Dismantling ‘Prometheus’ (2012) Piece By Piece: Chapter 2: Charlie Holloway

An introduction and Chapter 1 can be found here.

Chapter 2 – Charlie Holloway

I was going to do a chapter dedicated to the characters of ‘Prometheus’, but then I realised that too big a proportion of it was dedicated to one single character, the epitome of stupid characterisation. The rest of the cast will follow in their own chapter, but Charlie gets his own, all to himself – he can rule his little Empire of Shit and be its only citizen all at the same time.


“Charlie Holloway” – Chief of the Shitlords

Something special happens when you take a character who is arrogant, selfish and narcissistic, and then also make them stupid, ignorant, abusive, paranoid and generally irrational. You end up with a “perfect storm” of annoyance. “Charlie”, as his friends call him, or “Dickhead”, as I prefer to refer to him, is intent on meeting his creators – on getting answers about why they made humanity in the first place. And based on Dickhead’s propensity for being an obnoxious arsehole to every conscious being in proximity to him, I can only assume that he in particular was made as some sort of cruel joke – maybe even a Biblical punishment.

durrrr
About as close as we get to him being a tolerable individual – mostly because he hasn’t said very much yet.

After the ship arrives in orbit, Ms. Vickers decides to pull Dickhead and Dickhead’s Girlfriend into her own little bar-equipped escape pod to brief them on the mission. She tells them that, should they encounter alien life, they’re to do nothing except report back to her. Makes sense – new species, no guaranteed means of communication, who knows what could happen if you try to say hello, right?

Except Dr. Ballsack decides that she must be up to something, asking her if she has another agenda. I dunno, Dickhead, maybe she wants to enslave the alien species and force them to build monuments to her glorious image – or maybe she just wants to avoid a Total Party Kill when an attempt at a handshake turns into a Viking holiday in a North English monastery.


He really cranks up the stupid when they begin their descent. Pointing out a road on the ground, he exclaims “Right there! God doesn’t build in straight lines.” And that’s certainly true, unless God’s building certain trees, for example, or several types of rock formation, or sedimentary layers of stone, but whatever, I guess the fact that it’s a straight road means it’s artificial. I’m not about to disagree, although he doesn’t seem too concerned that this might be a planet full of Space Romans.

As they discover an enormous walled structure at the end of this artificial road, he asks them to scan it, to figure out whether or not it’s artificial. So he’s obviously thorough. Except, it’s an enormous fucking dome surrounded by a concentric, vertical wall on otherwise flat ground – and it’s at the end of a road he’s just claimed for certain is artificial.

stupid
What a cock.

So far, so stupid. But, as soon as they set foot inside this enormous building and establish that the air is breathable, Captain Brainbleed decides to remove his helmet. Because the air’s clean, apparently. There aren’t any microbes. Alright. So, you just decide to remove your helmet and start gulping down huge lung-fulls of alien atmosphere. I mean, what if the small scanners on your space suits couldn’t pick up a pathogen that would never before have been seen on Earth? What if you wander into a part of the structure that isn’t habitable? They’d just established that all the air outside would kill a human after two minutes of exposure – what if this clearly ancient structure contains pockets of that deadly stuff?

Here’s another consideration – you’re the first humans to ever set foot on this planet. What if you’re bringing something with you that affects the environment around you? You’re here to study and discover – how do you know that the microbes that exist inside your own body, that you’re now breathing out casually, won’t irreparably damage the surroundings? Are you a total fucking idiot? And was that a rhetorical question?


Later, after the team has explored the caverns and brought back a souvenir in the form of an over-sized head which they electrocute until it explodes in a Mengele-inspired bit of biological experimentation, Admiral Arsebucket spirals into a self-destructive alcohol binge as he whines about the fact he didn’t get to meet his alien creators, being a twat to just about everybody in proximity to him.

shady.png
Evidence suggests he would be more successful as an ‘Assassin’s Creed’ cosplayer than he would be as a relatable character.

This is the point where we discover that he is not only stupid, but also incredibly childish, defeatist, petty and, in essence, a coward. Because the fact is they’ve just discovered the body of an ancient precursor race of space travellers. Given that mankind has never encountered another intelligent alien species at this point, that’s a huge discovery – even if it is dead. Further, they’ve been on the planet for about half a day, and it’s a whole PLANET. Planets are, by all counts, RATHER FUCKING LARGE, who knows what else might be out there?

And even if he can conclusively say that there is nothing else on this planet – a tough task, given the Prometheans’ DEMONSTRABLE TENDENCY to build things underground – they still haven’t explored the entirety of the structure in which they found the dead body. For all Corporal Cuntfeatures knows, there could be still-living Prometheans elsewhere in the structure. And I feel confident saying that because IT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FUCKING MOVIE.

So, why is Lord Loosebutt so absolutely sure that he’s missed his chance to meet his creators? Why is everything now lost, despite the fact that he’s just been standing on an alien world looking at the creations of a lost civilisation? He’s a FUCKING ARCHEOLOGIST, this should be, like, orgasm-central for someone who’s spent his career on dig sites, trying to piece together remnants of ancient cultures. Instead, he just turns into an angry, bitter arsehole.


David, the lovably creepy android, poisons Shitheap McShitstain with some weird alien goo he found in the caves. We never find out why, but it should be clear by now: chemical and biological weaponry is the only ethical way to treat such a suppurating sack of bile-ridden faeces. Regardless, he contaminates a drink in about the most obvious way possible, but because Hotdog Burgerpants is so blithely moronic he doesn’t even notice.

eye
DIIIIIICK HEEEAAAAD

The next morning, after using his girlfriend’s insecurity about her infertility to manipulate her into sex – something he does so easily and casually I can only presume he’s done it many, many times before – he wakes up to see something squirming around in his eye. Of course, any normal person might consider running to the nearest physician and getting a completely invasive check-up. But apparently it’s just easier to ignore it and move on, and who can argue with that?

Again, let’s contextualise this – you’re on a remote planet, completely new to humans. You foolishly removed your helmet without being aware of the consequences, exposing yourself to whatever nasty stuff might be out there. Even if that didn’t expose you to infection, last night you witnessed the EXPLODING of a GIANT ALIEN HEAD which was judged by YOUR OWN GIRLFRIEND to have BEEN INFECTED WITH SOMETHING before EXPLODING.

Speaking of your own girlfriend, last night you engaged in carnal activities with her, presumably punctuated by you looking in the mirror at yourself, smelling your own socks and calling out your own name during climax. Let’s assume you care about this woman – obviously you don’t because you’re a narcissistic bag of shite with a larynx – but lets assume that you do, even a little.

Now, you wake up to see something squirming around in your eye. Maybe you’re just hungover. Maybe you’re tired. But why, in the name of ZEUS’ BUTTHOLE, would you not consider speaking to a doctor? If you are infected, which you are, you have almost definitely been in enough contact with your girlfriend to spread it to her – or you got it from her, but either way she’s infected. So even if you don’t give a shit about yourself, she’s at risk too. Why would you not alert anyone to your condition?

Don’t get me wrong, if I wake up and find a rash on my arm, I don’t immediately rush to the doctor with fears of meningitis. But I live on a quiet housing estate in rural Oxfordshire. I very specifically have never woken up with disease symptoms whilst on an alien planet – after having REMOVED MY HELMET for NO FUCKING REASON and exposed myself to ALL MANNER OF CONTAMINATION AND INFECTION.

At this point, High Pontiff Jizz Poop the Turd is endangering not only himself, not only the woman he pretends to love, but also the entire rest of the crew, all because he can’t keep himself together enough to perform even the most basic self-care. Fuck me, I mean, after he wakes up they agree to venture back to the fucking temple-thing, and people are asking him why he looks bad, and HE JUST PRETENDS IT’S FINE. HE LITERALLY GOES WITH THEM BACK TO THE PLACE WHERE HE MOST LIKELY GOT INFECTED AND DECIDES TO BE STOIC ABOUT IT INSTEAD OF WARNING THEM ABOUT THE EYE WORMS HE NOW HAS IN HIS EYES. WHAT A CUUUUUUUUUNT.


Shortly afterwards, Shittimus Prime inevitably and predictably gets liquefied from the inside out before the always-awesome Dr. Vickers administers the cure with her medical flamethrower. So ends a bloody awful character, sadly all too late in the film.

goopy
Juicy.

1500 words in and I’ve still not covered everything that’s hateful about this walking spit bucket of a character. Throughout his screen time he is invariably and very personally obnoxious and hurtful to David the Android for literally no reason. He makes snide comments about his lack of humanity, teases him about the inherent contradictions in his creation – even dismisses the very reason for his creation in the first place.

And, sure, David might not be someone who technically has feelings to hurt, but the level of cruelty Dick McHead displays towards the robot-person exceeds even that of Dr. Vickers, who arguably has much more deep-seated and personal reasons to hate David. It’s as though Bell McEnd has real reason to hate and diminish androids – but we get no exploration of that.

He’s just nasty and arrogant and hurtful to the one person who just spent two years making sure he didn’t die in his sleeping pod and piecing together an unknown language so that Commodore Crappy McCrapcrap can actually speak to his idolised creators. Talk about gratitude. I treat my microwave more humanely, and that things hits me with a static discharge every time I open it.


The terrible, unavoidable truth is that Holloway Ballsack serves absolutely no purpose in the story whatsoever. You could take him out entirely, and the only thing that changes is that Shaw doesn’t get impregnated with a snot monster. Really, that’s it, he does nothing else in the story that could not be achieved by Shaw herself. And he doesn’t add to the entertainment value, because… well, see above.

The worst bit of it all is that he’s meant to be a sympathetic character. When Vickers does the decent thing and puts an end to him once and for all, we get this last shot on his little goopy face with sad music playing, as though the filmmakers actually expect us to care. But I was practically cheering. I didn’t even feel badly for Shaw as she wept – the sad truth is that him getting annihilated is probably the best thing to happen to her in the whole movie.

So there you have it. One of our lead protagonists is pointless, unpleasant, annoying and hateful. Again, I could probably write more, but I have plenty more wheelbarrows full of shit through which I have to sift for the little crusty nuggets of concentrated wank that make up this movie. Next up – the entire rest of the fucking cast.

An introduction and Chapter 1 can be found here.

Dismantling ‘Prometheus’ (2012) Piece By Piece: Intro and Chapter 1 – The Everything

When ‘Prometheus’ was announced, I got excited. Not just because it was another sci-fi epic from Ridley Scott, not just because it was his return to the ‘Alien’ franchise, and not just because of the amazing cast that were involved.

No, I was excited because it promised to be different. From first glance, it looked like it could be the kind of meditative, thoughtful creation that I love. I was expecting tense action, a rich and philosophical plot, an exploration of a universe that I love, incredible special effects, and close-ups of Charlize Theron.

But as I left the cinema, I wasn’t intrigued. Neither was I entertained. I wasn’t even angry. I was disappointed.

I was disappointed not because I expected great things and the film failed to deliver. Not even because the film failed to deliver on the promises that had been made on its behalf. I was disappointed because I had gone into the cinema expecting a film, and was subjected to series of pictures, projected in sequence and in time with recorded voices and music.

dissolvingman
If you haven’t seen the film, you may be wondering what’s going on here. Don’t worry, actually watching the film is unlikely to change anything in that regard.

One of the key elements of almost any creative work is the Story it tells, either implicitly or explicitly. You can look at Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ as an example. Regardless of the quality of its composition, the image itself implies a story, one that the audience crafts for itself using the limited information presented.

In ‘Alien’, the film that “started it all”, we get an explicit narrative – a straightforward tale of a woman struggling to survive a deadly predator as all the people around her are gradually slain. We aren’t left trying to figure it all out ourselves, and that’s fine – we are shown enough to reach the end of the movie satisfied with a story that runs from A to B to C.

But ‘Prometheus’ treads the fine line between implicit and explicit narrative, finding that little reservation of shit that runs between the two and riding it determinedly to a tragic, terrible end. It doesn’t leave enough blanks for its audience to fill in, but it possesses so many huge, gaping, cavernous, echoing holes in all of the important bits that it looks like a victim of “The Red Wedding.” Except that it didn’t have the good grace to die.

There’s a lot of debate over ‘Prometheus’ on the internet. Specifically, debate about whether ‘Prometheus’ really is just the dreck that it appears to be, or whether it’s full of hidden meaning and is actually deeply “philosophical”, which is wanker-speak for “pretentious”.

daviduptonogood
Ooh, David, what are you up to now, you naughty boy? Are you by any chance doing more random, sinister crap for no specific reason? Jolly good, keep it up.

To put this debate to rest, I’m going to dissect ‘Prometheus’ piece by piece. I’m going to look at every aspect related to the story – the characters, the setting, the events, and explore fully what their significance is and, specifically, the reason that none of them work.

What I don’t give a flying winged lesser-spotted shit about is anything that’s not in the movie. I loved the marketing material for ‘Prometheus’, but if it’s being released as a film, it needs to work as a film. If you have to start reading fake company websites and watching Youtube uploads to enjoy the damn movie, they ought to put that on the fucking poster. ‘Big Trouble In Little China’ didn’t have a fucking marketing campaign to explain the most salient plot points, yet it managed to make more sense than ‘Prometheus’ with a plot that requires its primary villain to serially rape green-eyed women in order to get his dick back.

This has been a long time coming for me. Let’s get stuck in.


Chapter 1 – The Entire Fucking Film

The first time I watched ‘Prometheus’, I adored it. For about an hour.

The first half of ‘Prometheus’ is a gloriously slow-paced tale of a team of varied characters exploring the relics of a forgotten alien race. From the enigmatic first scene, showing a mysterious figure planting genetic seeds on an uninhabited planet – which is both more and less gross than it sounds – to the sense of awe that is captured as the crew take their first steps into a derelict alien structure, this film was just as pondering and cerebral as I hoped it would be.

We watch David the Android get up to no good, try to guess what his motives are. We wonder what the purpose of the weird gooey substance is, how it might be related to the opening scene. We share in the crew’s attempts to unravel what happened to this ancient race, to make sense of what we’re seeing, to decipher the meaning of it all.

All of this would be great if any of it led anywhere. But it doesn’t. We are presented with so much random crap from every angle and the only reason any of it is in any way entertaining is because it leaves you wondering what it all means. But once you get to the end of the film, and realise that none of it means anything, on subsequent viewing the first half of the film becomes just as inane as the second.

freudian
A visual metaphor for the relationship between ‘Prometheus’ and its audience.

And the second half is where everything really falls apart for me. As our explorers find the body of the first extraterrestrial that humanity has ever encountered, a storm approaches over the horizon, forcing them to retreat to the safety of the eponymous vessel. On first glance, this might seem like a tired and unoriginal plot device, but on second glance you realise that it’s also boring, pointless and silly.

The storm arrives, forces the explorers to leave the site early, and then is gone by morning. What was the significance of them being forced to leave early? FUCKED IF I KNOW, that’s what. The storm gets several minutes of screen time, a huge chunk of the special effects budget, and ultimately offers nothing beyond eye-rolling cliche.

From this point on, ‘Prometheus’ is doomed, and I’m not even referring to the fucking ship. Every scene after the arrival of the storm is nonsensical, and the plot itself effectively grinds to a halt.

Crew members act stupidly, get turned into monsters, attack the rest of the crew and get killed off, all without consequence or explanation. Our leading lady gives cesarean birth to a writhing mass of tentacles, for it to be completely ignored by the rest of the crew and ultimately serve as a cheap death for a mute antagonist in the penultimate scene.

The sequences and events to which we bear witness barely follow on from one another. It’s as though “causality” is a dirty word, a forbidden concept, like some kind of Orwellian thought crime or those daydreams I have about your mother.

intergalacticarseholes
This image could easily double as a graph showing the spectrum of character motivations, going from “Stupid” on the left to “Completely Random” on the right.

Now don’t get me wrong: there are components of this film that are masterfully executed. The visuals are generally stunning, the sets and costumes are all perfect, the sound and the music and the lighting all work just fine – this is not a work lacking in technical expertise. None of the acting is jarring or particularly unbelievable, or at least not enough to stand out.

Even the directing is on-point; each scene, examined in isolation, is constructed and executed perfectly well. Everyone says their lines in the right order and at the right time, the cameras are all in-focus and pointing the right direction, and I don’t think I noticed ANY booms or set lights or stage markings or Damon Lindelof’s personal stashes of methamphetamine.

Please note that for legal reasons I am not stating or implying that Damon Lindelof uses methamphetamine recreationally whilst writing, I am simply pointing out that I didn’t see any stashes of methamphetamine that belonged to him at any point during my viewings of ‘Prometheus’.

But the core of it all is rotten. It is a festering stool wrapped in pretense, packaged competently enough to entertain, just as long as you suppress the impulse to remove the packaging and take a closer look at what it contains.

Ultimately, I just can’t identify the story of ‘Prometheus’. It can’t be a character piece, because our characters act so fucking randomly that they may as well be shit- and blood-filled ping pong balls stuck in a tumble drier. And it’s not about the events of the mission itself, because the collection of scenes on offer match both of the definitions of “Brownian Motion” – random, sporadic impulses and rapid gastric evacuation.

The themes involved are abstracted to the point of disconnection. The ancient Greek tale of Prometheus is the story of a powerful being sharing stolen technology with mortal humans, leading to his unending punishment by the Gods. The closest I can get to that is that ‘Prometheus’ is the story of a powerful director stealing two hours of everybody’s life to ceaselessly punish his mortal audience.

So, on a general, broad level, ‘Prometheus’ fails to be a compelling piece of narrative, but I’m not satisfied to leave it there. No, there are so many specific, critical failings that I’ve barely even scratched the surface. Next up, a look at the characters, starting with King of the Shitheads, Charlie Holloway.

starmap
The lights are on, but nobody gives a shit.

You can find Chapter 2 of this review, a look at Charlie Holloway, here.