Meta-Commentary

Prometheus

Posted in culture by Adrian Arroyo on June 13, 2012

The nickel version: Prometheus is awful in a thematically consistent way. The screenplay manages to avoid the worst excesses of contradiction-as-profundity (“What is Jerusalem worth? Nothing… everything!”) so often found in Ridley Scott’s recent movies and Michael Fassbender turns in a Holmworthy performance as the franchise-mandated android. But the movie has Damon Lindelof’s fingerprints all over it and–much like Lost–it elevates semiotics above storytelling.

[SPOILER ALERT]

That’s a shame, because the movie could’ve told the same story without the mystical mumbo-jumbo. Fundamentally, the Prometheus mission is an interstellar boondoggle funded by a trillionaire developer who’s afraid of death and staffed by bunch of incompetents.

See, for example, the way Charlize Theron prefaces her briefing with “those of you that I’ve hired personally…” as if she subcontracted most of the HR demands for a dangerous multi-year endeavor to some kind of temp agency. Even within their relevant specialties, the staff seem to be bottom-of-the-barrel types. The archaeologists ride their ATVs around ancient ruins, and everyone remotely scientific behaves as if they’ve never heard of biosafety levels. The geologist–a hard-bitten man with tattoos and custom mapping robots–turns coward immediately and gets lost along with a biologist whose encounter with a lifeform that looks and acts like a king cobra ends with him cooing at it until it kills him. It’s genuinely unclear whether Captain Janek (Idris Elba) leaves them to their deaths because he’s got ulterior motives or simply can’t be bothered to stay on the bridge when he could be in bed with Theron.

Topless Robot has the full rundown of crew incompetence.

Scott intends Prometheus as a parable about humanity’s destructive selfishness contrasted against the benevolence of White Space Jesus: we make of others what we make of ourselves. But we could get the same lesson from a story about a dying corporate titan who uses a team of incompetent scientists, a ship captain who can’t administer or fly his ship, and an existentially confused android to enable his search for immortality, endangering the welfare of the entire human race in the process. Stripping out the mystical windowdressing would’ve made the movie less confusing, and kept it closer to both the franchise and the current moment.

Tagged with: ,