Kage Baker was fascinated by the movie Alien: the first one, the original one. The Ridley Scott on a roll one. She loved the cinemagraphic tricks and techniques in it, she loved the relentless tension and the layered philosophies she discerned in it. She loved the characterization, especially – imagine, writing a character whose portrayal was not gender-dependent!
She strove for that in many of her own characters. She was fascinated with writing a persona who could be played by anyone and not change. Lots of writers are and do, of course – but Alien was the story wherein Kage was first made aware of the idea, and she was enthralled.
And if you didn’t know already that the character of Ripley was intended to be male and then they cast Sigourney Weaver but changed not one iota of her scenes or lines: well, shame on you and now you do.
Anyway. The movie thrilled Kage (and me, too) and many of our friends, and hoards of people all over the world. Some of us have been discussing it for the last 35 years. And it’s long-awaited, much mutated prequel Prometheus opens today in Los Angeles. I am going to see it, in the wonderful company of an old friend, Scott. He was a bright-eyed brainy brat of a teenager when he and we used to sit in our living room until all hours discussing everything in the world (including Alien); in memory of that time, he is taking me to the movies today.
Now, of course, he is a big handsome bearded fellow with degrees in fascinating philosophies and arts, about to embark on a noble second career as a teacher; and I am a fat old lady trying to make a living as a writer. So, as you can see, despite the years we haven’t changed. We are not very different from the young and younger dreamers who debated the tau of breakfast cereals and whether vampires or werewolves were cooler; whether or not you could have fashion as a life style and whether the Trinity was One or Three: all those long years ago in the Hollywood Hills …
I’ll let you know how is all goes later, Dear Readers. Off to the ArcLight Theatre!
And now I am home from seeing Prometheus; and, more importantly, seeing Scott. I also had the pleasure of finally meeting his partner, Miles; and two young friends of their along for the fun. Always take bright teenagers to the movies with you if you can arrange it, Dear Readers. Their clear eyes and undomesticated interpretations are a wonder and delight.
And it was wonderful to meet the man who makes my beloved Scott happy. Miles has a solemn Celtic dignity, the shadows of oak woods in his eyes. And his voice is deep and sweet, and if it could be bottled it would be a single malt whiskey of surpassing smooth excellence. Miles has the mien and voice of a bard.
We were all hoping for something bardic from Prometheus (note the nifty segue, there) but there were only the faintest echoes to be heard. Mine you, it is a good movie – I liked it, and will happily see it again. No one creates the physical mystery of the World Beyond The Fields We Know like Sir Ridley Scott; he brings tangible life to noir anything, whether it’s alien worlds or period drama or historical fiction.
But the film raises more questions than it answers. It’s not quite philosophically satisfying – and I expected it to be, since it is so clearly not just another CGI blow ’em up film. The CGI and the explosions are well done, but there is atmosphere and ambiance here as well – and they’re engrossing, but a little too murky for my tastes. Miles commented that a well-known dramatic device for implying sadness is to show people weeping – but that to indicate confusion in your characters by confusing your audience doesn’t work as well.
I think this lack of clarity can be pretty much laid at the door of the writer, Damon Lindelof. He’s one of the perpetrators of Lost. That may not have been the best choice for a film we all hoped would at least answer one or two questions, even if it did pose others … unless Sir Ridley has his heart set on another sequel. If that’s the case, he might want to trade up on screen writers, as otherwise he may end up with a string of chaotic stories in the classic but unfortunate mode of the tale told by the idiot.*
And the characters are rather flat. The best is very good indeed, but he’s not a human being … I will leave it there to let you guess.
However, the movie is no end of fun, the effects are amazing, and the editing and cinematography are nerve-wrackingly suspenseful. I happen to have seen it in 3-D: the first 3-D I have seen since watching cartoons as a small child, and man – has that improved! Despite what must have been great temptation, Sir Ridley saves the truly visceral effects of a face-hugger’s 3-D tentacle headed for your personal face for somewhere near the end …
I had a wonderful time. The discussion of what it all means was fun on the way home, too. And Kage would have loved it.
Thanks, Scott. It made my day.
*Full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing.