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So I saw Prometheus
msauvage purple
cleolinda
@cleolinda: TODAY \;;;/

@cleolinda: #leavingthehouseomg on the Good Ship Nobody Dies in ten minutes; have not figured out a Cthulhu Doing the Cabbage Patch emoticon

@cleolinda: IT HAS BEEN SEEN. FIVE TENTACLES UP. \;;;\ /;;;/ ~;;;~ \;;;\ /;;;/ #prometheus

@cleolinda: I have a few distinct thoughts about wtf the movie was trying to do, and as soon as I get home, I will explain. WOOOOOOOO

@cleolinda: We will go into the spoiler linkspam I have been saving sight unseen and my feels, as the kids say, about the overall series later.


I want to be as vague as possible with the spoilers, but--responses to this movie seem so violently mixed that, when I had a sudden epiphany as the movie ended, I felt like people might go into it with different expectations if they approached it a particular way. For one thing, none of the Alien movies are anything like the others, if you think about it. I always thought Alien itself was kind of slow until I read that Ridley Scott thought of it as "a haunted house movie," and then I got it. Whereas Aliens is kind of a war movie, by contrast. (I think I've only seen #3 and #4 once each, when they originally came out; I can't really say what "secret" genre they might be.) I like that they're all different. I didn't want this to be a remake of Alien; I wanted to see the filmmakers think of yet another take on the story. In fact, there is a movie I really love, in a wildly different genre, that Prometheus reminded me of:

MILD SPOILERS

Picnic at Hanging Rock.

I have argued before that Picnic is a movie about people coping with the inability to know. And, as mentioned in that discussion, I found both a really good theory on what happened to the girls (a frustratingly good one), and also the reveal the author had originally intended... which made zero motherfucking sense. Sometimes, you don't want to know. Sometimes the answer is infinitely less interesting than the question; I suspect that the ways the characters you've been living with deal with that question will almost always be more interesting than the answer they do or do not get, and if they do get it, it'll be almost beside the point. Prometheus is almost entirely about people asking, where did we come from, who made us, why did they make us? In retrospect, there's a particularly telling exchange where David the android (OH MY GOD, THAT FUCKING ANDROID) has a pivotal conversation where Holloway the scientist is ribbing him. You think the actual point of the scene is what David does at the end of it, but thematically, I think it's more important that Holloway says that David was made "because we could," and David replies, how would you feel if these alien makers you're looking for told you the same thing? How would you cope with an answer you didn't like? Is it worth it to ask a question and regret the answer--but at least you got the answer and no longer have to wonder? And honestly, it's true, a large percentage of these characters redefine "too stupid to live"--when I see the movie again tomorrow, I'll look for it, but I wonder how many stupid-ass impulsive decisions they make are based in "I want to know."

Someone once said (as always, I forget who), in the context of writing advice, that a major aspect of a story's plot should be that the character makes a choice. It might be a choice they were not capable of making at the beginning, or the opposite of what they would have chosen then; that might be the arc of their development. On the other hand, it might be a choice they were committed to making and then faltered along the way, began to doubt themselves or their faith, and then, at the end, they reaffirm that original intention to act. In fact, just flashing through the first stories that come to mind, I think sacrifice is a choice that protagonists often end up making, or at least a duty that has a high risk of death, and that's why they have to work up to choosing that.

If you want to stop reading Mild Spoilers here, I'll just say--look at the movie from the perspective of 1) the act of questioning being what it's about, and the reason we don't get answers is to underline that theme, and 2) what do Shaw and David, in particular, choose to do throughout the movie? What are their final choices?  

END OF MILD SPOILERS


VAGUE BUT SIGNIFICANT ENDING SPOILERS

I think that's why Prometheus supposedly leaves so many questions hanging, and that's what has frustrated a lot of people--I don't recall having any unanswered questions, honestly; maybe I was already expecting that the point of whichever question was the asking of it. (I rolled with the punches pretty easily with Lost, if that tells you anything, and this movie was co-written by Damon Lindelof as well.) I think the very last scene of the movie is Shaw making her choice, reaffirming her desire to know. It doesn't matter what she finds out. My guess is that it would have been the usual "we gave you our alien technology and all these opportunities and you wasted it on war and landfills" Judgy Environmentalist spiel you get in so many of these alien encounter movies. Seriously, we've got the DVD of the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still around here; I could just watch that again if I needed an answer that badly. I don't really care why the Engineers changed their minds, particularly since they're not real, and it's not like I would be getting a factual answer to any questions I have about the universe in real life. I care that Shaw cares, because I've spent the last two hours with her, and I want to know how she's going to cope with a question she really, really, in light of the last ten or so minutes, may not like the answer to. I care because the act of questioning is the human experience I identify with, not the fictional answer she might or might not get.

END OF VAGUE SPOILERS


Actually, you know why I was really open to whatever was going to happen in this movie, most likely? Because I had read THIS, this COMPLETELY WACKADOO alleged plot rundown, several months ago. These are, like, Alternate Universe Reverse Spoilers, in the sense that none of this happens at all:

Mudow, Logan, Chance, Aldrich, Yuri, and Janek end up being destroyed by the Protoforms. In a strange, erotic ceremony, the Protoforms seemingly mate with the Bio-Brain and each other to create thousands of EGGS, the first of a new generation of the monsters. Meredith Vickers is revealed to be a sleeper CONSTRUCT of the Engineers, who are still active in their far future and Shaw’s present due to the time-travelling abilities of the wormhole. Vickers was grown in an Engineer lab but escaped, fleeing to Earth while always wanting to her find creators and take their power. The Engineers activate Vickers’ secondary GENE PROGRAMMING, and she transforms into an ALPHA PROTOFORM: the STAR BEAST.

At last, the two remaining crew members, Elizabeth Shaw and David, seek to confront the Engineers in the Temple. The Godlike entities prove to be utterly evil, and David sacrifices himself as he’s dissolved in the LIFE SEED BIOFORMER which is the basic genetic recipe for MAN: the former android David, it turns out, is the basis for all Mankind. Shaw is captured by Holloway, but he regains enough of his humanity to remotely activate an Engineer vessel for Shaw’s escape, then holds the other Protoforms and Engineers at bay. As Shaw escapes, she finds herself in the midst of the initial Engineer terraforming of Earth which we had witnessed in the opening montage, chased by the former Meredith Vickers who is now the gigantic, horrific Star Beast.

In a strange, erotic ceremony, you guys. THE STAR BEAST, YOU GUYS.


MORE SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THE MOVIE, AND THUS A FEW SPOILERS

>> The 3D is really good--I didn't come out with a headache at all, whereas the converted-from-2D previews were actually kind of uncomfortable to watch. By the time my eyes adjusted, the movie was definitely 3D for a reason, but it felt incredibly natural. I spring for 3D very, very rarely, but I think this one's worth it for the visuals, particularly the star map globe: 3D is Roger Ebert's archnemesis, and he liked it (MILD SPOILERS).

>> Maybe I was just prepared by (vague) early reviews and responses, but I really didn't think it was slow at all, and the score didn't feel intrusive to me. I mean, granted, it's not the taut silence of Alien, and it might have even benefitted from something more like that, but it's not like whichever movie it was where I spent the whole thing wanting to just TURN THE MUSIC OFF.

>> Oh my God, David, what the fuck. My only explanation here is that, to be fair, he's apparently got the ethical development of a three-year-old. I kept waiting for him to stick his finger into light sockets or put alien goo into his mouth like a toddler eating anything he finds on the floor. I mean, he's a fantastic character, the way Ben on Lost was a fantastic character, which sometimes involves wanting to slap the everloving shit out of them. I legit do not know how Shaw was able to restrain herself from punting him across the room. "How did your father die? Was it ebola?" What is wrong with you.

>> Speaking of Shaw--the Noomi Rapace character--who I want to give many hugs: I actually liked that she was sort of sweet and idealistic, maybe even an anti-Ripley at first, because that made it all the more impressive that she kept going. Again, I liked that it was a different, unique character who wasn't just a Ripley do-over. Although yeah, she was sort of ridiculously naive about how totes awesome it was going to be to chat up some aliens she didn't know anything about; I'm guessing she doesn't watch a whole lot of movies. Maybe she and David needed to hang out in the movie room while everyone else was hyper-sleeping. He could do her nails while he was highlighting his hair (LOL FOREVER) and they could watch horrible, useful, gory alien attack movies and maybe the crew would have lasted a little longer. Maybe? Probably not.

>> Seriously, though, most of these characters were too stupid to live. ("This alien penis cobra on a planet we don't know shit about, it's beautiful! LET ME PET IT." I sincerely do not know how that guy remembered to breathe.) Of course, I just rubbed my hands gleefully, because my purposes are my own. In fact, I have other thoughts, but I suspect I ought to save them. Cough. I'm still struggling with a half-finished thing, though, so it could be a while.

BE WARNED THAT THE COMMENTS WILL BE A WILD FRONTIER OF SPOILERS, although I kind of hope people try to stay vague enough that others will still want to go see the movie so we have even more people to talk about it with. I'll post the spoiler linkspam on, I don't know, Monday? We can get into it then.



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And, as mentioned in that discussion, I found both a really good theory on what happened to the girls (a frustratingly good one), and also the reveal the author had originally intended... which made zero motherfucking sense.Sometimes, you don't want to know. Sometimes the answer is infinitely less interesting than the question

Damon Lindelof was on...something on NPR yesterday (whatever plays at 4:00. Afternoon Edition?) and he made that exact same point when discussing Lost. He said that sometimes the theory a viewer comes up with is so dear to them that it becomes impossible to accept the "real" one presented by the creator. He didn't seem pissed about that either, which I think is a good view for a writer to have, especially having worked on Lost and doing the Alien movies with all their complicated mythology. I think that allows him to get more into what you were talking about with the choices the characters make instead of a Big Defined Ending.

Yeah. And the tough part is, I understand that it's something of a cop-out to just turn everything into a Choose Your Own Adventure. Like, no, YOU come up with something, it's YOUR STORY. But at the same time--logically, what could the Engineers' reason for changing their minds possibly be? Something about human civilization has displeased them or pissed them off or something? Usually, in this genre, it ends up being, "You're destroying your planet and the rest of the galaxy can't let you do that." Granted, I felt like Janek was kind of making a leap when he was like, "This is a military installation and these are weapons of mass destruction!" Like, I don't even think he'd been off the ship at that point to see a whole lot of it for himself; I felt like we were kind of being informed of that because we as an audience needed to be. But what if that was just an unsupported conclusion he leapt to? What if the Engineers were going back to earth for some kind of Stage Two terraforming/evolution that had always been part of their plan? Or what if Janek was right, but it wasn't because they had "changed their minds"--rather, they'd thought of something better to start over with? In the sense that there was nothing wrong with humanity; they'd just come up with an even "better" species and wanted to reboot?

Maybe the real question is, would you like whatever answer they committed to? I tend to think "there's no answer" works here because it's built into the actual themes of the story, but also because there is just nothing they could have come up with that would have been enough. I mean, the secret of the universe is... secret. You know? The unfathomable is, by definition, unfathomable. And after the Lost experience--people spent however many years demanding answers and then yelling about the ones they got. I mean, maybe the solution there was "think of something better," but I can see how you might also come away from that with, "People think they want to know the secret of the island, but they hate having the mystery stripped away when you do."

(Deleted comment)
It's times like these when I realize I'm a REALLY twitchy suspicious odd man out.

I didn't think so much that it was a case of "they made us, now they are going to come to destroy us" so much as "let's set up this depot, central to several worlds we've seeded and cultivated in their most seedling, primitive stages, including planting a puzzle in several of their primitive cultures pointing to where we are, and on how to get to us.

"When they are advanced enough socially, technologically, and industrially to:

1. Solve the puzzle of where this system is with detailed long-range interplanetary scanning,

2, produce space vehicles capable of getting here faster than light,

3, have cybernetic systems advanced enough to allow them to open the door, go to the "my ripe-for-the-plucking home planet look like this" room, er, I mean the "map room", activate the map, and select the planetary system and planet with continental outlines that they recognize;

"THEN, my fellow Engineer Jockeys, we have a planet that is at the perfect state of ripeness for us to go there and enslave the industrialized culture for our own ends in the Space Jockey Empire. Maybe we need shipyards, or we take a number and get to be God Emperor of the next planet to have its residents come here and hit the 'Please colonize us!' bell.

"Since they've achieved a useful level of technology, We'd better take along several hundred thousand bioweapons in case they, for some reason, are cranky about us ruling them.

"This way we can subjugate the planet pretty much instantaneously, without destroying the industrial base of heavy industry, mines, and agriculture that we want: when the planet has seen reason, we use the tailored bioweapon nanovirus control system(or some other such MacGuffin) to kill or render dormant our weapons. You know, the control system we keep dropping the remote to at the freaking MOST inconvenient time possible, for us, personally, we really need to keep a better eye on that stuff, these monsters will KILL us, if we aren't careful.

"End result? Control of an industrialized planet populated with a billion or two (after pacification) of our semi-clever children that we will absolutely NOT get out of the way of: we were here first, it's our right. We made them, we can do what we want with them. 'Karma?' 'Hubris?' Quit making up words! Ooh! We've got a new fiefdom available! Let's get going! Frank! Be careful with that vase full of bioweapon! *smash* Oh, darn"

And this whole elaborate twilight-zoney idea is rendered moot by the comments from Scott you mention below, about editing out the idea of "Jesus was a Space Jockey" (or one of their sponsered men), and they got so fussed when we killed him that they decided to just wipe the slate and start over, I guess? Well, damn.

Couple of other things; Carbon MONoxide is hideously fatal in those concentrations (3.5%)in less than three minutes. Carbon DIoxide is merely stuffy, and you shouldn't spend more than a week in it. Threw me out of the movie every time they said it.

As for their amazingly brainless biologicals safety procedures, well, maybe they all had been given doses of "be really stupid and susceptible to peer pressure" meds on the trip out. Papa Weyland needs a new pair o' guinea pigs.

I did have a moment of Sceudenfruede when Shaggy and Scooby got lost and nobody missed them until they were doomed by their own special level of stupidity.

One last thing: Fassbender's David, aside from the "3-year-old's moral compass" thing, strikes me as about as close a humaniform robot in movies has been in similarity to Asimov's R Daneel Olivaw. First Law of Robotics aside, of course. I mean affect, appearance, outlook, interaction..../tangent

Reminds me of the joy of being in the Life On Mars/Ashes to Ashes fandom. We loved our theories! I still have theories!

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