Saturday, June 9, 2012

Origin Sin-Prometheus Continued

If you've read the above review, with all of those thoughts stated, there will be spoilers involved in this post, so if you've yet to see the movie, you might want to turn away now, see it, and come back.  Don't worry, I'll still be here, we can discuss, over coffee and croissants or at the very least some canned cornbread.

Prometheus - it's such a small word for such a large philosophical thought, and as David (Michael Fassbender) reminds us "big things have small beginnings".  When we're introduced to the crew, they're gathering for their first meeting.  Appearing in hologram or holograph or digital non-human form, whichever you prefer, is an aged Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) who explains that if we're watching this, he's dead, because he's pretty much on the precipice of death at that moment, and the crew has reached their destination.  He's spent tons of money on this endeavor (approx. 1 trillion dollars, which you would think could have gone towards lowering the national debt) because he believes that Shaw and Holloway are right about their belief that alien life holds the key to the answers of mankind's existence.  In his explanation, he brings up the name of the ship, Prometheus.  We get the simplified version:  Prometheus was a Titan who attempted to make humans as important as gods and so he was exiled from Olympus.  These myths have almost as many remixes as a Skrillex album, but suffice it to say that's not the entire story as its been accepted.  Prometheus is the guy who either gave humans fire, or when the gods took fire away from us for being naughty children, gave it back to us.  His punishment was being chained up and having his liver eaten by an eagle every day, having it regenerate every night and having the process repeated for all of eternity.  For more, you can visit the sometimes unreliable, but more often than not accepted Wikipedia on the myth of Promethus

Right away, the film sets the audience up with one of the first issues that attempts to be tackled:  Faith vs. Science.  This is pretty much the main issue of life, is it not?  It's the argument in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus as well, which is how this all begins to tie in together. Victor Frankenstein (the doctor) is also attempting to be Prometheus, bringing fire to the world in the form of being able to create human or at least a life-like creature endowed with all of the biological features of a living, breathing being.  In this case, Weyland is our Prometheus/Frankenstein.  He's created David in his image, without any real thought to the consequences about the existence of such a being.  Does a creature created without the union of a male and a female have a soul? Does it understand emotional situations? Does it think logically? Does it love? Does it hate?  As we know from both the myth of Prometheus and the novel of Frankenstein, things don't usually work out all that well for those wannabe-gods.  It usually ends up pretty much being a shit storm for those guys.

On the other side, because there always has to be an opposite end to every spectrum, is a "true believer".  Prometheus had Zeus (this is, admittedly a slightly flawed example, but it's late and I'm running on fumes), Frankenstein had Elizabeth, and Weyland has Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace)...oh it just hit me that her name is Elizabeth too!  Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) even calls her a "true believer".  In all of these arguments as well, the creation usually doesn't turn out quite as expected either.  Humans didn't use fire just for good things, Frankenstein's "monster" learned only the ills of man, and David only wants to get his way.  Essentially what you find out in Prometheus is that everything that happens in the (subsequent) Alien movies is this android's fault, because his daddy didn't love him enough.

One of the branches off of this Faith v. Science argument, is the question of are humans made or are we created?  While Rapace's scientist seems to believe in a higher power, and it's proven that there is a higher power, the argument of the film is for a more tangible deity than religions would cop to.  There's a lot of discussion about the creation of life though, not dialogue-wise perhaps, but believe me, you shouldn't have missed it.  David places the biological beginnings of an alien in Charlie's nightcap, causing the alien DNA to attach itself to Charlie's. When Charlie proceeds to copulate with Elizabeth, what results is an alien baby.  In what is hands down the most disturbing scene in the film, perhaps one of the most disturbing scenes ever filmed, Elizabeth locks herself in a high-tech hyperbaric chamber and is aborts the alien fetus.  Now this could lead down an incredibly lengthy path depending on which way your religious compass points, but the fact of the matter is that it's an amazing, and amazingly disturbing scene, to watch.  It's terrifying and claustrophobic and invasive.  It's all of those things that the original Alien film was.  This notion of invasion doesn't go away either.

A second issue that certainly seems to be floating around is the idea of colonization, and if there's a more polished word for "invasion" I don't know it.  The set-up here is heavy-handed too with David prepping himself, apparently every day, by watching Lawrence of Arabia, a movie that's tied with Ghandi in terms of its depiction of the effects of colonization.  Unfortunately, David doesn't really get the point of the movie.  When the crew awakes, essentially, they're invading an alien world.  It's the same old story of what happens when you step on the natives toes.  Usually, unless you're carrying a pox infection with you, you're going to be in for some rebellion.  In this case, the rebellion and defense mechanism is a real bitch.  Always the lesson that's supposed to be learned is "some things are better left unknown".  Inevitably, hindsight is always twenty twenty and without that breakthrough to other side, we'd never know anything.  The movie attempts to make the case that knowledge alone isn't enough, but it clumsily fumbles that concept by having Noomi Rapace, creepily, robotically say "I guess it's because I'm a human not a robot" before comically zipping up David's head in a duffel bag.

Finally, there's a whole concept of the feminine ideal that's been brought up in all of the movies and is brought right up again here.  Out of a crew of 17, the final 2 survivors are the 2 women, and if the scene I mentioned above isn't about the duality of female survival and the burden of a uterus, I don't know what it would take to hammer the point home.  Oh wait, I do know what it would take!   An ENORMOUS facehugger that has several vagina-esque openings for all of its parasitic tethers.  The movie touches briefly on the fact that Shaw can't have children, and then makes her pregnant with an alien, thus being the mother of all of the horror that's about to come for the Nostromo later, after several evolutions.  How did the responsibility for both creation and destruction fall on women?  I still blame David and his poorly thought out alien roofie.

There are so many really great ideas being grappled with, but there's just not enough of a pursuit of any one of them.  The film never chooses between taking the horror route or taking the sci-fi drama route and what's left is just a plot-clumsy mess.  Charlize Theron's character seems to be terribly wasted, as does the buildup of an alive (SURPRISE!) Peter Weyland who kicks the bucket 10 minutes later.  The moments that seem to be set up as dramatic plot twists (Vickers is Weyland's daughter?!) fall flat because the audience isn't invested in those characters.  The best of all them lives, as is the case with every horror move, and the ultimate question of existence is unanswered, as are about 20 other questions by people who care more about the Alien franchise than I do.  

No comments: