And so I finally got around to seeing Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Would it surprise anyone to hear it was in fact my first taste of 3D film? I’m sure it’s one of the best such movies made as yet, but I still have issues aplenty with the technology; which feels a gimmick rather than a third essential to stand with colour and sound. When a game is changed you know it, right? Ah, I could always be wrong. Anyway, enough on that count. And onto the story.
I like the film. Indeed, I think this Ridley Scott chap pretty much knows what he’s doing. I went in without a burning demand for Alien canon because, truth be told, the stylistic tour de force of an original wasn’t quite my cup of squeamish tea. Besides, I like a novel work on this scale, willing to ask more questions than it answers, and whose intended audience isn’t boys aged twelve for a change. Count me in with Ebert. It’s good. Not legendary or groundbreaking, but surely worthwhile. I’ll even forgive the Däniken.
It is a little eerie though when you realise that a ship named Prometheus is landing on a ringed gas giant’s moon, in search of humanoid life. Well, it is when you are writing a tale of a ship called Proteus, landing on a ringed giant’s moon, called Andala. They’re even both captained by African American veterans of space. Anyone up for believing my defence that it is mere coincidence?
Well, alas, it is.
I called the ship of discovery in my story Proteus after the Greek god of that name. I liked the multiple meanings of “the first” and “shapeshifter”, as the humans’ arrival at Andala is chock full of all that. Proteus is the pinnacle of their technology, the essentially magic stuff that they bring to Andala and which so impresses its people. My whole story has a theme around human technology versus Andalan aner; their innate nature versus our invention. The pair are forever bound together, in Alpha’s leading couple not least, and so Proteus’s rôle in being the first is no small deal. Proteus is to Andala what Tani is to Marie. A bridge, a prototype, and a beginning.
Fortunately for me and perhaps for all of us, Proteus and Prometheus diverge pretty spectacularly from the moment they arrive. Our visions of life on an alien world seem almost polar opposites, even if we are after the same almighty stuff. The aliens my explorers find are very different indeed from Prometheus’s Engineers and their ever so deadly bioweapon. Andala is no paradise, but compared to what awaits the Prometheans, it almost is. In either case, we find more than we bargained for. With each one’s full web of strings attached. My story is just more concerned with what happens next, once we all know, and as life goes on.
I’m thankful that Proteus is but a piece of back-story in my creation, and that the name near-miss isn’t a reason to have to rethink the whole thing from scratch. In fact, this is not even the first time a name’s come up. The more you make, the more these events occur, I suppose. Let it be a footnote for the Wikipedians of the future, if they should choose to care.
My favourite character in Prometheus, besides perhaps said captain Janek, is the critics’ choice: the android David. A wonderfully played homage to 2001’s HAL and Dave wrapped up as one, the robot is easily the most human part in the film, as far as I’m concerned. Rarely has as meticulous and advanced an android been seen, in his movement, look, and thought. I especially like the duo of he and his elderly human creator, which reminds me all the more of Dave Bowman’s experiences beyond the infinite. David’s motives and development ring true to me, unlike, I’m afraid, most others in Prometheus. When you get the characters right, you’re really going somewhere special. I like to think there were glimpses of something magical in there. Not least as Prometheus is as richly decked in myth and legend as I aim to reach myself. And make no mistake, the sheer effort gone into the movie is there for all to see.
Artificial intelligence is already on my places not to go list. And the same is true for nontrivial robots, no matter the fact I do indeed quite like them. Inhuman minds just bring too broad a set of consequences, is all. So, I’m afraid, no HAL or David for Andala. Surely not while I’m still hanging up the stars and dusting off the rings.
One last thing: a familiar face aboard Prometheus was that of the ship’s pilot. Why if it wasn’t Benedict Wong. I shall always remember him from the doomed but marvellous deadpan comedy 15 Storeys High. My own captain, Kingston, is already quite the pilot in his own right so Proteus doesn’t need one. But the trope of the taciturn wingman is sounding loud and clear, and I wouldn’t write off an inscrutable parallel sneaking up somewhere else.