If you reckon you weren’t confused by Prometheus then I can only suggest that you weren’t paying enough attention; go back and watch it repeatedly until you are properly confused and then you’ll be up to speed with the rest of us. I’m not talking about all those obvious plot-holes here; you know the kind of thing - Noomi Rapace giving herself a caesarean, finding a vicious and rather icky life form inside her and then just forgetting to tell anyone. “Oh, while I think of it, when you’ve got a moment, there’s something nasty in the sickbay you might want to check is actually dead; you know how these things do have a habit of turning into big unstoppable beasties by the closing reel. Did I tell you about the caesarean I gave myself? What a day I’ve had...” That could have saved her a bit of bother later. What I’m talking about here are all those things that might get explained in later movies or maybe won’t: Earthworms underfoot, xenomorph frescos, vases of goo that do different things at different times, Engineers fleeing the wrong way (from what?), superior races with a penchant for changing their minds, the beginning of the movie, the rest of the movie and so on. While Prometheus seemed to dominate the Internet before its release, the arrival of the movie has caused debate, argument, name-calling and world-class trolling over what was going on in the movie, plunging the web into virtual meltdown since. Some people are Not Happy, while those who are have been quick in condemning those that aren’t as foolish and unworthy of what they see as an artistic triumph.
So why has Ridley Scott left everyone so dissatisfied and/or agitated? Is he getting old? Well yes, he is, but as long as studios are letting him play with nine-figure budgets then we’ll have to assume he still has his wits about him (even if he does think talking about the long-debunked Erich von Däniken was a good build-up to the movie’s release). OK, so Ridley never was a master storyteller, but it’s not like he’s Tim Burton or something (ooh, controversial). Whatever way you look at it, there were bits of the movie that, within the confines of the story being told in its 124 minutes running time, were clearly confused if not entirely inexplicable. Of course, with a (pro)active imagination, we can dream up all sorts of stuff to explicate what we saw, while the more cynical of us will believe some things were included simply because they looked cool. But this use of our imagination can’t be a Bad Thing, can it? I mean we’re always complaining how Hollywood spoon feeds us so what’s so terrible about a few bits left for us to sort out? Especially now we have the Internet to talk about these things.
Hang on a minute. Was this Ridley’s game all along? We all know that the Internet has become a major tool of the filmmaker in the run up to a movie’s release, be it viral marketing or simply feeding the forums (even though some remember when a poster on a bus stop was newfangled); but has Ridley pushed the whole film experience itself into something to be ‘enjoyed’ on the web? Of course, people have been arguing about movies on the net for as long as it’s existed but despite the passion of much of this activity, it has never really been more than a twenty-first century equivalent of a conversation in the pub that you can experience while sitting in your pants (you know who you are). But Scott and writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof seem to have littered the movie with unexplained dead-ends and bits and pieces that seem to serve no other purpose than to provoke debate. The resulting online argument has actually become part of the entertainment experience for anyone with the inclination (and time on their hands) to join in or observe. Either that or the team are leaving an awful lot of explaining to do in the later parts of what we all expect will be a trilogy. Or perhaps both of these phenomena are afoot? If we’re going to get another installment in a couple of years then the expectation is going to be even bigger than Prometheus had in the first place; we’re going to get to see whose pet theory was right and whose wasn’t. Scores will be settled among the geekhood. And there’s no problem if what we have all just watched is just a bunch of stuff randomly put together to look good on the screen. If the writers have any plot problems, the audience is providing the explanations they need. This could be an opportunity for us to write our own movie. ‘We’re damned if we know what’s going on, so just fill in the details and we’ll cobble together a couple of sequels’.
Of course, it would be terribly unsatisfying if any of this were true. One likes to think that there is a grand plan behind these movies as Ridley and chums gradually reveal their creation. Perhaps that’s true but Ridley has always liked to be at the cutting edge of cinema. The Blair Witch Project (1999) changed the stakes by using the web to give you a back-story and Prometheus has continued that tradition with its stand-alone teasers even going so far as casting Guy Pearce to play the ancient Peter Weyland so that he is the right age for the teasers. Or at least we’re assuming that’s the reason. So it’s perfectly believable that the wily old Scott has decided to make participation on the Internet part of our viewing experience. As to whether this is a Good Thing, that rather depends on your perspective; it’s a bit of a minority sport after all. Most people just want to see a movie. As far as the rest are concerned, best trolling trousers on until Prometheus 2.