Editor’s Note: The following article contains discussion of events from the third act of Prometheus. You’ve been warned.
Prometheus just can’t get a break. From poor reviews to my upcoming list of the 10 Dumbest Crew Member Mistakes, you’d think we’d have picked on Ridley Scott’s revisit enough. But we haven’t!
This just isn’t about Prometheus though. Hollywood has a long history of illustrating stupid people doing stupid things. One that has always bothered me is when people are fleeing gigantic objects. Whether it’s a falling spaceship, a collapsing building, or a gigantic beast, there’s one tried and true method of escaping – and it ain’t running in a straight line.
The Alien prequel is just the latest example of escapist stupidity. The scene in question has Shaw and Vickers both attempting to flee a falling spaceship that is coming towards them in a straight line. Being several thousand feet long (and a semi-circle, meaning it could theoretically roll several times its own circumference), there is no way anyone short of Quicksilver is outrunning this thing in a straight line.
Shaw eventually gets the right idea after a slip-up and rolls off to the side, escaping unharmed. Vickers, idiotically, continues in a straight line and is crushed. This fate could have easily been avoided by running either left or right for a couple hundred feet. Duh.
Humans feel a desire to run directly away from an object in a moment of panic rather than reacting smartly when faced with gigantic creatures, as well. In movies like Godzilla or Cloverfield, when a gigantic monster, capable of covering hundreds, if not thousands, of feet in a single step is heading their direction, they continue to run directly away from it. You will never outrun it. It will catch up to you and crush you. Here, you have two options – the most obvious one is to turn left or right and run perpendicular to the threat. Provided the monster does not change direction, you will safely exit the area.
The second option takes some balls – it involves running directly towards the threat. Now, this doesn’t work with a collapsing building or falling object that will crush everything underneath it – only something that is taking steps. If you run towards it, while it runs toward you, you rapidly eliminate distance and let the monster just pass over you. Provided it was not chasing you specifically and was just heading in that one direction, the monster will continue on that way and you can keep running or just grab a soda and relax.
This same thinking leads to lots of people being run down by cars in movies – cars are fast. No one can out run a car. But they’re not as agile as a human being. If a car is chasing you, you run out of the way. You don’t run down the middle of the road. You don’t run in a straight line. You zig-zag your way off the road and put something big and solid between you and the car – bingo. It’s fine to have a moment of panic as long as you adjust. These are movies – these scenes are often played out for awhile, meaning our victim is incredibly stupid for not, after fifteen seconds, realizing “Maybe I should get out of the way.”
Now, when a building collapses, this is one thing. It happens pretty fast and people are panicked. Okay. They get crushed. But in Hollywood, large things always start to fall, warn everyone, and then keep falling rather slowly. There is plenty of time for evasive maneuvers. Shaw only had to roll ten or so feet away to completely dodge the alien spaceship. Vickers was presumably a pretty smart lady, but not smart enough to figure out that she could run left or right and her death was stupid, unnecessary, and ultimately laughable.
This stupidity has been around so long that it’s been openly mocked in Hollywood – in Mars Attacks! a group of boy scouts are doing a decent job evading the Washington Monument as it collapses, but the aliens use their ships to reposition the monument so that it collapses on them. Weird Al Yankovic, in UHF, parodies Indiana Jones fleeing the rolling ball by taking several turns, though the stone turns to chase him.
So, Hollywood, it’s time to call a moratium on slowly falling object crushing deaths. I can’t even begin to express my disappointment that a lead character in a movie that should have been so smart dies in such a stupid manner. Writers – educate your characters. Teach them the art of Evasion 101. Or just stop having things slowly fall on them. Either way, every time I see a death that could have easily and literally been side-stepped, I go past my boiling point.