I had no intention of watching Prometheus on DVD. Honestly. I know you are reading this and thinking, “I bet Jim secretly LOVES Prometheus. I bet he watches it ALL THE TIME. I bet he has the Prometheus tie-in BAG, and all TWELVE of the tie-in T-SHIRTS advertised on the merchandising insert inside the DVD, and I bet he has all the Prometheus ACTION FIGURES and lies on the carpet playing games with them like: one-of-the-guys-you-don’t-care-about vs some-sort-of-alien or a zombie-guy or a space-snake or one of the myriad other confusing variations of foe.”
Well, I DON’T. Honestly. I don’t even think they MAKE Prometheus action figures.
(How dare I write that! A quick google reveals this “Big’un” doll)
BUT a friend lent the DVD to me so I figured I might as well give it another go. And I was intrigued to know if there was any merit to some of the suggested hidden meaning I’d been reading about online.
And, hey, maybe now I knew what to expect, it would be okay?
The first thing that annoyed me was the scene where they find the cave painting. How does one set out to find a specific undiscovered cave-painting? The only explanation would be an Indiana Jones style quest with clues and riddles, which makes sense if it is an ancient relic that has been guarded or deliberately hidden. But a cave painting?
Wouldn’t it have been better to have the discovery made be a separate character in a pre-credit sequence and then the discovery relayed to our bookish architect heroes who are ill-prepared for adventure but drawn to complete feats they did not know they were capable of? Or have them discover it, but accidentally, as space-Indiana-joneses who are then drawn into a mystery against their will? Sort of “Indiana Solos”, if you will.
Then there’s the problem indicated by my having lumbered through that paragraph in the plural: “them”. Which of these guys is my hero? The obnoxious one or the insipid one? Maybe they are pre-title characters and I’ll meet the main character in a sec? But I knew that wouldn’t happen.
Instead we meet David. Who is a robot. He likes Lawrence of Arabia. We don’t trust David because he spies on the dreams of the insipid one as she dreams something about faith or something.
The second thing that annoyed me was the MASS OF CHARACTERS. Why are there so many? We never meet them all. What are they doing? Why are they there? Even they don’t know. Then THE ANNOYING BIT WITH THE AUSSIE IN OLD MAN MAKE UP AND THEN THE CHARMLESS PRESENTATION BY OUR “HEROES”
Then there is the multiple enemies made from goo. Someone tweeted a diagram to explain to “idiots” who didn’t get the film what they all were. There were six or seven equations to form different foes. All of which serves to point out the lack of clarity. The foe in Alien was an alien. It had a life cycle that made sense. The multiple goo enemies smack of trying to hard.
The next thing that actually made me laugh with annoyance was the BIG SPOOKY SKULL HEAD! As they run back to the ship we are shown the side of the cliff is a BIG SPOOKY SKULL HEAD! Which, given I was looking for metaphors, made me of Ridley Scott at a meeting saying, “And so as a clever foreshadow of death, I was thinking… BIG SPOOKY SKULL HEAD!” and he wiggled his fingers like a scary monster and everyone said yes.
And the last thing that annoyed me was everything else. You know, just describe everything that happens interspersed with the phrase “…which was ANNOYING and then…” and you’ll see what I mean.
Two final points though:
I think there is a half decent film lurking inside Prometheus, trying, like a little baby xenomorph, to burst out. I sort of get that there are characters there somewhere. And I get that there are interesting metaphors about father and son and about meeting your maker but as Steve Saul said to me on twitter, Ridley Scott did them better in Blade Runner. My own theory about the mystery is that big’uns and humans will turn out to have been made by the BIG SPOOKY SKULL HEAD people (or “really big’uns”) and the two races are just having a bit of sibling rivalry like David and what’s-her face do. The underlying problem with the film is that, I believe, it was built metaphor first and character last. Everything had to fit the clever metaphors that will be explained later, but no one cares because there are no interesting characters and the plot is stupid.
The film involved one of the writers from Lost who made a big noise in a Guardian interview before the film was released about it being a big risk and said that people would love it or hate it. And many people have felt the Lost-style writing of mystery paychecks that one day might clear. But if anything Prometheus ruined the mystery for me.
The real mystery was presented in Alien. Evidence of two species of alien were found. One was the perfect predator, the perfect product of natural selection. The other was a different alien that had fallen prey to it. Possibly one of many species that had done so. One of many mysteries in a wide fathomless universe.
But in Prometheus it turns out to be much smaller than that. You and me and him are all related. We’re a little provincial family that fell out with each other and there ain’t nothing else out there.
Prometheus: Up yours.