Friday, June 29, 2012

Fire from the skies.

Prometheus is a film about a group of people following an alien signal to a mysterious planet full of dead aliens.



 Seriously though, Prometheus is one of the best sci-fiction films i've ever seen! (Well, since District 9 anyway!) i had never been so excited to see a film before, nor have i ever been this excited about a film after seeing it.

Just a quick aside, i love that trailer, it's right up there with this Watchmen trailer. It even sounds like it's sampling the same Pumpkins song. Both of them just give me chills everytime i watch.

Now there's a lot going on in Prometheus, a lot, and i don't mean plot wise, i already covered that part. This film is not only a commentary on Alien, but on the things that created Alien and the things created from Alien. It's a movie about quoting movies.

Well what do i mean by this? Think of David (Michael Fassbender), when we first meet him, alone on the ship, what is he doing? He's watching Lawrence of Arabia, he dyes and brushes his hair so he'll look more like O'Toole's Lawrence. When they arrive on the planet and find a deserted building, he says "There is nothing in the desert, and no man needs nothing." When questioned, he responds "Oh, it's just a quote from a film I like."
Even later, after discovering the black goo, he quotes the film once again, "Big things have small beginnings."

The movie opens like 2001: A Space Odyssey, we see the sun rising over the Earth. In 2001, a black monolith appears, and causes changes in the monkeys, setting them on the course to be man. In Prometheus, we cut to an Engineer, a statuesque god.

Oh Rexy, you're so sexy.
He drinks the black goo, we see it burn through his veins, his DNA breaks down and reforms, creating new life. Again, something alien, setting the course of man. This scene tells us everything we need to know about the goo, it is the fire of the gods. And after that there's a neat shot of Shaw (Noomi Rapace), uncovering the truth, along with us, who witnessed it, in some cave in Ireland. Not sure if that's quoting another film or not. But i like it.

Not all of the film quoting is direct, it's not all like the Weyland hologram being right out of Jurassic Park, or crushing Fifeld's head being right out of Aliens, there are more genre references, things that operate with a film logic. Two teens get lost in the woods, do drugs, and die. Wielding an axe to thwart off some unstoppable killer (and goddamn do i love that space-axe). And just little things like that, though my favourite moment in the film is when David directly quotes Blade Runner, but more on that later. Now do all these elements make it a bit of a patchwork Frankenstein's monster? Well, sure! Why not? Quotes or not, the film still stands on it's own two feet, whether you find them gruesome are not is up to you.

Now, i've read a lot of complaints, and i mean a lot, more than any person should, about this film. But i did notice two common things in all of the complaints, either the people weren't paying attention to what was on the screen, or people were expecting this to be another Alien® film. The second group are judging the film based on their own expectations, rather than just watching the film for what it is. The other group griped of plot holes. There are none in this film, seriously, none. There are unanswered questions sure, but don't look to the sequel for answers, that's not how it works. This isn't a big middle finger to the audience like Matrix: Reloaded was, this is similar to District 9 or Skyline. They end on new beginnings, what happens next isn't relevant to the story we were just told.

We're visually shown what the black goo is, repeatedly, we don't need a scientific understanding of it, it is the stuff of the gods. People question why Fifeld (Sean Harris) the guy making the map got lost, well, same reason the Millburn (Rafe Spall) the biologist got killed by a snake, or the Janek (Idris Elba) the captain, being dies flying, or Vickers (Charlize Theron) the nihilistic unbeliever (she's the Ellen Ripley of this film), gets crushed by a chariot of the gods. There's a theme, of hubris, the inadequacy of human knowledge, there is a reason only the true believer survives.

i'm a bit surprised people were unsure of what to expect from this film:

i made this back in January

Oh hey, he quoted a movie!

Now let's talk about faith and aliens, obviously Daniken's Chariots of the Gods, a painfully racist diatribe about how aliens came down and taught primitive man society and culture, was an influence on in this film, the whole pictographs of giants showing humans the way. Daniken was maybe inspired by the equally racist HP Lovecraft, specifically the story At the Mountains of Madness, which involved horrible and uncaring aliens starting life on Earth. Come to think of it, it also had a geologist who did little geology and got lost in an alien ruin.... And they dissect a god in it! (It's worth noting that Guillermo del Toro scrapped his adaptation of the Lovecraft story after seeing what was going on in this film) So honestly the racism of the influences makes the gods themselves being marble Greek statues hilarious. More white, than white. You see it's a... nevermind.
There's also this Space Jesus story going around, that since they're on this planet on Christmas, and something bad happened on this planet 2000 years ago, and the ship was heading to Earth. A lot of people are assuming this means, they were going to kill us because we killed Jesus. And i can't help but to feel this is more hubris, that because these gods created us it must be all about us, we never see what happened on this planet. It might have nothing to do with us, the ways of gods are not the ways of man. It's odd because people seem to think if Space Jesus was true, than this movie is proving the Christian faith right. i don't remember the part of the bible where God was some alien that killed himself billions of year ago. Or Jesus being freakishly pale, tall, and bald. This movie is about humans being wrong, so wrong.

Now Vickers straight up calls Shaw and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) true believers, that's why they're on this trip for Weyland's immortality. Now Holloway isn't a true believer, he's just an asshole that reminds Shaw of her father, also he's an archeologist that's disappointed in finding a tomb. The father thing is important, her father died of malaria according to what David saw in her dreams, Holloway dies of what looks like an alien disease. But really, fire of the gods. Shaw however, does believe, she's happy and enthused, she's found god, turns out god doesn't really care for us, and likely wants us dead, whoops. But at the end, David is worse for wear, defeated, he wants to go home (It's like that movie again!) But Shaw wants to go on, she still has her faith. And like i've mentioned, what she may find out there isn't important, it's that she goes out looking. It's very existential, hopeful.

Now hope, there's an interesting thing. After Prometheus gave mankind fire, the gods decided to punish mankind, they gave Pandora a box, but really, box is a bad translation. What they gave her was a vase.

Like i said, there's a lot going on in this film. But among the horrors, hope was in that jar, hope is what humanity has, and it's beautiful.

Now i want to talk a bit about my favourite part of this film. Weyland and co. have gone and woken up this slumbering god, he stands confused, watching, waiting. Weyland demands David to ask him for immortality, Shaw pleads to ask him why they don't love us. Both of these questions are stupid, but i'll get into that later. So David obeys his father, he has to, and for the benefit of Weyland he quotes Blade Runner, "Give me more life Father/Fucker." Now this god, reacts by lovingly caressing David face, and it's beautiful. He then rips David head off and bludgeons Weyland with it. It's not an easy thing to meet your maker.
Now, what's going on here is Weyland, a man who has done so much for humanity, has created a new lifeform in David, a son he doesn't consider real, created life in the form of his daughter, whom he loathes, this arrogant old man, goes up to a god, gods whom sacrifice themselves to create new life, and asks them to be immortal. The Engineer literally beats Weyland on the head with his legacy, his immortality. That is why his question was dumb.
As for Shaw's question, well we only have to look to David. David is treated like shit by his creators throughout the entire movie. Weyland tells him he has no soul, Holloway belittles him at every turn, it's repeatedly pointed out that he's not human, just a robot.
Holloway: What we hoped to achieve was to meet our makers, to get answers why they made us in the first place.
David: Why do you think your people made me?
Holloway: We made ya 'cause we could.
David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?
Holloway: [laughs] I guess it's a good thing you can't be disappointed.
David: Yes.
The thing is, we see David react to these jabs, he looks hurt, he is hurt, humans are hurt by Egineers, what do they care, we're just humans.

David is a such a wonderful character, he's got this fantastic childlike glee about him. Which could be tied into this meta quality about him in that he almost seems aware he's in a movie. i mean sure he's following his father's orders because he has to, but he wants his father dead, he wants to be free. Our god frees him from his. It's just that in his actions, it's like he's enjoying the hell out of being in a space horror film "Oh look aliens, ghosts, and slime, and joy!"

Look at the conversation with Holloway, how he asks him if he's prepared to do anything to meet his makers, before poisoning him with the black goo. Or how he pulls a Vincent Price impersonation and won't let Shaw see her child in the sonogram machine. Now the child, there's something to talk about. The squidbaby in a sense, is the child of Shaw and David. i can't help but think that's how David might view it anyway, he was fascinated with her, he couldn't understand her, her faith. It's part love, part science experiment. There is a lot leading up to this, we only see him watching only her dreams, he rescues her from the storm, her boyfriend yells at her, David asks her if she's alright, she thanks David. She doesn't treat David as something less. At the end of the movie when he comes out and says he doesn't understand her, she responds it's because he's a robot, it doesn't seem hateful, nor does he seem hurt. He'll never understand her, she'll never understand the Engineers. And yet they go on.

As for squid baby, the abortion scene made me break out into a cold sweat, i don't think anything has bothered me that much in a movie before. Considering the thing looked like it had ovaries when it was fully grown, i'm wondering if it was less her child and more her uterus. The machine was set to only deal with men, she set it up to remove foreign objects. So, she removes her womanhood, but in the end is saved by it.
The climax of the film is hilarious by the way, a giant vagina engulfs the phallic marble god, they wriggle around for a while, and then a new life form is brought screaming into the world sometime later. Oh my. Because at its heart, the horror of this film, is sex and creation. We see a god torn apart to create life, there's the sexual ending and all its goo. But the horror isn't restricted to heterosexual, Millburn and Fifeld have some homoerotic stuff going on. Millburn has a crush on Fifeld, there's the cute little helmet bump when they get in the rover, he leaves when Fifeld wants to, he tires to impress Fifeld by showing no fear in front of the freaky alien cobra. Which was a mix of yonic and phallic, i might add, but what's worth mentioning is that it phallic bit goes down Millburn's throat and acid goo gets all over Fifeld's face. Yep. My favourite "sex is gross" scene though, would have to be when Holloway and Shaw get it on, not only does it fade to black, but the next morning, Shaw is lying naked in bed, with a sheet over her crotch. "Wouldn't want to offend my lover with my vagina!" Which explains why she removes it, then uses her new found powers of creation to defeat god. As Weyland said, we're the gods now.

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