Article Title
Article Title

'Prometheus'

by Jake Mynatt

Existence is a river rushing us relentlessly toward the infinite blue which rests still and deep before us, the immeasurable void into which all that ever was has fallen. We seek comfort in questioning why we find ourselves on this journey, though the answer may terrify us. The bruised and broken seek this information as a frame for their suffering, without fear of uncovering its savage truth.

In recent weeks, Ronnie had spent many a sleepless and sober night staring off into the abyss of his own reflection, seeking such understanding. He’d been working the twelve steps, overstaying his welcome on step four: make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself. The marathon silences which followed had begun to test my resolve. I was used to some measure of background noise to cover my minor shufflings within the walls. Now, with all this standing still, I was getting some wicked charley horses in my legs.

I prefer a fate-laden Rube Goldberg approach to manipulating behavior, as direct intervention is rarely an arrow in my quiver. But in this prolonged emotional stalemate I decided that a more deliberate approach was warranted. I hacked into Ronnie’s media PC and placed the copy of Prometheus at the top of the playlist, leaving the television on so it would catch his eye when he next walked past. Ronnie had attempted to see the film upon its initial release, but his only recollection of the event was the misdemeanor ticket for smuggling a bottle of peach Schnapps into the theater. That was one of the first items on the moral inventory he had started filling out in his spiral notebook.

I was banking on the probability that he would write off the sudden appearance of the film as a divine clue from the God with whom he’d been asked to make acquaintance. If not, I was seriously considering spiking his next glass of orange juice with Everclear. Desperate men do desperate things in desperate times. Luckily, Ronnie’s bewilderment at how this movie came to be on his television was overcome by his interpreting it as one of life’s little second chances. He let out a small “fuck yeah” and settled in with a Costco-size tub of Chunky Monkey, a two-liter of Wild Cherry Pepsi. He tilted his head in thought as the 20th Century Fox horns blared and pulled out the notebook.

Item #22: I eat too much junk food.

As the film opens, a big pale hunk of loinclothed CGI alien beefcake is shown dissolving into the fertile waters of Earth’s distant past. Thankfully its otherworldly scream masked my own moans of relief from thigh spasms and back cramps. After a brief scene of some scientists gawking over cave paintings depicting giant stick figures pointing to a star configuration, we’re whisked away to the lonely corridors of the starship Prometheus.

Here we meet the film’s deepest, most interesting character in David, a robot played by Michael Fassbender with a cold smirk that hints at brewing humanity impossibly growing in his circuitry. David is programmed with just enough self-awareness to be intrigued by the questions of his own existence, but without the need to demand an answer that plagues the film’s hero, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace.

Item #23: I masturbated instead of paid attention to the first act of this movie.

Ronnie didn’t miss much, and my attentions had to be recalibrated to tune out the banana-fudge belching freak show of self-abuse happening just in front of the television. It was a pretty typical roll-call of the archetypes that would eventually be crapped out by some very satisfied alien creatures. The crew was listed as being 17 deep but really only focused on a handful. For some reason, in any story in which the crew has to be put into cryo-sleep for several years, they wait until after they wake them up to explain what the mission is. Here, they wake up to learn their mission is to prove a creationist myth.

This is a film that slathers itself early on with its central theme: who made us and why? If any genre were custom made to address that question, it’s sci-fi. Good sci-fi is about how human advancement helps shape our understanding of ourselves, ultimately saving or dooming us through our attempts to mimic the hand of God. Prometheus tees up this premise nicely. But, in the end, it’s all in the swing, and pretty soon the film shanks it off into the high weeds by the gator pond.

There is a genuine sense of wonder as the crew arrives at the ancient ruins on the alien world. That tension of the original Alien’s early scenes was recaptured using many of the same devices, such as the POV cameras and dark corridors dripping with humidity. But that all gives way to just more corridors. And more strange liquids. Some alien corpses are found, with their outfits suggesting the “space jockey” of the Alien mythos. But big friggin’ deal. There’s ceiling art suggesting the Xenomorph creature had done something here and, for some reason, this grisly defeat was captured in impressionist paintings by the vanquished ones dubbed “The Engineers,” but that’s about it. The place gets repetitive real quick.

Item #24: Left an upper-decker in Grandma’s toilet when I was in eighth grade.

That kind of came out of nowhere.

Then again, so did the subplot of David’s scheming to infect the crew. Infect with what? Well, it’s never really explained. The main alien threat of the movie seems to be a black goo, not unlike the “black oil” of X-Files lore, which can control minds. Here, it also spawns snake-like creatures and, when sexually transmitted, squid babies. It’s explained as some kind of bio-weapon being stockpiled by “The Engineers,” for sinister purposes that go equally under-explained. Nobody seems too curious about the alien infection, so explanations aren’t really sought.

For a movie that it built upon the tantalizing possibilities dreamt up three decades ago, Prometheus comes up devastatingly short. It’s as jarringly anti-climactic as it would have been if Ronnie’s twenty-six minute jerk-fest had ended in hiccups instead of a weak orgasm and short crying spell. But, with a screenplay co-written by Damon Lindelof (Lost), you can see the pattern emerge by the third act. There will be no answers. Only more questions with the hopes of a sequel to maybe start to point in the general direction of a hint. His stories would benefit from a little carnie showmanship. If you want me to pay to see the Wolf Boy, you have to at least give me a peek of the Siamese twins joined at the neck that I paid to see first.

Technically, the film is more underwhelming than disappointing. Its action scenes aren’t impressive, nor are the aliens particularly inspired. It’s all tentacles and goo like Cthulu’s pubic region. There are few stand-outs in the cast. Idris Alba, AKA Stringer Bell from The Wire is very good as the ship's captain Janek. He's not given much to do but he does it well. And Charlize Theron is effective as the Ice Queen Meredith Vickers. She's the company mouthpiece on the journey, there to let everyone know that they work for the Man. And everyone besides Dr. Shaw seems to be pretty cool with it. As much as "The Company" is an omnipresent obstacle of the film's franchises, I expected this one to give us a little more insight into it's origins and founder. Instead, we get Guy Pearce looking like a burn victim as the company patriarch.

At one point, David says the curious line “Every child wants to kill their parents.” It’s spoken with an off-handed delivery that suggests it’s an age-old truism. As much throw-away psychology as the line is, it does underscore the film’s strength of staying impressively true to the theme. What the hero wants is not survival but to understand. To be able to ask the question was the goal, regardless of the answer.

Item #25: Dad never knew I didn’t hate him.

Ronnie decided that he had breezed by steps one through three too quickly. Those were the steps which established his submission to a God of his understanding, and he didn’t understand God in the way he thought he did. Whether it was an omnipotent being who heard and ignored his anguished cries during his lowest moments or a psychological defense mechanism he had used to shift blame onto, he could not yet trust his sobriety to the whims of the unknown.

He dozed off peacefully for the first time in days as the credits rolled by. He'd take up the task of self discovery when he was ready and not a moment before. To see himself as capable of healing, he had to believe that there was a place for him in the world. He had to stop assuming that he existed only to suffer.

All in due time. Recovery is, as they say, a process, not an event.

Illustration courtesy of the author


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Jake Mynatt is a writer as Charles Manson is a singer/songwriter. By trade, he's a computer guy. He's married, and loving it so much he hopes to start dozens of secret families all over the country. That's just a joke, unless you're interested. Send headshots and a signed pre-nup to jake.mynatt [at] theinclusive.net