I watched Prometheus again last night to get material for future blog posts, so forgive me if today’s entry is written with extra rage, but I can’t help it because you see THIS MOVIE IS A BOTTOMLESS SACK OF CRAP. OH GOD I HATE IT. I HATE EVERY SECOND OF IT. TRULY IT IS THE STUPIDEST THING I HAVE EVER HAD THE MISFORTUNE TO BEHOLD.
Anyway, on with the blog!
#6. MICHAEL RAPAPORT IS THE WORST VILLAIN EVER
If you’re just joining the blog, it must be noted for clarity that the antagonist of this superdud is not star of Prison Break and Friends Michael Rapaport. However, I noted in my first post that they look pretty similar, and now they are completely indistinguishable in my mind – so much so that when I went to Google the images below I wrote “Prometheus + Michael Rapaport”. Anyway, look at this!
Right? Right, though? As you can clearly see, I am correct about this, which is why the Engineers shall be referred to as Michael Rapaport, the Michael Rapaports, or – when I inevitably misspell it or neglect to revise an auto-correct – Michael Rapport or Parapaport. (Also because “The Engineers” is a truly stupid name for a villain. It’s so vague! You might as well just call them “THE GUYS”. UGH THIS MOVIE. It is an insult to everything I am and stand for).
Anyway, The Michael Rapaports are truly dreadful villains. In a film that never ceases to amaze – that, in fairness, EXCLUSIVELY amazes – in its capacity to plunge to the deepest levels of failure, the Michael Rapaports represent a stunning new low because they fail in SO MANY WAYS:
- In a series that has introduced us to some of the creepiest and most evocative creatures in sci-fi history, we are given bodybuilders with bug eyes. (Side salad: Can we please get over the trope of “huge black eyes with no sclera = bad evil”? It is good and well played out. It is about as effective at this point as giving your bad guy a big twirly moustache.)
- In keeping with my complaints from my last post about the film’s “is it or isn’t it a prequel” dilemma, they’re also a huge miss in terms of continuity. Fans of Alien will recall that the Space Jockey was enormous (the characters from Alien looked like children next to him, and in fact were literally played by children for scale) and looked like a giant space elephant. In comparison, the Michael Rapaports are the general size and scale of Michael Rapaport, and look like Michael Rapaport. WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST MICHAEL RAPAPORT, MOVIE? HIS WORK IN BOSTON PUBLIC WAS SOUND, I ASSUME
But the principal reason the Michael Rapaports suck (sidebar: spelling Michael Rapaport correctly has been a huge challenge thus far) is because they have no motivation that we know of, making them utterly useless in a villainous capacity. From literally the moment the movie starts to the second it ends, it’s completely unclear who they are, what they want, or what their ultimate goal is, and as a result it’s impossible to invest in them as characters. It’s not like you have to fully spell out everything about a character up front, but you need to give people something clear to latch onto: something that makes them understand the dynamic at play between your protagonist and antagonist, that indicates the source of tension created by their opposing wants. I mean, Darth Vader’s motivations are not exactly complex – they literally amount to “FUCK REBELS” – but at least you KNOW.
This is consistent with a storytelling mode that I find particularly irksome: the J.J. Abrams “mystery box” approach. A few years ago, J.J. Abrams did a TED Talk where he summarized his approach to story around a “mystery magic box” that he has never opened, saying:
“I bought this decades ago, but if you look at this, you’ll see it’s never been opened. Ever. Why have I not opened this, and why have I kept it?… It represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential. What I love about this box — and what I realized I sort of do, in whatever it is that I do — is I find myself drawn to infinite possibility and that sense of potential. And I realize that mystery is the catalyst for imagination… What are stories besides mystery boxes?”
This sounds terrific. It is also total bullshit. Because it presumes that the absence of information is more interesting than any information – and that, by extension of that, the moment of first learning is the most interesting moment that could possibly occur. A blank page similarly has infinite possibility, endless potential, to be anything – because a blank page, you see, is nothing at all.
J.J Abrams, of course, worked with writer Damon Lindelof on Lost, a famous entry in the genre of “What Are We Doing? Tee Hee! I Wonder What Our HUUUUGE Secret Could Be! Ooh Hoo Hoo! It Is Such A Glorious Secret, And I Can Never Hey Where Are You Going COME BACK IT WAS PURGATORY”. So it’s not surprising that the same technique is employed here, though it is surely not ANY LESS FRUSTRATING. Let’s compare and contrast this approach to Attack The Block, a genius little movie that blew my mind by being the first movie I’ve seen in ages to not be fucking smug and cagey about its antagonist. It introduces the alien immediately, and what it loses by not holding off for some grand reveal, it gains in allowing us to get to know and fear the aliens by seeing them in action. In contradistinction, The Michael Rapaports just remain a mystery because, clearly, mysteries are compelling! But since you never know what it is they’re trying to do, it’s really, REALLY hard to care.
The other thing that I TOTALLY hate about this mode of storytelling is that it shifts the importance from “telling a story” to “delaying a reveal” for the storytellers and from “listening to a story” to “trying to figure out the reveal” for the audience. The mind rushes to fill a vacuum, and when you identify something as a mystery, it’s all anyone wants to think about. This might just be me, though, because the idea of not having a critical piece of information makes me INSANE. You have exactly two seconds to dangle a carrot in front of me before I’m shouting “THAT CARROT IS ALL I’VE EVER WANTED GIVE IT TO ME THIS INSTANT OR I SHALL MURDER MYSELF.” With this frame of mind, the reveal inevitably is a letdown: either because I’ve focused on it to the exclusion of everything else and it has assumed such mythic proportions in my mind that nothing could live up to it, or because I’ve already figured it out. Remember Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness, and how the entire promo campaign was “Who could Benedict Cummerbund be playing? WINK”, and then when you first meet Bendlepap Clementep in the movie, he’s all like “My name is John Smith, WINK” he’s like “My name is John Smith, WINK”, and then all through the movie it’s just nothing but Baplabap Canterboy being like “Who could I possibly be, I don’t know (I DO KNOW WINK!!!)”, and then when the camera FINALLY pushed in and Bumpletum Rampleblbapbl introduced himself as Khan, half of the audience was like “FUCKING OF COURSE YOU ARE” and the other half went “What’s a Khan” and I pulled out all of my hair in one swift movement and threw it into the air while shrieking? CAN WE ALL AGREE THAT THIS MODE OF STORYTELLING IS INEFFECTIVE AT BEST*
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
I believe it was Carl Sagan who wrote, “It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to KNOW IT IS A FUCKING SUNSET.” Just tell us who your villain is. That doesn’t mean that they can’t still grow, or have more to show us, or have information to surprise us with – that’s just good development for any character! The value of a surprise is not the surprise itself, but everything that comes before and after – so give us a reason to care or GTFO with your dumb bug-eyes and your stupid bodies, you Michael Rapaports.
Also you Bendyface Clamplebaps.
WHY IS EVERYONE’S NAME SO COMPLICATED
*Runner up example: Super 8, a movie that works overtime to hide the fact that the Super 8** is just a spider with ET’s head
** YES I refer to the monster as a Super 8. YOU WATCH MOVIES YOUR WAY AND I’LL WATCH THEM MINE