Some Random Disjointed Thoughts Regarding “Prometheus” – Part 1

Obviously, Spoiler-heavy content.  Don’t read if you haven’t seen the film.

 

For the record, I really liked Ridley Scott’s film “Prometheus”.  That doesn’t mean the film isn’t rife with story problems and bad science, but that also doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining. A lot of the following thoughts originally came from an email conversation I’ve been having with some friends.  “Prometheus” really got me thinking about story-telling, about franchise cross-overs, and mostly about James Cameron’s landmark film “Aliens” and got me to see it in a new light.   One minor disclaimer, I know there have been a lot of interviews with the creators of “Prometheus” doing a post-mortem of the film and trying to fill in plot-holes and such.  Well, as much as I like behind-the-scenes stuff, in some cases, especially as a storyteller, if it isn’t in the story…it ISN’T in the story.  So my theories pretty much concentrate on what we’ve been shown in the film and don’t incorporate extra material.  I tried to just guess at stuff based on what we can extrapolate from the film.  Having said that, it does bring me to my first random thought.

  • On Storytelling and Plot-driven versus Character-Driven.

In this day an age, must a story be reserved to only a single medium?  “Prometheus” had a lot of viral little videos out there that tied in well with the advertising and marketing of the film.  They did a lot to build up hype and anticipation.  Upon seeing the film, which stands alone, it looks like there is a lot of footage missing.  There are some massive plot holes.  Should the story tellers be constrained to telling their tale only in the film.  Couldn’t they extend it to more viral videos, blog posts, twitter feeds, alternate reality games, etc… the list goes on and on.   Instead of using the viral marketing model to build up hype, why not use it to continue telling the story?  Or filling in plot points you didn’t have time to explore in depth within the constraints of the primary medium?  A number of shows have tinkered with this approach, but it has always been in a more marketing oriented way.  The folks at BioWare did have resolution for one minor character resolved through a twitter feed where one could follow her posts as part of an ongoing story throughout the day, all the way through to the resolution.  It is a novel concept, but I don’t think it has been explored or executed to its potential as of yet.

One of my biggest problems with the story in “Prometheus” is that it is a plot-driven story as opposed to a character-driven story.  What do I mean by this?  In a plot-driven story, the plot is the master and the characters are its slaves.  If the plot needs you to go down into a horrible basement where you suspect there’s an equally horrible killer lurking in the shadows, then you do it.   If the plot needs you to be incredibly stupid and shout out, “Is there anyone there?” before taking the inevitable axe to the head, then you do that too.  A lot of horror movies are plot-driven affairs.  That’s why the characters are usually thinly veiled stereotypes: the “good” girl, the slut, the jock, the nerd, etc… In a character driven story, actions come from the character motivations and the events in the plot are dictated by character actions.  In these stories, things tend to make a little bit more sense, characters tend not to be suicidally stupid.   Some quick examples.  In “Prometheus”, the geologist and the biologist (characters not important enough to remember names), get lost in the alien ship and get left behind, why?  Because the plot needed them to be lost.  Later the biologist acts in an incredibly stupid way towards the snake-worm-alien thing.  Seriously, would you pet this?

But a biologist who has made the cut to beat out every other biologist trying to get on a trillion dollar expedition is too stupid to not touch the thing.  Why? Because the plot needs him to be the dumbest biologist ever.   Another character, Holloway, gets depressed and drunk after making one of  the most significant discoveries in the history of humanity.  Why? Because the plot needed him to get surly, depressed, and drunk so that David could infect him.  (In Holloway’s defense, maybe he was just depressed he wasn’t in a Mass Effect movie…Seriously…Doesn’t he look exactly like Commander Shepard?)  Neither of these events, and a whole lot of others, make any sense in the movie.

The sad thing is that both the events I called out above could have been done a lot better.  Maybe Holloway is drunk because he is celebrating instead of being depressed and surly.  Up until that point the guy was Mr. Happy-go-lucky-not-a-care-in-the-world.  (No really, take your helmet off on the alien ship, you can’t catch a cold or anything.  What’s to worry about?)  With the lost geologist and biologist that get left behind on the ship, the captain just tells them to sit tight and that, oh yeah, one of the sensors just picked up a life-form, but it might be glitch…don’t go check it out or anything.  Sleep tight.  (In his defense, he had more important things to do, namely Charlize Theron…so yeah, even in my version, had I been the captain, those guys are still amazingly expendable.)  Instead, the better way to do it would have been to create tension by introducing a point that their space suits are going to run out of air before they can get picked up.  Then they start suffering from some space version of nitrogen narcosis or something, which starts to make them act goofy.  Realizing that they are in trouble, they head to the only place they know has a breathable atmosphere, the Big Head Chamber, where the biologist is still acting goofy enough to try and pet the space cobra.  Sure it is still plot-driven, but it makes more sense then just being the dumbest biologist ever.

Contrast this with actions by Ripley in “Aliens”, which are for the most part character-driven.  Ripley goes on the expedition because she needs personal closure and revenge.  Not because the plot needs her to go.  At the end, Ripley goes back for Newt because she lost her own daughter, Amy, and she’s not going to let it happen again, not while there is something she can do about it.  (Plus, she didn’t leave Jonesy behind in “Alien” so we already know she would never leave Newt behind.)

Too much of what the characters do in “Prometheus” makes no sense, and that tends to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.  Which is why, some folks really don’t like the movie.  And when the plot has holes big enough to drive the ship into, that’s a problem.

  • Is Meredith Vickers an android?

I’m leaning towards, yes.  It is inconclusive from what we see in the film, but there are some hints.

Several reasons.  She lives in a lifepod and says she doesn’t like to take chances.  Yet the automedic pod in her quarters isn’t calibrated for female anatomy.  One could make the argument that the pod was only for Weyland.  But if you’re someone who lives in a lifepod because you don’t like risks, wouldn’t the automedic be calibrated for male and female?  Or is it because Vickers doesn’t need it?

When she comes out of cryo-sleep, everyone else was puking etc….and having to drink fluids.   She was doing push-ups.  (Could have just been to show that she is driven and hardcore.)Why would she need to be in cryo or wear a space suit?   David answers the same question when he’s asked.  Because it makes the humans think he is normal.  Same thing for Vickers.

When the captain begins to suspect, he comes on to her (who wouldn’t? she’s super hot).   She only gives in to his advances (“My room, 10 minutes.”) AFTER he asks her if she is a robot.  That’s when she offers sex to make him forget about that.  Who would do that?  An android that doesn’t have a care about sex. A human woman, especially a bitch like Vickers is made out to be, would never do that.  She’d threaten to get him fired or threaten to blow him out of an airlock, or at the very least threaten him with a sexual harassment suit.  She wouldn’t invite him into her bed.  But an android would, especially if it would distract a human who was getting too close to the truth.

The big one for me is the scene between her and Weyland.  Notice the way she calls him father.  It is almost the exact same scene as between Roy Batty and Dr. Tyrell in “Blade Runner”.  Now, from another director, that might be a coincidence, but since Ridley also directed “BladeRunner”, I don’t think it is just a coincidence.  Also, keep in mind that Weyland looks to me in his 90’s if not older.  He would have to have been in his mid-sixties to have biologically fathered Charlize’s character.  Not impossible….but I like the android theory better.

At the end of the movie, I kept expecting her to give her oxygen to Noomi’s character and imply that she didn’t need it, thus revealing she was an android….but instead she got smooshed because she was too stupid to run laterally from the crashing alien ship (plot-driven).

Also keep in mind that one android, Rachael, in “BladeRunner” did not know she was an android.  Possible that Vickers is an android and doesn’t know it?

Maybe Vickers is just a human, that’s forgotten she’s human?

 

To Be Continued in Part 2.

 

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