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Prometheus

June 29, 2012

“Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy — the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.” – Eric Hoffer

So the catharsis of posting here aims to achieve recovery from ruin and win solvency for the soul.

This was initially intended as a review piece for Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel*, Prometheus, but a number of factors combined to obliterate my interest in pursuing that idea. There has been a massive amount of online discussion following the release of the film which could generally and simplistically be summarized as being an ongoing debate between two camps; those highly critical of what they see as a badly-realized and thus extremely disappointing film that squandered immense potential, and apologists on the other side who seek to mollify the letdown fans with specious arguments regarding the production values of the film and threadbare theories surrounding religious symbolism based on comments the filmmakers made in post-release interviews. (It may be obvious from the way I phrased that which of the two camps I place myself in.) Already this debate has diminshed the value of a mere review, although I still had some lingering frustration which I intended to channel into a scathing response here until my whole approach to the film and its aftermath were largely altered by a brief, and wholly unexpected, comment from my younger brother. Expressing my disdain for the flick via a popular social networking site, and inquirying as to his own thoughts, he furnished me wth the reply, “It was never going to be what we wanted.”

To give that quote some context, my brother is a major Alien franchise fan. We’re talking about a guy who had all the Dark Horse comics, as well as scale models, multiple copies of the films (including VHS boxed sets), a fucking life-sized plastic facehugger, etc. I had imagined he would be in the vanguard of the inevitable backlash jihad against Prometheus but the serene simplicity of his entirely fair response caused me to reflect on my own pointless frustrations with the film and, ultimately, let it go. That said, I still feel moved to offer some criticism here of the “Space Jesus” plot point because…fuck that shit is why. Needless to say, this will involve major spoilers.

For those unfamiliar with the “Space Jesus” element of Prometheus, it kind of goes like this – By the time the film has totally crapped out on us, somewhere around the end of the second act, the Captain Janek character belches out a big exposition dump along the lines of “the Engineers were manufacturing bio-weapons on this planet, essentially a military base, which they intended to use to wipe out humanity back on Earth circa 2000 years ago”. To further emphasize this, when they awaken the sole surviving Engineer, he promptly goes raging batshit** and kills whomever he can get his hands on, before firing up his spaceship with the presumed purpose of attempting to complete his mission by flying off to Earth and dropping the black goo payload all over it. These events prompted the question, “why are the Engineers so angry with humankind?” which Prometheus the film suggested might be answered in the sequel it cack-handedly promises at the end but which Ridley Scott may have answered in an interview with a site called Movies.com.

Movies.com: We had heard it was scripted that the Engineers were targeting our planet for destruction because we had crucified one of their representatives, and that Jesus Christ might have been an alien. Was that ever considered?

RS: We definitely did, and then we thought it was a little too on the nose. But if you look at it as an “our children are misbehaving down there” scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, “Lets’ send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it. Guess what? They crucified him. 

Now, let’s leave aside the initial debate as to whether or not this is the answer to the angry Engineer mystery of the movie, given that Ridley Scott himself is saying that it was cut from the script and therefore not in the film itself. Taken on its own merits, this “Space Jesus” theory fails for precisely the same reasons that the traditional Jesus myth of Christianity fails, namely; it is too localized. The Engineers are apparently unhappy with humanity, as in the human species, as in the animal they created and which had spread all over the globe tens of thousands of years before Jesus touched down. These higher beings, unhappy at the behaviour of the human animal, as displayed by the advancement of the Roman Empire, decide to send an emissary to a single corner of ancient Palestine in order to deliver a message to the species as a whole. This makes little sense, especially when Prometheus explicitly tells us that the Engineers had visited numerous ancient civilizations all over Earth and had interacted with each one (allowing them in turn to make commemorative cave paintings of these events). Nevertheless, ancient Palestine alone is selected as the landing site for their one lone emissary. It wasn’t even a particularly important part of the Roman Empire and, of course, no emissaries were sent to the Chinese, the Aztecs, the Vikings, ancient Australians, etc. despite all these vast and different civilizations sharing in the same fate of the tiny group of Judeans and Romans who were responsible for fucking up and killing the one emissary that was actually dispatched.

Nobody fucks with the Jesus

The “Space Jesus” theory, far from explaining events in Prometheus, only confuses the issue further. It’s a very weak explanation for why the Engineers wanted to destroy the human creatures they created. Those offering a spirited defense of the film have presented this information as authoritative on the grounds that it comes from Ridley Scott himself but, elsewhere, you’ll find Scott and writer Damon Lindelof explicitly stating that they deliberately left such questions unresolved in the final film in order that they could be answered in a potential sequel***. Personally, I read that as – “we don’t have those fucking answers yet, may never have, ho-hum”, but that’s just me; still feeling burned from Lindelof’s ending to Lost and convinced I’ve been suckered again here. That’s my own fault, as the Eric Hoffer quote above states, for I expended far too much in hope and expectation for Prometheus, expecting it to deliver merely on the grounds that it was Ridley Scott returning to the Alien universe. The fallacy of assuming that pedigree alone was guaranteed to deliver great things.

Notes

*Ridley Scott was notably evasive on the question of whether or not Prometheus was a prequel to Alien. It is, of course, but the necessity of it having to be an Alien prequel, whilst simultaneously attempting to be a seemingly serious exploration of Eric von Däniken’s inherently silly “God was an ancient astronaut” ideas, is but one of the film’s major flaws. Structurally, it seems to clumsily devolve into a poor Alien remake as opposed to prequel.

**This scene borrows very heavily from an Alien comic published by Dark Horse in the early 90s wherein a group of humans have contact with a living Space Jockey/Engineer. What begins as a peaceful meeting quickly turns disastrous when the Space Jockey, able to communicate telepathically with the humans, immediately reacts violently upon discovering that the delegation is actually comprised of androids concealing their true intentions. The immense size of the Space Jockey allows him to tear and punch the androids’ heads off with relative ease. It should also be noted that this creature design reflected the idea that they were elephant-like humanoids originally, as opposed to fairly human-looking beings in suits.

*** A truly shitty approach to making this kind of film. “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” – Johnny Rotten.

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6 comments

  1. He did the same thing saying Deckard was a replicant after the fact.

    There are people who feel your pain here:

    http://www.electricalaudio.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=57378

    Fell free to sign up and vent.


  2. Ha ha, there are people feeling my pain everywhere. That’s why I abandoned plans to write a straight review. Everyone already knows it’s shite, even the deluded fanboy zealots defending it.

    I might swing by those forums eventually, but I just recently kicked a forum habit due to a desire to wrestle back some of my free time. Already blog productivity here has shot up, so I reckon I’m doing something right.


  3. It was just so thrown together. So many things that didn’t even come close to adding up. That’s before you even factor in the cutting room floor element of the engineer/space jockey angle. From what I’ve read, the dvd will lay out the conversation between David and the engineer.

    I can understand not wanting to blow to much time on message boards/forums. It’s easy to get sucked in.

    That said, you may want to check out this thread and “Find The Dancing Tiger, Daddy . He Is Very Special.”

    http://www.electricalaudio.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=51354&p=1185747&hilit=+prf+songwriting+week+100#p1185747


  4. Wow. I dig it, very quirky and cool, man, thank you. Can I ask for the lyrics if you have them to hand, please? I’m trying to listen and recognize my posts but it’s tricky to decipher.

    Heh heh. That was a treat.


  5. I just popped in from Fogs Link Bomb, I hope to make it back here again. An interesting debate on Prometheus.


  6. Thank you, 70srichard. Come back anytime.



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