And now I will review Prometheus, the movie. No significant spoilers.
Imagine a temporal ribbon two hours and five minutes long. Imagine it is beautiful: finely ornamented lace, patterned with fractal care, so beautiful you want to find someone really pretty and special to wear it.
Now imagine that at five minute intervals for the whole length of this fine, gorgeous ribbon of two hours and five minutes… someone has taken a great big messy pooling-liquid haze-forming-mushroom-clumps shit.
It’s a pretty film; if you ran it on mute, it would be gorgeous. If you spoke no English and had no subtitles, you would think you were missing a masterpiece.
Unfortunately, as I saw it in both English with full understanding and in subtitled Finnish, I was very exposed to the fact that while 50% of the movie is genius, the other half is flaming, forehead-red, incoherent-angrish-gibbering FAILURE.
The plot starts like this: It is the year 209X. Two smug, supercilious, self-satisfied sub-Dänikens called Holloway and Shaw have found a six-dot pattern occurring in various ancient monuments. They’ve snookered a dying cackling mad billionaire called Weyland into funding a space trip to a star which the six dots locate.
COMMON SENSE: (raises hand)
NARRATIVE VOICE: (sighs) Yes?
CS: Wait, what were those six dots?
NV: Six stars. So terribly minuscule in the sky those ancient humans could not have seen them on their own!
CS: Wait. So by searching the sky with very heavy magnification, looking at (probably) very faint stars, they could find an arrangement that matched those six dots? Who would have thought! Not me, I have had a course in fucking probability theory, of course they found six stars matching those six fucking huge splotch dots.
NV: Hey, no cursing.
CS: And how do six points in space indicate a single star anyway? I may have missed that. They could have been on a sphere centred on a star… ah wait, pretty improbable.
NV: Shut up! We need to keep moving!
— and Holloway and Shaw convince the billionaire that that signpost means Ancient Aliens which means They Made Mankind.
CS: WHAT THE FUCK?
NV: (sigh) What now?
CS: What about Darwinian evolution? What about the fact, known to the level of science fiction popular culture I would have thought, that people are animals, and we are not special sweet darlings but cousins of monkeys and orang-outans?
NV: Well, there was a biologist who said that…
CS: (mutters under breath) Yeah, a crew of 17 or so to meet Aliens, and you take one measly biologist. Who you make into a cowardly dweeb, as if to underscore how these Karen Armstrong fanboys are the proper people to discuss Matters of Origins, not icky science people with their Common Sense which is icky.
NV: …but er, there was a biologist who asked about Darwin stuff. The answer from H&S was that they BELIEVE those were mankind’s creators. Because hey, what else? Exposition is so last season, and obviously this is still a world, in 209X, where it is too rude to call anyone on their bullshit if they BELIEVE it.
CS: Great. Why not just “Aliens, visited, left these signs, then went away”. Where does the whole “makers of mankind” idea come from? Brain fever?
NV: I said they were sub-Däniken loonies, didn’t I? It was that, or then “monumentally confused and philosophically craven sub-Däniken sub-Creationist caricatures of the usual vague Christian human exceptionalism, for which the creation of life equals creation of humans equals the fertility problems of a leading lady”.
CS: I miss Ripley.
NV: True, that; if Ellen Ripley was commanding these idiots they might have not had such a death toll. Ripley would have nuked the site from the orbit.
And to continue. The plot chugs along; a planet is reached, a moon landed on, a catacomb explored; and every five minutes the characters do something monumentally, unnecessarily, insultingly stupid.
As in, “This place’s atmosphere could kill us in minutes; also, the possibility of alien bacteria, subtle poisons and whatnot. But since this one spot seems to have, at the moment, not obviously deadly levels of whatever, let’s take our helmets off. And since the first one to do so didn’t die in ten second, let’s follow his example! We’re expert explorers!”
As in, “Screw this! This is too scary, and I’m going back to the ship! Because obviously we have no-one who would actually command us, and chickening out will obviously have no adverse consequences to my life whatsoever! We’re teenagers in a scary cave, not highly paid explorers with careers!”
As in, “We have a holograph projection of that alien place in our communication center! And the speakers are transmitting the sound and sight of two of our own inside that structure, dying; too bad the communication center apparently can’t take a message, can’t make an alarm, DOESN’T RECORD ANYTHING, and isn’t manned because the person responsible for manning it is boning the captain!”
As in, “Ah ha, you are surprised I know how your father died, Shaw! Give no thought to the possibility that I, as a trusted employee of the Weyland who gave you a trillion dollars, might have had a little interest in your background. No, it must be because I WATCHED YOUR DREAMS! WHILE YOU SLEPT!”
As in, “Here we have a robot. We shall all be snotty at it, and point out that IT HAS NO SOUL. Which is a failing. Holloway, be snotty at the robot; you can, because you are a human and SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT.”
(The point where Weyland points out that David is defective and hugely inferior for not having a soul… oh for fuck’s sake, at that point it began to dawn on me that in a just and sane universe the histrionic nutter trio of Weyland, Holloway and Shaw would have disappeared into space, never finding nothing because people of that vague empirical foundations wouldn’t. Not in a just and sane universe. But, unfortunately, this is one of those protagonist-centred universes where anyone contrary to Holloway and Shaw is supposed to be a nasty, unlikeable jerk, no matter how much that characterization better fits the duo.)
(Seriously; most of the movie I was silently chanting “Die, Holloway! Die, Shaw! Die, you smug, shallow drama royalty! Your stupid pseudo-heroics are going to get you all killed! Die first! Die now! DIE DIE DIE!”, which is not what you should be thinking about the leads. There’s a line between heroism and just being a contrary ass; they were nowhere near that line, or heroism.)
Or, finally, how about this bit of thrilling dialogue, slightly adapted:
MALE: “Would you like to fuck, female superior?”
FEMALE: “I would not. I didn’t go all this distance to fuck.”
MALE: “So what are you, some kinda robot?”
FEMALE: “Let us fuck. My place in ten minutes.”
Thrilling! I never knew one was supposed to talk at girls like that!
As if in the beginning there had been a good movie, but then some wankers with no care for how competent people would actually act were unloosened on the script to make it more exciting. And then some halfwit philosopher unable to distinguish fortune-cookie theology from chewy philosophy let loose a yellow stream of wisdom on the result.
Prometheus is a gorgeous movie with the potential to be very exciting, that insists on slapping you in the face with a rotten fish every five minutes. Then again, if you don’t care about the cast being (save David and Vickers) a full panorama of staggering recklessness, hair-raising incompetence and vague Däniken-shaming lunacy… if you don’t care about that, please have no children.