PROMETHEUS: A Grim Future
Saw PROMETHEUS today. I found it visually stunning but not very original and filled with a set of characters none of whom I could scrounge up any interest in or sympathy for (with maybe one exception explained later). The references to past sci-fi films were frequent and annoying as in, couldn't you think of *anything* new here?
But what really got to me was the broader picture, the broader statement about the future. We are not in Kansas anymore, where Kansas was the hope- filled, optimistic '60s both in reality (Apollo program, filled with people who had The Right Stuff) and fiction (2001, Star Trek).
One of the core features of, perhaps the core feature of, sci-fi film depictions 60s and 70s was the ensemble: the crew of Star Trek, the team of scientists in ANDROMEDA STRAIN, even the Nostromo crew of the original ALIEN. They were real, well-rounded characters, and they worked together, lived together, went through it all together, and formed a palpable camraderie. You wanted to cheer them on, and you hoped they got through whatever scrape they found themselves in.
And later, with with films like CONTACT, we start seeing politics and scheming and backstabbing and ambition and hubris and all sorts of factors coming into play, including religious fanaticism, to spoil everything and not just chip away but sledgehammer away the foundation we saw in the 60s and 70s. (Perhaps it has something to do with filmed science fiction's transition from science fiction to sci-fi/horror -- more on that in a minute.)
By the time we get to movies like SUNSHINE it was not hard for a viewer to wonder, what the hell happened? How could such important space missions have selected such a whiny, bratty, spoiled, entitled, grumpy, scheming, incompetent, emotional, unstable, and ultimately stupid crew? It's like the Hollywood producers of the horror films, which always depict young stupid coeds in danger, took those characters and have inserted them into the science fiction stories.
And now we have PROMETHEUS, in which with the exception of Michael Fassbinder's character, nobody is interesting or likeable, nobody is trustable, the casting criteria seems to have been, pick stars most likely to attract the TWILIGHT audience. (I do have some sympathy for the casting directors, as they sure weren't given anything but cardboard characters to cast.) Poor Idris Alba's talents are wasted here in a role where he has nowhere to go, and ultimately does something that didn't make any sense to me (except make me think of another movie, INDEPENDENCE DAY). Why the hell a company would build a trillion-dollar spaceship for a huge mission of discovery and then populate its crew with a bunch of unreliable argumentative losers right out of IDIOCRACY? Ridley Scott likes unreliable characters: I kept thinking this is THELMA AND LOUISE meets ALIEN: dumb people driven to do dumb things without any forethought or protocol or safety procedures.
And finally we have yet another movie with the grim future of the megacorporation. We've covered this territory of huge evil corporations before (BLADE RUNNER's Tyrell Corp, CONTACT's Hadden Corp, AVATAR's RDA Corp). Do we have Philip K. Dick to thank for this trend? I don't know. But in the era of SpaceX, which I personally am uneasy about, PROMETHEUS comes across almost as a statement of guilt, that we as a society are finished, we blew it, we've handed it all over to the corporations and the whims of the billionaires (or perhaps trillionaires). Maybe that's what Ridley Scott is trying to say: privatize things and things will only get worse, precious natural resources will be used up, squandered, and dumb incompetent people will be given decision-making authority. Ugh.
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