The Lindelof Pattern
on June 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm
Posted In: Pop Culture
I’ve been following Prometheus since its early days when it was thought to be an Alien prequel. Then it was believed to be unrelated. Then it was back to sort of being a prequel. And then for a brief period Prometheus was a thought to be a new six-inch sandwich from Subway, then back to a prequel again.
Even now, days after the movie’s release, whether Ridley Scott’s new film is at all related to Alien is a subject of some debate (not that is should be, the film is pretty clear what it is). However, that debate has taken a back seat to the one being waged over whether Prometheus is smart, clever and philosophical or a confusing, illogical mess.
Originally I planned to explored the merits of Prometheus in this post, but the internet is full of far more intelligent and thoughtful analyses than I could ever hope to replicate, so I won’t try. For an in depth exploration of the film I highly recommend jumping over to Red Letter Media and watching their excellent review. You could also listen to our good friends over at Jay n’ J discuss Prometheus with guest Scott C. Bourgeois.
Instead I want to talk about one Damon Lindelof.
For those of you who don’t know Mr. Lindelof, he is a writer/producer who has worked on projects such as Crossing Jordan, Star Trek (2009), Cowboys & Aliens and, most famously, a little show called Lost. He has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most sought after writers, having been involved with some of the biggest science fiction projects in the last five years. Recently, Lindelof was brought in on World War Z by Paramount to help fix the embattled film.
Getting tapped to work with Ridley Scott on Prometheus seemed like a natural fit.
Before going on I want to say I like Damon Lindelof, he has a real love for story telling and science fiction, two loves I share. As anyone who’s listened to him in interviews can attest, Lindelof is genuine, completely down to earth and very funny. He is also an extremely good sport when answering tough questions about Lost, which, as you know, is another hotly debated piece of pop culture.
When I see Lindelof’s name attached to a film or television show I generally trust the project is in good hands. But after a string of disappointments beginning with Lost’s finale and culminating in the jigsaw puzzle that is Prometheus, I’m starting to wonder if that trust is misplaced.
Let’s pause a second because I may completely spoil Lost, Star Trek and Prometheus below. If you have not seen, but are planning to see any of these DO NOT CONTINUE READING.
In many ways Prometheus is a microcosm of Lost. Prometheus begins, as Lost did, with a mystery. Some white alien dude with impeccable abs cracks open a coconut full of black bubbles, eats it, falls into a waterfall and disintegrates. Mystery establish. I am not going to be able to sleuth that out even with the help of Benedict Cumberbatch.
Like Lost, we get an excellent run of exciting events. There’s a bunch of grainy holograms running around an ancient temple, our heroes get caught in the mother of all dust storms and more mysteries arise when the Prometheus crew find the body of a dead alien (not Alien, just alien).
Even the underlying philosophical theme is very Lost like. Lindelof likes to explore big questions like “where do we come from?” and “is there life after death?” which are timeless themes that can work very well. Half way through Prometheus I honestly said to myself “this is awesome!” The film had come out of the gate swinging so hard how could the second half miss?
Unfortunately, Prometheus becomes a bit too Lost-like. The story meanders, characters have extremely questionable motives and the mysteries pile so high that in the end none are really answered.
J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot came out of the gate strong as well, then there was this convoluted time travel plot that barely made sense, Leonard Nimoy was there for some reason and I left the theater angry.
Cowboys & Aliens is about the only Lindelof project I can think of that didn’t meander and fall apart towards the end. Not that Cowboys & Aliens was a good film, but structurally it is probably the most consistent thing I’ve seen from Lindelof.
I start to worry about Star Trek 2 when I think about all these films and TV shows. While Lindelof seems to be very good at the first and maybe second act of a film, his third acts tend to leave a bad taste. Fool me once, Damon, shame on me, fool me twice…well, still shame on me because I should have known better.
Is it fair to pin all the failures of Star Trek, Cowboys & Aliens and Prometheus squarely on Lindelof’s shoulders? Absolutely not. I do not know the level of his involvement in Prometheus, nor do I know if Ridley Scott came to him with a series of bad ideas:
“Okay, Damon, so in the second act we’ll have Noomi Rapace give birth to a big white squid.”
“A squid? Why? What does that have to do with the Engineers who created the human race?”
“I donno, you’re the big fancy word making guy. You sound like a LindelOFF, not a LindelON!”
“My name is Lindelof, so that pun really doesn’t–”
“Big squid! A white one! Let’s get this LindelON, baby!”
From the outside looking in all I can do is look at and recognize patterns in the films people are involved. In Damon Lindelof’s case the pattern looks unfavorable. I will, unfortunately, be much more cautious about projects he’s a part of in the future. I believe there’s a lot of talent there, and he’s still a young guy, perhaps it’s just a matter of getting better.