I finally finished the marking. Yay!
I also just about managed to squeeze in a trip to see Prometheus (hoping to catch Snow White and the Huntsman later this week). I'm not as well up on the Alien franchise as I should be, but I did see the extended Alien at the cinema when it was re-released a few years ago and I'm a big fan of Ridley Scott, so I was excited. Major spoilers follow.
Prometheus is the name of the spaceship because it's basically a rule that spaceship names be ironically related to the plot in some way. During the Exposition Scene, the best known bit of the myth of Prometheus gets a direct shout-out from Weyland (the gorgeous Guy Pearce in layers of make-up - what a waste!), who tells everyone that Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to human beings to put them on a equal footing with said gods (and for this, he was chained to a rock and had his liver eaten every day).
It's the rest of Prometheus' story, though, that's much more relevant to the plot. Prometheus didn't just give humans fire - he created human beings from clay and is, therefore, the father of mankind. It's natural, then, that the ship that goes off in search of a race of alien beings Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw believes created us is called 'Prometheus'. Even more importantly, Prometheus is also a Titan, a deity a generation above the Olympian gods. Fellow Titan Cronus was in the habit of eating his children - i.e., destroying his creations - until Zeus escaped and defeated the Titans, imprisoning them in Tartarus. That is to say, the children (metaphorically) killed/destroyed/locked up the parents.
If you've seen the film, I probably don't need to spell out the relevance of this! There's a whole cycle of mutual destruction going on throughout the film, in which the aliens apparently created and then tried to destroy us, so we go and find them and destroy them, and in the process Shaw and Holloway (and David) create a new creature, which will go on to destroy more of our kind... It's a strange, pseudo-Freudian (without the sex part), really rather depressing view of the cycle of life, the exact opposite of the rather more positive trope of the sacrifices parents make for their children, though it's not as simple as the notion of parents killing their children either. Here, both generations are locked into an eternal struggle in which they all seem to want to kill each other. Except David the android, who sacrifices other people to try to save his 'father' (at least, I think that was the idea. To be honest, I'm pretty confused about why he infected Charlie. Which is unfortunate, as that's kind of the point of the film).
As if all this Greek-tragedy-esque ancient myth wasn't enough, this film is also the latest entry into the Hero Archaeologists genre. Noomi Rapace totally kicks ass as Shaw - the scene with her in the medical bed thingy was, for me, the best scene in the film, absolutely horrific and nail-bitingly tense. I remember reading a TV review a while back that suggested that for women, watching weird pregnancy stuff is the equivalent of a man watching a male character get kicked in his special place. I don't think this is true if you haven't actually had a baby - for me it's more like watching a man get kicked in his special place and thinking, 'gosh, that looks nasty, I'm glad it can't happen to me' - except the last part is replaced by '...I wonder if one day that will happen to me.' Still, either way, ew and the scene was fabulous.
More importantly, Rapace kicks ass in a believable way for an archaeologist. At no point does she do anything an archaeologist could not feasibly do - she has no whip and no gun, she doesn't fight anyone or fix a spaceship or suddenly turn out to be the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian princess. What she does is use quick thinking and intelligence, together with a conveniently impressive medical device (next best thing to an Emergency Medical Hologram, I swear I half-expected it to say 'Please state the nature of the medical emergency') to keep going and, somehow, keep faith. I also loved the film's solution to the problem of the Omnilingual Archaeologist (a variant of, and often over-lapping with, the Omnidisciplinary Scientist). David the android spends two years learning every ancient language on Earth because he's an android and he can do that, and then uses his android brain to speak what is presumably some form of Proto-Indo-European with the big alien dude. It works, it's logical, it solves the problem and nobody has to come with a ridiculously improbable skill set.
Oh, and Charlie Holloway, who's also an archaeologist, is really hot. Best Movie Archaeologists Ever.
I do have to nit-pick a little bit. During the Exposition Scene, Shaw and Holloway wax lyrical about the images of the aliens they've found spread all over the world from different periods. I'm not sure there was much of an ancient civilization on the Isle of Skye, but I think maybe that's the point - it's a new discovery, so I'll let it go. But the Sumerians, Babylonians, Hittites and Egyptians were not as solidly separated by time and space as the script implies. The Sumerians and Babylonians are both from Mesopotamia and the Hittites are from modern Turkey - they're separated by time, but not by space. And I'm pretty sure the ancient Egyptians, whose civilization lasted for millennia, traded with all of them. Still, it's totally worth a little inaccuracy to see pseudo-ancient images of funky alien dudes in that pretty hologram thing they have.
I didn't have room to mention these two. They were great as well.
I really enjoyed this film. It's not perfect - there were at least two moments early on where Brother and I said to each other 'that'll come in handy later', the plot devices were so awkwardly and uncomfortably telegraphed. It's pretty great though. It's steeped in the general awesomeness of great science fiction, which is sometimes good, sometimes bad. I suspect the similarity of the medical bed thingy's request to Voyager's Doctor is not a coincidence, and the computer cheerily saying 'Good morning David' definitely isn't. On the other hand, my absolute conviction that when Shaw finds herself in a tight spot towards the end, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy should chirp up and tell her at least life had been good to her so far is probably just my issue, and the fact that, in the final climatic and iconic moments, I was seeing Abed from Community mixed with Red Dwarf's Polymorph in my mind's eye is definitely my problem, and a testament to the enduring power of the first film. And I'm still unclear on what exactly David hoped to achieve in that crucial moment. But all in all, there is awesomeness here. Well worth the wait.
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