supposed to have deep meaning, but if you're going to tackle this issue at least add something new to the conversation.

I've read a lot of reviews that say the movie tried to do too many things. In general I agree, but the bad taste it leaves is that it doesn't do any one of those things very well and it feels like this is a movie written specifically to spawn sequels. So while it sets up a bunch of things to explore in later movies, right here and now the movie doesn't do much for you. I think a movie should stand on its own, and this one IMHO doesn't.

Apparently they are in the early stages of making a Bladerunner sequel (still working on a script I think). Thinking about that makes me feel a peculiar mix of hope and dread. I'm afraid of what they'll do in a sequel.


Greyhawk Grognard said...

I think it's already been established that the aliens will assume different forms depending on the host in which they gestate. Look at the alien in Alien 3; because it gestated inside the dog, it was itself quadrupedal. So there's definitely some level of genetic adaptation.

Perhaps what we saw with the alien coming out of the Engineer was the precursor to the aliens that we see in Alien and Aliens. I note that it wasn't quite exactly like the alien we saw in those films; perhaps they need to gestate inside a human to achieve that distinctive appearance.

I definitely agree that there's a lot of ground left to cover between this film and Alien. Lots of things are left unanswered; what is the genetic connection (if any) between the Engineers and humans? (I don't think it created all life, because if I'm not mistaken there were plants on the shores of that water, and why would the "human-expressive genes" lay dormant for several billion years?) Why were they seen guiding humans, presumably millions of years after that first Engineer killed himself, and then suddenly decide that we needed to be exterminated?

All fodder for more films, of course.

Dan of Earth said...

Joseph, thanks for pointing that out about the aliens and the hosts. It's been a long while since I've seen all the films. I should watch those again. That does beg the question of why the woman gave birth to something looking like a squid, but then again maybe I'm asking for it to make more sense than it needs to! That thing grew into something like a giant face-hugger, so yeah maybe the thing is evolving at breakneck speed.

I guess over all it just felt like a sloppy storyline. I felt much the same way after the last Star Trek movie.

James Maliszewski said...

Your opinion largely matches mine, Dan. I thought it was a beautiful film that tried to do too much and ended up making a hash of things. I'm not unhappy to have seen it, but it's a very flawed movie -- "half baked" is what I have lately been calling it.

Steamtunnel said...

There are answers, but you have to pay attention. There is a lot to miss. I found that I was not paying enough attention. First off the bat Prometheus takes place on LV-227. Alien and Aliens takes place on LV-426. A lot of people miss this, even though it is called out at the beginning of the film. Most of the way through the film I assumed the movie would end with the ship crashing, setting up the scene for Alien. But things didn't make sense- the ship didn't come to rest at the same angle, the transmission Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Dr Who reference BTW) sets up is a warning, not a distress call, and the climate of the planet seems different. Thats when I realised that its a different ship. Then I realised it was a different planet.

Joe has it right- the proto-alien you see at the end is a precursor to the facehugger that implants the space jocky in Alien.

Opener with the DNA of the "Engineer" starts with him disolving, and then falling into the water. Then we zoom in on the DNA, and it is disolving. But then it stops, and starts rebuilding. Then we see cell division, and then red blood cells. Perhaps it takes 50 million years for "humans" to come out of the "mammalian evolutionary maze" that guy starts with his little bits of DNA. I interpreted that he is spiking the punch of the primordial ooze- this makes sense as science thinks mammals as we know them rose to dominance in the Cenozoic after the K-T extinction event. So it figures that the "engineers" have recently started over when the big frost giant dude takes the drink donating his body to science a little early...

I have to agree with all the running around after the operation to be a little far fetched. However, they did make a point to show that she was injecting a lot of "something" into her system. We assume its painkiller, but given that it is 75 years in the future, maybe they have some awesome drugs. But this answer beggers the question as to why Weyland has not sought out rejuvenation technologies something we would assume would be around given the pace of medical tech today. Then again maybe he is in a Roy Batty situation and none of it will work.

My interpretation is that the guy they bring out of cryo looks at david, looks at the earthlings in the room and realises "Oh crap, they have space travel and are making people" and so resumes the mission. I don't think the ship is going to destroy the humans, I think it is the next step in whatever experiement they are running- that is the goo causes punctuated equilibrium and they want to see if they can make it through such conditions. The fact they they show up, and get their pictures taken in cave paintings indicates that they check in on their experiements like any good scientist. I will say that the captain is right, it is a facility, but I am not sure it is military. It is probably a research facility.

Big_Jay said...

Not seen it yet...due to a show in about 4 hours. Being the impatient sort I wondered about all the sudden negative vibes and went scouting about for an answer. This is the best one I've found so far that goes into the nitty-gritty of what appears to be just another attempt to fuse science and religion into some kind of awful mess.

We're all curious about the "truth" of "human origins", but this kind of half-baked, freshman Philosophy 101 garbage is just beneath Mr. Scott.

Too bad, I was hoping this might be a good jumping off point for a new franchise.

Dan of Earth said...

@Big Jay: Thanks for that link, it sheds some light on the movie. One issue I have with the plot is that the viewer really needs enough info in the movie to make all of these connections. You shouldn't have to track down obscure comments from Scott in various locations to try to read his mind.

One thought that occurred to me is whether this is a movie he would have made in the 80s. I mean in terms of story, not special effects. Maybe he would have, but this movie just seems so...odd to me.