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June 12, 2012

Chained to a rock with SPOILERS eating your liver
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:41 PM *

As requested, have a thread for discussing Prometheus. I haven’t seen it, but I’m afraid that Martin did and didn’t like it.:

Dissenting opinions welcome. Agreement welcome. Spoilers welcome. Thread drift discouraged.

Comments on Chained to a rock with SPOILERS eating your liver:
#1 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 02:04 PM:

I haven't seen it either, but I've read a few entertaining reviews:


#2 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 02:12 PM:

I thought it was good, not great, but close enough to great to be really frustrating. It's also a movie I spent a lot of time thinking about; initially with questions like "is that a huge plot hole, or did I just miss the explanation?" Or, "What WAS that?"

I think part of the problem is that it's like a duet between Science Fiction ("Explain that! Make me understand!" ) and Horror ("Don't think! Run!")

Another part of the problem is, yes, it explains the mantlepiece.

But I think the reason I'm standing by *this* movie is... Charlie's Angels. There is a scene in Charlie's Angels where Drew Barrymore wants to secretly show someone that someone else is not to be trusted. She takes a bunch of scrabble tiles, spells out ENEMY. Runs her finger over them. Lip synchs "ENEMY". The audience is assumed to require more prompting than Helen Keller to figure things out, and the ENEMY is in the room watching this subliterate mime play out. Dumb, insulting, dumb, didn't work, not funny, and dumb.

Figuring out what "Prometheus" was trying to tell me was INTERESTING.

Even if it did get a lot of things painfully, frustratingly wrong.

#3 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 02:19 PM:

"It sucks."
- George RR Martin

"Prometheus: dumbest spaceship crew since the Icarus."
- Carrie Vaughn

Not exactly the kind of comments that make me want to rush to the multiplex.

#4 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 02:24 PM:

I prefer to think it shows you the gun, then proceeds to show you a bunch of idiots failing in various horrific ways to understand the mantlepiece.

I came away thinking the only characters in the film for whom I felt any empathy at all were the two bridge crewmen who have the running bet with each other about what the mission was really all about. I loved those guys, and their deaths were the only honorable ones in the film. Each of the other characters was, in one way or another (and in some cases, multiple awful ways), a complete tool.

In other words, it worked for me as a horror film. Not great science fiction, but lovely horror.

#5 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 02:58 PM:

I should also express my view that I think PROMETHEUS may be an excellent example of a film where the themes intended by the director— and maybe even the screenwriters, for all I know— are A Festering Pile Of Crap™, which should all be ignored in favor of better and alternative interpretations, e.g. one where the SpaceJockey/Engineer people are just peons, enthralled to the xenomorphs, in the same way that the androids are enthralled to the humans.

#6 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 03:47 PM:

It is a lot better at being horror than SF.

#7 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 04:08 PM:

It was entertaining to watch. It was good to look at. Its attempts to be deep were, alas, laughable, and its plot holes big enough to drive a planet through.

Rather like Avatar, really. In a sense, this is Ridley trying to do an Avatar with the Aliens franchise, and falling similarly flat on anything but a superficial level.

#8 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 04:13 PM:

I want to see it because they used Iceland to stand in for the alien planet to a large extent.

..I've got my priorities in order obviously

#9 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 04:14 PM:

I haven't seen Prometheus yet, but all the reviews and comments I've read to date are holding it up to Alien and Aliens for one-to-one comparison. That's unfortunate, because Alien and Aliens are each their own story doing their own story-thing. It's like the reviewers had an image of what they wanted to see and are ticked off that Prometheus didn't deliver their desired Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Really, the only thing Alien and Aliens have in common are Ripley, the planet and the type of alien involved. Everything else is very different - up to and including Ripley's motivations. (I just got done with a back-to-back re-watch of Alien and Aliens.

Unlike the negative reviews for Snow White and the Huntsman, which all pan the movie in the same way for the same reasons, the negative reviews of Prometheus have all harped on different things. Being a veteran of several critique groups, I've gotten to the place where I can extrapolate a persons biases about entertainment values based on their response to a story. It's why I read a bunch of reviews from different sources before I go to see a movie I'm ambivalent about. If everyone starts from a different place and hate it equally for the same reasons, I find that the movie not worth watching. If everyone starts from a different place and hates a movie for different reasons, I find I will like the movie.

I have the sinking sensation that if Prometheus does well enough, we've got two more films coming that will, when taken together, form an origin story trilogy for the Alien universe. I base this prediction on Hollywood's love of series and remakes and Marvel Studios' success with origin story-type movies plus this interview-- http://www.shocktillyoudrop.com/news/167755-exclusive-interview-prometheus-screenwriter-jon-spaihts.

So, yeah, there may be a gun that didn't get fired, but if this is the first movie in an origin-story trilogy, that would explain why the movie described the mantle instead. I call it Movie Serialization or Bad Trilogy Writing, depending on how annoyed I am.

FWIW, I've now read two reviews/comments where people with different biases liked the same bits of the movie -- for totally different reasons. I'll definitely watch this one in the theater.

#10 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 04:25 PM:

Are there two types of black goo? I ask because there was goo all over the floor, and David took a jar full of glass bullet things with goo in them, and carefully fed a tiny bit of that goo to Dr. Boyfriend. (checks IMDB) Charlie Holloway. It seems a lot of trouble to go through if there's just one type of goo. Was there meant to be a difference between the two types?

Ow. My brain. I just remembered that there were worms all over the place in the room with the Xenomorph Gawd sculputure and the biologist didn't even notice them.

Why do I have this need to get past the obvious stupid to try and come up with reasons why the veiled stupid is not, in fact, stupid?

It's like my insistence that the Neil DeGrasse Tyson complaint ("half a billion miles") was not bad science on the director's part but bad rhetoric on the character's part.

#11 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 04:35 PM:

Sorry for multiposting:
Victoria@9 said all the reviews and comments I've read to date are holding it up to Alien and Aliens for one-to-one comparison.

There are parts of Prometheus that are, in fact, VERY similar to parts of Alien and Aliens. This is a film that sometimes feels like two different, interleaved, movies.

#12 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 05:02 PM:

I like my stories to be internally consistent, which, "Prometheus" is, alas, not.

I thought it was visually spectacular and worth seeing in 3D because it was filmed in 3D & that technology enhanced the viewing experience (as opposed to some examples that were more, "Look at me, I'm 3D!").

Unfortunately, the story was a waste of good actors. Michael Fassbender was excellent as the android & it seemed like the rest of the cast (who can act) tried to do as much as they could with the material on hand. But the script was bad. Character actions were both stupid & inconsistent. It made very little sense.

When it got to the final segment with the doughnuty spaceship crashing and rolling toward the survivors, and instead of running sideways (perpendicular to the direction the ship was crashing), the survivors instead ran away in the same direction. At that stage, it was just another datum that the characters were indeed too stupid to live.

#13 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 05:32 PM:

That interview with one of the screenwriters goes some way toward explaining what may have gone off the rails: apparently, there was a screenwriter who thought he was writing a trilogy of science-fiction thrillers, until the venerated director-king brought in a new co-writer to the team who did something mysterious that resulted in the final script for the first installment. Hrmf.

Somebody please stop Ridley Scott before he destroys Blade Runner.

#14 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 06:16 PM:

jhwoodyatt @ #13

I have to admit that my Willing Suspension of Disbelief is powered by a tractor-beam like device with a variety of settings and programmable switches. This is in place of the usual hempen device.*

Before buying my movie ticket, I program my expectations for the movie into my WSOD device according to information gleaned from trailers. "Genre" is a drop-down list on the control panel. "Original Screenplay/Based On" is a radio button option. Whether or not I've been exposed to the original work is a context-sensitive yes/no function. I've also got slide bars for the "Tragedy/Comedy" and "Plausible/Unrealistic" scales. My last factory installed pre-set has to do with "flavor" and the "corny/cheesy/sweet/bitter/etc" options are all check boxes. The programmable switches are for things like "fan-girl quotient", "geek rating", "known quantities of direction/acting/screenwriting/production company" and "administrative crossover in the writer/producer/director functionality."

In short, I know what my expectations before going in. Whether or not I like the movie depends on how well it lives up to its advertising and my expectations. I'm a compulsive reader/movie goer with eccentric tastes. I get equal joy from a bad sci-fi movie as I do from a good sci-fi movie as long as my expectations are met. (and Bad Sci Fi is perfectly legitimate genre in my personal lexicon.)


----
*as in: "swing", "highwire", "trip hazzard", "suspended from the neck until dead" and "using the body as a jump rope"

#15 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 06:22 PM:

@14: Must...not...commit...RRRRR...html....

#16 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 06:36 PM:

Victoria@9: I've heard that criticism-of-the-criticism a few times myself, and I find it puzzling. I've complained that the dialogue was clunky, the characters dull, the action sequences uninspired, and the plot nonsensical, only to be told that "it's not Alien 5," which strikes me as a bit non sequitur.

I suppose it's true that Aliens was a better picture in each of those ways, but so were any number of other pictures such as, to choose an example not at all at random, Lawrence of Arabia. (Was that a good idea? Sometimes an homage builds good will with the audience, but sometimes it just reminds us that we could instead be watching a much better movie.) Aliens isn't the only picture that did a way better job of quickly introducing a bunch of characters. Pick any good war movie or heist picture and it's likely to have a scene that does the job way better than Prometheus.

Ultimately, for me the picture fails in precisely the same way that Event Horizon did: I wanted SF or an action picture and got a horror picture. I don't know if it's good Horror--I don't know that genre very well--but as either SF or an action picture, it failed completely.

#17 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 08:08 PM:

"Prometheus: it shows you Chekhov’s gun, and then proceeds to explain the mantlepiece."

Holy cow, yes, exactly this.

I managed expectations. I divorced my viewing from any knowledge of and affection for the previous movies. My criticisms of Prometheus (which keep increasing, the more I think about it, so I'm trying to stop thinking about it), are as a workable movie all on its own. That is, it doesn't work.

And my expectations were actually raised by the movie itself, in a couple of scenes early on, that led me to think I was going to get one kind of story -- I absolutely loved loved loved the sequence of David spending time alone on the ship while the humans are in cryo sleep. This convinced me that the story was going to be about David, his growth, his arc, his mistakes, his redemption.

Instead, I got the mantlepiece, and a character who was suddenly written to be both Ash and Bishop in alternating scenes, for no good reason. A waste of Fassbender's talents, really.

Over lunch today, my friend and I rewrote the movie to be about David, so it's okay now. In my head.

#18 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 11:09 PM:

Laertes @ 16
I won't be having your problem, then. Everything I've seen, trailer wise, made me think: Horror in a SF setting, and old-school horror at that. The kind that involves slowly building tension and timing, not the modern horror that involves blood and gore to be scary. In fact, all the trailers and snippets and images make me think the movie's premise is "holy grail hunters find unkillable monsters instead of God." In contrast, Alien is also old-school horror, of the haunted house type, and the premise is "why it's a good idea to follow quarrantine procedures at all costs up to and including executing the first person who breaks them." The first time I watched it (as a teen), Alien scared the bejesus out of me. The second time (last week), I wasn't scared, but I was fascinated by the timing and worldbuilding and how well it held up over the decades.

Carrie V @17
That's why my expectations are set low. Everything I've seen says "first of a three part series, cliffhanger ahead."

#19 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2012, 11:36 PM:

Jaque @ 15
After replying to Carrie V and Laertes, I forgot to add the "subgenre" and "crossover genre" drop down lists with a "collate expectations" toggle button on the factory presets.

WSOD Mark I has "Stand Alone/Trillogy/Series Expectation Slide" as a field modification. WSOD Mark II has it as a factory installed option. Both versions have a cupboard filled with rope (and looking a lot like the old-fashioned fire hoses) with "break glass in case of power failure" painted on the glass. The hangman's cross tree swings out of the cabinet's frame.

My techs are still working on the WSOD Mark III which, ideally, is the size of Dr. Who's sonic screwdriver. Switch blade optional. I may have to settle for a Star Trek: TOS tricorder style device and monofillament grapple.

#20 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 12:45 AM:

Prometheus: How many things can we have bursting out of other things in one movie?

But Prometheus does improve the state of the art within Alien-franchise movies: in two instances it has things bursting into other things.

#21 ::: HankP ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 03:55 AM:

I enjoyed the movie. I thought all the technical aspects of cinematography and special effects wee excellent, and the acting was generally very good.

The script does have some problems, but they seem to be the problems that arise when you switch from a stand alone movie to a series of two (or three) movies. It doesn't seem that the original story was structured for multiple installments, and therefore this movie ended with several loose threads and most of the major issues unresolved. We won't know until the second (or third) installment whether the entire story actually hangs together and makes sense.

Which is unfortunate, I would have preferred a tightened up 3 hour movie to two more leisurely paced 2 hour movies.

#22 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 06:26 AM:

Cleolinda has done a Movies in 15 Minutes take on it, not unlike the one in Avram's first link but with more pointing out what people's lines boil down to.

"SHAW: ISN'T ANYONE GOING TO ASK WHY I'M IN MY UNDERBANDAGES AND COVERED IN BLOOD?

WEYLAND: Dr. Shaw! How lovely to see you! I will deign to inquire after your health after your Engineers have made me eternally young, just like you said they would.

SHAW: I never actually said--

WEYLAND: YES YOU DID, OR I WOULD NOT HAVE SPENT A TRILLION DOLLARS TO COME OUT HERE AND DIE ON THIS HELLISH ROCK

SHAW: But we were wrong about the Engineers! So wrong! Previously undiscovered levels of wrong!

WEYLAND: Now, now, you don't know that. You only know that your research team was too stupid to live. Let's go talk to the sleeping Engineer that David found. You might even find some deleted scenes that would explain everything in one of those urns.

SHAW [sighing]: … I'll go put on my suit."

#23 ::: IreneD ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 07:38 AM:

@ Sandy B (#2):

"I think part of the problem is that it's like a duet between Science Fiction ("Explain that! Make me understand!") and Horror ("Don't think! Run!")"

My impression of the film is that it's more a duel than a duet...

#24 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 10:31 AM:

Hm. Sounds like I would be as frustrated by Prometheus as I was by LOST, which I kept thinking was set up to be good chewy SF and/or Mystery but turned out to be just Woo Woo.

#25 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 10:57 AM:

Janet @ 24... I've been told the creator of "Lost" was involved in the writing of "Prometheus". I gave up on the former after it became obvious it was making things up as it went.

#26 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 11:19 AM:

Serge @25, the creator of "Lost" was, in fact, the co-writer I mentioned above, which the venerated director-king brought into the team to tweak the script and "work on the mythology" in some underspecified ways. Hence, my ongoing despair over the prospects for the sequel to Blade Runner in the hands of said venerated director-king.

#27 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 11:35 AM:

I, too, have also not seen this as well, and will be waiting for the BluRay.

I love Aliens ever since I saw it back whenever at the cinema, but Alien always annoyed me with the "split up and look for the cat" horror movie routine.

If the crew in Prometheus act in a "do something stupid to advance the plot" way, I may just skip the bluray.

#28 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 11:47 AM:

Even as I write, a team of characters is assembling to fanfic this mess into something not quite batshit inane.

#29 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 01:48 PM:
Cleolinda has done a Movies in 15 Minutes take on it....

You just made my day. *runs off to read it*

#30 ::: astronautgo ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 02:04 PM:

Niall McAuley @27:
If the crew in Prometheus act in a "do something stupid to advance the plot" way...

They act so consistently in that way that I was thinking it might have been a condition for recruitment.

#31 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 02:43 PM:

@Victoria #18

I don't know what qualities you consider essential to old-school horror, but I found this Alien much gorier and grosser than previous ones, and far less tense and atmospheric. On the "horror" scale, I'd give it a 4 (Every "horror" moment was "I know something is going to startle me sometime in the next 30 seconds. Oh, there it is. I am quite startled"). On the "squick" scale of showing me gross things that bother me, however, it was a 7-8. I don't usually go to see any movie I would consider an 8 or above.

(Things that bother me include: stuff under your skin, damage to eyes, drawn-out-obviously-painful acid burns, etc.)

In part the film lacked tension because the only character I gave a damn about was a literal robot, and since he wasn't horrified I wasn't horrified.

Ok, I liked the captain and the bridge crew too, but they didn't go down and muck about in the monster pool much. They kept all the most likeable and interesting characters firmly out of harm's way, which seriously diminished any real fear or tension I might have felt.

That said, Fassbender's performance and the character of David were both amazing. I could watch a two hour movie of nothing but David playing bicycle basketball with himself and quoting Lawrence of Arabia. Thinking back on the movie, I remember every scene that had him in it with delight, while the rest of the movie is a dull grey blur.

This is my main complaint: in past Alien movies, I've felt a connection to most if not all of the people in peril, even if they were jerks. Here, I felt nothing for most of them.

#32 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 02:45 PM:

Carrie V. @17: Over lunch today, my friend and I rewrote the movie to be about David, so it's okay now. In my head.

Huh. This caused a thought to crystalize in my head: Given current Internet Fan Mash-up culture:

Write and film a movie in the traditional manner. However, in addition to putting out your version of the movie, you also make available all the raw footage, plus disembodied musical score (maybe a foley library for good measure), with the explicit purpose of letting others post their own versions of the movie.

#33 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 02:51 PM:

Victoria @19: My techs are still working on the WSOD Mark III which, ideally, is the size of Dr. Who's sonic screwdriver. Switch blade optional. I may have to settle for a Star Trek: TOS tricorder style device and monofillament grapple.

Hm. I would have thought the whole thing could be implemented in software. Or perhaps a pair of those VR goggles. (Though I like the idea of a switch blade.) (What can I say, I'm having an Attitude this week.)

#34 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 02:53 PM:

Leah Miller #31:

I thought that the musical score was at least partly to blame: oh look, tension music is swelling, must be a startle moment coming up shortly.

#35 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 02:54 PM:

"Prometheus: it shows you Chekhov’s gun, and then proceeds to explain the mantlepiece."

So, is it at least an interesting mantlepiece?

#36 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 03:14 PM:

Soon Lee @34

I agree about the music.

When I was eight or nine, I woke up to an ominous resonance, weird noises thudding throughout the house. I went downstairs to see what was going on.

My Dad was watching Alien; downstairs, in a room that wasn't even directly below mine. Still, that soundtrack spread through the house. It wasn't loud, it was just... omnipresent. When he saw me enter the room, he quickly shooed me away.

"This is a scary movie... I'll turn it down, go to bed."

I could tell it was scary just by looking at the screen for a few seconds, and by the way the music was just... everywhere. I didn't see any aliens, of course, just the expressions on the characters' faces as I left. He must have adjusted the settings on the TV and stereo to turn the bass down to nil, and I was able to go to sleep. Still, for years before I ever saw it, I held Alien up as a masterpiece of horror, because of what it could accomplish with a few sustained notes and a poorly-lit corridor.

#37 ::: Keith Edwards ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 03:39 PM:

I decided to forgo seeing Prometheus when I discovered that Damon Lindelof was called in to rewrite the script. Here was a writer who had 6 seasons to make Lost make sense and all he could come up with was the world's biggest butt plug.

I know it's possible to tell Big Stories in 2 hours, but the current crop of Hollywood Hacks can't even manage little stories without wasting my time (though maybe some of them saw The Avengers and went, "Oh, that's how yo do that!" but I'm not holding my breath).

(I'll save my rant about how Prometheus gets on every screen on the planet but I have to wait 3 weeks for Moonrise Kingdom to come to one screen within 20 miles of my house.)

#38 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 04:15 PM:

Jacque @32:

While this will not be formally allowed, I have no doubt that once the National Theatre's Frankenstein is released on DVD (later this year, iirc), the fan community will quickly create an all Cumberbatch and all Miller versions, by cobbling bits of the two different versions together. It will be imperfect, of course, since they appear in scenes together, but I expect it will be done anyway.

(in an odd moment, I realized the other day that the woman who plays Victor's fiancee/wife is the woman who plays Calypso in Pirates of the Carribbean. I had been trying to remember where I knew her face/voice from . . . .)

(Oh, the box arrived and was greeted with much delight. The teen stated her intent to thank you, but since she is in the middle of finals and statewides, may not yet have gotten around to it.)

#39 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 04:41 PM:

Astronautgo@30: Took the words out of my mouth.

The surface story is bad. The underlying story is a different, smarter, kind of bad. But there are points within it that are wonderful. I want there to be a religion where the devil is a Xenomorph, and I want to visit [carefully] that temple.

I know thread drift is discouraged, but what would a bad horror movie of today look like to an audience from, say, 1982? "Well, they've got these walkie-talkie/computers. The cops are using little black plastic guns. All the TVs are huge and flat. But people still find out there's a dinosaur in the lake and go have sex on the dock anyway."

#40 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 05:01 PM:

Y'know, thank you, everyone. I now have no inclination, none at all, to see this movie. I notice that Roger Ebert describes it as "a seamless blend of story, special effects and pitch-perfect casting". I always did think that Siskel had a better take on most movies anyway.

#41 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 05:01 PM:

Sandy B (39): Why don't you drop that question in the open thread?

#42 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2012, 06:28 PM:

Melissa Singer @38: Yes, I was quite enthusiastically (verging into gibberingly) thanked. I was very much gratified.

Good to find the item a Proper Home.

#43 ::: Jim Lund ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 12:06 AM:

Prometheus has all the footage to be a great movie--beautiful sets, some good action, bits of good acting.

I suspect that by cutting and pasting and using voiceovers to write a new script a good movie could be made. Heck, it is bad enough that a con panel could improvise a better story. It will need a new title, too.

#44 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 12:13 AM:

Perhaps Prometheus Unbound?

#45 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 04:32 AM:

From the spoilers I've read, it's more Pandora than Prometheus, but James Cameron used Pandora just recently...

#46 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 05:15 AM:

I remember stepping out into the daylight, still in a shocked state, after watching Alien, all those years ago. I took refuge in a seedy side-street second hand bookshop which had a few shelves of old SF, and back room crammed with porn meant for the sailors of the fishing fleet.

Yes, it was a horror movie, but it wasn't the modern stupidity horror. The crew of the Nostromo didn't feel contrived. Maybe not fishermen, but you could half-imagine them walking down Freeman Street from the docks. And what they did wrong was the stupidity of being out of their depth. It was as if they had expected The Perfect Storm and found themselves in King Kong.

And Ripley, by Hollywood casting standards, was rather plain.

I can't say that Alien, or Aliens had great stories but the scripts, the design, the whole things, was solid. And we all know that we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

This is a thinly disguised remake of the idea, on incredibly flimsy foundations of film-making craft. They can handle the machines, maybe. As for people...

#47 ::: Nonentity ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 08:43 AM:

Older @40: Between that and the recurring "video games can't be art" thing, I'm pretty solidly convinced Ebert has decided blatant trolling is the only way to keep himself relevant.

#48 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 10:52 AM:

Jacque @ 33 Hm. I would have thought the whole thing could be implemented in software. Or perhaps a pair of those VR goggles. (Though I like the idea of a switch blade.) (What can I say, I'm having an Attitude this week.)

Technically, it's already implemented as software. Unless you consider the workings of my gray matter to be firmware. Right now, I'm developing a proposal for holding a "make shop" at Octopodicon in Oklahoma City in October. So my imagination is running to gadgetry and gears in meatspace right now. Ideally it wouldn't be VR goggles, though. More like a contact (a la MI:4) where I can change the setting with a series of eye twitches and rapid blinks.

VR Goggles would be Mark V. In my head Mark I looks like a room sized Babbage calculating machine, Mark II looks like a wall sized mainframe unit without the punch cards, Mark III being the tricorder, Mark IV the sonic screw driver and Mark VI is the programmable contact.

I would love, love, love to see a HTML mockup, though. (bats eyes shamelessly.) I'm good at meatspace hacks, I haven't taken the time to learn how to do programming hacks.

As for the switchblade... I have attitude every week.

#49 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 01:30 PM:

Dave Bell @46: Yes, it was a horror movie, but it wasn't the modern stupidity horror.

Er...it wasn't? I seem to remember comments on the order of "those people wouldn't have survived a week in my old neighborhood." Been a long time since I've seen it, but I vaguely recall people running off by themselves. "No! Don't go in there by yourself, you idiot!?"

I don't, in general, do horror—or even "thrillers," really, without compelling motivation.

Laertes's @16: I wanted SF or an action picture and got a horror picture put me in mind of my experience with Alien. I went in expecting SF, and by the time I'd worked out what I'd gotten, I was stuck. Messed me up for the rest of the day. (Sorry, I don't find fear to be a recreational emotion.)

Victoria @48: "make shop" at Octopodicon

Sayyyyy...best friend, ol' buddy, ol' pal.... If you run across anybody who takes commissions, I'd be willing to pay some money to get someone to convert my battery-driven electric sweeper to run off wall current. If you run across anybody who seems like they'd be interested in taking on such a project, aim them my way (via page linked to my name, above), wouldja?

#50 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 01:30 PM:

...with fava beans and a light chianti?

#51 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 01:42 PM:

@48: bats eyes shamelessly

Must...not...rrr....

#52 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 02:34 PM:

nonentity (#47) I wonder just how "relevant" it is, if he likes everything pretentious or "artistic". I also wonder if this does in fact keep him relevant to *something*, maybe what the newspapers want(why?), and thus keep him earning. He might need the money, since he has had to have pretty much his entire face removed and replaced with a clever simulacrum, and that may exceed the capacity to reimburse of even his probably excellent insurance.

I don't often read his column, but the odd thing is, it appears in a local small paper which, while not "alternative", is also not bland or without alternative opinions.

#53 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 02:59 PM:

Actually, I get linked to Ebert's blog from time to time on Twitter. He says some kind and insightful things. I've brought one or two of his articles to the attention of this community, most notably his account of his interaction with Alcoholics Anonymous.

I think I'd like some more nuance in the notion that all he's doing is "blatantly trolling" to pay for facial reconstruction after cancer. Or, if you want to stand by those views, a bit more evidence than that he liked this film and doesn't like video games.

#54 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 04:57 PM:

Victoria @48: Willing Suspension of Disbelief

Now may I have my brain back, please? ::drums fingers::

:)

#55 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 06:16 PM:

Jacque @ 54
Still clicking buttons... I'll let you know when I've tried all possible combinations.

Jacque @49
As for the vacuum cleaner conversion... that would take an electrician to do some re-wiring. I'll see who I can track down to ask.

#56 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2012, 07:31 PM:

Victoria @55: You will doubtless have ascertained by now that it is, indeed, a mock-up, and does nothing.

Meanwhile, the rows of radio buttons for the ranges are because we're still on IE7 here, and so I can't use the fancy-schmancy slider majiggers I was able to find online.

#57 ::: Nonentity ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2012, 09:44 AM:

Abi: I'm sorry, I see how my post could lead to that uncharitable reading. I have had problems with his critical writing for a very long time, and his illness has nothing to do with that.

I'd have to say, his gushing review of Prometheus with its light touches on all the annoyances of the movie, almost seems like taunting. And taking two separate opportunities to compare the movie to "2001: A Space Odyssey" stretches things a bit, even if both movies do have minor plot similarities.

#58 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2012, 10:07 AM:

I, uh, I liked this movie.

(sorry!)

I thought that the heart of the movie was the relationship between creator and created; the relationship between Android and Human.

And then, in the end, the idea of the xenomorphs has always seemed dumb. If they exist as a species, then they would strip all life but themselves in one generation from any planet, and then die off for lack of resources.

If that's a feature and not a bug, then it makes more sense to me.

But the idea that the entire story is the question 'okay, if there is a God, why does he hate us and want us dead' was better to me.

David, after all, is constantly mistreated, berated for not being human enough, berated for trying to appear human, and abused because he can survive it.

We create him, we abuse him.

And then he becomes like his creators. He is monstrous, but he's monstrous because his creator tells him to be. Apart from the influence of his father, the further he is from him, the more he becomes a character in his own right. And fittingly, once his father is dead he immediately turns and attempts to ingratiate himself to a human -- because he defines himself in relation to humanity.

That tells us all we need to know about why the Engineers would make us and then destroy us, as far as the movie is concerned. And it tells us why we seek so hard after the Engineers, even after they treat us monstrously. Everything about our relationship with them has to be read out of our relationship with David.

And then there were parts where the movie seemed to spell out things that were better left to your imagination.

Notice how surprised the captain and his remaining crew are to see the alien spaceship rising? That surprise is better without the dumb sequence where they figure it out, and spell out to the audience that there's a spaceship. That scene just screams 'test audiences didn't get it, so let us explain it to you.'

I hated that part.

Anyway. That's, um, that's my braindump.

#59 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2012, 10:38 AM:

Way back when, I remember hearing the idea that the Alien is an engineered lifeform, a Bioweapon, and I though, what a sad, sorry little explanation that is.

How cool would it be to see the system where everything is so lethal that the Aliens are just ants!

Why the weird lifecycle? Maybe their homeworld has an eccentric orbit, and the air freezes out every winter. Only the vacuum-safe eggs survive.

Or maybe the planet spins really slowly, and the air on the night-side freezes. Life has to either move to stay in the twilight, or survive freezing or roasting temperatures. When the big lifeforms walk into Alien territory, the eggs know to hatch and the face-hugger gets an embryo into a mobile lifeform where it can be carried along with the herd until it's big enough to burst out surrounded by food.

The whole "it's a bioweapon developed by the Space Jockey aliens who are stupid and lost control of it" is weak. Now the Space jockeys turn out to be humanoids in suits who are super interested in Us, and the Universe shrinks down to being human-centred again. Pah.

#60 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2012, 12:31 PM:

Jacque @ 56

I figured that might be the case. No matter it is a wonderful thing indeed. I laughed and chortled while clicking away madly. In short, I acted like a kid at Christmas who had just got proof that Santa exists.

You may have your wonderful brain back.

Thanks you.

#61 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2012, 03:15 PM:

I spent a bit of time thinking about this.

The whole "it's a bioweapon developed by the Space Jockey aliens who are stupid and lost control of it" is weak. Now the Space jockeys turn out to be humanoids in suits who are super interested in Us, and the Universe shrinks down to being human-centred again. Pah

I think Ridley Scott didn't want to revisit the themes of Alien, more than anything else different. Alien was very much about how small we are in the face of the world, where Prometheus is very much about struggling to see God, and perhaps not liking what you see.

And parenthood. But that should have been obvious from the extended abortion metaphor.

As I was leaving, somebody complained that the med-bed in the very-female-indeed Charlize Theron's escape pod was a male-only, which in the moment is only justifiable to avoid the word abortion. But a moment's thought and one might remember that she didn't need that for herself, and in fact had a compelling reason to bring it to perhaps eke a few more drops of life out of her father.

Incidentally, that was another scene where what should have been left up to the viewer to decipher was laid out plainly... and so baldly that you just knew it had been added in after the fact.

That or the original screenwriter really, really liked bricks. I can't decide.

#62 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2012, 04:22 PM:

PS: with some further thought and reflection, I note that I forgave some bad character decisions on the part of the captain just because THAT'S IDRIS FREAKING ELBA, Y'ALL.

And apparently I love him deeply and profoundly.

#63 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2012, 07:49 PM:

Howard Bannister #61:

Nope, still doesn't work for me. Vickers wants old Weyland out of the way ("A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable."). Wouldn't it have made more sense for the med-unit to be housed in the same closed-off part of the ship that housed Weyland's sleep-pod? Wouldn't he have wanted it nearby rather than have the med-unit in his daughter's escape-pod.

And thinking about it again, if I were Weyland, I'd have had my own sleep-unit in the sole escape pod, along with the med-unit & have the escape-pod inaccessible to the normal crew. To me, it's all about the Chekov's gun of Shaw seeing it early on as a setup for the 'caesarean'.

There was a ML discussion not so long ago about people who can appreciate a work with enhanced enjoyment, who can perceive the the layers beneath the surface, who get the easter eggs, in-jokes, shout-outs, allusions, that a less experienced person might miss.

Thing is, all of that stuff beneath the surface is for naught if what's presented on the surface does not hang together. For me, the movie's surface elements don't hang together, and that's the main problem I have with it.

#64 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2012, 03:26 AM:

Victoria @60: Glad you liked it. It was such a silly concept, It Just Hadda Happen, you know? Now if I could just figure out what form the output would take....

#65 ::: Spiny Norman ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2012, 12:34 AM:

David St. Hubbins: It's such a fine line between stupid, and uh...

Nigel Tufnel: Clever.

David St. Hubbins: Yeah, and clever.

#66 ::: Spiny Norman ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2012, 01:34 PM:

Also: worst animated DNA in a science fiction movie since Clippy the Talking DNA in Jurassic Park. Did these animators not know about Google, where they could have found highly accurate open-source DNA models that can be rendered to look vastly cooler than the incorrect garbage that they apparently modeled by their widdle selves?

#67 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2012, 03:53 PM:

Spiny Norman @ 66... Did you have to remind us of Clippy the Talking DNA?
:-)

#68 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 01:09 PM:
There was a ML discussion not so long ago about people who can appreciate a work with enhanced enjoyment, who can perceive the the layers beneath the surface, who get the easter eggs, in-jokes, shout-outs, allusions, that a less experienced person might miss.

Thing is, all of that stuff beneath the surface is for naught if what's presented on the surface does not hang together. For me, the movie's surface elements don't hang together, and that's the main problem I have with it.

Weirdly enough, you just described a lot of the reasons for some mild hatred I have for a couple of Ridley Scott's other movies.

Hmm.

#69 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 02:19 AM:

Victoria@14 - When I think of movies that need hempen assistance, it's usually provided in forms involving either fire or chocolate before going into the theater, or drinking games if you're watching at home. And Bad Science Fiction is a genre that invites that sort of thing.

(On the other hand, seeing some movies while assisted strikes me as a worse idea than Sandy B's "Dinosaurs in the lake? Let's have sex on the dock!", particularly Pink Floyd's "The Wall".)

#70 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 02:11 PM:

Bill Stewart @ 69
Sometimes I want bad fiction. I set my WSOD device to "mindless" and "craptastic" then engage the MST3K option. It's usually done with friends at home and it more or less turns into an improv session of smart alec-y goodness. With the right crowd, bad fiction equals good times, alcohol optional. It's like the time my friend, Don, watched the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. (which is good fiction, but it's considered by most to be the quintessential chick-flick) Afterward, we asked him if it was as bad as he was expecting. His reply, "No. It was actually pretty good -- the running commentary helped. I would have bailed early without it." (he was the only guy present, married to the hostess, and we told him he didn't have to stay in the room if it got too bad with the historic girl-cooties.)

#71 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 02:51 PM:

Spiny Norman @66: Also: worst animated DNA in a science fiction movie since Clippy the Talking DNA in Jurassic Park. Did these animators not know about Google,

Well, given that JP came out in 1993, and Google didn't debut until '98, that would be a "no." (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

#72 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2012, 03:35 PM:

I went to see Prometheus last night with a friend. In 3D. The visuals alone were worth the price. The 3-D movie within a 3-D movie had us both snickering. The landscapes (filmed on location -- yes, we read the credits) had extra impact lending credibility to the alien world. When the storm hit, I actually found myself squinting and turtling the way I do in a real storm as opposed to how I act when watching a GCI version.

About the time they removed their helmets in the alien space ship, I leaned over to Crystal and whispered* "And THAT is why the ISS rules that Ripley tried to follow in Alien were created." Every example of enthusiasm driven stupidity always provoked a "There's another ISS rule in the making." **

As for all the negative reviewers who said the plot sucked because the people were stupid... The only people who were picked to fill a role they were trained for were the ship's captain and crew. All the researchers and associated scientists were a mish-mash of specialties working outside their milieu (I'm pretty sure the biologist was a plant biologist or a similiar sub-specialty that kept him in the lab and away from live animals***) or given an assignment that went contrary to the rest of the mission (like the money-hungry geologist who wanted to assay the planet instead of dealing with dead alien life forms; ditto for the biologist). On top of that, the smartest, most capable people on the ship were told flat out "follow the leadership of the idiot(s)." The "or else you're fired" was understood based on context.

I'd have to say the elevator pitch for Prometheus could be "People searching for God and new profit centers, find monsters and accidentally make more." Whereas "Alien would be "A horror story about what happens when you don't follow life safety rules after encountering alien life forms."

All in all, I'd have to say the movie exceeded my expectations. I've seen too many 3-D movies that make me think of bad shoebox dioramas - flat things layered on different planes, rather than three dimensional objects moving in a three dimensional space. While I found the A plot mundane, (Man searches for God), the B plot (the bio-genesis/evolution of the monster) really well done. They had evolutionary dead ends and good creature design. At one point, I had to lean over and tell my friend "Look! It's a DinoFaceHugger."
__
* Please don't invoke The Special Hell. We were two of six in the theater. The others were in the front few rows. We were in the very back row. Plus, we've done MST3Ks together.

** My day job insists on thorough and regular safety training for everyone. 99% of safety training takes place because some idiot didn't use common sense, got hurt on the job, and then Paperwork Happened.

*** One of my friends trains dogs as well as having two search and rescue dogs of her own. The number of people I see being stupid around the common canine familiaris is nothing compared to number of people she has to deal with. (aka: What's cute in a puppy, gets a dog put down in a grown animal. Much frustration can be avoided if you just treat a dog like the animal it is.)

#73 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2012, 08:08 AM:

I'm glad someone else was impressed by the visuals. As I tweeted a few weeks back, if it is a mantelpiece, it's a beautifully crafted one.

Also, doesn't the medpod designed for a man make more sense if you reckon that Vickers is an android (so it's not for her). And given that David is 'the only son (Weyland) could ever have' and she's Weyland's daughter, doesn't she more or less have to be?

#74 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2012, 09:22 PM:

Saw it yesterday.

You may take a measure of how completely I turned my brain off: It didn't even occur to me that the medpod might be intended for Daddy Weyland. And when the giant tentacle-hentai monster showed up at the end, I didn't get as far as "Oh, that's the one from we left in the medpod." It was just "Oh, a big monster has appeared. I wonder why it doesn't look like a Giger design. Huh. Honestly, it looks more like a Muppet."

(Also, have we really made so little progress in age makeup? I swear Kirk and McCoy were more convincing in "The Deadly Years". Was Weyland supposed to be rejuvenated in some draft of the script but it got cut after casting?)

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