Release Date: February 16, 2012
If we were to meet our maker, would we really be happy with the introduction? That’s the question legendary director Ridley Scott seeks to answer with the release of his new outer world epic Prometheus.
In 1979 Scott transformed science fiction with his directing of Alien. That deep space horror chronicled the trials of the crew of a commercial mining vessel who set down on an unknown planetoid and unwittingly brought a deadly creature back on board. Lieutenant Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) struggle to survive would give birth to three sequels and two prequels, as well as an industry of books, comics and merchandise. Prometheus is set in the same universe but a century earlier and only a decade from the present day.
Noomi Rapace plays Elizabeth Shaw, an archaeologist who discovers a strange hieroglyphic linking three ancient civilizations that have had no proven contact. Analysis by her companion Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) reveals a star map, and the discovery engages the interest of the technologically advanced Weyland Corporation. The research vessel Prometheus is dispatched to the planet at the centre of the co-ordinates, manned by a crew who Rapace says are on a mission to meet their makers. “In the beginning, [Shaw’s] a believer. She believes in God and she has a very strong faith,” the actress says. “She’s on this mission, and she’s full of hope.”
However director Ridley Scott believes it’s a dangerous thing for human beings to disturb their gods. The clue is in the name of the ship that carries the scientists to their barren destination in the Zeta II Reticuli system. Prometheus was the Titan from Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and delivered it into the hands of humanity. Once again Prometheus is reaching for a technological advance that could change the fate of the human race. Charlize Theron plays Meredith Vickers, the minder who accompanies the crew and leaves them in no doubt about the expedition’s corporate focus:
Vickers: If you find any alien beings down there do not engage them, do not talk to them, do not do anything but report back to me.
Holloway: Ms Vickers, is there an agenda that you’re not telling us about?
Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the founder of the Weyland Corporation spells out what Vickers isn’t prepared to say. In a viral campaign used to promote the film he uses Prometheus’ story to describe the threshold humanity stands on, and the advantage he intends to take:
“We are now three months into the year of our Lord, 2023. At this moment of our civilization, we can create cybernetic individuals, who in just a few short years will be completely indistinguishable from us. Which leads to an obvious conclusion: WE are the gods now.”
However Ridley wants his viewers to dwell on the other half of the myth. For the crime of helping humanity, Prometheus was subjected to a terrible, unending torture. Likewise the crew that arrives in search of the creators of the human race find an alien ship that bears an eerie likeness to the one discovered by Ripley and her crew. In a bizarre pluralistic twist all of the earth’s ancient religions have pointed to this rock as the home of the gods, and all of them are mistaken. In Shaw’s words, “My God, we were so wrong,” and what little faith she has left falters in the face of her fight for survival.
Prometheus levels a judgment of Biblical proportions on humanity for its arrogance, and its characters find themselves in a situation similar to that described by the writer of Hebrews: “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Yet the fear of God that fuels this explosive thriller doesn’t arise from His holiness, but the evidence of overwhelming power. Humanity is overmatched by the intelligence it discovers, and it’s inconceivable that anything so compelling could be anything but dangerous. However, without reducing God’s omnipotence, the Bible records a different result when humanity first came face to face with its maker. Instead of power, Jesus came with peace; instead of a threat, mercy for all who believed. God is actually much more like Prometheus than the aliens Shaw discovers – prepared to lay down his life so that humanity might benefit.
Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell
Release Date: Fridays, 8:00 PM
Shaun Micallef’s latest foray into television brings back much of his genius to the small screen, not just by generating laughs but by reminding us what humour is for.
Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell is in many respects an update of his 2007 SBS production Newstopia, but it’s none the worse for wear. The show is constructed as a mock news bulletin with Micallef playing the role of the tough but fair anchor. He sits in the middle of a desk shaped like the Chinese yin-yang symbol to show just how balanced he is, then sets about giving each of the week’s top stories an equal amount of stick. However the title doesn’t reflect his anger at the events, but the level of insight offered by Australia’s current crop of news services. Describing his approach in the series’ debut, he says:
“This is not the sort of show where some autocue-reading pretty-boy sits at a desk and feeds you pabulum and tells you what to think. If you want that, you go and watch Q&A.”
For those wondering, the dictionary defines pabulum as ‘…unsatisfying, bland or insipid material’ – don’t worry, I had to look it up too. This is what Micallef thinks is coming out of even some of the ABC’s flagship programming. And describing them as the purveyors of intellectual pap also makes it clear what Micallef thinks of our satisfaction with the coverage they offer. Through Australian news services we’ve come to accept the most banal stereotypes, exaggerations and advertisements as news. It’s not just Shaun who should be mad; it’s us as well.
And so Mad As Hell rolls on with a range of pseudo-interviews that revel in revealing nothing, and editorials that display the host’s bias or ignorance. Each joke is calculated to reveal more of the problems with news programs and their audiences today, and to quote Homer Simpson, “It’s funny because it’s true.” What Micallef delivers in the end is not the toothless mockery of comedies like The Project and Good News Week but satire that nips the viewer as well as its subjects.
This is the sort of comedy that Jesus reveled in. He was clearly a fan of pointed humour. You see his wit active in the way he nicknames James and John the ‘Sons of Thunder’, and his sense of the ridiculous when he complains about people blinded by logs trying to pick specks out of others’ eyes. His satire is at its sharpest, though, when he considers the leaders of his day. He calls Herod a ‘fox’, highlighting his murderous heart, and the religious authorities are pictured ‘straining out gnats’ but ‘swallowing camels’. But note carefully, there’s always a message behind Jesus’ jokes for those who are laughing along: we’ll look just as foolish in the end if we don’t learn to see the world the way he does.