Monday, June 11, 2012

How'd You Like a Little Fire, Jesus?

For me, the most confusing part of Prometheus is that people were confused by it. I've been poring over various reviews and analyses and I still can't figure out what people are missing. It's a wonderful movie--one of the best things about it is, like the first Star Wars movie, it presents something the scope of which exceeds the film. That feeling that there's complex, chaotic, and yet systemic life off screen that we never see. I don't think audiences are used to this feeling, so they ask questions they actually know the answer to in order to articulate their disorientation, like how and why does the security footage come on in the Engineers' craft--it's obvious David did it. How? Because David has been deconstructing all of Earth's languages and is quickly able to deduce meanings of patterns. Like so many things, the movie nicely doesn't feel compelled to spoon feed all this to us, it lets us engage and puzzle out things within the world for ourselves which creates a fantastically immersive experience. It's the sort of thinking the World of Warcraft generation may not be equipped for.

Oh. Let's call this Generation W.

Does Prometheus have flaws? Yes, but the more time passes, the less significant they seem. The dialogue is clunky and feels like hacky television writing at times, particularly its pointless callbacks like the two guys who keep bringing up their bet so we remember who they are. Guy Pearce's age prosthetics aren't great and they really ought to have had an older actor in the role--it looks like the whole point of having Guy Pearce in the role was for viral marketing, which I admit is sort of cool and does add to that feeling of scope.

But in so many ways, particularly conceptually, the writing is excellent. You can tell because there are so many angles at which to look at it. For one thing, this movie's even more Lovecraftian than Alien--in fact, it's practically At the Mountains of Madness: The Movie--Scientists travelling to a remote, inhospitable place, uncovering the ominous and dangerous remains of a strange elder species connected with the origin of humanity. And of course there's all that great, horrific atmosphere.

Then you can look at the movie as a digestion of religion, as is talked about in length (spoilers), with a degree of reading more than what's there, in this Live Journal entry I saw linked to on AICN.* Basically, if you remember the creation and religious symbolism in Blade Runner, think of it times fifty.

And then there's the Lawrence of Arabia angle. David, the android played by Michael Fassbender in yet another incredible performance, is obsessed with the David Lean movie and not only quotes it often, he even seems to be doing a Peter O'Toole impression. Fassbender uses this to create a very intriguing character. There are times we think we see a hint of an emotional reaction before we realise he's quoting the movie and he's merely testing out what he's learned from the movie and how he might apply it to his own experiences. It makes David curiously both objective and evocative. He's almost another camera. Like when he says of one of the Engineers, "Mortal after all," a line from Lawrence of Arabia. Is he commenting, expressing his own emotional reaction with this? David's elusive perspective allows us to take the words at face value, with the objectivity of the camera lens.

On top of this, the movie's just fun. First of all, I love the idea of a movie using elements of an older movie as a prompt. And then Prometheus just riffs like a motherfucker. Every few moments, there's another big wonderful, terrifying bit of weird that left me grinning and wondering just what the hell was going to happen next.

Twitter Sonnet #394

Short lines intersect a needless mountain.
Expensive chickens condone free poker.
Gift cards take the tricorne hatted captain.
The Grimace kind of looks like Al Roker.
Angry atmosphere drops dinars on debt.
Hazy bacon believes in a small meat.
Heavy lenses lose the wire frame bet.
The limbs' new ends are unlike the old feet.
Staples repel the squid belly belief.
Smiling tall men are too hard to predict.
Organic dentures are grown from old beef.
Big breakfasts begin with eggs benedict.
Slime is special on alien nights now.
No-one asks longer questions than the cow.

*The entry also notes some apparent Doctor Who references, which I think he's probably right about. The basic concept has appeared on Doctor Who several times and, as many have pointed out, the basic plot of Alien appears to have been taken from the Doctor Who serial The Ark in Space.

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