Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Alien -2

Matthew’s Theory of Information proposes that every creative work of art has a Smart To Stupid Ratio that adds up to 100.  What this boils down to in science fiction movies is the unfortunate fact that, since CGI qualifies as information, the smarter the special effects are, the dumber the rest of the movie is.  Current example:  Prometheus, which is gorgeous to look at and painful to think about.  And totally in the closet.  It is the movie that dare not speak its name, because its name is “I am a prequel to Alien.”

It is also, in places, monumentally dumb. 

For instance:

Ancient cave drawings of giant aliens pointing to unique star clusters do not make a lick of sense if the aliens appear on your planet long before there is any intelligent life to see them.  It’d be like Annie Leibowitz taking a photograph of a Neanderthal.  (Possible response: the image was planted in the DNA with which the aliens seeded our planet.  Rejoinder: then why aren’t people with the same DNA still drawing this now?)

Only in Hollywood is there a planet in the universe with people smart enough to travel through space, and dumb enough to greet a slimy cobra-like form of alien life with baby talk and the words “Hey little buddy.” 

Captains of starships do not walk away from radio contact with terrified crewmen to shack up with their ice-queen commanders--even if they do look like Charlize Theron--without turning on a recording device in case they miss something while they’re shtupping the shiksa.


Men whose legs are so weak they can’t walk do not roll around in Roosevelt-era wheelchairs two centuries from now.

Women who are covered in blood because they just performed an alienectomy on themselves are not greeted with “Oh hey, it’s you” looks when they stumble into a room full of medics.

And pretty blond androids do not act like they have been programmed by five different people with five separate agendas--unless, of course, their on-screen actions represent five different script drafts which were never actually coordinated into a single final version.

 Copyright 2012 Natalie Nourigat

David The Android (as played by Michael Fassbender) is actually one of the best things in the film, even though his actions are so all over the place you find yourself saying "Wait--you just did--but now you're doing--huh?" about once every ten minutes.  He's fascinated by the film Lawrence of Arabia, modeling his look and air after Peter O'Toole's Lawrence, which (in the hands of a clever director) would have made for a brilliant casting choice.  A lot of reviews remarked on the fact that Ridley Scott put Guy Pearce in old man makeup rather than hire an actual old actor to play his part.  How much more (delightful?  thrilling? smart?) would it have been to cast Peter O'Toole in the role?  Given David The Android's Lawrence fixation, isn't it the obvious choice?  

Sadly, that's the one obvious choice they didn't make in this movie.  Visually?  It’s absolutely gorgeous. (Although in a lot of shots Noomi Rapace looks like she’s competing with Nicole Kidman for World’s Most Plastic Looking Cheeks.)  But like all prequels made years after their originals, Prometheus suffers from Advanced Lucas Syndrome, a disease which (a) causes the plot centers to reverse-engineer events instead of telling an actual story, and (b) creates a special effects condition in which movies portraying events which occurred in the twenty-second century display more advanced technology than events depicted in the twenty-third.  Which is why the spaceship Prometheus has state-of-the-art holograms and, a generation later, the spaceship Nostromo has up-to-the-minute DOS.

And as far as that reverse-engineered plot goes, this is possibly even Alien -3, because I can't see Ridley Scott adding to the confusion clearing up all the questions he and the screenwriters raised in less than two more movies.  Especially since one of the writers worked on Lost.  So I guess we should all be prepared to be monumentally disappointed by the time the final prequel comes out, huh?  Which should be long after we're monumentally disappointed by the Blade Runner sequel.

If I may assume the David The Android manner and damn this movie with faint praise, you will not be monumentally disappointed by Prometheus.  It's flaws are typical of movies where CGI takes precedence over script, and constructing beats that lead to a previously-created sequel takes precedence over story.  Instead of filling you with wonder, it fills in the blanks.  Which makes it the perfect example of Matthew's Theory of Prequels.

Or in Lawrence of Arabia terms: 

William Potter: My brain, watching this movie?  Ooh! It damn well 'urts!
T.E. Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.
William Potter: What's the trick then?
T.E. Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.


Anonymous said...

No doubt this review fr exceeds the entertainment of the movie. As always, thank you Matthew!

Vincent Park said...

shtupping the shiksa ... worth the price of admission for this blog! .... and I saw the movie on a monster Imax 3D screen in San Francisco last week and your review is 100% on target!

Molly said...

A year later, I have finally seen this film. I'm not sure why. I did recognize that little guy at the end, though! An absolutely brilliant review, MJW.

Molly said...

Finally watched this film a year later. Why? To verify that this is an absolutely brilliant review. I did recognize the "little guy" at the end.