There is a difference between mysterious ambiguity and bad storytelling. I'm beginning to think that Prometheus may fall into the latter category.
I started thinking about Prometheus again last week after a reader of this blog said they were looking forward to seeing the documentary Room 237 at the New Zealand International Film Festival. It is a documentary about the multitude of possible meanings people believe are secretly encoded in Stanley Kubrick's horror masterpiece The Shining.
Kubrick's films attract grand theories because his work is inscrutable, meticulously researched and carefully calculated.
I have to my left this book, a fantastic collection of Kubrick's research, pre-production work and script for a Napoleon biopic that he never got to make. The book is more than two inches thick.
He clearly put years of thought into his films and imbued them with depth and meaning. His films are so carefully contructed that they merit greater study.
They prompted many fan letters that Kubrick carefully filed in his archive. Journalist Jon Ronson mentions one of those fan letters in this fantastic article about Kubrick's ordered archive.
So, where does Prometheus come into this? Well, while Kubrick's film have thoughtful and carefully orchestrated ambiguities, I think Prometheus might just be clumsy nonsense.
It's a shame - Prometheus director Ridley Scott used to be able to make films with artful ambiguities that people puzzled over for years. Blade Runner had thoughtful ambiguities, Prometheus does not.
I think the following sentence, from a remarkable analysis of Prometheus by blogger Brad Brevet, sums up my uncertainty over the film:
"I thought I'd offer up some exploratory thoughts in an attempt to figure out if what [Ridley] Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof brought to life actually carries weight or if they had no real clue what they were doing and instead left the audience to do all the heavy lifting. Not that I mind doing the work, clearly, but I like to know I'm doing it for a reason."
So, here's my question. Does Prometheus actually make sense or is it all storytelling sleight-of-hand? Will the answers in an inevitable sequel be satisfying, or will it be like the last episode of Lost?
I'm not sure that it is worth doing the "heavy lifting" required to "decode" Prometheus. I think my time would be better spent considering the grand enigmas of Kubrick's work.
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