I Don’t Blame Ridley Scott for Prometheus
This isn’t really a Prometheus review. By now you’ve most likely seen the movie, read reviews, or heard about it from your boys. This article is a rant with plenty of spoilers.
Does anyone honestly expect greatness from Sir Ridley Scott anymore? There’s no doubt he’s still a master craftsman who can create some truly stunning visuals. But for a while now he’s been more concerned with those visuals than with minor annoyances like story and characters. That’s why for his prequel to Alien Scott was cool working off of a script originally written by the guy who wrote The Darkest Hour (remember that one?), that was later touched up by Damon Lindelof. We all know Lindelof from Lost, which we still argue about, but that’s only because we still love it so much.
But I don’t think anyone loved Cowboys & Aliens, Lindelof’s only screenwriting credit before Prometheus. Granted, it took nine men to write Cowboys & Aliens (nine!), but Lindelof was one of them. Even in the hands of Jon Favreau (another excellent visual stylist) that movie sucked. So of course it made sense to give Darkest Hour guy and Lindelof the writing reigns to one of the most beloved franchises of all time.
Prometheus is supposed to be about “big questions” like where do humans come from and where do we go after we die. If you want a writer who can extrapolate for hours on end about this unanswerable crap then Lindelof is your man. But there has to be more to addressing these big questions than just having a character state “I’m interested in the big questions.” That doesn’t count as addressing the question. And unfortunately for Lindelof, in a two hour film you can’t get away with a magic cave and drinking from a mystical stream to answer your “big” questions. Apparently what you can get away with is nonsensical motivations, silly deus ex machina, technological anachronisms, and characters as deep as a bird bath.
It’s a stretch to even call the humans meandering around Prometheus “characters.” None of them make sense and they flim-flam their motivations from scene to scene. There are 17 people aboard the ship when only about seven of them have speaking roles. The only attempt to give them personalities is through their costumes: punk rock geologist! blasé biologist (who looks remarkably like our beloved Zachg)! Ildris Elba! There’s zero character development and the only decisions they make are designed to move the story forward regardless whether it makes sense for their character.
The biggest culprit in this case is Ildris Elba as the ship’s captain. I love Elba. After watching Luther, I went from calling him Stringer Bell to Ildris Elba. He is such a force on the screen it’s staggering sometimes. Anyway, throughout the entire movie he’s only concerned with two things: getting paid and getting laid. He couldn’t give two shits about science or answering any big questions or pretty much anyone else on the ship. Shortly after stating this to Noomi Rapace, he’s cool with sacrificing his life for the human race. *snap* just like that. To put it simply, it’s dumb screenwriting.
There’s plenty more to say on the stupidity of the script. For instance the Space Jockies made us, then decided they wanted to kill us for no apparent reason. Ildris Elba somehow figures out that LV 426 is a military installation and the metal vases are “weapons of mass destruction.” The technology in Prometheus, which takes place 33 years before Alien, is light years ahead of the Nostromo. Yes, yes, you could argue that Nostromo was a raggedy old cargo ship while the Prometheus was a trillion dollar investment, but that’s not good enough for me. The Minority Report touch screens and sleek X-2 costumes take it out of the Alien universe for me.
Now, I’m not mad that the big questions weren’t answered – Lindelof doesn’t have the answers. None of us do. But if the movie is supposed to be about these questions then at least discuss them. Prometheus doesn’t even do that. It’s just a stupid movie in a beautiful shell.
I don’t blame Scott. He at least provided the beautiful candy shell to savor.