With Prometheus, this summer’s companion piece to the science fiction classic Alien, Ridley Scott has made the exact sort of movie one expects Scott expects people expect him to make. *About which spoilers abound in this post* More so than Scott’s other works of the last decade-plus, the self-consciously Great Films of the period epic mold, Prometheus is in dialogue with the director’s earlier and legitimately excellent films (Alien in particular). And it’s holding a bullhorn.
Maybe last week’s Slate article about scholarship surrounding the Alien franchise is to blame, but while watching Prometheus, I had to wonder if Scott had acquiesced to the numerous gender studies readings of Alien, despite his earlier rejections of the film’s either feminist or antifeminist underpinnings — if Scott* had been persuaded that, Yes, this is what the franchise is about, or if he maybe decided that, If that’s what the people want, that’s what they’re gonna get! (‘I’ll show you Horror and the Monstrous Feminine!’) Because Prometheus features not only a literal impregnation via weaponized living outer-space mystery goop but also a fanged, gigantic vagina dentata, a creature that destroys both lives and the gender binary with the thrust of a hidden phallus.
The effect all this is of hearing shouted what may possibly have been whispered earlier, and like much of Prometheus, it’s sort of embarrassing for everybody**. More than that, though, the film’s alien pregnancy plot point and creature design choices are particularly glaring examples of an artist seeming to have too thoroughly internalized other people’s notions of his/her work. And I’m finding myself, like the men and women of the spaceship Prometheus, bizarrely willing to put myself through one ordeal after another, i.e. eager to check out late-period fiascoes of this kind from other writers, directors, etc. So–suggestions?
* Perhaps screenwriter Damon Lindelof deserves the credit for some of the film’s louder thematic elements, though Lindelof seems to deny culpability.
** But like much of Prometheus, the thematic loudness is partially redeemed by the skill with which the film’s actors handle their lousy material. Beleaguered scientist Noomi Rapace’s pregnancy leads to the one great moment of suspense in Prometheus, as Rapace is trapped in a surgical pod with her hostile alien parasite after removing it with a high-tech C-section.