Damon Lindelof is no stranger to controversy. The writer/producer rose to stardom thanks to “Lost,” the mystery-filled television series he co-created with J.J. Abrams. This weekend, “Prometheus” — a new film from Ridley Scott set in the “Alien” universe, which Lindelof co-wrote — opens in theaters, and it has already become a divisive topic of discussion among filmgoers.
Many have voiced complaints about “Prometheus” that echo the ones heard in 2010 after “Lost” aired its series finale. Scott’s new film, like “Lost,” does not offer explicit answers to all of the cosmic questions it poses, but adopts the idea of “definitive answers” as a central theme.
We spoke with Lindelof about the connections between “Prometheus” and “Lost,” and whether the similarities are there purposefully or by coincidence.
Made to Divide?
Despite the consistently polarizing nature of Lindelof’s work both on “Lost” and “Prometheus,” the writer said that divisiveness is not expected but understood. “I do think that it’s possible to make something that’s empirically awesome and that everybody loves, just as it’s possible to make something that’s a piece of sh– and everybody hates,” Lindelof said. “For me, my goal is to make something that everybody loves.”
As a fan of the sci-fi franchises he’s become involved with, including “Alien” and “Star Trek,” Lindelof understands that to work in those arenas means not making everyone happy. “I think that I know and accept that the price of admission for me to basically crash those parties is that I’m not going to be able to please everybody, in some cases including myself,” he said. “But I wouldn’t change it for the world because these stories mean so much to me.”
In interviews, Lindelof has never tried to pretend that the “Lost” finale was anything but divisive, and he has spoken openly about how fan outrage has negatively affected him. The fans’ demand for answers caused much of their frustration, and it’s that same need that drives the main characters in “Prometheus.” When you pair the ideas behind “Prometheus” and Lindelof’s writing credit, it’s difficult to avoid trying to connect the dots and provide your own explanation for the reasoning behind them. While it could never be as simple as “A led to B,” Lindelof did explain that he took the job for “Prometheus” just weeks after the “Lost” finale aired.
“We acknowledge [that] asking questions you’re not going to answer explicitly can lead to frustration and backlash, but Ridley knew all of that when he hired me,” he said. “This was my first writing gig after ’Lost,’ and it was ground zero of what I would say was the level of discontent surrounding the finale of the show and how well it wrapped everything up and answered people’s burning questions to the point where Ridley and I talked actively about that a number of times in the first week that we met each other.”
According to Lindelof, Scott appreciated the way “Lost” ended. “He was kind of delighted by it, and not delighted in the sense of that I was purposely withholding the answers,” Lindelof said.
The crew of the spaceship Prometheus has to learn a lesson that’s as old as science fiction itself. Definitive answers to life’s toughest questions come at a cost that they may not be willing to pay, and for Lindelof, answering those questions in the film would have been even more unsatisfying.
“If you’re going to write a movie about people who essentially want the following questions answered: ’Who made me and why?’ ’What is the meaning of my life?’ ’What happens when we die?’ and ’Do we have to die?,’ putting the answers to those in black and white on the page is a recipe for disaster because even had we tried to definitively answer those questions, there’s no way that they would have been satisfying in any way,” Lindelof said.
That isn’t to say that “Prometheus” doesn’t answer any questions. Lindelof said that he feels there are sufficient explanations for many of the film’s biggest mysteries. “The movie had to be content with when the audience sees the trailer, and there are questions being asked in the trailer, and the trailer is asking the question of, ’We’re going to meet our makers.’ Does the movie answer the question of ’Are these people our makers?’ Yes, I believe it does, definitely,”
Lindelof contends that when you’re exploring ideas this large, you have to prepare yourself for a lack of a truly satisfying answer. “I wouldn’t say, ’Lower your expectations,’ but I also feel like there is a little bit of a sense of buyer beware going into a movie that is asking questions that are as ginormous as this.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Prometheus.”
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