[movies] More on Prometheus

I’ve been thinking about why I have such a strong negative reaction to Prometheusimdb ]. Yesterday morning I snarked on Facebook and Twitter:

The $100MM spent on PROMETHEUS could’ve bought 10 movies like MOON, or 10,000 first F/SF novels. Much better investment.

That brought a number of interesting reactions, and I made some followup comments, which I am paraphrasing herein.

To belabor the obvious, I don’t actually think that funding and publishing 10,000 first F/SF novels is a good idea at all, for a whole bunch of reasons. I was mostly making a point.

Also, I don’t mind $100MM movies. Some of them are freaking brilliant. And it’s not my money, so who am I to say how it is spent? But Prometheus was such a colossal waste of resources and talent… The script stoopid is so profound that it obliviates the many otherwise wonderful things about that film. To appreciate this movie at any level deeper than the casually visual requires a tolerance of deeply stupid and contrived character behaviors that would embarrass the summer camp teens in a grade-C splatter film.

And it didn’t have to be that way.

I wanted to love Prometheus, very, very much. The things that are wrong with Prometheus aren’t in its essentials, they’re in stuff that could have, at least for the most part, been fixed fairly trivially at any number of stages in the process of making the film.

In other words, stupid problems, not deep ones. It’s that wasted potential that infuriates me. With a $225MM worldwide box office so far [no cite yet, this was an commentor’s number], no one in Hollywood will see the lesson, because from their point of view, there’s no lesson to be seen. Movie got made, earned out its first week in release, boom done. Next!

Hollywood isn’t in the business of making good movies. They’re in the business of making successful movies. “Good” is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for “successful”, sad to say. Given its apparent box office take, Prometheus may well be the ultimate argument in favor of the Hollywood model, and the ultimate proof that script and story really don’t matter any more.

Combining that problem with the casual and shallow ruination of what could have been a truly great film is what irritates me so much.

3 thoughts on “[movies] More on Prometheus

  1. Hank Graham says:

    The problem is built into Ridley Scott’s approach to movies. He cares about everything–except the people and the script. The only two movies of his that do have reasonable scripts and care about their characters are his first two movies, “The Duellists” and “Alien.” In both those cases, he did not have the power to change things and screw them up.

    This has been evident since “Blade Runner,” which was, itself, an expensive but dazzling artifact with poorly thought-out characters and interactions. I had much the same reaction to it that you’ve had for “Prometheus.” “Prometheus” hasn’t bothered me that much, because it’s what I’ve come to expect from Scott. It delivered the dazzling, and yes, I wish it had had a script.

    A few years ago, I was lucky enough to read a wonderful script, which became the subject of a bidding war between some big-league Hollywood producers. Unfortunately, Scott got to direct it, and he took it and had it rewritten so extensively that when I saw the movie he’d made of it, I was unaware until later that it was based on the script I’d read. The script was “Nottingham,” and the movie Scott made of it was “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe.

  2. Cora says:

    I was talking about this with friends today – basically, the conversation went something like “We don’t have to bother watching Prometheus, the word is it’s crap.” And then I thought, “How can you possibly make a bad movie with 100 million dollars and the combined talents of Idris Elba, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Ridley Scott?”

    However, I’m inclined to agree with Hank above that Ridley Scott is a master of visuals, but not a good storyteller. Alien had a decent script, but that was due to Dan O’Bannon and not Ridley Scott. Blade Runner is stunning visually and again features amazing acting talent and is based on a Philip K. Dick story, but the script is a mess and the umpteen tinkerings over the years haven’t improved it – indeed it gets worse with every new director’s cut. Everything Ridley Scott has made since then was just an unholy mess.

    I’m beginning to think that Ridley Scott is like Martin Scorsese – a great director who can’t tell a story unless he can beg, borrow or steal one from somewhere else. You’ll notice that Scorsese finally won his Oscar for The Departed, which was a remake of Internal Affairs.

  3. I haven’t seen Prometheus yet, so can’t comment directly on it, except in that I’ve read about the movie widely.

    But I’m not sure Prometheus is the “ultimate” argument in favor of the Hollywood model. I rather think that the Michael Bay “Transformers” franchise holds that particular throne rather securely. (I did see the first and forewent seeing the others as the first was so profoundly and deeply stupid – not at the peripheral level that Prometheus apparently is at, but at a deeper and more intractable level.)

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