Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'll Never Forgive Ridley Scott For Prometheus

Yeah, I know!  Prometheus came out what, like 2 or 3 years ago?  Why still bitch about it?  Well, for openers, I was really looking forward to seeing the Alien franchise go off into a new and interesting direction instead of just rehashing the same old thing.  But alas, it was horribly botched.  And now comes word that a sequel to Prometheus is in the works, which only serves to remind me what an awful mess the first one was.

I'm not going to go through a laundry list of plot holes and stupidity in Prometheus.  The video below by Cinema Sins covers a lot of it.

There are a couple of things about Prometheus that really irk me that I haven't really seen addressed in comment threads I have read about the movie in a number of articles and posts.  Here goes.

Charlize Theron's Character Serves Absolutely No Purpose!

When we first meet Vickers after the crew wakes up from hypersleep, we see her staring intently ahead while doing push ups.  The impression we get of her is that of a very strong and determined person who is not to be trifled with.  When she addresses the crew, she tells them rather emphatically that "it's my job to make sure you do yours."  Afterwards, she has a private meeting with Shaw and Holloway, the two characters whose research has provided the entire raison d'etre for the voyage to another star system, and proceeds to give them a thorough dressing down.  Clearly, Vickers is being set up to be a dominant personality and potentially a villain, or at the very least, an obstacle to Shaw. 

But once the vessel Prometheus sets down on the moon LV 426, Vickers almost immediately fades into insignificance.  It is Holloway, not Vickers, who orders the ship's captain Janek to have the crew gear up to venture to the alien structure near the landing site.  Shaw tells one of the security guards accompanying them to the structure that no weapons are allowed.  I thought Vickers was in charge!  At no point during the crew's journey to and exploration of the structure does Vickers provide any orders or guidance to them, nor does anyone consult with her.  The person who just a few minutes earlier in the film made such a show of being a dominant personality ends up being just a passive observer for most of the remainder of the film.

The one time during the entire movie that Vickers shows any real, decisive action is when she torches the infected Discount Tom Hardy with a flame thrower.  Even then, he likely would have died on his own, so her action doesn't affect the plot in any meaningful way.

Her irrelevance as a character is further underscored, rather embarrassingly I might add, at the end of the movie when she ejects from the Prometheus in an escape pod seconds before it crashes into the Engineer's ship, only to die moments later when the alien vessel rolls on top of her.  At the very least they could have had her survive only to be killed by the Engineer or by the squid creature in the life pod.

Perhaps Vickers was more integral to the plot in an earlier version of the script, only to be pretty much neutered in the rewrite.  I don't know.  What seems clear to me though is that if Vickers was completely excised from the movie it would basically have been unchanged.

Elizabeth Shaw's Crucifix

After the android David drugs Shaw, he steals her crucifix necklace.  It is never really explained why David takes it.  Perhaps, because he is an android, David considers religion to be irrational, so by taking the crucifix from Shaw he is separating her from something that he believes she is better off without. 

At the end of the movie, when Shaw goes into the crashed Engineer's ship to retrieve David, she makes a point of taking her cross back from him, which prompts David to ask rhetorically how she can still believe after all that has happened.

What is odd about this little subplot is that we are being told that Shaw's Christian faith is very important to her, but at no point during the entire film (apart from the very end when she prefaces the date with "in the year of our Lord") does she give any indication that her actions or beliefs are informed by Christianity.  In fact, what she does espouse is the complete opposite of Christian doctrine.

When Shaw and Holloway are giving their presentation to the crew at the beginning of the movie, she tells them her belief that the Engineers "engineered" the human race.  This is in complete opposition to the Christian belief that human beings were created by God in the image of God.  If the development of the human race, and indeed, the origin of life itself on Earth, is due to the work of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, then what room does that leave for a biblical creator God in Shaw's belief system?

The prominence of Shaw's crucifix is just a lazy way to inject religion into the movie without providing any substance.  What would have been interesting is if Prometheus gave us an Elizabeth Shaw who struggled to reconcile her Christian faith with her discovery of the existence of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization.  After all, how does the existence of intelligent beings on another planet fit into the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ?  Did Jesus die for the sins of just the human race or does it also extend to all intelligent life throughout the universe, assuming that we are not alone in the universe?  If Prometheus wanted to tackle some really important philosophical and religious issues, surely the impact of life on another world on human religious belief systems should have been on the top of the list.

Yes, I know that Prometheus hints that Jesus was a messenger sent to Earth by the Engineers and that his death by crucifixion is the reason why the Engineers decided to destroy the human race.  That just seems plain silly to me, as it doesn't make any sense that an extraterrestrial being would succeed in his endeavor by being an itinerant preacher in Judea instead of landing his spacecraft outside of the emperor's palace in Rome.  And why didn't the Engineers send a similar envoy to China, which also covered a similar extent of territory and ruled over a large population?

The sad thing about Prometheus, at least in my opinion, is that it could have been a better movie than the one we got.  In Greek legend, Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give to humanity.  If Prometheus the movie had been true to the legend, then instead of trying to find immortality, Weyland's motivation for funding the expedition would have been to get his hands on advanced alien technology, with Shaw and Holloway's scientific endeavor providing him with the cover to carry out his true agenda.  The Engineers, in Chariots of the Gods fashion, instead of having engineered humanity, played the role of trying to shepherd us, as well as beings living on other worlds in our galaxy, until we were far enough along to continue to reach the technological level to become a space faring species.  The world that the star map led to could have served as a testing ground for anyone who landed there to determine if their race was worthy or needed to be exterminated.  When Vickers, acting as Weyland's proxy on the voyage, attempts to steal from the Engineers, it sets in motion a chain of terrible events that not only threaten the members of the voyage, but the human race itself.  The tie in to Alien would be that the derelict Space Jockey ship that Ripley and her crew encountered was on its way to destroy another alien world that failed the test, but something caused the ship to crash.

At any rate, we didn't get the Prometheus that we deserved.  Maybe if I was a Christian, I could forgive Ridley Scott for making such a visually beautiful piece of shit.


Infidel753 said...

All valid points. The movie raised too many issues (Christianity, Vickers's character, Weyland being her father, etc.) which it then didn't do anything with. I liked it at the time, though the flubs about DNA and evolution really rankled, but over time the flaws have become clearer.

Tommykey said...

It's been on HBO a lot, and I decided to give it another chance. There are moments in the film that I like, particularly when they first arrive on the planet. But like you said, a repeated viewing makes the movie's flaws all the more clearer. That's when it became apparent to me that Vickers was being set up as some kind of heavy in the beginning (in a preview of the movie, Ridley Scott talked about how he told Theron to stand in the shadows a lot, presumably to give her a sinister vibe) and then she basically ends up doing nothing.

I also noticed, but didn't raise in the post, that there are two characters who are never accounted for. At the end there are two men who look like they are standing guard outside of Weyland's room, while a third man leaves (the one who accompanies Weyland to the Engineer and is carrying a gun). Those two guards are never accounted for. Did they get killed by the squid creature (and wtf doesn't Shaw tell anyone "I had this thing surgically removed from me, someone should check it out and like, maybe burn it?), did they die in the crash with the Engineer ship, or die some other way off screen? To me, that's just sloppy film making.

Infidel753 said...

One little point I do give credit for -- I've seen a few racists on the net go completely nutzoid over the scene implying that Vickers sleeps with the captain. So there's that.:-)