Thursday, 24 April 2014

Parrallells Between Prometheus and Blade Runner

There was a lot of hype when it was announced that Ridley Scott would be returning to the world of Alien with a prequel film. Many of us were also surprised when it was announced that his movie wouldn't be a straight-up prequel to Alien, but instead would open up something new. The word was that it would have something to do with the "Space Jockey" seen briefly in the original Alien, but anything else about the plot was kept secret. The cast was required to sign confidentiality forms before seeing the script (though they all expressed great confidence in their project). Finally, the movie came out, and reactions were mixed. A lot of people despised it, while others were more optimistic.

Personally, the first time I saw it, I was unsure what to make of the film. Not long after I went to the theater to see it again and thought it was brilliant, and then after the third and fourth times I wasn't quite so sure. I've never gone as far as to say I hate it, but I can't necessarily hail it as the masterpiece I once did. It's a weird case, since usually when it comes to movies I either love them or I hate them, but once in a while I end up in a situation like this where the stuff that's good is really good, but I still have to acknowledge there are serious problems that are hard to overlook.

In the past I have attempted to rationalize many of the problems, some more successfully than others (there were a few edit wars in the IMDB FAQ page when some guy kept replacing my explanations with hateful comments about the movie). It is hard to refute the bad science once you understand where the problems are. On the other hand many people complain that the movie raises questions it never answers, but so do a lot of the best science fiction movies including but not limited to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, The Thing, Contact, Solaris, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Of course, most of you have probably heard all this before. We've all heard the arguments in defense of and in opposition to Prometheus. I could go on examining the areas where the movie fails, particularly the bad science (arguably the biggest issue with the film) and bring up the better parts (largely from a technical standpoint, such as the incredible visuals and reasonably solid acting). However, instead, I'm going to focus on something a bit more interesting. Among the many rumors that emerged when Prometheus was in development and during its production was that in addition to Alien, there was going to be some connection to Ridley Scott's other major science fiction movie Blade Runner. Story-wise, there is no direct connection (at least not that I'm aware of), but there is one particular aspect that does draw a striking parallel.

Many were disappointed by the old man makeup of Guy Pearce in Prometheus. A few were also confused as to why such a young actor was chosen despite the fact that we never see his character of Peter Weyland as a young man (although a young Weyland, also played by Guy Pearce, does appear in one of the viral videos used to promote the film). Still, what I am more interested in looking at is how Weyland's story plays out.

In Prometheus, we find out late in the film that Weyland was aboard the ship the whole time. Some may have seen this twist coming, but it is revealed the scientific aspects of the mission were just an excuse for Peter Weyland to seize a potential (if extremely unlikely) opportunity to extend his life. He is an old man and he doesn't have long to live, so his hope is to literally meet his maker, who might just be able to do something to help him. Sound familiar?

That's because it's not a whole lot different from Roy Batty in Blade Runner. Now, unlike Weyland, Roy is an artificially created being with an even shorter lifespan (they use the term "replicant"; they never actually say how they are made but I've often heard them described as androids). However, like Weyland, he is nearing the end of his four-year life, and wants to live longer. His method is also to literally meet his maker in the hopes of getting an extended life.

Now in each case, said person attempts to take advantage of another individual to help get them to that creator. Weyland, as we eventually find out, took advantage of a young scientist's theories that humanity was created by a superior alien race and her desire to find them, while Roy and his friend Pris took advantage of a lonely fellow by the name of J.F. Sebastian who has ties to his own creator Tyrell.

Once the confrontation starts, let's just say that things don't get pleasant. In either case, the film culminates with a literal meeting between creator and creation. In Blade Runner we have Roy meeting Tyrell, and in Prometheus Weyland meets the last known "Engineer" (the name given to the aliens in reference to the fact that they "engineered" us). In either case, the creator is unable to help. As Tyrell puts it "The light that shines twice as bright burns half as long, and you've burned very bright."

What happens next varies slightly between both films. In Blade Runner, Tyrell is killed by his own creation, who also turns on J.F. Sebastian soon after. Meanwhile in Prometheus, Weyland is subsequently killed, along with most of the others present (outside of Shaw and the android David), by his creator, who also plans to destroy his other creations, namely the entire human race.

After this confrontation, both Roy and Weyland are forced to confront the fact that death is inevitable. Roy is able to show some humanity in his final moments by saving Rick's life. Finally, both are alone with only one other person to share their final words with before they die. In Weyland's case it is David, and in Roy's case, it is Rick.

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