I realize, now, that Ridley Scott has been my favorite director since before I knew what a director was. Unknowingly I was introduced to Mr. Scott’s work as a child one Saturday afternoon. When I was a kid the local Fox affiliate played movies on Saturdays, which I often found myself watching. That’s where I saw such weird films as ”The Golden Child”, ”Gotcha!”, and weird 80s movies like this one about Skydiving which I don’t know the name of, but do know that it wasn’t ”Terminal Velocity”. Anyway, I digress, because the most important film that I saw on a Saturday afternoon was ”Legend”.
”Legend” was the first film that I saw where I actually sat down and thought to myself, ”There is something special about this film.” I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know anything about style or art direction. I still don’t really know much about that stuff, but I do know that when I saw ”Legend” my mind was blown away. Here I was watching a totally surreal world. It was drastically different from anything I’d seen before, and would be drastically different from anything that I would see for years to come. I was in love with the film. Most movies I’d seen as a kid were about adventure. There was Indiana Jones, of course, the classic adventure movie, and I’d even seen fantasy before with both ”Willow” and ”The Last Unicorn”, but ”Legend” was in a category all on its own. Sure, it was an adventure, it was about a boy on a quest, but it really wasn’t that adventurous of a quest. He only uses a sword to kill one monster, and before that a lot of the movie is just a boy and girl wandering around in the forest.
I suppose one of the things that really caught my eye, though, was the protagonist, Darkness, who may as well have been the devil himself. I actually felt bad about watching the movie, because I thought my mom wouldn’t want me watching a movie about the devil. In fact the first time I caught it on TV, as soon as my mom came home from work, I turned it off, then kept my eye on the TV Guide for the next time it would be playing. What was even more amazing about the character Darkness is that he isn’t even really the ultimate evil in the movie. He bows to some other higher power that we really never see.
The fact is, that in the film ”Legend” not much happened. Not much was said even, and what was said didn’t make much sense cause most of it was poetry. I mean some of the poetry was really fun. For example, Darkness asks one of his minions, “Is your heart black, and full of hate?” To which the minion replies, “Black as midnight, black as pitch, blacker than the foulest witch.” Yeah, that was a classic line. I wouldn’t hear metaphors that good until ”Max Payne”. Even though not much happened in ”Legend”, the film wasn’t about what happened, it was about what you saw, which was basically a fantastically unreal world. Supposedly there was an entire kingdom, but all we really ever see is a few people. Yet this world was there.
Years later I was introduced to Blade Runner] which I didn’t even know was directed by Ridley Scott, but I found myself drawn to it. Not because of the story, but because of the visuals. Quite frankly, ”Blade Runner” has no story. Not much happens in it either. The dialogue isn’t quite poetry like the dialog in ”Legend”, but it certainly isn’t natural. I mean seriously, Deckard says, “I dreamt music”. To which Rachel replies, “I didn’t know if I could play. I remember lessons. I don’t know if it’s me or Tyrell’s niece,” and Deckard responds, “You play beautifully.” This is an interesting conversation, and it’s clear what the conversation is about, but people don’t talk like that. Like ”Legend”, ”Blade Runner” is an abstract film, and that’s why I liked both of these movies.
Later I would see ”Hannibal”, not knowing that it was by the director of ”Blade Runner” and ”Legend”. Mostly I saw it because it was a really big craze, finally a sequel to ”Silence of the Lambs”. ”Hannibal” is a much more straightforward film.
It has a plot that makes sense, and really isn’t that abstract, but it has its classic Ridley Scott moments, particularly when dealing with Pazzi’s investigation of Dr. Lecter. ”The Kingdom of Heaven” is also notable for its artistic vision.
Of course, I haven’t seen all of Ridley Scott’s films, and I haven’t enjoyed some of them that I’ve seen, such as ”Gladiator” (yes, I’m one of the few that didn’t really like it) and ”Robin Hood”. The fact is, not every one of Ridley Scott’s films is guaranteed to be fantastic, or artistic, but now we must turn to ”Alien”.
I saw ”Alien” after ”Legend” and before ”Blade Runner”. This was another film where I didn’t know who Ridley Scott was when I saw it, and I’ll admit, I didn’t think it was that great when I saw it, and I still don’t. But as a fan of ”Blade Runner” I can recognize the vision of ”Alien”, and though I personally don’t like it that much, I still think it’s a great film.
Well, I’ve gone on quite a bit about my opinions of Ridley Scott’s films, which brings me to what this post is actually about. The film ”Prometheus”. As the title of this blog suggests, I didn’t like it. I just plain didn’t. Pretty much after the first few scenes I didn’t like it. The film opens with some alien on a planet, which I now presume was Earth, and basically he commits suicide. I could tell right away that this film wasn’t that great. Basically right away I could see that there was no real artistic vision. Just a nice shot of a waterfall. A shot anyone can appreciate, but also nothing that anyone hasn’t seen before. From that point on I kept hoping something would redeem it. Nothing did. Basically what I thought going in, was that it was Ridley Scott, and it was science fiction, something good had to be in there. Nothing was.
I should be clear that I really didn’t know much about the film going into it. I saw one preview for the film, and the main thing that caught my eye was that is was by Mr. Scott, and it seemed to be Alien related.
I had also heard an interview with one of the writers, Damon Lindelof, on NPR. He was saying that he wanted the movie was not only supposed to be visual, but also philosophical. To demonstrate this, NPR played a soundbite, a conversation between two of the characters, a robot and a man. The robot says to the man, “Why do you think your people made me?” To which the man responds, “We made you because we could.” The robot questions that response with, “Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?”
That does sound a little philosophical, doesn’t it? And in plenty of regards it is. So having heard that, I expected many philosophical question of morality the human existence to come up. I’ve said that ”Blade Runner” really has no plot, but it asks some philosophical questions in plenty of regards, so I figured Mr. Scott could do it again with ”Prometheus”, but you know what? That one scene was really the only time that anything philosophical came up at all. Really nothing else came up at all. I mean supposedly the whole movie was about people in search of the answers to the classic questions, “Where do we come from?”, “Why are we here?”, and “Where are we going?”, and I’m sure that would be fine, people should wonder about those things, but the film had its own silly idea of what the answers are. Basically it gave the following answers: Where do we come from? Aliens created us. Why are we here? Because the aliens accidently let us live/forgot they created us. Where are we going? We’re going to get killed by the aliens because they think we were an accident and want to be rid of us.
The last question wasn’t too much of a surprise. Of course the aliens would want to kill humans, the film was loosely tied to ”Alien” for crying out loud, a film in which only one human survived. This film was basically the same, only one human survived, a female no less. I mean seriously, it was basically just ”Alien” except it was on a planet instead of on a star-ship, but most of the film took place in a star-ship on the planet, so it was basically the same film. Now maybe I was interpreting the film wrong, but my understanding was that the aliens that created humans, also created the aliens from ”Alien” to kill the humans. Unfortunately the aliens that they created to kill the humans decided to kill the aliens that created them. Now that probably didn’t make much sense, and neither did the film. Basically there were a lot of aliens and a lot of killing. So how is that for philosophy? Pretty lame, actually.
I shouldn’t say that ”Prometheus” was like ”Alien”, because it was missing one major thing: Artistic style. ”Alien” at least looked unique. ”Prometheus” basically looked like Star Wars, basically just your average looking science fiction spaceships and planets. There was absolutely nothing remarkable about the style at all, and honestly that is what I was hoping for most. That was much more important to me than any kind of philosophical writing. I mean seriously, it’s Ridley Scott, it’s got to have smoke and rain. It didn’t. I wasn’t expecting ”Blade Runner” in space, but it could have had something. Neon lights or something. I don’t know, I’m not Ridley Scott, he was supposed to know. He didn’t.
Basically this movie was no different than ”Red Planet” a science fiction film that by every definition of the word was unremarkable. That’s really what upset me most about the film. Any director could have done this and it would have been the exact same film.
I will grant the film one thing, though. The robot character, David, was at least somewhat interesting. He was obsessed with the film ”Lawrence of Arabia” and so he intentionally behaved like Peter O’Toole’s character from that film. There was probably supposed to be something philosophical about this, but whatever that was eludes me. His behavior, however, was at least amusing, since at times I have intentionally behaved like characters from films I’ve seen. I’ve also seen and liked ”Lawrence of Arabia” so I can appreciate the similarities. Beyond that, though, very little about the character made sense. For example, he basically had his own agenda, and it was later revealed that he was working in behalf of some rich guy, but some of his behavior never seemed to be related to the rich guy’s schemes. He basically just murders one of the other characters, and as far as I could tell he had no reason to even attempt to do what he did to that character.
In conclusion, I was let down. Really it was my fault for getting my hopes up. A certain director doesn’t necessarily mean a good film. I should have known that. I did know that. I already didn’t like all of Mr. Scott’s films. So why should I like this one? I’m still curious to see what Mr. Scott comes out with next, and I’ll give it a chance if the trailer looks good, but I’m not putting my hopes up.