Episode 148: PROMETHEUS

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What an utter trainwreck of a film.

A lot has been written about it already. Notably, this HitFix piece covers most of what we ramble about in the episode. And we’re not the only people to talk about it either. The Dread Media podcast (see episode 250) have almost the same conversation that we do. Only they’re a little nicer about it (at least they’re trying to be).

One thing almost all the podcasts and articles on the subject have on common (other than nearly unanimous derision at this travesty of wasted potential)  is the bafflement at the Peter Weyland character.

Why would you hire someone with the star power of Guy Pearce and then put him in the least convincing old man make-up since the ’60s? Further, why are the character’s motivations completely ambiguous. What drives him? What’s his agenda? It’s got to be more than a trite, banal desire for immortality, right?

Well, apparently you were supposed to watch this clip before seeing the film.

Though, as it turns out, Pearce is actually kind of laughable as the young Weyland too, at least his character (and the casting) actually makes a little more sense. But only a little. Big questions like why he had to fake his death for two years remain unanswered.

But at least you can see the kind of driven megalomaniac he was as a young man. The kind of guy who spend trillions on some vague speculation that maybe there’s some aliens somewhere that are advanced enough to give him “more life.” It’s not the perfect explanation, but if this short clip had actually been IN THE FILM then I might have been more lenient on Weyland’s completely superfluous character’s inclusion in the story.

So, given that none of the characters in this film have clear motivations or behave in any kind of rational manner, one has to wonder what other important material was left on the cutting room floor (rumour has it there’s also cut footage of the young Weyland “dream speaking” with David). Do all the characters have nice little five minute explanations in their back pocket waiting for the DVD release? And would that fix the film?

I don’t think it would.

After all, there’s an excellent short about the android David (Michael Fassbender), the most compelling character in the film, which I did see before hand.

And, no, it did not shed light on his baffling behavior. Even exempting a fair amount of inscrutable robot logic, he puts whole series of events into motion which ultimately have no relevance to the story other than to drive the plot. Or even less than plot-driving devices, they’re merely action sequence set-ups. Whatever reason he had for infecting Holloway with alien DNA, and trying to prevent Shaw from aborting her alien fetus, had no baring on the film’s plot as a whole.

There have been a few theory’s floating about the Internet that his actions are a result of his needing to circumvent Asimov’s First Law of Robotics.

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

In this light, his overly complex plot to commit patricide (if that is in fact what he was doing at all) begins to make sense. Except at no point are we given any reason to assume Asimov’s Laws of Robotics apply to this film. The only film you can make the assumption the Laws apply in is I, Robot. If the writers intended for David to be circumventing the make-believe rules of another fictional universe, it needs to be stated at some point.

Perhaps in Weyland’s introduction of David to the group (in which everyone is oddly nonplussed) would have been the perfect time. It would have taken five or ten seconds of screen time to make the next hour and half make some kind of sense. Or it could have even been in the above promo clip.

The preceding clip doesn’t explain anything about Dr. Elizabeth Shaw’s (Noomi Rapace) baffling belief that the “Engineers” exist, had the ability to create human life and, if found, would even have the slightest notion of what their ancient ancestors were up to on Earth.

That’s kind of like someone showing up in a UFO in my backyard and asking me to explain what my Teutonic ancestors motivations for sacking Rome was. I can only speculate based on what I know from quasi-historical pulp novels.

The only proof Shaw, Holloway and Weyland have about the “Engineers” are a few ambiguous cave paintings. Though they might be enough to go on to suggest Earth had been visted by extra-terrestrial life, their greater assumptions entirely lack proof.

For Shaw it’s a matter of faith. Literal religious faith, in fact. Which is interesting. As an atheist, I was more than willing to believe in her irrational belief she’d literally “found God” and wanted to meet him. But based on what? There needed to be another 10-20 minutes of their discoveries which lead them to believe these cave-paintings had anything to do with the creation of human life and not simply playing a game that involves tossing stones in the air.

Even completely delusional UFO conspirists have reems of “proof” about these kinds of things. Not five cave paintings.

And why did the aliens opt for crappy cave paintings and not the exquisite, far more detailed, HR Gigerian murals the crew finds on the planet? Besides that, why did the aliens leave a “road map” not to, as it turns out, their home world but  their weapons installation? For that matter, why develop their weapons of mass destruction on another planet at all?

I suspect there’s not enough cut footage out there to explain any of the flaws in the film.

Perhaps there’s 15 seconds of biologist Milburn getting high with geologist Fifield which explains why he so irrationally tries to befriend an angry space cobra.

Perhaps the scene were Fifield comes back as a zombie was intended to come before Holloway’s infection.  This would explain Miss Vickers’ (Charlize Theron) absurd insistence on keeping him off the ship, his own readiness to be burned alive and the complacency which the entire crew takes his extermination.

Perhaps there’s some kind of explanation about the whole space zombie thing.

Perhaps.

But I don’t have faith there is.

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6 Responses to Episode 148: PROMETHEUS

  1. Marius says:

    The only time Asimov’s Laws of Robotics are mentioned is in Aliens. Bishop quotes the first law verbatim in an attempt to allay Ripley’s fears of him. Ash definitely wasn’t hampered by them, and I didn’t see any qualms from David about using people as lab rats.

  2. Freedune says:

    Thanks for pointing out the flaws – I fail to see why so many reviews ignore them.

    I am not sure even the First Law of Robotics is upheld, as David deliberately poisons the archaeologist(s) with Alien DNA.

    The anachronism / continuity gap you hint at also applies to the Rapace character – is she aware of her boyfriend’s resurrection? Is she oblivious? Does she not care so much after his first death?

    I could not even find much justification for Charlize Theron’s character being in the movie – except perhaps because she is Charlize Theron. The Captain could have taken care of many of her duties. Instead, he serves as the Pilot. Similarly, Weyland could also have been younger, in command of the ship.

    Oh, and the biggest question of all – if the Aliens planted human beings on Earth, where did the rest of the life come from?

    All this seems to me is another failed attempt at finding some justification for faith, and Biblical faith at that. What it results into is a kludge. Even Signs fared better on those terms.

    • nerdhurdles says:

      No, David clearly violates the First Law. But, again, I don’t think he’s necessarily bound by them. I’ve always found it odd that people expect Asimov’s laws to apply to robots in other books and films. It’s like saying Han Solo violated the Prime Directive.

      It’s not Holloway who’s resurrected, it Fifield the geologist. But still, once he’s neutralized, everyone takes it in stride.Which is another reason why I suspect the film was re-edited from its original sequence of events. The disconnect from reality of all the characters in almost every scene is so great, it only makes sense that they’re actually reacting to scenes we haven’t seen (on the cutting room floor) or are the sequence of events is so jumbled, their reactions no longer makes sense.

      Part of me refuses to believe Ridley Scott has lost touch with human emotion to such an extent he actually directed people to behave this way.

      The Red Letter Media mini review asks those same questions about the origins of life. http://youtu.be/-x1YuvUQFJ0

      The way the “Engineers” plant their DNA on Earth in the opening scene doesn’t even really make any kind of sense to me. At least, from what I understand of how DNA and evolution works.

      The whole faith aspect is also a little baffling in the sense that it’s an odd attempt to wipe away both creationist and Darwinist beliefs. But to what ends? I can only guess it’s a hamfisted attempt to say “You’re both right! Now can everybody get along please?”

      Except, it’s just a movie…

      The film (or it’s baffling shortcomings) still fascinates me a week later so that’s saying something. That’s real ART!

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