Friday, June 22, 2012

(The Modern) Prometheus Reviewed

A couple of weeks ago I went to see Prometheus, the Alien prequel. It's makers were so desperate to point out that it wasn't a direct Alien prequel, that it was its own thing. Well, it's set in the same universe and it's set before the first film, so in my book that makes it a prequel. That's the first spoiler of this review / examination of Ridley Scott's ... what is it, an aborted masterpiece?

Lets ruminate loosely and fluidly about the title. Dispensing with the "Alien" title of all the other films, it names itself after the Greek myth, where the titan Prometheus steals fire from the gods and gives it to humanity, only to be strapped to a rock for all eternity, his innards to be eaten by crows, regenerating each day only for the process to continue ad infinum.

Let's think about that for a second. Prometheus is punished by the gods. He has given mankind its first bit of technology. In another article I delve into the motif of technology in the Alien films, and build a theory that at their heart they are about the fear of uncontrollable technology. This is what excited me about Prometheus: was it going to be a meditation upon these themes that I had recognised within the set design, the plot, even the monster of the first film?

Kind of. Sort of. It was, by half. Like everything in the film, it was kind of fleshed out, sort of examined, half-thought out. What we sort of got was a story exploring the battle between science and faith ( Shaw's half-developed arch ), meaning versus meaninglessness, creator and creation ( David's relationship to us, his creators, and with our own creators, again half-developed ). But what does it amount to? It is a curious mixture, one that you usually find at the beginning of the writing process. It is both under-developed and too explicit. When writing a story, I find that you have to delve into your themes, and then bring it all right back to basics, only to tell your story in light of your well-developed themes, with subtlety. It's a long, sometimes arduous process which I'm not sure they bothered with on Prometheus. I don't know what the problem was - could writer Damon Lindelof not deal with the deadline? Or did Ridley Scott throw away the script in favour of a perilous flight of fancy. This can work sometimes, like the Greek legend of Icarus, you run the risk of flying too close to the sun. Or disappearing up your own ass.

It was a little bit like that other famous Prometheus. Better known as Frankenstein, Mary Shelley's famous novel has a sub-title that is more-often-than-not overlooked: "The Modern Prometheus." Maybe all the Ridley Scott's film amounts to in the end is a visually sumptuous feast, one where lots of proverbial shit is thrown at the proverbial wall to see what sticks. Those looking for a terrifying whole ( like the original Alien ) will be sorely disappointed. Like Shelley's monster, it seems to be sown together from many disparate fragments, amounting to a lumbering freak of a thing.

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