Look! It Moves! by Adi Tantimedh: In Space, Everyone Can See You Being Stupid

Adi Tantimedh writes for Bleeding Cool;

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR PROMETHEUS

Of course everyone will see PROMETHEUS. It’s Ridley Scott not only returning to Science Fiction for the first time since 1982, it’s also a prequel to ALIEN. We all want to like it. We hope it’s brilliant. Yes, it looks grand and expensive and gorgeous, and would have been a good film if the script wasn’t rubbish.

PROMETHEUS is like the sexiest, most gorgeous supermodel you’ve ever seen. She looks great, moves beautifully and you can’t take your eyes off her. She even seems to speak well, but gradually, you start to realise that everything she says is complete and utter nonsense.

The more I think about the story, the more everything falls apart. Once again, here’s a movie suffering from the Idiot Ball Syndrome, where the characters act like complete morons that no human in real life would ever behave like in order for plot to happen.  For example, two characters who initially declare they do not want to mess with the Unknown lest the Unknown mess with them, which is the most sensible thing anyone ever did in the whole movie, but then they proceed to get lost when one of them is a Geologist who mapped the place!! Then they encounter a completely unknown lifeform, whereby one of them, a biologist, no less, suddenly throws all caution to the wind and decides to try to pet it. Naturally, hilarity ensues. The movie is full of moments where characters walk right up to something potentially (and turns out to be) deadly rather than staying well back from it. The characters also constantly get contamination protocols and sterilisation procedures completely wrong or ignore them altogether. This when they’re dealing with fear of contagion.  Why do screenwriters make such lazy choices when it comes to scientific and medical details and procedures?  If our doctors and scientists acted like the ones in screenplays, the majority of us would have been dead a long time ago.

Virtually nothing in the script made any sense at all. The pseudo-science is ludicrous.  I could spend thousands of words writing about that alone (how humans were engineered that goes against all known evolutionary theory, how the ‘engineers’ could possibly have the same DNA as humans when they’re not like humans, that Universal Language exists when that theory was discredited by linguists over 20 years ago, how that severed head could possibly have been intact… Oh God, don’t get me started!). The attempt at theological discourse makes no sense either.  The heroine’s supposed to be religious but doesn’t come across as the zealot the other characters say she is.  In fact, a deeply religious Christian person would probably not be even one-tenth as open-minded as she is throughout the movie. A deeply religious person would consider their belief as an absolute truth rather than be so laidback as to say it’s what she just chooses to believe. The heroine does not come across as someone who’s read the Bible, let alone believes in what it says, because a deeply religious person would not agree with the Von Daniken bollocks the character believes so strongly in. And not once does she ever quote Scripture when someone like her would do that a lot in their discussions and debates. I’m pretty sure the writers have seen plenty of movies and TV shows featuring religious characters, but now I wonder if they’ve actually read the Bible. A deeply religious Christian and Creationist tends to believe that Man was created by an omniscient, divine, infallible Big Daddy with a Beard in the sky, and would not be happy to discover that we were bioengineered by a bunch of militaristic dickheads from outer space who look like Pinhead’s much healthier big brothers who spent a lot of time at the gym.

Given that the screenwriters are paid the kinds of figures that set them on the way to becoming millionaires, you’d hope they’d do a better job of getting the details right… or are Hollywood screenwriters really paid well to keep things stupid? But who’s ultimately at fault? Damon Lindelof’s remarks in an interview a few days ago where he stated that when you write a project for Ridley Scott, you acquiesce to Ridley Scott’s wishes now sounds, intentionally or not, like a pre-emptive defensive strike throwing the director under the bus for the bad script, but does any director really demand his writers throw in so many Idiot Ball moments at supposedly intelligent characters when it could have easily been avoided?

There’s no doubt that PROMETHEUS will make a ton of money, if only because it’s an expensive SciFI blockbuster event, and audiences worldwide will always want to see one of those, regardless of how crap the script is as long as the visuals are grand and the explosions are big. You get bang for your buck but no boom for your brain. Aside from how bad the script is, it’s also in the shadow of the original ALIEN. That movie began as a script by Dan O’Bannon who just wanted to write a really good Science Fiction B movie before Ridley Scott was brought on as a director-for-hire. No one thought about launching a franchise from it when it was released in 1979. It wasn’t until 1986 before ALIENS came out. PROMETHEUS was made with too much self-consciousness and the need to replicate what made ALIEN work and also the desire to create a new franchise, which doesn’t always work. You can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice, especially when you consciously set out to. ALIEN was a Gothic Horror tale in space, with H.R. Giger’s grotesque Freudian designs adding a subconscious visual theme of sexual terror with its phallic heads, vagina dentate teeth and fallopian tube entrances. PROMETHEUS doesn’t have that singular focus in its attempts at a muddled theological theme with the cleaner, less claustrophobic spaces suggesting majestic cathedrals and altars for evoking religious awe. In repeating many of the structure and beats of ALIEN, PROMETHEUS only ends up a pale copy of the former movie. This reminds me of another recent attempt to duplicate an earlier movie and its success: Bryan Singer’s SUPERMAN RETURNS replicated every plot point of Richard Donner’s original SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE beat-for-beat, only more boringly and without Donner’s insight or sense of mythmaking (drawing on John Ford movies, no less), which not only made it an inferior remake, but also, at over $200 million, the most expensive fan film ever made. The problem with both PROMETHEUS and SUPERMAN RETURNS prove the diminishing creative returns of fannish-geek retcons in the writing of spinoff from an earlier hit that was originally made without the self-conscious awareness or the corporate desire to launch franchises bogging it down.

PROMETHEUS is a simulacrum of a good movie instead of a real one. If you watch it with no sound or with your ears blocked so you don’t hear any of the ridiculous dialogue and murky exposition, it would appear to be a good film. It features state-of-the-art technical filmmaking, Special Effects and a good cast. It’s certainly not a dull one, consistently entertaining despite the unending lack of logic. It’s a shame that the actors, especially the magnificent commitment and intensity of Noomi Rapace and sly humour of Michael Fassbender’s performances weren’t better served by proper writing.

Hugging my own face at lookitmoves@gmail.com

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Look! It Moves! © Adisakdi Tantimedh

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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