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Having let Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” the proper time to pupate, I began scanning through metacritic.com as I ruminated over some of the film’s more interesting mythological explorations.
I’ve been surprised by how the film’s ideas have evolved the more I’ve thought about them. Unlike so many critics that either see a film several times or write from the gut after one initial viewing, I’ve always found that letting a movie sit for a week or two allows the images the proper time to infiltrate your daily routine, or maybe even your dreams depending on their personal impact. Only then can you know how many thumbs to give it. But I guess that’s what makes me an amateur.
The night after seeing “Prometheus” I thought of things slithering down my throat, a trademark of Ridley Scott’s work in the genre. There is one scene in particular where two pointless crew members attempt to make first contact and it ends up being their last. It thrills in the way of the original “Alien,” but it’s been nearly two weeks and already the sudden fright of their deaths has worn off. Now my relationship with “Prometheus” revolves around those enormous, pale, bald, well-built men in the sky. I’ve thought about them most nights as Ridley Scott has depicted them.
The truth of our origin might not be as exciting as the prospect. To me, life has always read like a poem. It’s comprised of bits and pieces of profound beauty and lines that for whatever reasons don’t seem to resonate. We’re all different though. Some believe that there is a God, and that He is divine. I happen to feel otherwise, but sometimes I get the suspicion that He might be watching me. I don’t much care whether Ridley Scott believes in God either. What he offers us with “Prometheus” is a contrarian glimpse of a galaxy we will likely never understand, and this is where his film draws its power.
I’ve never seen a film like “Prometheus.” As much as I was disappointed when our Engineers woke up and started ripping off heads, I could see why they would. In a summer filled with alien films in the mold of “Transformers,” how could they not be disappointed? “Avengers,” is one of said films, and it’s already earned over $1,000,000,000.00 worldwide. I like to write the whole number out like that with all its zeroes and decimal places lest we forget just how much money that really is. “Prometheus” is the antithesis of Michael Bay, all the special effects and suspense we crave in a summer blockbuster with the ideas to make it great science fiction. It’s a movie that’s getting at something much higher on the thought-chain than beautiful pop stars in Camo costumes.
I recently watched Ridley Scott’s 1979 film, “Alien” on DVD. It was late at night, as it should be watched, and I thought of the voices on metacritic. I kept reading, “Prometheus is no Alien,” and of course it isn’t. The original impact of “Alien” could never be duplicated because it is not 1979. One might imagine that goes without saying, yet some mainstream critics seemed disappointed that Ridley Scott could not muster the suspense and violence necessary to shock and awe in the Age of the Human Centipede. Maybe we all had simply watched the trailer too many times in anticipation.
In many ways I enjoyed “Prometheus” more than “Alien.” I didn’t realize it till days after viewing it, but the wealth of ideas in Ridley Scott’s 2012 film trump the sheer horror of “Alien.” And horror always dissipates over time. The man in the rubber suit can only be the most frightening thing in cinematic history for so long.
I suspect that maybe “Alien” has ideas that today might be overlooked: the sequence in which Ash is revealed to be an android, the crew’s ongoing consultation with a supercomputer they call “Mother,” which is eerily similar to Zooey Deschanel asking her iPhone if it’s raining, and then there’s private enterprise attempting to profit on the depths of space, these are all provocative and powerful, but none of them are as imaginative and all-encompassing as the conversation happening in “Prometheus.” There is no God in “Alien,” only long, dark corridors and the coldness of space. There is that too, in “Prometheus,” but also humanity’s engineers and parables to the greater processes of life.
What struck me most of all from “Prometheus” was the idea that the infectious organisms that inevitably give birth to the series’ monsters have been stored below ground like atomic weaponry. A character makes the proclamation that there was once life on planet LV-423, but the inhabitants have since fled because the power of the weapon they created was beyond their control. There are several parables to be read here, but the one I find most intriguing is that of God with the life He’s created. The history of humanity has shown us that eventually life is a threat to other existence. An analogy for this same process can be found in The Old Testament in the story of Noah. Flood was the cure.
“Prometheus” reads as Ridley Scott’s The Creation of Adam. Michelangelo had imagined Him with a white beard, long hair, and a pink robe.
God’s depiction is at the discretion of the artist.