So, I went to see Prometheus at the Curzon Soho last night. Alright film. I couldn’t shake the feeling however that sci-fi movies are becoming a tissue of texts that make them essentially indistinguishable from one another. This one seemed like a tangle of Blade Runner, Solaris, Avatar, Stark Trek and a bunch of other films I may have seen or perhaps just seen the trailers for. It seemed pretty derivative. The soundtrack at points was so similar to Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy score, I had to pinch myself to check that I wasn’t watching the same film again.
There seems to to be three basic sonic motifs in the film, the heroic French horn which accompanies poignant or hopeful / noble moments, the synrth driven aorchecstral electronica the accompanies the action sequences and the distorted deep bassoon / brass swell drones and other sonic motifs that prime us to some pullulating, rustling, slithering critter about to off one of the crew. Was pretty decent sound design overall though…
Another bugbear I have with sci fi movies is that aliens in general are always anthropomorphized in some way which is disappointing. I guess it would be hard for them not to be but the paucity of our imagination in visioneering beings that break the threshold of recognizability is exasperating. A muscle bound man with a greyish tinge and brow that extends into an exaggeratedly aquiline nose? Is that the best you can do?
In terms of the imagery, many of the Ridley Scott leitmotifs were in evidence: the use of the organic exoskeleton in the built environment (Art Nouveau influence here? ) placing striations ribbing and strutting on the interior of the alien realm as in Alien, and the close attention to detail and industrial design in the way the world is contructed. This included the impressive vaulting of the main masoleum like space with its cloud like patterned celing. I thought the control panel in the cavern where the alien sat to summon up the virtual cyclotron and orrery of planets was particularly impressive with sort of sort albumen like pods for the controls and complete with a throne like the interior carapace of a turtle’s shell. And of course there was the moist darkness dank, viscous, thick with hidden life and seeping danger and menace and slime as an index of something sinister and the pink polyp like entities that kill two of the crew in the main shrine room. This is all classic Ridley Scott but the plot did seem a bit Frankenstein like in the way it was stitched together.
The hatching of an alien seemed most like a plonky inter-textual citation and somewhat gratuitous in the context of a film ostensibly about the search for some sort of meaning in the universe. And the Alien references went deeper than that, the Ripley like female heroine, the tragic android figure mutilated at the end, and the ever present theme of birth, rebirth and gestation. What is it with Ridley Scott and the vaginal / uterine metaphors? Did he witness a miscarriage as a child? And after all an alien like creature emerges from the gory messy fight outside the operating theatre at the end. Are to see this film therefore as some sort of prologue to the Alien trilogy? Nothing is left clear and we are meant to believe that the female protagonist - who has just a touch of the Nordic Noir about her - is going to search the universe for these so Engineers for the rest of her days?
I did not pick up the parallels with the Prometheus story. Perhaps someone could enlighten me. He was bound in his coffin as per the Aeschylus play but at no point did anyone steal fire (was the oozing black substance held in the vases representing fire)? And none of the Engineers were ever seemingly punished for having helped humanity as was Prometheus bound to the rock for eternity. The start of the film did see the engineer at the start making some sort of rite or sacrifice and then being plunged into water where his DNA, presumably human DNA was revealed. This could have been construed as on behalf of humanity. It was all quite convoluted I thought rather than clear and obviously plot driven as was for example Avatar
Or did I just miss something crucial? It happens. Anyway, there were some great effects in the film, and despite some hammy acting, the plot was believable enough to keep me gripped. All in all, not a bad Saturday night’s entertainment and the set design was worth seeing, but certainly no classic – just part of the churn of Hollywood culture industry.