They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,

A Promethean First Contact Disaster

It Began With Ridley Scott

That first movie, Alien, lo these many years ago. 1979, I was still at Northwestern. It is so impressive that this movie still looks good. And my favorite thing was how masterful the timing is in that film. That whole opening credits designed to do one thing -- get your pulse rate down. And from the trailers and advertising campaign, we knew that one guy's helmet was going to get attacked. This takes us like 45 minutes to get to that scene. And then he leans over the egg... it opens... he looks into it... and... and... and... When it finally attacks, it has taken several beats too long and then it's too fast to see what's going on. All that and you're NOT ready for it. Masterful. And the chestbuster? We weren't expecting that at all.

Amazingly, seven years later we were treated to Aliens. one of those rare movies which goes against Dr. Phil's Rule of Sequels -- in other words, for many viewers, it is either equal to or superior to the first.

Tor.com has written some nice essays as part of their prelab for Prometheus: on Alien. Aliens and Aliens 3. I hadn't read the one on Alien Resurrection, i.e. Alien 4 or later before I wrote this or saw the new movie.

One of the cable networks has been showing 1, 2 and 4 in heavy rotation. which has been part of my prelab. I know lots of people who hate Alien 4, but there are parts of it I like, and seeing the aliens swimming is like watching Daleks levitate for the first time -- oops. (grin)

Prometheus 3D [R]
Holland 7 Theatre 5, 4:50pm, $8.75

The good news is that Prometheus looks great, especially in 3D. The ship of the same name has many fine features, including impressively large personal spaces, and they seem to be carrying lots of hardware to waste. And we are treated to many ghosts of things we expect to see in the later (earlier) movies.

David is the new synthetic -- and will be compared to the other synthetics in the series, and HAL, and Gerty from Moon, or any number of military movie people who goes against the grain to work some mission that no one else is privy to. He is superbly done. Going into the movie, I thought Charlize Theron was a synthetic, a question which David actually asks at one point, so I'll give Ridley credit for sowing doubt.

However, the crew is a mess. I can forgive the company people from the Weyland Corporation, because there's a mercenary aspect to the how this company works. We've seen this before, er, we'll see this is in the future. But my ire is really aimed at the scientists.

The whole franchise is based on first contact. In each movie, the wrong sort of people are called in to make essentially first contact with a (potentially hostile) alien species. Or local pathological bugs if you'd rather. Whether it's a mining crew, a terraforming colony followed by Marines, a prison, or trying to engineer a better bioweapon -- including that ugly white skull softshelled alien hybrid -- they're all out of their league. And "everyone" dies as a result.

But if anyone should have been equipped to deal with encountering either the Engineers or their pets/bioweapons/parasites, or spent more than three minutes planning for contingencies before they even left Earth, it should've been scientists who intended to go and find archaeological remains or first contact in the first place. Clearly these scientists haven't seen enough SF movies. Instead we have a synthetic who loves to push buttons. Plus a sneaking suspicion that Weyland must've gotten the contract for some of the equipment used in Avatar. (sneaky-grin) And why is it that alien tech always seems to work, even when there's been no evidence of power, even after 2000 years of inactivity? Maybe because the stuff always seems to be overbuilt with cast iron. (grin)

Much has been written or rumored or discussed about whether Prometheus really is a prequel to Alien. The best answer is -- sort of. The iconic image from Alien of the Engineer in the crashed starship with its telescope is almost, but not quite, here. And the cargo bay full of eggs is not directly explained from what happens here, nor are the shiny black aliens we are used to present. Which, of course, causes interesting questions of how many forms they have or how quickly they adapt or evolve -- and whether the whole Predator interaction is canon or not.

Here's one physics question for you -- if the starship Prometheus has been traveling interstellar distances, it presumably has to slow down (grin) to make planetary orbit. So why are the engines still pushing it forward? (evil-grin)

Still, I give Ridley a lot of credit for knowing what we wanted to see and then coming up with clever riffs off that, rather than just another me-too experience.

If you stay to the very end of the credits, there is somewhat of a Dr. Phil Special -- it's a little squib, but it amused me and it's akin to knowing when Skynet executes Judgment Day. (grin)

Recommended

TRAILERS: Best new trailer is for The Great Gatsby, slated for Christmas and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and coming in 3D, even though that era barely had color or sound, let alone 3D. (snort) And a new trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter does a nice dissolve of the Washington Monument to its days under construction, when Washington DC was a small town.

Dr. Phil
Tags: movies, reviews, science fiction
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