The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Looking Forward to Prometheus

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Once or twice a year, I get particularly excited about films that are about to come out.  Whether it’s a James Bond flick (when is the next one?), or True Grit, or The Thing last fall, some films get me slobbering in anticipation.  The latest is Prometheus, which I will probably see next weekend.

The primary cause for my excitement over Prometheus is that it marks the return of Ridley Scott to the genre that cemented his reputation as a director.  For a while earlier this millenium, he was my favorite director and really couldn’t go wrong.  He cranked out Gladiator and took home a wagon load of Academy Awards; the next year he put out one of the most authentic combat films ever, Blackhawk Down, which also got serious Academy Award consideration.  Even before those two gems, he was the brain behind some totally great films–Thelma and Louise, G.I. Jane–and a handful of decent films like Black Rain and Someone To Watch Over Me.  Unfortunately, he’s not been able to match his early-2000s success of late.  His only recent film of some renown was American Gangster, though it didn’t live up to the excellence of Gladiator and Blackhawk Down.  Most of these films can in some way be connected to the action genre, so it’s easy to overlook the fact that Scott made his name as a director of science fiction films.  And when I say “made his name,” I mean he quickly owned the genre in a way that no other director except Stanley Kubrick has.

Scott showed from the get-go that he understands the most important thing about science fiction (and I say the same thing about horror):  It works best when the story is the priority and is steeped in commentary on the human condition; the effects are mere backdrop.  There might not be much theme work being accomplished in Alien, though Scott tackled a space-themed film in the midst of Star Wars mania and generated one of the scariest films ever (and one that is at #7 on the American Film Institutes list of greatest sci-fi films AND is a damn sight better than most of the Star Wars catalog), but you better not let many people hear you say that commentary is missing from Blade Runner, which Scott put out three years after Alien and which is considered the 6th best sci-fi film ever by AFI.  It helped that Scott worked from excellent source material, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but he still had a stunning vision of what Dick’s dystopia looked like.  I have high hopes that Prometheus will be an effective meld of Scott’s two science fiction hallmarks, and I have good cause for that given that Prometheus takes place in the Alien universe and has to do at least tangentially with the Alien creatures.  In fact, my understanding is that the film is a dual origin story (that theme alone is bound to spark heavy debate about intelligent design).

Something else I find interesting here is the metaphorical implications of the Prometheus myth and Scott’s film career.  In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan and is credited with having breathed life into man; he later stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man so man could survive (Zeus gave him a nice thank-you gift by chaining him to a rock and sending a buzzard to gnaw his liver out each day; Prometheus would regenerate the liver each night).  Furthermore, Prometheus’ name means “foresight.”  In this film, Scott is working on going back in time to show the origin of the Alien creatures; it seems interesting that he has the foresight to return to the genre and film universe that established his name and will perhaps breathe new life into his lukewarm film career.  But Prometheus is also the symbol for unintended consequences.  It’s apparent that the unintended consequences in the Alien universe are the Aliens themselves (it turns out they are a biological weapon run amok, and there are hints of that throughout the Alien films).  I’m hoping that real-life consequences don’t include Scott falling flat with this space epic and further hindering has career.  If things turn out well for Scott and with Prometheus, he can enter his name and film in the register of Prometheus-inspired work, the foremost of which in pop culture is The Modern Prometheus, which is better known by it’s more common name:  Frankenstein.  The second-most popular work is no doubt Edgar Winter’s epic jam, and third most popular just might be David Carradine’s character in Death Race 2000.


Written by seeker70

June 6, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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