Things I Learned About Writing From Prometheus

Just as a heads up, this brief posts assumes you have either A) have already seen Prometheus B) Haven't seen it, don't plan to and therefore don't care about spoilers. If you answered B, well, all I can say is that after having seen the movie I wish I had made the same decision.

Don't get me wrong, there was some good stuff in the movie (Pretty much the beautiful visuals and Michael Fassbender) but there were also things in the movie that are really great object lessons for people who write. Namely:

Don't set up that your characters are all brilliant and then make your plot dependent on them acting really really stupid: Honestly this is the movie's worst failing. Sure, no one says that the crew are all geniuses or anything, but hey, they're scientists good enough that a company is sending them a trillion miles from earth in what may be the greatest scientific expedition of all time. They've probably got some game, right?

Well, if they do then one would think they wouldn't:

  • Remove their helmets on a completely alien world. Sure, we know the air is breathable but how can they possibly know that there isn't some alien super flu (or whatever) just floating around ready to make their innards into soup? I mean, wouldn't it  pay to be a little extra cautious when you're the first person ever to step onto an alien world?
  • Stuff alien artifacts into ziploc bags and the take them onto the ship to examine them without bothering to put them into some kind of isolation before you do it. (Also, why were they in such a hurry? Sure there was a huge storm coming but this stuff had been sitting there for thousands of years and I don't think the dead guys head was going anywhere. Again, a little caution was called for.)
  • See a bizarre alien cobra thing floating around in an icky black lake and think "Hey! I know! I'll just go ahead and touch it!"

Now sure, smart people do dumb things all the time and maybe these people are overcome with, I don't know, space madness or something, but if that is the case the audience needs to be made aware of it. I need to understand why they're making these decisions or else I just wonder why the mega corp sent the  Three Stoooges on a trillion dollar mission

Don't do things just because they're convenient for your as a writer:  Ok these drove me nuts as well. Three things. Fassbender using his weird helmet thing to see Rapace's extremely exposition heavy dreams,  the incredibly convenient but baffling Engineer holograms we see running around inside the ship and Rapace's magical de-aliening surgery.

Seriously? The dream helmet thing? It was used once in the whole movie simply to communicate a piece of exposition that A) the robot could have known in many other ways and B) could have been simply communicated in a line or two of dialogue. (For brevity's sake we'll ignore the fact that it really wasn't an important piece of exposition anyway)

And the Engineer hologram thing? I grant you that it looked neat and all but, why would it have existed? I guess the aliens were recording everything they did on the ship in hologram form. Why would they do that? Seems awful convenient for our heros. And our writers. Again, ultimately I guess this was done to communicate some exposition to us and the team but man, it was a pretty heavy handed way of doing it.

And the surgery? Ok, we sometimes have to fudge the timeline on things a little, but seriously? She has what is essentially a C-section, while awake, and then she is stapled up and running through the ship literally minutes later. I think, at most, she winces once. Now honestly, it's not so much that it wasn't realistic that bothers me, it's that the writers put a character in a huge and interesting predicament and then solved it with what is essentially a punt. "Eh she gets magic surgery and she's fine. Whatever. Let's move on."  That's just weak writing. I think if you embrace the difficulty of a problem and the seeming impossibility of solving it, you are forced to come up with  better and more creative solutions.

Shut up already: I had this same problem with Dark Knight Rises. Too often writers think that if characters spend alot of time talking about big heady issues--like faith or the responsibility of creators to their creations--then it means that the movie is about those things in some significant way. It's not. A story is about, say,  faith when we see the ways in which faith, or the lack thereof, effects a characters actions, when it creates conflicts, when it is the engine of the story. Not when people talk about it. This is a classic show vs. tell problem. Don't talk about your ideas, show us your ideas in action and let us make the connections.

How about y'all? Anybody see this and take other lessons from it?