Sunday, October 21, 2012

Prometheus DVD — Did Scott stuff up a good story? Spoilers

From the many, many blog posts I read after the release of the eagerly anticipated movie Prometheus, it’s pretty obvious that most of the viewing public were underwhelmed by the movie’s opacity. Having now watched the DVD with deleted and alternate scenes, it strikes me that while overtelling is a bad thing, what Scott ended up doing was undertelling which is much worse because it leaves the audience with a whole heap of WTF.

Futhermore, if I’d been an actor on the movie, especially if I’d been Holloway (Elizabeth Shaw’s partner) or punk rock geologist Fifield, or Charlize Theron’s Vickers I’d be particularly crapped off about my character being made to look like a complete idiot because of how much important expository and character-informing detail was left on the cutting room floor.

Take Holloway, for example. In the theatrical release, they don’t find live aliens so he immediately gets pouty, goes on a champagne bender, gets infected and dies. As a scientist he comes over as a spoilt brat and a total idiot. It’s only through the extended and alternative scenes that he gets airspace to at least attempt a justification for his reactions. I also far prefer the alternative drunken scene with Shaw where instead of bringing her a frozen rose and being all nicey nice, there’s some heat and friction between them. Shaw calls him out on his reactions and he scores a few barbs, filling in Shaw’s backstory for us about how her father died, which — I’d say — is kind of important to understand what really drives her fight against the release of the stockpiled alien virus.

And while we’re on the subject of that stockpile: in the movie, ship’s captain Janek (Idris Elba) comes across as some idiot savant when he spouts off to Shaw about the alien ship actually being an arsenal that went wrong, leaving the audience to wonder how he jumped to such a conclusion, especially as he spent most of his time on Prometheus, and not poking around on the ship. The earlier scene where he talks to Vickers about the experimental stockade on Earth that he had to escape from and nuke to prevent contamination, at least gives him some grounds for his conclusion.

As to Vickers, well, Scott decided to portray her as some kind of robotic bitch, but the extended scenes with her father and the aftermath of killing Holloway where she talks with Janek, shows Theron put in a far more complex and nuanced performance than she was allowed credit for in the theatrical release.
Oh and the prize for the most stupid idiots in the film must go to Fifield and biologist hippie Millburn. You’re trapped in an alien ship full of dead bodies, so you know some bad stuff has gone down and when you see an alien snake you decide to try to give it a hug? Come on! At least the deleted scene where they came across a smaller and decidedly undeadly alien life-form makes that kind of reaction at least a little more believable than the stupidity we witnessed in the theatre.

It goes without saying the alternative ending is much stronger. Shaw shows some anger and a kind of Ripley-esque grit and determination. You get the sense that if she does meet with the Engineers, there might be some payback. The ending in the theatrical release is much more neutral. All the passion has been leeched out of it. Shaw’s even nice to David’s head in the cinema release, apologising for stuffing it in a bag ferchrissakes! This is the robot that poisoned her partner and tried to put her into cryosleep with an alien baby.

It’s interesting to note that this alternative ending, the drunken fight/ pash session between Shaw and Holloway, and the missing scenes with Vickers all have an emotional intensity that Scott decided to leave out of the final film. He had another focus. His decisions made for a movie that was opaque and lacked a display of proper character motivation. We were left with mysterious people doing inexplicable things. Scott’s focus did not serve the shape of the story that Prometheus could have been as an engaging piece of cinema and a blooming good yarn.


MCPlanck said...

I appreciate your viewing the extended DVD so the rest of us don't have to.

Prometheus was the biggest let-down of a movie in years. I couldn't bring myself to revisit all that disappointment. :D

Keith Stevenson said...

Indeed. God knows what he's going to do with the Blade Runner sequel, but it's not looking good.