What I am: A new writer, experienced actress, passionate storyteller, occasional blogger, and fan (and student) of film and science fiction. What I am not: a professional blogger/ reviewer of films. I am compelled, however, to express my thoughts on Prometheus, if only to tame the angry beast of criticism that is roaming around my head, distracting with its growls from other pertinent work.
So let’s rip the bandage off. I was deeply disappointed by the film. So much so that two thirds of the way through, I wanted it just to be over. My bladder was full and my heart was heavy and I just wanted to wrap it up and get home. By the time I left the theatre, I was numb.
‘Oooh, dramatic’, you say! ‘It’s just a movie, why did you buy into the hype, it wasn’t that bad!’ For those of you who know me, may remember that I started my Operation BABE blog when it was announced that Ridley Scott was to direct an Alien prequel. BABE stands for Badass Alien-Fighting Body Endeavor. That’s right, the character of Ripley was so emblematic to me of the type of character I aspire to that I created a blog to chronicle my training as if I were in the running to play the new Ripley (which ended up being the Dr. Elizabeth Shaw character played by Noomi Rapace). My blog then inspired me to do my Op Babe photoshoot and my Wonder Woman shoot. I am the ‘badass’ that I am today because of the original announcement of Prometheus. But neither Sir Ridley Scott nor Damon Lindelof owe me anything, they don’t know me (though I swear Damon and I made ‘eye contact’ at Comic Con). Rather I owe Sir Ridley a debt of gratitude for bringing the franchise back into the spotlight (thus into my consciousness) and inspiring me to go on my Op BABE journey. So there’s that.
But there’s something else, something that eats away at me. I remember a conversation I had with Barrett Garese last fall about a scifi project I was developing. He said something along the lines of how, when Prometheus comes out, it could be a game changer for scifi, how the Hollywood system will want hard scifi again. New scifi. That it could be big. His words (which I paraphrase, sorry Barrett) gave new dimension to an image I had been quietly cultivating… how Prometheus could be a beacon of light for new scifi storytellers, ushering in new cinematic themes, like ‘who is really human’, and a new visual style, as Blade Runner had done. Ridley and Damon were hinting at ‘origin’ stories, BIG origin stories, ie. the origin of man that deviated from both scientific and religious tenants. Scifi movies that dare to explore these big questions are my big wet awesome dreams. For I see them as the catalyst for change, as they invite other storytellers and give them permission to tackle the grandeous topics of life, of cosmology, of the nature of existence, of what defines consciousness, of the grand unifying theory that science is searching for. Big scifi movies, while still being entertainment, can open the door to a new shift in perception, showing us glimpses into our future and most importantly can create a discussion platform for ‘What Ifs’. Our future will be defined by the choices that we make today and tomorrow. What if ‘tomorrow’ if shown to us in advance?
Am I holding the bar too high? No. The TED viral, the Weyland Industries website and the David ‘Birthday’ video lead me to believe that I was right to expect a film that would make inroads into the meaty topics that will be front and center in our lives a few decades from now. I was excited to learn how this future world dealt with the pesky problem of light speed travel, (because believe me, I’ve spent some friggin time on the topic.) I could go into a ton of topics that I hoped Prometheus would explore and ‘what ifs’ that it would pose, along with some badass alien fighting action, but instead I found myself watching a movie that didn’t make me think and didn’t make me feel. It just ‘was’. There was plot and their were characters and there were sets and special effects, and there were even tears. But there wasn’t a ‘future world’ that was new to the screen. There wasn’t science fiction thematic greatness. And as @Zadi tweeted, there wasn’t even heart.
And that was the core problem. Above and beyond my personal hopes for the film, there wasn’t a heart beat.
For a movie to have a heart beat, its own unique rhythm, there has to be a synergy between the story, the characters and the director. All three fell flat. This was the first Ridley Scott film where I didn’t feel him present. I didn’t feel the ‘touch’ of a director, like I did with Thelma and Louise, or Gladiator, or Blade Runner…or Alien. I have this fantastical image of great directors with a special fairy dust that they leave on every frame they film, somehow binding the film into one cohesive piece (or maybe that’s just the color correction). Ridley’s fairy dust got sucked into a black hole. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I can put my finger on the fact that were absolutely no characters to root us to the story or the conflict. I love Noomi in Dragon Tattoo but the elements that made her phenomenal in that film, hurt her in this: she wasn’t human, but rather a bundle of awe, freneticism, tears and terror. For her 3rd Act scenes to work, I had to be able to relate to her at the beginning, empathize, connect. I just couldn’t. I believe she was miscast, though it could have just been the…
I’m not going to say the ‘S’ word. I know that Damon Lindelof has gotten a lot of flack for Prometheus. I am not going to throw him under the bus. I follow him on twitter, have seen him on panels at Comic Con, I think he’s super smart and talented. I was a HUGE fan of Lost, the ending not withstanding. I am not going to go through what I perceive to be the flaws of Prometheus’ ‘you know what’ –others are covering it. But I wanted to point out the irony. Prometheus’ primary flaw as a film was that we didn’t care about the characters. In Lost, we couldn’t get enough of the characters, we loved every single flawed one of them (yes, they had 7 seasons to develop them, no I didn’t like Paolo or Nikki either). But it was at the finale of Lost when we end on Jack and realize that it was a Purgatory experience after all, that perhaps those characters that we loved didn’t go through any of what we went through with them, as it might have only been in Jack’s mind or their minds (I’m still confused). Nothing made sense except that our hearts hurt. That flaw of Lost, a story that got out of hand and ran away from the writers, was never the problem with Prometheus. I could see Prometheus’ story beats – all the setup, execution and explanation (but Captain being the one to relay, out of nowhere, how the planet is really a military outpost? Come. On.) I could feel Damon’s need to conscientiously touch upon every question that was raised, explain it, even if by some passing comment, create the perfect story churning algorithm, with no extraneous variables. Perhaps if I had connected with the characters I would have forgiven the lack of depth, and just enjoyed the story as it was. But no matter, the characters weren’t real to me. They were 2D shells that spoke necessary exposition.
And when it all comes down to it, we were left behind. Again. The characters of Lost left their Island Purgatory and ascended to meet their maker, just as Elizabeth Shaw flew off in an alien spacecraft to meet hers.
Time for me to get back to writing.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to share your Prometheus thoughts, would love to hear them.