Thursday, June 14, 2012

More Grumblings About Prometheus

Red Letter Media has released their own unique take on Prometheus, and it's appropriately just a series of questions that point out the logical flaws in the film. It takes them four minutes. Yep.

Even after all those (extremely valid) questions, there are still yet more logical problems that I wish had been addressed. Like, why did they never mention the whole squid-alien-baby thing again after the sequence except in an off-hand line in which Michael Fassbender mocks Noomi Rapace for still being alive. That really bugged me. A simple "Holy shit! That was a really horrible thing that just happened to me! Maybe the most horrible thing that's ever happened to anyone ever!" would have sufficed. One line of dialogue, that's all I ask...

Topless Robot has posted a fantastic two-part FAQ in which Rob Bricken struggles through the mess of a plot, and then tries to sort through the meaning of it all. It's a great read if you've got some time, I thoroughly recommend it.

Last but not least, I want to share a fictional text message thread between Noomi Rapace and one of the Engineers. It's worth a read in addition to all of the stuff above, if only for what has to be my favourite dig on modern cinema this year: "All will be revealed in James Cameron's PROMETHEUSES"

Monday, June 11, 2012

Reviews I Wish I Had Written: Adam Quigley's Hit Piece on Prometheus

Adam Quigley over at /Film has written a great review of Prometheus. You should avoid it like the plague if you have yet to see the film, but it says just about everything I felt coming out of Ridley Scott's latest... thing... 

I don't completely agree with Adam's read of the "big reveal" at the end of the movie, nor did I feel that the android David was the most interesting character in the film, but that said his overall take on the movie is 1:1 with my sentiments. As such, I'm ripping a few of his larger and more on-point quotes to help give my take on Prometheus. Spoilers and unbridled negativity abound from here on out.
Prometheus may seem like more sophisticated fare, with a promise of greater significance deeply entrenched in the oft-mentioned subject matter (i.e., uncovering the origin of human life), but the movie utterly fails at tying its ideas and its monstrous happenings together. Despite feigning interest in probing life’s most pertinent mysteries, the film has nothing to say. It asks — literally asks, aloud — weighty questions without any interest in exploring the answers. The film expects you to do the heavy lifting, as though it should be rewarded for even daring to ask the questions to begin with. 
Oh, what, you have a problem with the lack of meaningful plot resolution? You’ve completely missed the point! It’s about the desire to find answers, not the answers themselves! Why try to satisfy you with answers when life doesn’t have any satisfying answers to give? Check mate, motherfuckers!
Is this seriously the point of Prometheus? We’ve waited this long to have our questions about the Alien mythology answered, only to be told that expecting satisfying answers to those questions is actually reflective of the folly of mankind? That’s it? 
How profound. Nevermind that I only sought the answers to those questions to begin with because Ridley Scott chose to make a movie that asks those questions.
This might be the thing that bugged me the most about Prometheus: the movie pretends to ask big philosophical questions about life and creation and faith, etc. ad naseum, but then says literally nothing substantive about anything. Seriously, there's a line right at the end of the movie where David asks Noomi Rapace basically "Why do you want to know the answer to [insert big question here]?" and her response is, verbatim, "I can understand because I'm human but you can't because you're a robot."

For fucking real?!

The movie's big point is that we should be curious about the big questions or else we're just robots, and that's ostensibly bad now? Never mind that this message is thematically and literally incoherent since the entire movie has poised David as the most "human" character of the bunch in terms of his (flirtatiously hinted at) desires to be loved/accepted/not treated like part of the decore. He has one of Prometheus' rare great moment earlier in the film when he confronts a human scientist who's frustrated about not being able to meet and speak with his creator (it makes sense in context). When the man tells David that humanity made androids "Because we could," David retorts by asking "Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same answer from your creators?” It's a moment of sheer brilliance and seems to point towards a thematic structure that interrogates both the reasons for human existence and our vain desires for lofty rationales BUT NOPE. We get nothing of the sort and none of that matters by the movie's end! Instead the big conclusion is that it's bad and inhuman that David doesn't have a higher level dissatisfaction with unanswered questions about existence, which is ironically my major takeaway from Prometheus!

But I digress. My apologies, Prometheus is an all-over-the-place kind of affair and so I'm sure this review must read that way too. Back to Adam:
Stripped from its Alien roots, Prometheus barely has a story to call its own. A lot happens in it, but the events play out with so little thought or urgency that almost nothing seems to happen at all. By the time it hits its third act, the film has completely devolved into generic sci-fi drivel, rushing through each incongrous payoff without bothering to properly root them in any sort of intellectually or emotionally substantiated context. Scene after scene, the film subjects its expert team of stock horror dummies to inactivity and death, completely devaluing the inherent thoughtfulness of the themes at hand, and in doing so removing any trace of intelligent design in a story that’s all about tracing back the roots of intelligent design. But then, maybe that irony is not lost on the writers, who treat the film’s actual gods like dummies, too.
And finally, the don't-call-it-a-money-shot summation:
To call Prometheus inconsequential would be a severe understatement. This movie is a trifling blip of narrative disarray, so lacking in anything resembling an intelligible throughline or purpose that I can’t help but wonder why there was any incentive to tell this story at all. Prometheus isn’t just bad; it actively detracts from the very mythology it’s trying to enhance, reducing the Alien legacy to little more than an accidental byproduct of a mind-numbingly stupid expedition.
Yep. That's pretty much the gist of it. When asked what I thought of the movie, I've summed up my thoughts as "What the fuck did I just watch?" and "I'm frustrated." Because really that's how Prometheus left me: frustrated that a movie with so much going for it (strong cast, strong crew, strong franchise roots, a legitimately interesting premise) does so little and purports to say so much. It's thematically scattered, it's plot is nigh incoherent, it expressly refuses to address its most interesting facets, and worst of all it has a self-righteous attitude about the whole thing. It's very tone poises Prometheus as a critic-proof endeavour along the lines of Tree of Life, though even mentioning the two films in the same breath has me mentally gagging. 

People often ask me why I'm so down on so many movies here on this blog, and I think it's a fair question. I'm critical of movies because I love them, and I expect a lot from them. I don't want everything to be high art, but when I sit down to give a film a few hours of my life I expect more than just a way to pass the time. I expect it to give me something interesting, something thoughtful, something that knows what it wants to do/say and does so competently.

I expected Prometheus to do what every piece of its advertising promised it would: tell me an interesting, intelligent, high-brow sci-fi horror story about the origins of mankind and somehow tie it into the Alien franchise. The movie we got wasn't intelligent or high-brow, and I'd barely call it interesting. The first words that come to mind are "stupefying," "infuriating," "insulting" (although that might be the Alien fanboy in me lashing out), and above all else "frustrating." After all the hype, all the "it shares some DNA with Alien" nonsense, all the spoiler-filled trailers and incredible viral marketing, and all the sublime mystique that fans have enjoyed since 1979, Prometheus is mess of a film that's less than the sum of its parts.

I expected more. Silly me.