How I Would Fix Prometheus
What a trailer! Probably one of the best trailers of all time. It took me a while to notice how they match the pitch of a scream to the alarm blast, which associates the sound so beautifully with a feeling of terror. Genius. A brilliant piece of marketing.
Too bad Prometheus the film is not as scary as its trailer, or any of the other pieces of well-crafted advertising shepherding audiences into the theater. It has moments, to be sure; it’s not a bad film. Visually, it’s breathtaking. There are countless drool-worthy shots to justify the price of admission all on their own.
Likewise, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, and Michael Fassbender all add to the experience in a positive way. I wish I could say the same for Noomi Rapace, but I found her annoying and boring (certainly no Ellen Ripley), and when I ultimately choose not to rewatch this movie it will be because I didn’t care about her character and there is so much of her character to watch.
Which brings me to the point of this article, which is not really a review (and from here on out, be warned: I am going to give away plenty of things about the film, so if you haven’t seen the film, you’ve been warned — here there be spoilers!). Prometheus is a flawed film, but it could’ve been improved by one small change:
Lock the film’s point-of-view on Michael Fassbender’s android David. Don’t have a scene without him in it.
He almost is the protagonist already. The change would be small. What is most perplexing about Prometheus isn’t actually anything related to the Alien mythology–it’s David’s motives. Is he a sadistic android, contemptuous of his human crew members and creators? Could be, but then why does he change in the final scenes into a buddy-buddy friend, happy to help and provide life-saving tips? Fassbender is incredibly talented, and he stole the film regardless of his inexplicability. What is gained by keeping his directives murky?
One might argue that Weyland’s presence on board is a shocking reveal, but I found everything related to it entirely predictable from the outset, including Theron’s relation to him. And does Weyland’s presence change anything at all about the main mission? No. People still want to discuss origins with the Engineers. So little changes, in fact, that Weyland becomes just one more character to journey back, once more, to the two rooms we can’t seem to stop returning to in the other spacecraft (honestly, a whole alien planet, and the movie ends up feeling limited to the Prometheus, the room with the vases, and the alien craft’s bridge; even if it’s the same type of ship as the crashed derelict ship in Alien, it feels smaller this time around through the sheer force of repetition).
On the other hand, if we as the audience were let into David’s conversations with Weyland–if we knew, for example, why he poisoned Dr. Holloway and what he was hoping to gain from the grim experiment–we’d be able to see a character making actually very dramatic and important choices. Not seeing the reasons for his actions makes them random, which is less interesting.
Whatever he can’t be in the room for, he should watch or monitor. One of my favorite lines was his “I’ve been watching your dreams” line. How creepy is that, anyway? He should lurk around when Charlize and Stringer (sorry, old associations die hard) have their flirtation. Even better–they could flirt with him in the room! How emasculating and de-humanizing would it be to see people flirt in the same room with an android as if he weren’t there at all?
As for the soon-to-be-infamous abortion scene, there are always monitors to watch or switch off. Including a calculating point of view is easy. Just ask Paul Reiser. And the way the scene is set up now–with Shaw escaping, going through an operation, and being seemingly forgotten about for no good reason–doesn’t work, anyway.
Bottom line, there’s always a reason to include David, and they’d all make for a better film.
Furthermore, David is a natural and progressive choice for a protagonist in the Alien franchise itself. While we grow closer to the source of the xenomorph, it’s an interesting concept that we’d grow closer to understanding the pathos of Weyland Corp’s creations, as well. The androids of past films have always been compelling, and they are as much a staple as the strong female protagonist.
What better character to journey to the source of humanity than one created by humanity? David could also be a nice entry-point for the audience member not sold on the importance of the questions those around him seem to care so much about. An android overcoming his programming (or growing insane as the programming breaks down) echoes for me the theme of a species confronting its own angry God.
Yet the movie only half-commits to the ideas suggested by David’s behavior. He’s easily the most active character, but halfway through the film the emphasis shifts to Rapace’s Dr. Shaw, courtesy of the film’s most visceral scene, but it suffers for the shift in focus away from David. Shaw is simply not as interesting post-op (and, I would argue, rather incredulously upright, given what she’s just put herself through). Even when he’s having his decapitated head stuffed into a bag, I longed to know more about this fascinating character and what he was thinking. Was he glad to be free from Weyland? What is a freed android to do now? When the orders run out, is there something he wants? Did anything in what transpired on LV-223 mean anything to him at all? Is it even possible for anything to mean something to him? If so, what?
Answering those questions for David would have been one way to answer them for the audience.
Unfortunately, I would also change a larger part of the film: I wouldn’t do anything related to the origin of life on Earth. Problematic on the Darwinian front, inexcusably cliche on the sci-fi front (especially given that Battlestar Galactica just made the mistake of going down this road not too long ago), and unimportant to me as a viewer–I find it a silly waste of time and energy. I don’t see anything wrong with space jockeys who engineer life-altering weaponized black goo, but to have them also focused on Earth makes the whole entire universe smaller and feels to me like yet another slice of Earth-centric provinciality. Having the DNA match feels a little too much like Vader inventing Threepio all over again–unnecessary and reductive.
Let the aliens stay alien for crying out loud. Not everything is has to be about our puny little rock.