Friday, June 22, 2012

A Response to Prometheus' Critique.

Hello all, been a while hasn't it?

Pleasantries out of the way, I wanted to talk about Prometheus, and respond to, in my mind, the overly harsh critique of it. First off, to get my opinion out of the way, I loved it. I was absolutely floored by every aspect about it. The visuals, were as expected, brilliant. The practicality of it showed, and never before have I been treated to such arresting effects. The story was great, eerie, somber, and thought-provoking. The acting was generally good, with Fassbender as the android, David, being the clear stand-out. In addition, the few minor critiques I do have about it are being eliminated one by one, the more I think about the film.

Prometheus perfectly captured the original disturbing vision of Alien, and magnified it. The Engineer's designs were truly unsettling, but in a good way. The perfect embodiment of a living, walking, breathing renaissance sculpture. The concepts expressed, uncomfortable but provoking. While the film wasn't as character-driven as Alien, it succeeded in plot.

The critique I've read has been almost nothing but brutal nitpicking at its worst, and in my opinion, reviewing like that gets horribly in the way of actually enjoying a film. People are critiquing everything from the plot, the actors, the characters, and in a few isolated cases, the visuals. As for the visuals, anyone who didn't think this film looked incredible is insane. Blew Avatar to smithereens.

Now, my response to the critique. This response is going to be formulated as such: I'll point out a major complaint about the film, followed by my defense of it, until all of the major points are addressed. If any of you reading think of another critique, please mention it in the comments, I'd love to hear some input. This film is quite massive, and I may not think of everything.

To note, this review will have untagged spoilers from here on out. I'm going to be pointing out many plot and story points. So, any readers who wish to understand this rant should be quite familiar with the film.

To begin...

1. There are too many questions in this film. I went in looking for answers, and came out of the film with even more questions. Some questions are alright, but this film had way too many...etc.

This is a big question, so I'll divide this part into subsections about the individual questions. But first, I'd like to answer this as a whole. Science Fiction, by nature, is a very speculative genre, loaded with intelligent questions, many deep and profound, and to me,  Prometheus is the first film in literally decades to actually ask some. I know for a fact the the general movie-going public aren't very deep thinkers, but this is just ridiculous critique. What I think is that many of you negative reviewers aren't used to films like these. You've been used to hollywood spoon-feeding you every answer to every question in almost every film you've seen. Because you're not used to thinking that much during a film, movies like Prometheus make you feel unintelligent. Quite frankly, I think it's bull. To me, movies with a lot of questions actually treat their audiences like they have intelligence, and not to mention imagination, to answer some questions.

But at the same time, I think that many, if not all of the questions, no matter how insignificant, were perfectly answered by the film.

One of the big questions the film asks is: "Why do the engineers hate us?", which goes pretty unanswered by the end. This question, to me, is one of the only questions that isn't answered, and is mostly up to speculation, or least until a sequel happens. All theories I've read have been pretty interesting. My sister thinks that the creation of humans could've been a mistake, and that the engineers have been trying to correct it. This is evidenced by the Engineer in the opening sequence, consuming some black liquid, and to his horror and surprise begins to disintegrate and die, leaving his DNA behind to create the human population.

I, on the other hand, think the Engineers had possibly different tribes, or groups of differing opinion. Recent published film captures and peeks show that the sacrificial engineer wasn't alone, and was accompanied by "Elder Engineers". If you compare the designs of these  Engineers with the Last Engineer toward the end of the film, they look quite different. The sacrificial Engineer had pure white featureless skin, which contrasts with the Last Engineer, who as wearing some kind of biomechanical armor. But if you notice carefully, it wasn't armor, but actually its skin. Now, if you contrast the different Engineers' behavior, the sacrificial Engineer and the elders, with the more serene appearance, seemed to have wanted to create the human race, while the Last Engineer and others like it were violently opposed.

I've also heard theories that more correspond to Christian theology. These theories go like this: The Engineers sent down of the messengers to the human race the helped create, but we humans killed him, by crucifying him. Now, they want to kill the humans for their wrongdoing. So, their messenger was Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I find this theory to be quite interesting, but of course, quite contradictory to my beliefs. But seeing the film as the science fiction it is, I don't mind that much.

2. If this mission was so expensive and important, why did they hire such an incompetent, stupid crew? Why did this character act that way, why did he/she do that?...etc.

On the surface, this is a very plausible and fair question. On the first viewing, I myself found myself pondering some of the irrational behavior or actions of some of the characters. And while I was a little bothered by it, I of course didn't let it get in the way of my enjoyment of the film. But upon thinking about it more, and listening to some other theories, it sort of makes sense.

As Vickers(Theron) so explicably stated to Holloway(Green) and Shaw(Rapace), the mission was funded by Weyland Corp, for the incredibly hefty sum of a Trillion dollars. You'd think that Weyland Corp, with all that money would've at least hired a more competent crew. First off there's characters like Fifield, the geologist, and Milburn, the biologist. When the crew discovers the dead body of the decapitated Engineer right outside the "ceremony" room, the first thought of Fifield is to run back to the ship. Fine, he's a geologist, not his territory. Milburn, on the other hand, being the crew's biologist, should've found it to be one heck of a discovery, quite possibly the most significant ever. But he runs off with Fifield. Later, when the rest of the crew have gone back to the safety of the ship because of the storm, you find out that Fifield and Milburn have gotten lost in the labyrinthine tunnels. 

Reviewers have been critiquing this heavily, as Fifield was the one who deployed the robotic "Pups/Pops" who were carrying the task of mapping out the caves. Caves and rocks are his thing, and therefore, he should now the way back to the Prometheus, maybe better than anybody, with the exception of David. If you could figure it out for yourself you would soon realize that the gigantic silicon storm might've been wiping out the signal or interfering with their sense of direction in their helmets. Later on, the two stumble across the "ceremony" room where they are confronted by the snakelike"Hammerpedes", which only slightly earlier were tiny worms living in the ground, but genetically altered by the black goo. Long story short, Fifield is horrified by them, but Milburn, being the biologist, is infatuated by them. Insistant on how "beautiful" they were, generally acting like an idiot, getting closer to it. Until, as you may know, they are killed or knocked unconscious by them.

To explain this stupid behavior, my cousin Rick alluded me to a good theory. Peter Weyland, the thought-dead financer of the trip isn't out to question the origins of life or to make significant discoveries. He was hoping to increase his life by asking these Engineers questions on how to extend it.  An old man, rapidly approaching death found an easy way to cover up his selfish agenda by cloaking it as a scientific expedition. If science isn't your actual agenda, and if you're quickly dying, or don't need or have the time to put together a very competent crew. He probably found idiots like Fifield and Milburn to come along because it was a quick and easy find. Fifield even stated "I just want money". Weyland's crew was sloppily put together because he didn't find the use in putting all of the extra effort, time, and resources into finding an actual good crew. If it fooled everybody into thinking it was an actual science expedition, it worked well.

Then, there's other aspects like the crew taking their helmets off. This action, as you recall, was instigated by Holloway. Actor Logan-Marshall Green, on his performance as Holloway stated that his character had a "Leap-before-you-look"mentality, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. So, while it was stupid for everyone else to take their helmets off, you gotta admit that you'd prefer no to wear one if you didn't have to.While this scene was a bit implausible, it isn't deserving of so much flak. So many films are loaded with illogical behavior, and this one's no different.

3. Why did David poison Holloway with the black goo? What was his motive?

This question's pretty straightforward and pretty easy to answer. There's a shady scene were David is talking to someone unknown, but later obviously identified as Weyland himself. Vickers asks what he said to which David replied, "Try Harder".

On the surface, I thought that David was just naturally curious. Not afraid of taking a mysterious object full of black liquid back to the ship for later examination. In his curiosity, he tested the goo out on unstable Holloway. But when you delve into the scene more, it becomes more apparent. Weyland, as stated before is trying to live longer. David probably told him about the dead Engineer, and about the capsules of black goo, and how the hadn't found any answers. "Try Harder." David examines the capsule to find it full of a mysterious black liquid. What if this black liquid was some sort of life-extending elixir? Not wanting to test the liquid on Weyland himself, David decided to find a test subject. David asks Holloway how far he would go to find the answers, Holloway's response was loosely "I'd do anything and everything". This response would bypass David's ethical standards, and would allow him to drop the liquid into the depressed Holloway's drink.

4. On the black goo. So, Engineer + black goo = humans, humans + black goo =
 mutant, mutant + human = Trilobite, Trilobite + Engineer = Xenomorph Prototype, or Deacon.  Why weren't the liquid's effect consistent?

This may seem like a cop-out answer, but I'll choose to answer it like this. The black liquid has unexplainable properties. It breaks down DNA and reforms it, all in unpredictable ways. The fact that most of the effects of the liquid result in destruction make it a useful weapon. This is another question where the answers are up to your interpretation. For goodness' sake, have some imagination!

5.  Questions regarding Alien. Scott said this film wasn't a direct prequel to Alien, but I think that's bull. The Last Engineer in Prometheus doesn't connect with the Space Jockey in Alien. The connections with Alien were blatantly slapping me in the face the whole time...etc.

Prometheus is very much in the same universe as Alien. Scott's masterpiece, Alien was a good steeping off point for Prometheus. Alien's story was quite simple, pretty much a haunted house horror set in space. Prometheus takes the original disturbing imagery and nature of Alien, but vastly improves the scope. Prometheus has an epic grandeur, massive in scale, and equally proportionate in ideas.

The Last Engineer doesn't connect to the Space Jockey from Alien, because they're not the same. Believe me, I thought they were going to be, but they're not. First off, Prometheus takes place on LV-223, while the Derelict spacecraft from Alien crashed on LV-426. Second off, the Space Jockey had been killed by a chestburster, possibly predating the events of Prometheus, due to its fossilized status. Also, the Space Jockey died in its chair, the Last Engineer was killed by the Trilobite and Deacon.

There's a weird conflict about this film. So say they hated it because it wasn't enough like Alien, but are off put by all of the references to it. To me, I think Ridley Scott intended for Prometheus's biggest fans to be big fans of the original. Believe me, Prometheus was a gigantic fan-service to fans of the original Alien. Even if the connections seemed blatant, I don't think he could've avoided it. Fox not wanting to trust the Alien property to anyone else could've signified great pressure on Scott's part to allude to Alien. But why not? Alien was a fantastic movie, and I think that it compliments as well as enhances Prometheus, and vice-versa.

6. Other little questions- Why was the initial landing sequence so quick? How did Janek come up with the theory of the Engineers developing a weapon for war, and that LV-223 wasn't their home planet? How was Shaw able to run and jump after having just performed a c-section on herself? Why didn't Shaw or Vickers run sideways when running from the crashing Juggernaut ship? A flute?!...etc.

As you should be aware, Prometheus had quite a few big ideas to express, and not a whole lot of time to do so. Wasting time on a longer landing sequence, as brief as it seemed, would leave less time for the story develop. When you have that much to tell, you need to get on it as soon as possible.

Janek, being a militaristic man himself, formulated this assumption pretty logically. He noticed, through the "Pup's"mapping of the underground complex, that a ship was concealed. This is coupled with the fact that he saw all of the capsules filled with black goo, knew its effects, and knew that there weren't whole populations of Engineers inhabiting the moon.

I'd like to ask you, would you like to see someone limping and moving like an elderly for the rest of the film, just for the sake of being more realistic? We're watching a sci-fi movie here folks.

This last question is the most nitpicky question I've seen. But I'll answer it anyway. When you're running away from debris and a colossal spacecraft about to crash on you, are you going to have time to turn around and formulate what direction you have to run? Even then, the ship is very wide besides being very long, so any direction to run would be just as futile.

Don't nitpick about the flute, it was hardly significant.

7. Lastly. Okay, we get it, you loved the film. Is there anything you didn't like about it?

Yes, actually. I'm of the opinion that characters like the aforementioned Fifield and Milburn weren't useless. To me, characters like Holloway, and even moreso, Vickers, served less of a purpose. Vickers' character was almost a caricature to me, she served not much of a purpose besides overseer, and almost seemed to be the now-stereotypical "Corporate Sellout" character that the Alien franchise has become so known for. Ash in Alien, Carter Burke in Aliens and so on(didn't feel like referencing any of the other films). But in her defense, she develops more toward the end, even if the twist of her being Weyland's daughter seemed quite forced.

Peter Weylend's character was fine, but his makeup was quite overdone. But also in defense, Guy Pearce was locked in as Weyland, and was intended to originally have more scenes in the film, as a younger man. Scott thought of originally casting Max Von Sydow for the role of elderly Weyland, which would've been more effective.

Holloway, to me, was just obnoxious, and seemed to be only used for the purpose of being infected.

Other than that...nothing.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Geof Darrow and The Matrix

Sorry, long time, no post. Thought I'd post again about Geof Darrow. I saw him at  the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exhibition(C2E2) and got my copy of Hard Boiled autographed. He was also a really nice guy and let me take one his sketchbooks for free.

Darrow seems to be most well known for his designs for The Matrix. So I thought I'd share some of his designs.

Geof designed much of the interior of the Nebuchadnezzar. The thing I really appreciate about Darrow, is the fact that while his work is insanely detailed, everything works and looks practical. Many artists try to be this detailed, but so much of it just seems tacked on and isn't aesthetically pleasing. Darrow mentioned in a Matrix Art Book(where these pictures come from) that Neo's room was designed with practicality in mind, like Neo's door being like a vault, so none of the sentinels could get through, and if they were able to, there was a little escape hatch on the floor, that led to the bowels of the ship. Also, shelves for storage had little nets on them to catch whatever they were holding, in case the ship made a harsh turn. Many little details like these didn't make it into the movie, but made for some incredible concept art.

The Main Deck

On the opposing side, Darrow also designed the machine city and all of it's inhabitants. His imagery and ideas in these sequences are truly disturbing and equally amazing.

Power Plant

Fetus Stalk

I like watching the "making of" features on these films, as it allows you to delve into the mind of these creators and gain  a little bit of their thought process. When Darrow designed the "Deus Ex Machina" or God Machine for Revolutions, he said it would be the hardest design to come up with. In his mind, he thought that audiences would expect a machine resembling the typical image of God with  a long white beard and such. Keeping on with his disturbing thought process for these movies, Geofrey instead decided to go the opposite way and make it resemble a human baby.
Deus Ex Machina

I will definitely be updating with more of Geof Darrow's incredible work in the future, and try to keep in touch more often with this blog.

All images © Geof Darrow and any other copyright holders.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy Belated Halloween!

Happy Halloween! As a simple post, I just wanted to show off one of my favorite interpretations of Frankenstein's monster. Most every other comic fan would post Bernie Wrightson's amazing portfolio, but I don't want to be redundant, so I'm going to post one of Barry Moser's wood block illustrations from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Favorite Artists: Alfonso Azpiri and Vaughn Bode

Haven't updated in a while, so I thought I'd post a couple more of my favorite artist. The reason why I lumped Azpiri and Bode together is because they're not in my top favorites but I do like some of their art. 

Azpiri has a nice, loose style, and of the most unique I've seen in the comic field. I love his flamboyant gestures and soft colors. He is most well known for his character, Lorna.

Bode on the other hand, has a completely cartoony style, but I really like his use of thick outlines and vibrant colors. I also like the fact that although his work is cartoonish, it has a real technical style to it, especially apparent in machines or guns.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: Ranx Integral

I ordered Ranx: Integral from Amazon France a couple of weeks ago. It's a  hard cover collected volume of all of the Ranxerox stories, including the first ones drawn by the writer, Tamburini. The art in the original comics is okay, but the art of Liberatore(whom I will update on this blog sometime in the future) is where the series really shines. The book is well put together, printed on nice quality paper, and the colors look great. The book is divided into 5 chapters: The Origins, Ranx 1: Ranx in New York, Ranx 2: Happy Birthday Lubna, Ranx 3: Amen, and a bonus section of sketches by Liberatore(many of which I hadn't seen before).
Sorry about the bad photos, I didn't want to use my scanner and ruin the integrity of the book's spine. Too bad I can't read any French, but I have read all 3 volumes before. Out of the three Liberatore volumes, I still think that Ranx 1 is my favorite, both in terms of art and story. I find the style to be the most unique of the three, and in my opinion, Liberatore seemed to go overboard sometimes in his rendering of Ranx 2. Ranx 3 still has a great style, and Liberatore also manged to get a better grip on drawing female faces in this one, but the story, as other people have said, wasn't quite as good as the first two(most likely due to Tamburini's death before it was finished). As a bonus, I uploaded a couple of the sketches from the back of the book.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Shadowrun Sketches

Phobos here, wanted to show off a couple of sketches I did. These two characters are "runners" you can hire in the awesome game, "Shadowrun" for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System(or SNES).

Here they're pictured in their in-game portraits:

And here are the sketches I did.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Favorite Artists: Burne Hogarth

Along with Andrew Loomis, Burne Hogarth has to be one of the best anatomy instructors you can find. He practically defined the word, Dynamic with his drawing books. Besides his Dynamic Library, Hogarth is best known for his comic adaptations of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan. The way his figures are built are just so simple to understand, and easy to follow. Every aspect of his style is just plain Dynamic (I hate to use the same word more than once, but you'll find that it's very appropriate). I don't have much else to say about the guy, but the addition of his books to my collection have vastly helped me to improve with my own artwork.

Here's some amazon links to his books, if anyone's interested.
Dynamic Figure Drawing

Drawing Dynamic Hands

Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery

Drawing the Human Head

Dynamic Light and Shade

Now you know why I used that word so much.