Prometheus’ search for ultimate answers is ultimately unsatisfying. This is strange, since they have Ridley Scott directing, a stellar cast, and enough special effects to eat your face. Some mild spoilers follow, but hopefully the kind to make you think as you watch.
by Gage Skidmore
Ridley Scott speaks as Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender
mope about not being the main characters
Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s reimagining/prequel for the Alien franchise, and it’s interesting how advanced the special effects are compared to the first entry in the series, while the look is not as dark or claustrophobic. A cynic would say that early look was due to a lack of funds, but I think this is a real change in style—more of an overwhelming effect, compared to the early creepy realism. Although I’m not much for the haunted house in space kind of film, I prefer that earlier style, though I can’t argue against someone preferring the overwhelming.
The creature effects are more like the squirmy appendages seen in the 2011 prequel of The Thing (see my review) than the spiky look of the Alien movies. So, take your pick between squirmy and spikey. As a caution, pregnant women will not want to see this movie—I knew one who saw Aliens, and she didn’t appreciate it.
So, with all this spectacle going for it in the science fiction department, and all the nausea-inducing fun in the horror department, what was lacking? I never cared about the main characters, the scientists Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green), who are so idealistic the can’t think scientifically if their lives depended on it. They’re convinced aliens visited man in the past. Therefore, the aliens created us. Umm, that completely irrational act of non-reasoning should offend creationists, intelligent design types, and evolutionists alike. And they can’t get their arms around the possibility that these aliens might not be nice.
Oddly enough, I found the nonsympathetic characters far more compelling. The android David (Michael Fassbender) is fascinating and eerie at the same time as he takes risks no human would—the audience wants to scream “Don’t open that!” Fassbender could certainly have a future as a basketball-playing Peter O’Toole lookalike. The company rep Vickers (Charlize Theron) brings much-needed personal tension and steely determination to the story, and is really the only character that reminds me of Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies. (For my review of Theron’s film Young Adult, click here.)
This is a lesson for us aspiring writers. There’s no way Prometheus could have revolved around the android and the company rep. But they’re more interesting than the main characters. The temptation to spend too much time developing minor characters at the expense of the main ones can be overwhelming. Why? They don’t bear the same load as the main characters.
David and Vickers have no interest in devoting themselves to the betterment of humanity, unlike the idealistic scientists, so they’re free to pursue their own agendas, at the expense of those same idealists. Having fun with such characters can feel like a relief compared to the daily slog of developing characters with responsibilities and obligations. (For my short comments on how this happens to Disney movies and Kevin Sorbo’s Andromeda, click here.)
So unless you have multi-millions of dollars for a movie version of your novel, keep your nose to the grindstone and make sure your main characters are interesting as they labor under the loads you’ve imposed on them. And take it easy on the pregnant women.