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  • 310160.1131

     

    Like father like son, er, like son like father... A resemblance patched-in that's both intentional and referential.

    Spoiler: Prometheus is the obvious made unnecessarily obscured; more videogame genre than movie laced with Christian mythology. The fluid of the creator turns every biomass against one another. And the fluid is stored here in wait to seed the created with their new-style biome: hell. Obviously discovered in the aftermath of an infection that turned on its inhabitants, the world's greatest scientists can't seem to deduce the toxin converts on contact: worms develop into asphixiation specialists. Crossed with a human (at a side-splitting gestation speed of 9 months in a single day), the wormy toxin goes mutlipod, gigantic, setting the stage for the showdown on Acheron. The question is, why obscure the premise in theosophy? The beheaded in the giant head room, the giant head backed by the toxin's sacred wall image: It's a religion invented in crayon-scrawl.

    (June 9, 2012) Ridley Scott's chaotic and rambling Prometheus is genetically spliced from every trope found in his second film, the seminal Alien. Spooky, empty ships, slamming doors, angry, tired crew members and robots with hidden agendas, all meshed towards the new calibrations of game-masterpieces like System Shock 2 and Bioshock. The demise of the Nostromo is regressively spliced with every known subplot spilling through science fiction since. Scott even begins by lopping off Blade Runner's Tyrell and slipping him in quietly as Weyland (Guy Pearce and Joe Turkel have their similarities), an aging trillionaire namesake CEO seeking more life from a creator. Sound familiar? Funny thing is, that was Roy Batty's same request thirty years ago and of course the humanoid creators bear more than a passing resemblance to demigod replicant-portrayer Rutger Hauer. It's a clean reverse, this time Tyrell is asking Batty for more life. Too bad the film can't pull off this daring visual grave's edge game emotionally, it slips away like the many other somewhat interesting concepts jerry-rigged into the mix. Even Batty's Christ symbolism, early death and brutal stigmata wound, winds up chained to the faithful Shaw's neck with Holloway and her playing Adam and Eve. Having his Eve stand-in don a crucifix gives-away Scott's grab-bag approach. Call it the Long Island Iced Tea of sci-fi-horror films.

    On a more obvious note, Prometheus owes more than a little of its biological thematic one-two to Chris Carter's vaunted X-Files. This thematic borrow is strangely absent from the review-feature article cycle preceding the film. Fox's studio PR machine can offer Daniker's Chariots of the Gods as a cover story all it wants since it helps hide the Blade Runner graft, but writers Lindelof and Spaiht aren't children of the 70s. Pulpy paperback UFOlogy isn't their myth. It's Chris Carter that got their cortexes strumming the PC keyboard and it shows. That ending launch looks too much like the X-Files to be ignored. And of course it's a TV show origin, which is what Prometheus is plotted like. The film (actually it's video, no?) seizes up in hysterically over the top set pieces, and the only one worth the price of admission involves an autodoc amped from Alien. Scott spends its ebbing minutes trying to stitch each subplot together (just like Elizabeth Shaw's belly full of auto-staples). Its storytelling manners are unwisely pulled from strategy-FPS console games (which have better plots suited for the long-haul), hence the chaos. Characters stumble through scenery oblivious they've left team members behind, helmets are removed, suicidal-decision making happens in a blink. As an upfront metaphor, one team member calls the pyramid structure they're surveying "hollow" and we know just what he means. It's the ghost of great videogames come back to haunt the carcass of filmmaking. And then the force of Scott's filmmaking is subordinated to the plot he has to crunch. He's best when each emotional build-up has key dramatic close-up frames, and minimal verbal reveals, but the script doesn't operate at Scott's rhythm. The actors don't sound convinced or convincing, so their arcs are as mysterious as the creatures they fear. And that's the problem. Alien's characters had no arcs. Here almost all have (at least) one. Some might even have two. Once you realize which characters Scott's invested his time and energy into (the very first scene), the bulk of the film plays out like so many cut-scenes in search of a theme. As a joke on the audience, Scott replays psychic holography the demise of the resident 'creators' like archived sequences from much better videogames about vanished crew members (see System Shock 2). The saucer's opening suicidal dropoff, a cheap hint, where the name Prometheus appears, reads more like an outlier version of Crystal Skull's saucer departure.

    Scott and his writers want us to notice unsubtle discrepancies like the saucer/disc that opens the film and the cramped banana derelict that ends it; did 'they' begin benevolent then converted to warrior-holocaust once a certain serpent-like creature was inadvertently spawned from their bubbling genetic serum? A reply they never, ever sought? Idris Elba is given the thankless job of (somehow) announcing the 'pyramid' as nothing more than a weapons depot, but that explanation is too pat. It seems more likely the place is a fail-safe stop-gap. A sentinel temple to protect the creators from their distant spawn; creators convert through serum into super killers that eventually turn on their owners and arriving offspring. The clever replay of the now dead caretakers' last moments seems to show the breech of the pyramid's main temple, where idealized/worshipped humanoids (a giant head fills the room) is contaminated by the creation-weapon they use to create life across the heavens (remember the opening creator dissovles painfully as Holloway does, though slower). Scott plays with us by merging/looping the beheading replay with the already infected Holloway. Now the plodding Christmas reference and Shaw's necklace have plot-weight: time-wise these 'serpents' rose there in parallel to one of the west's key messiahs here on Earth (the beheaded Space Jockeys' remains are 2000 years old). Talk about long-distance crossover. Next-stage Darwinism meets the bloodiest (metaphorically) of our our religions? Is the ticking crucifixion embedded in our DNA? Is theirs a lure-cosmology that returns with genocide? Co-ordinates to seeded worlds are obviously locked into their guidance, strung together like DNA strands. The bald creators seem to be awaiting each offspring planet's astronauts to initiate their own demise, or conversion, but the temple's been coopted, it's contaminated. Or more likely, the humans initiate their demise by letting David open the church-like crypt to the serpent's serum. He decrypts the door fairly easily, wanna bet it's a warning? They grow unusually fast, infected worms are deadly serpents by nighttime, a rate slip-synched with her malevolent three-months-in-12-hours fetus. Their contamination alters the murals in real time as well, another good criteria for the genetic speed happening to Shaw's mutant.

    Prometheus offers a messy, dark, religious response to 2001, but the real question is why does Scott focus his attention through biblical mythos? It limits the film's experimental reach, he and Lindelof seem to be suggesting myth is genetic. Weakly, Holloway and Shaw play Adam and Eve to their offspring's cosmology (Scott adorns their cabin with African masks to drive the point home). All we're missing is David's sly version of "Next?" as he slips his genetic cocktail. The next stage of this cycle, the Big Alien species, will be building their own crypt and Shaw will become their lost deity. It's all circular. And now that human genetics have been blended into the serum's speed, the growth cycle is slower, hosted, and female. The Big Alien's cycle is a mid-ground between our slow gestation and the creator's serum. Patient Zero of the Alien series is obviously the left-behind victim of Shaw's offspring vaginal squid (ha! a woman makes the first facehugger, a joke on the first Alien). The creator's inseminoid coming soon will be the first type of Big Alien, spliced from serpent and human. Guess he's piloting the next ship outta there. Looks like it will fulfill some kind of crucifixion fantasy set up in Prometheus's bas-relief storytelling, get itself facehugged, and spawn the species that heads for LV-426.  Where the Nostromo lands back in 1979. Then is Prometheus a veiled remake of Alien, dressed up as an origin tale that bites its spawn? Funny idea though, Ripley fighting Shaw's creation, first her grandchildren, and later - her daughter? Maybe Prometheus is the ultimate run-on sentence horror movie; the audience needs a dose of Adderall just to follow along. Alien ADHD. Too bad it was bad.
     

    Below: H.R. Giger's thumbnail of Dan O'Bannon's pyramid, cut from later drafts of Alien. Bottom: Giger's painted conception. Is Prometheus merely a remake of Alien posing as an origin myth? Both images from Book of Alien originally published by Heavy Metal Books. Two genetic flips, but it's essentially the same story.


  • 310150.1453

  • 310117.1111

    "The public doesn't demand anything...it is only after a thing is created that the public demands it."

    Sid Grauman, Hollywood's first exhibitor impresario, operator of Grauman's Chinese & Egyptian Theaters

  • 310110.1150

    www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/may/10/crisis-big-science/

  • 31095.1622

    A mind-bending summary article for a very complex physics experiment that yielded light (photons), not a reflection but a generation from molecules. Both summary and paper are web-visible.

    Mirror, Mirror: Collective electron excitations in metals, called plasmons, can play an important role in second-harmonic generation of light.

    Below, Second Harmonic Generation.

  • 31086.2010

    The editors of the Wall Street Journal find an opportunistic Nero, William Happer, an atomic physicist from Princeton, who fiddles an op-ed questioning the logic of climate change by using the misnomer 'global warming.' Be wary of anyone using this phrase in the news, 'global warming' is a simpleton's view of anthropogenic (human made) CO2, the result of 1 billion cars and ample technological growth. The only proper name for the event is 'global climate change,' which has already altered seasons, farming dates, and contributes to ever stranger weather patterns.  He faults computer models predicting vast changes (like the 12,000 year old Larsen B shelf's melting in 2002, below) by aiming his sights only at one aspect of the data: the average temperature. It's a little like saying the body is healthy because the average of it's body parts' temperatures are stable. But if one leg is in increasingly colder areas and the head is in increasingly hotter areas, the body has a harder time regulating its temperature. The WSJ should be warned it risks future generations' livelihoods with such pointed, commercial defiance of climatological research. Tell them: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com

  • 31078.0706

    Lisa Miller uses Xanax and describes in New York Magazine a culture of fear endlessly popping chemical shields to a key mammalian growth mechanism: anxiety. A must-read for anthropologists, sociologists, and public health thinkers, a quote:

    "Xanax and its siblings—Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, and other members of the family of drugs called benzodiazepines—suppress the output of neurotransmitters that interpret fear. They differ from one another in potency and duration; those that enter your brain most quickly (Valium and Xanax) can make you the most high. But all quell the racing heart, spinning thoughts, prickly scalp, and hyperventilation associated with fear’s neurotic cousin, anxiety, and all do it more or less instantly. Prescriptions for benzodiazepines have risen 17 percent since 2006 to nearly 94 million a year; generic Xanax, called alprazolam, has increased 23 percent over the same period, making it the most prescribed psycho-pharmaceutical drug and the eleventh- most prescribed overall, with 46 million prescriptions written in 2010. In their generic forms, Xanax is prescribed more than the sleeping pill Ambien, more than the antidepressant Zoloft. Only drugs for chronic conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol do better.

    “Benzos,” says Stephen Stahl, chairman of the Neuroscience Education Institute in Carlsbad, California, and a psychiatrist who consults to drug companies, “are the greatest things since Post Toasties. They work well. They’re very cheap. Their effectiveness on anxiety is profound.”

  • 31066.1826

    Korg's masterpiece device (and iPad program) is a loop manager with a Saturday Night Fever unicolor track-pad. The dial accesses 200 instruments and distortions and beat structures, all played by gliding fingers across the pad. Only the limitations of the MIDI, which restrict its greatest functions as local, keeps an orchestra out of its reach, but no doubt later generations of this will have deeper MIDI control. It slums as a techno-beat machine, but soars as an exotic loop management device. As a riff on Mattel products via Japanese electronics, the object is a dream come to life. Every child should be taught this. Even better, there are two of them...the second one (in red) is an effects processor, it makes no sounds on its own.

  • 31059.0006

    Speed up to the 2nd speaker, afterwards or before, read William D. Norhaus's Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong, a chilling, short essay about slow earth heating.

  • 31056.0959

    Naughty Dog's upcoming "Last of Us," inset Riegele's 1923 copy of Winterhalter's Kaiserin Elisabeth (1864), a Weimar era redo of an earlier era's lost grandeur. Notice fill-light is employed for both females while the male is allowed heavy contrast to hide his 'emotion' and appear menacing.