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So I saw Prometheus
msauvage purple
@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:


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?  



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.


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.


>> 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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"You're three months pregnant" - out of which orifice did David pull the "three months" figure? She's not pregnant with a human baby, so what's his basis for this timeline? In hindsight, one of the dumbest lines in the movie, I think. There's also that line that Neil Degrasse Tyson ripped apart on Twitter, where Vickers says they're X billion kilomers away from home and apparently that distance wouldn't even take you out of the solar system.

I got jerked out of the movie at the very beginning, when they did the "all these ancient civilizations had the same symbols" speech and I realized it was Alien Versus Spacejockey.

I want to like the movie more, but I keep on finding things to laugh at. Like how the zombie guy was pretending to be a rock outside of the hatch.

Ultimately, I'm still trying to piece it together in my head. I'm not sure how the opening scene fits in. At first I thought the spacejockeys "created" humans accidentally, when the dead guys DNA got into Earth's water, but then there wouldn't have been human civilizations coexisting with the SJs and creating those cave paintings. Now I'm just using the Stargate explanation: the humans rose up and drove the SJs out. Why that one guy decided to commit ritual suicide by tea ceremony, I don't know...

The visuals were really great, though. SJs especially, they looked exactly like how I would imagine a near-human, but awe-inspiring, bigger, uber being to look like.

Okay, since you bring it up, I am really confused by that opening scene, because I am seeing more and more people describe it as a suicide, and I don't know why I thought this, but I had this idea that the spaceship dropped this guy off and it was his job to bring life to the planet, by drinking the life goo and donating his DNA. That is to say, I thought he was there on purpose to do that. And then people were like, "What, he missed his ride so he killed himself? They dumped him? He was exiled?" And suddenly I'm like, I don't know where they're getting that from and yet I don't know why I didn't see that myself.

My theory: abortion.

That was my huge takeaway from the movie, like you mentioned before, the "omg our creation is horrible, what have I done, what have I done." Because one minute there's Shaw tearing up because she can't conceive (and at first I thought 'really? the one main girl is baby crazy, must we?') and then, maybe ten whole minutes later she's clutching at David and begging for an abortion. So she created life, it just didn't turn out the way she wanted.

...that is the best explanation I have heard so far.

Well, I can really see both points. It feels like it should be or was meant to be somehow part of a deliberate terraforming/lifeforming plan. On the other hand, the guy seemed really distressed after his body started breaking down. "Position yourself on top of waterfall and hope your remains fall onto fertile soil" doesn't really seem like that solid a life-creating plan.

Yeah, even given that I was seeing it that way, I was a little confused. Like, maybe he knew what he was supposed to do, but--well, it actually happens, your leg breaks off, it's not the best day of your life.

I also thought that he purposefully donated his DNA, but that it was evil alien life goo that would spread the xenomorphs everywhere and kill whatever planet he was on. The more I think about it, I thought the xenomorphs might tend the alien humans after taking them over Time-Machine-human-sheep-style, since they need hosts, and were brainwashing the beings into doing things like spreading them everywhere.

I saw it as a religious ritual of some sort- suicide, but suicide with a purpose behind it. He seemed distressed, yeah, but I'd be pretty distressed if the stuff I drank was melting my flesh- even if it was for the greater goooooooood.

I figured like you did, that it was his purpose to alter his DNA to create new life.

We were trying to make sense out of that scene, too. My husband suggested that it was to establish the effect of the black goo as a biological weapon--it broke down DNA--but then if that were the case, we couldn't figure out what the black goo had to do with the aliens or what exactly that Engineer was doing.

One more vote for it being his job to do that - I mean, OW, and all, even if you know it's coming.

But I was like "oh, right, DNA twisting about in the oceans of the world, we're taking a handwave answer to validating a combination of the primordial soup theory (Haldane in particular maybe?) plus the entire geothermal vent counterargument thing, got it."

Huh, I didn't read it as suicide at all. For one thing, that's a long-ass way to travel to kill yourself, and a rather complex way to do it as well. He didn't seem to miss his ride at all -- the saucer seemed, to me, to be hovering nearby intentionally, not like "oops, we got the headcount wrong." It all read as an intentional seeding of DNA to me.

The DNA seeding also seemed like an intentionally long term plan, as well. Like, ok, we're sprinkling our DNA into the water, and it will turn into whatever it turns into. The waterfall area seemed especially juicy, so that's where they scattered the seeds, as it were.

My real problem with that scene is that it read (to me) like a needlessly painful way to go about things. Why not just use some pre-squeezed DNA juice, instead of setting it up so that someone has to kill himself via disintegration? A point they ultimately agree with, I guess, since Round 2 used jars of ooze.

I saw it as the Alien-universe version of human evolution. Basically, the idea that we had this rich nutrient soup and through some electricity got some amino acid strings going and they build and build and over millions of years we get humans. Only in this universe, it isn't lightning that creates the first signs of life, an alien comes around and breaks down his own DNA to contribute to the primordial soup. I was noticing a lot of creationism vs. evolution themes which I think is why it clicked that way for me.

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