Children of a Messier God

It’s Prometheus! Hello, Prometheus! (From MACISTE IN HELL)

I’m going to avoid spoilers as much as possible while discussing PROMETHEUS, but if you want to see the film with totally fresh eyes, you’re better off not reading anything about it until afterwards, aren’t you?

Although, once you’ve seen it, you’ll be struck by how it’s largely a remake of the original ALIEN — the same story beats, but with interesting / horrific variations. The whole thing is put over with great style, and is very exciting and icky and everything you’d want it to be. Really, it not only acts as if the last two ALIENS films didn’t happen, it mainly ignores James Cameron’s highly-regarded sequel also, and certainly there’s no loose talk of the PREDATOR crossovers. This is, essentially, a prequel/replay of Scott’s original monster movie.

I like Marc Steitenfeld’s music, which continues the fine tradition of terror honking exemplified by SHUTTER ISLAND, but does so much more — including presenting a nice sombre religious grandeur theme, which plays in all sorts of unexpected scenarios.

The best way to talk about it, giving teasers rather than spoilers — might be in the form of a broken radio transmission —

KRRZZZT!

— Begins in Scotland! (where BATTLESHIP ends!) —

— very ALIENS-like spacecraft design —

— very 2001 interiors, continuing the ALIEN series’ odd conceit that as we get further into the future, everything gets danker and rattier —

— “Weyland” — mythic reference, but can’t work out signif —

— Skull Island sphinx statue —

— for once, Fassbender’s penis not largest serpentine organ on view —

— not only watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 3D, but dying his hair to look like O’Toole —

— in old age make-up FOR NO REASON —

— BRRZT! —

— guy getting all Crocodile Hunter with newly discovered alien species. Not smart —

— actors hitting their character’s single dimensions as HARD as they can: “Stupidity with confidence” —

–can’t believed they showed this IN THE TRAILER —

— kzzt!

One of the film’s strangest pleasures for me was the appearance of Kate Dickie, a Scots actress of some standing, who seems rather out of place — not because we can’t accept Scots on a spaceship — there’s Scottie, after all — but because I think she’s struggling with the American dialogue, which is very clipped and snappy, while her delivery is very emphatic and precise (while still in a very broad accent) — this might not be an issue for non-Scots, but I can assure you I’ve never heard anybody talk like this, ever. I suspect the idea was to keep the authentic accent but ensure clarity by stressing everything quite hard and leaving clear spaces between each word — whereas everybody knows that Scots communicate in a succession of continuous vowels. This is like a cross between Scots and morse code.

There’s also the fact that Noomi Rapace is delightfully Swedish, but in a dream-flashback she has an English accent as a child, which fits her character name, Elizabeth Shaw (deep space chocolatier!) but is a little puzzling. Couldn’t they have changed the character name and hired a Swedish child?

This is obviously Erich Von Daniken year — the comparative mythology Was God an Astronaut? stuff here (which serves the same role as the distress signal/warning in ALIEN) also turns up in JOHN CARTER — and would’ve been central to Del Toro’s AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS if that had happened.

What might frustrate some fans is the fact that the film doesn’t really set out to provide answers to the new questions it poses, though it does give information about the nature of the “Space Jockey” species found dead in ALIEN, and the origins of the titular creature itself. Those are questions that nobody really needed answers to, so the new mysteries we’re left with are much more intriguing. And I kind of hope they remain unanswered, but I guess there’s little chance of that — there’ll be a 2010-style sequel along sooner or later to explain everything to death.

We went with our friends Kim and Egg, and Egg was freaked to see that the geologist character looks exactly like the first geologist he ever met (and it’s quite a distinctive look: shaved ginger tattooed head and goatee). Do all geologists look like this?

King Lear in space” was how Fiona described one set of characters, who introduce a theme of age and succession. “Rupert Murdoch in space,” was how I described it. I can’t think why else they cast an Australian and then covered him in old age makeup. Given that this is a Fox film, it does suggest that old Rupert is losing touch with his empire…

I enjoyed this movie and may write more on it when there’s less fear of spoilers.

Hopefully that wasn’t too spoilery, but I make no promises about the comments section. Though it’d be nice if folks keep it misty re major plot points.

9 Responses to “Children of a Messier God”

  1. The consenus among locals (felloa film critics in L.A.) is that at this stage of his career Ridley is revisiting his youth. One understands but one also wishes the results had some zing to them. For me there’s nothing new in Prometheus. It’s beautifully made but largely inert. Consequently my hopes for the Blade Runner sequel he’s planing have diminished. And what’s next? <i.Thelma and Louise? The girls are dead, but Brad Pitt and his washboard abs are still very much with us.

  2. He should make The Duellists II: The’re Still At it!

  3. Oh god I kind of hated this. It has the same sort of stop-start exposition-heavy pace as Avengers Assemble – where you feel like they’ve pinned the set pieces down on the storyline and then left, ooh, we’ll be needing about twenty minutes of chat here, can you do me up enough exposition to fill that? Ta.

    Other irritations: Film starts twice. Then goes into space for a bit of Fassbender does Wall-E. I would much rather he’d been watching Man of La Mancha and it would have had no effect on the plot if he had been. Then a flashback! So, in effect, the film starts four times. Then they wake up, then watch a lecture from a guy in a Trash Humpers mask, then nothing happens!

    Until an hour into the film when we get to the point where I wish I had a stopwatch so I could have counted up the good bits. I reckon in total 20 minutes of this were beautiful, and those were all revisions of Alien – the first entry to the Giger Room, the race against chestburster time in the operations chamber, the beautiful vistas inside the alien spaceship.

    But there are so many idiocies. It feels like bad TV where they can paper over running out of real ideas by Having Something Happen (Oooh! David is poisoning the husband For Some Reason! Now the Engineer’s awake and angry For Some Reason! But they’ve left the chestburster alive in the operating room For Some Reason so that’s okay!).

    It makes me despair of the screenwriters’ art. I would dearly love to be a fly on the wall of Walter Hill’s screening room when he has a look at this farrago of hotchpotchery.

  4. Yeah, the poisoning was pretty egregious — one assumes when it happens (or I assumed, anyway) that there was a reason which would eventually be disclosed, but Nope. Maybe in the extended edition: hard to see how they could have proceeded without some answer in mind.

    I don’t mind multiple beginnings: how many does Once Upon a Time in the West have? I do think they could have cut the Scottish cave, but I liked it (a nod to Herzog?) and the dream was indulgent and didn’t really do anything that couldn’t have been done by proper scenes of character interaction.

    Man of La Mancha might actually have been too on-the-nose: Cervantes longing for freedom would have given us Fassbender’s motivation an hour and a half early.

  5. But imagine his severed head rolling around singing The Impossible Dream!

  6. I did hallucinate the Futurama music under the final sequence when Leela flies off with Fry’s head in a satchel, I have to admit.

  7. Spoiler alert!

  8. Oops! Sorry. Maybe you should put a big SPOILER WARNING over my comments or delete them entirely as they’re just jokes anyway.

  9. Naw, if they’re avoiding spoilers but they’ve read this far, they deserve it.

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