Sunday, June 10, 2012

PROMETHEUS - engineered for marvelous nightmares

SPOILER - this entire article will be written with assumption that you have viewed the film. 

I believe there to be a lot to cover here. First, I will state what I thought was done well and then proceed to elucidate moments of the patently illogical and unforgivable. And finally a dissection of what I think happened - you can skip right to the last paragraph if you don't care about science all that much - so much the worse for you!

Special Effects = A+ almost an A++. Thanks to great advice from veteran effects guru Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) we can enjoy a fantastic blend of CGI and real sets - finally someone who gets it. The film has real authenticity that only comes from building actual sets. There are multiple scenes that take you in and make one forget that you're watching a movie, eg. the great dust storm rescue and the intense alien abortion among others - you don't question the veracity - you sit enthralled.  The only sequence that felt a bit odd was the old simulated version of Guy Pearce while talking to the crew via an extremely creative futuristic TV projection and toward the end with a hideous fetal octopus and super human Engineer. All outer space shots were phenomenal. 

The Storyline = B+ almost an A. This might seem like the most important aspect in determining the greatness of a film and it is no doubt, vital, but due to certain other encumbrances the story isn't quite as rock star as it should have been. Prometheus was an ancient Greek Titan that decided that humans should have fire and therefore stole it from the gods and enlightened us for our betterment - to his detriment. Zeus found him out and had him chained to rock in which an eagle would eat out his liver each day only for it to respawn within. What's the moral here? Don't steal from the flipping gods!  

Prometheus, the new film from Ridley Scott, was a quasi modern take on this ancient myth. Scott hasn't had an exceptionally great movie in some time, probably since Gladiator, yet I did like American Gangster and Matchstick Men. With this new film he truly hails his days of old with the likes of untouchable scifi classics, Blade Runner and Alien. Im glad to see he is returning to form. Prometheus was first toted as a prequel to Alien and then later recanted. But of course we all knew it would be. The story takes place in the same universe as the original Alien, albeit 30 some years before Ridley and the Nostromo spacecraft. 

Prometheus starts out phenomenally with a bloody fantastic idea for how life began and how it was seeded on our planet. We are then greeted by two archeologists? that tell us they have found connected engravings from across the planet that may give us clues to reach those who may have created us, the Engineers, and possibly our origin story. So the next thing we know they arrive at a distant planet a few years later to discover a giant dome in the middle of a dessert. They go in, stir shit up and all goes to hell! Sounds like great science fiction to me. It also was a pitch perfect prequel concept but...

I enjoyed watching the movie overall but I will list just a few of the glaring inconsistencies. First, the faulty cosmology. If a movie purports to be in our current universe than it should at least try to obey the laws of physics. The crew was in stasis for two years during the trip from earth to the distant planet/moon. Maybe - we could accomplish the science for achieving cryogenic stasis. However, that would mean that in the next 90 years scientists would have to not only build a ship that could go light speed but surpass it with live crew on board! Our best current engine designs are nowhere close to reaching this goal. Our closest tertiary star system, Alpha Centauri, is 4.3 light years away and has no planets surrounding them, so the said planet must have been much further than that. So if we can defeat light why can't we yet fix infertility? as was evidenced in the subpar love scene. As for Biology, it should be clear that if the Engineers left only their human like DNA, then only humans should come from it and why such a meeker form? - we should be nearly identical to the Engineers unless they modified their genetic makeup.  By the way where the hell did all the animals and plants come from then? And to be pedantic, DNA was not the first replicator, it was far less complicated most likely. There are many things of this nature to consider which does take away from good science fiction because any high school student should recognize these paradoxic instabilities.

Some of the cool concepts the film incorporated are existing technological aims that really could become real in a generation or two. The gadget that can quickly detect the age of Carbon 14 isotopes for one, might be possible in a century and no doubt the DNA reader in the film is nearly possible now - within a decade or so we could have a similar device. The immersive 3D computing is also being worked out and may be possible as well by 2100 with probable quantum computers. As for David, the AI robot, I believe this could be possible also. It seems unlikely from current lifelike robots but if Ray Kurzweil (one of the worlds leading respected futurists) is right and technology continues to rise on an exponential scale each decade, which means that the last decade of time taken to accomplish a given task will only take half the time in the next decade, then it could be very possible. Hell, we have goals to mine asteroids within 10 years, have humans on Mars by 2033, a space elevator by 2050 and a completely functioning AI robotic soccer team winning the World Cup by 2055! These are very real goals by some of the best and brightest on our planet. 

As for the cast. I think it was poorly chosen. Noomi Rapace is a bit hard to connect with. Do we really need a hardcore, badass woman hero, from Scott especially? The other female options, also in consideration for the role, were far better choices, like Olivia Wilde for example. I didn't care about Noomi at all until the spectacular abortion sequence. But even that had its problems anatomy wise and what's up with that arcade claw? What use could that possibly have other than to pull out an alien fetus or an internal organ? Lol. (I still loved the scene anyway) Michael Fassbender clearly stole the show and was perfectly cast as David the phlegmatic droid. The rest of the cast seemed rather superfluous - did anyone care who lived and died? The filmmakers did a poor job of getting us to like and care about nearly all the characters. What the heck were they even doing on this trillion dollar vessel, none of them acted like competent scientists. They all just complained and ran around alarmed and perturbed. Stupid. This brings me to another point that the movie felt rushed minus the excellent opening and concurrent sequence with David throwing around a basketball. Would a scientist really grab a 2000 year head that, for she knew, was the only evidence we had linking Us to our ancestors and start jabbing needles in it's ear and screwing with its chemistry only to watch it explode? Would a Scientist come back to the ship and not care to continue exploring the most amazing new discovery ever made by humankind? And on and on. If Scott would have slowed it down a bit like the original and had some interesting conversations thrown in and not hackneyed "you are my father" crap dialogue, we would have been better off for it. Also filmmakers need to stop giving scientists faith in God and linking it to some human virtue. Faith is by definition that which is not based on evidence. Since only 7% of elite scientists believe in a personal god it stands to reason that this is an unconscionable concept to keep propagating. Hopefully in a hundred years faith will be eradicated to margins of society. 

Now that I am done bitching we can actually talk about whats interesting - the connection to the original Alien. I think it goes something like this. Engineers (super humans) have discovered all earth like planets in he galaxy and have either stolen, or created a dangerous elixir of death that also has the power to create life. This is found all over the Engineers ship. They go to these planets and seed them with life, maybe by ingesting this toxic tonic. Why? I'm not sure because now they seem to want renege on the gift. Anyway, something was bungled in the process and many Engineers died seeming to protect or get into a room of simmering goo. It looked like a place of worship. You must have noticed the Alien like creatures in the murals and relief on the walls. What does that mean? Im not sure because it seems as if they want to say that the Alien at that end was the first Alien and so that would make pictures already on the wall, nonsensical. Maybe Aliens rule the universe and control the Engineers to seed planets for breeding grounds. Aliens can't reproduce except only through, seemingly, mammals. It could further be explained that the only surviving Engineer has gone rogue and killed all of his brethren because he was secretly taking the ooze and working with the aliens. If the Alien at the end is the first Alien than I guess it makes sense the the toxic black goo ingested by the Charlie character and impregnated quickly into an infertile woman would have curious results. Furthermore implanting an Engineer could I guess only produce an Alien. This sets us up nicely for the first Alien film because they get a distress signal from a distant planet and seek it out only to find that was a "warning" message. Maybe a sequel will shed some illumination. 

Interesting scifi but not without it's problems. Maybe Scott will do better with his new Blade Runner project? We shall see...

Recommended Viewing: Alien - Aliens - Legend

              Bob Scale: Objective: 7.0   -   Subjective: 7.5
             MetaCritic: 64
 Rotten Tomatoes: 74
                      IMDB: 7.8 

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