I laughed at the final scene of Prometheus. And I suspect that wasn’t Ridley Scott’s intent.
I went in really wanting to like this movie: ready to be creeped out, to feel claustrophobic, to root for the kick-ass Noomi Rapace [see above], to drool over Michael Fassbender.
But the movie was not so ready for me to like it.
Spoiler-filled feminist kvetching after the jump.
The movie’s opening sequence was promising: a little Zardoz, a little 2001, a lot of interesting WTF? Interesting, because it asked a question, set up a mystery, that I [foolishly] assumed the movie was going to answer, maybe not in the most straightforward of ways, but would at least gesture towards the significance of the images we’d just seen.
At this point, I was all in. Bring on the creepy. Bring on the facehuggers.
Then came my favorite part of the film: 10 minutes with David, Fassebender’s uncanny valley-esque android, as he runs the sleeper ship Prometheus alone for two years. It was, in some ways, reminiscent of the opening bits of Duncan Jones’ fantastic Moon, where we see what Sam Bell’s everyday life is like, alone on the dark side of that dead rock.
It was simple. Ritualistic. David watching Lawrence of Arabia and aping Peter O’Toole’s speech patterns. David riding his bike. David watching Dr. Shaw’s [Noomi Rapace’s character] dreams.
Beautiful. Basic. Unnerving.
But then, the ship reaches the mysterious planet to which they’ve been sent and the set up of the film–the one beaten to death in all the trailers–kicked in. In general, this bit was also fine, if a bit formulaic, although the Narrative Hammer was brought out on more than a few occasions, such as:
What’s that? There’s a LIFEBOAT on this ship? That can sustain one person for TWO YEARS? That could not possibly be an important plot point, could it?
And this old thing? Oh, that’s just my PERSONAL SURGERY MACHINE. Ha ha! Yeah, I am sure we shall never need such a device!
Now some reviewers [for example] have taken the movie to task for the truly stupid behavior/poor decision making that almost every character displays. And they’re right: there is some awesome “we’re doing this because the script says so, and not because it makes a damn bit of sense” schtick in this one. Like, wow.
But the movie lost me when Noomi got knocked up by an alien.
Yes, you read that right: the movie goes all Rosemary’s Baby on her ass.
David infects Noomi’s idiot boyfriend and fellow scientist with some of the alien goo they’ve discovered–like you do when you’re a semi-evil robot in a movie like this–and idiot boyfriend knocks Noomi up with his now-alien powered spunk. It’s SO super-powered, his spunk, that it overcomes her previous inability to conceive. So very Larry Niven of you, movie.
So poor Noomi–whose character is saddled with all kind of pseudo-scientific religiousity–then spends 20 minutes reduced to a carrier of some weird alien fetus that David, in all his creepiness, refuses to remove. Noomi, being awesome despite the stupidity of the script, straps herself into the surgery machine [gasp! who thought THAT would be important?!] and cuts the hydra-like fetus thing out of her.
Because: in order to be a kick-ass female heroine, your uterus must be central to the plot.
Ripley saves a cat and a little girl in the first two Alien pictures, and her maternal stance, especially in Aliens, has been much commented on. Indeed, put her protective instincts in parallel with those of the big bitch Alien thing, and you could make some interesting arguments about the cross-species nature of femininity and gender-specific behavior. Heh. Hell, I’m sure somebody has.
But I can’t stand the notion of reducing Noomi, the sci-fi version of the Last Girl in a traditional horror movie, to a walking uterus. In the second half of the film, her character becomes defined by this status: the bad guys deliberately punch her in the stomach; she runs for her life about 35 times, clutching her gut constantly; oh, and her horrible alien baby mutates into Starro and eats? impregnates? rapes? one of the “Engineer” aliens [sigh. don’t ask], whose corpse then gives birth to one of the old familiar aliens from, uh, Alien.
So, dear reader, I’d argue that the movie allows Noomi to be a “feminist” hero only after she’s been reduced [in the movie’s mind] to the most base element of her feminity: the carrier of another life form against her will. And, in saving herself, she gives birth to the horrible Alien race who will go on to terrorize the Nostromo and Ripley for decades to come.
Maybe that sense of Zardoz I had at the beginning of the movie wasn’t so far off.