When I was a kid I didn’t have any question about whether God existed. We had a picture of him in our family photo album. It was a Polaroid of a large head in shadow looking downward through the camera directly at me. Like any decent religious artifact, it elicited equal parts fear and comfort. Eventually I grew older and my fluffy brain began to gel and harden. Caterpillars stopped being my friends, mice stopped operating my innards and the glowing bats that flew over my bed became reflections of car headlights driving by. Eventually the picture of God transformed into a picture of my Dad. What? Yes, the undeniable truth was that my father had simply held the camera below his head, looked down and took a picture of himself. I had misinterpreted the image on a grand scale; my dumb imagination made up the whole thing. My evidence of God was for shit.
I couldn’t help thinking of this disheartening incident while watching RIDLEY SCOTT’S PROMETHEUS. Partially because within the film there exists a giant head that vaguely resembles that old photo and also due to the fact that the movie involves a quest for solid answers that ends in disillusionment. If that were not enough, there are more daddy issues smuggled aboard this ship than a four-year subscription to “Modern Replicant” magazine. A robot is miffed to learn how arbitrary his existence is, one daughter dreams of her dead dad while another wills her pop to croak so she can take over his turf and a molten skinned oldster requests a bigger allowance from a parental being who’d rather deliver a mortal spanking. It’s Christmas day and on everybody’s wish list is something more substantial than blind faith. There may be answers in PROMETHEUS; they’re just unlikely to be the ones we yearn for. As in life, the more you try to focus, the less you see but at some point there is no denying the tentacles.
I saw PROMETHEUS the day it came out, so if this post is late to appear it’s only because I was left nearly speechless. Sure, I’ve talked about it with friends but the idea of cramming the experience into typed words felt untoward. This is a hyper-visual, painterly film and those who gravitate toward dissecting the script and focusing on the narrative alone are missing a great deal. It’s commonplace to accuse anything that is this gorgeous of being empty and relying on style over substance but in my mind, that’s an insult to the infinite power that an image alone can contain. To be honest I was far too immersed and mesmerized by what was before me to be effected by any of the alleged lapses that apparently yanked others out of the film. Maybe that’s just me though, if a character in a movie does something foolish my mind says, “Hey, buddy don’t do that, you’ll be sorry!” not “I wouldn’t do that so therefore this makes no sense.” Which isn’t to say I have not been highly entertained by the mostly intelligent criticism this movie has inspired, it’s just that if you’ve seen PROMETHEUES and you don’t believe that it’s destined for classic status all I can say is…that’s adorable.
Besides the jaw-droppy, awe inspiring overall design and the thought (and controversy) provoking, open to endless interpretation, storyline, we also get an undeniably for the ages performance by MICHAEL FASSBENDER, that is if you can take your eyes off CHARLIZE THERON for a moment which I admittedly had difficulty doing. Perhaps more importantly for our purposes here, I also can tell you that I found myself wincing my face in gleeful fear on at least two occasions and wading in dense dread on several more. Are there things I wish had been done differently? Yep, I’d say several but I wouldn’t trade that for a film created to charm the audience and be forgotten the next day. GUY PEARCE’s character reads (and looks) particularly slack in my opinion but I’ve chosen to play a tiny violin for myself and move on. In other words, count me out of the naysayers club. I’m not simply “choosing to believe” in RIDLEY, I’m choosing to believe that movies don’t have to be subservient to audience expectations to be significant. Those who need everything nailed down for them and desire art without blemishes can scamper to the side away from this rousingly erratic masterwork but I’m going to run straight on forward and happily allow it to fall right on top of me. Youch, that feels good!