Etc. >> Movies >> Prometheus has landed
Prometheus has landed
Post by Will on Jun 14th, 2012, 08:44am
"Every king has his reign, and then he dies."
Confirming the long-held suspicion that Scott has been wasting himself for decades on the all-too-often-mundane, Prometheus provides the science fiction canvas needed(?) to properly conflate Scott's eye for detail with thematic density. Thus the two are co-dependent and complementary in a way far too often lacking in a supposedly visually-driven career.
Not to say that Scott has been lacking in technical ability, but matching possibly the best eye in the business with dreck like Black Rain has happened far too often in his career. Let Ron Howard be Ron Howard (mediocre, garbage), but wasting the director of Blade Runner, Alien and The Duellists on studio-hack material has been quite disappointing. Watching him waste himself, in other words.
It's ironic that the scale of Scott's work, when raised or heightened through the milieu of sci-fi, also provides the most cynical, self-aware and personal statements in his career. His latest is no exception to that, conflating the Freudian sexuality of Alien with Blade Runner's Nietzschean corporatism, it thus allows for the filmmaker to create a visual-narrative that is both slick and conflicted.
The notion of godhood as a dream made into genocidal nightmare, that creation and destruction are part of the same process, is trenchant. The notion of necrosis and apoptosis (basically negative cellular degradation versus positive) as dueling genetic constructs is just below the surface throughout; from that, the suggestion of a higher power that is unreached if not unreachable, with the subversion of Darwinism as a cap to all that.
In fact, at first blush, it appears that Prometheus lands it's greatest blow against faith, as expected. What was not expected, at least by me, was for the film to have the intelligence and courage to deconstruct Darwin's Law, reveal it as a fraud, and to leave many of its flock outraged. The film doesn't tear away or attempt to destroy the idea of YHWH, G-d, God, the divine but it instead undermines the notion that science (a systemic and linear construct of man) has explained the universe.
That the film's main character, Shaw, bases her faith in the transcendent rather than the concrete is, I believe, a rather big point for the film. And it's what allows her beliefs to endure while the assumptions of evolution, in its strictest, most provincial sense, are washed away much like the self-sacrificed Engineer in the film's opening. Bio-engineered primordial ooze will tend to do that.
In a similar vein, there is the implication of never-ending Anglo imperialism, and this is appropriately through the visualized intermediary of dreams (on a very literal, stylistic note, why is it that subjects' memories/dreams always involve them viewing themselves? This is a rather boring, illogical and condescending trope that Scott likely falls back on as a commercial assumption. I digress). Though that may be another way of saying 'curious', the corollary through thematic tissue seems to be rule by foreigners in strange lands. What it means to be king.
The very literal statement, later, about viruses in third world nations puts an allegoric exclamation point on the brittle nature of any organism's rule, and perhaps a particularly personal one on the concurrent and inevitable fall of Western Man. The TE Lawrence reference seems cut from that cloth as well: what is an alien?
From that, the film's proto-alien is not only xenomorphic, but rather amorphic: a black, gelatinous plague, a virus, that adapts to environment and host to both destroy and create. Basically, again, a building block that is suggestive of the primordial, while tearing apart its host.
And much like Lawrence, there's a fine line between the Alien and the King -- which makes sense as a psychological basis for David's idolization of Peter O'Toole in Lean's film. Similarly, that the Engineers turn out to be so...human is a very visually-aware design as far as thematic concern. Man made in god's image. That they are giants relative to man, then suggests Fallen Angels; perhaps superior to man, but still beneath God.
This obsession with God is reflected in the assumptions about David -- the film's android -- and the questions both within and without. The question humans have -- why, how -- are inherent and debased for David. The grand purpose behind his existence is 'why not?' David is, if not fundament of the film's issues with commercial versus philosophical, the amalgamation of creationism being nothing more than a yearly product catalog.
David is psychologically and thematically the son of a king. Peter Weyland is humanity's representation of a ruler, and for David perhaps God. But the king is little more than a multinational corporation's owner. A King with no suitable heir: a robot for a "son", and an illegitimate daughter that he wishes was a man.
Between Vickers and David, there are two humanoid representations of thematic conflagration; one an unhappy accident of procreation, the other a very specifically engineered success/failure of parthenogenesis and supply lines. Does Weyland want an heir, or just a child to perpetually worship him? It's an open-question, and I don't necessarily think the film would be better if it answered it. A microcosm, really.
Appropriately, David -- likely controlled by a cryogenically frozen Weyland -- is behind the carnage that ensues. He does this by playing god: taking genetic material from the alien vase and sneaking it into a cocktail imbibed by Holloway, the character that needles David about his sub-human nature. Does David choose Holloway because he knows he's the most likely to arrogantly, if unknowingly, give him the go-ahead to poison him? Or is David capable of real emotion, choosing Holloway to prove his superiority? With David the dream -- do androids dream of... -- doesn't appear to be finding god, but playing god.
By film's climax we see an Engineer -- the closest thing to God in-narrative -- destroyed by life it manipulated into existence. Manipulated not only by the Engineers but also David, a being created by humans, culminating in a xenomorph's creation. Nietzsche taken to 11.
Perhaps anticlimactic to continue, but the film's exploration of manipulated life is at odds with femininity. Perhaps aggressively so. That the film, like all Alien entries, is focused on a female is rather smoke and mirrors.
Much like Kaufman's remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Scott's Blade Runner, women as a biological constant are no longer needed. Between the two quantifiable females, the film is somewhere between overtly and quietly aware of this factor.
Vickers as the failed son, and Shaw as a barren womb. While women are featured, this is largely by playing roles abdicated by men. As women they are marginalized or nonexistent, which is perhaps a more logical and honest narrative-drive than what Cameron attempted in Aliens (i.e. the motherhood entry).
Sex, then, is associated most strongly with the alien: with violence and violation. Scott's original film is, of course, preoccupied with fear of the other as some sort of exploration of hidden sexuality; the facehugger is highly vaginal, even as it penetrates, and the alien that results is shot in a rape-fantasy manner with both female crew members, while being big, black and aggressively phallic in its design.
In Prometheus the proto-facehugger is many, many times bigger than what is in the original film. instead of fingers it has tentacles. While I wouldn't say it's as frightening as a realized concept, it's placement -- Shaw releasing it just as the male Engineer is about to kill her -- is both very twisted deus ex machina and culmination of the film's ongoing black v. white theme. The Engineer is overwhelmed by his creation, and that creation, to be crass, looks like a giant vagina.
Out of this, the final scene is black from white: the albino demigod giving birth to a black xeno. Before that, we see the black captain fly his clean, largely white (interior-wise) ship into the white Engineer's black cargo ship.
The sense of race is throughout the film. Again, how obvious is that? Is it clever or crass to racialize it with black/white? Much like The Chariots of the Gods base, it certainly is somewhere on the road to derivative.
But I also think it's interesting. Particularly as a higher-minded paradigm of black/white in a schema of creation. Can one exist without the other? Can anything exist without them?
I feel this is about a third of what I had to say. Which is pretty frightening.