The Orlando Magic are in transition: a relatively new arena, a new GM, a new coach, and probably some new faces on the roster. Much discussion related to the franchise, of late, has centered around these issues. And yet, on some level, these issues skirt the central issue that concerns most Magic fans-the one that keeps us all up at night, the one that gets the grey matter wiggling, the one that really is more important than anything else affecting the franchise.
What is the relationship between the movie Prometheus and the Orlando Magic?
(For those of you hoping for some sort of analysis using a Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient at this point-because I used the word relationship-well, you’re going to be disappointed.)
The movie “Prometheus,” directed by Ridley Scott, is a science-fiction horror flick that is a pseudo-prequel to “Alien,” by the same director. The movie was much hyped and kept fairly secret until production was finished. It has received mixed reviews from critics, with many referencing stunning visuals but a less-than-adequate plotline. There will be no spoilers (hopefully) in the following description/review, which is necessary to illustrate how the Magic and this science fiction flick relate.
The film follows a group of scientists/explorers in the year 2089 who are looking for the origins of man on another planet. In mythology, Prometheus was a titan who brought man fire and knowledge against the wishes of his fellow titans. In the film, Prometheus is the name of the spaceship which will ostensibly discover the true origins of mankind and thereby bring precious knowledge to everyone. There are also several titan-esque statues in the film which continue the Prometheus theme on a visual level.
First, the movie is not bad-but it is also not great. So, should the casual viewer pay to see it? There are actually four kinds of audience members who would be satisfied with this film: 1. Those who like the science fiction horror genre (Alien, Event Horizon, Pandorum, etc.), because there just aren’t many movies in that category; 2. Those who are fans of the “Alien” franchise (and that does not include AVP or AVP2, as both of those movies were essentially Godzilla flicks-large men in rubber suits fighting while destroying scenery and bystanders.); 3. Those looking for a cheap thrill and not really interested in thinking too much; and 4. Those who are special effects/virtual landscape junkies. For any of these viewers, seeing the movie in the theatre would be fine. For other viewers, waiting for video or not seeing it at all will serve.
The sets, visuals, effects, and landscapes are certainly not the problem. Scott makes the most of his status as a prominent director by appearing to spare little expense in creating the tableau of Prometheus. There are some amazing primordial earth visuals (at the very outset of the film), as well as the obligatory giant-spaceship-flying/landing sequences. Some of the set pieces are just massive. The score is poorly chosen to accompany the visuals, however. It is soaring, majestic, etc. In short, it is bloated in a way that only Hollywood can bloat (think way too many French horn solis), and rather than contributing to the picture, ends up being a distraction from some pretty fantastic cinematography.
Several critiques of the film have referenced the film’s confusing storyline, but that is not the case. It is exceedingly easy to follow. In point of fact, most viewers familiar with the genre will find themselves one-step-ahead of the plot at several points in the film (anticipating what is going to happen, or what is going to be revealed onscreen, moments before it actually happens). These are minor annoyances in the scope of things. There are several leaps taken with in the plot that are illogical, and definitively stretch the willing suspension of disbelief beyond sustainable levels. And there is way too much plot in the movie, including a misguided corporate-executive/greedy company storyline that is a hallmark of the “Alien” franchise-and totally unnecessary to this film’s narrative. The film could have been a mini-series with all that it sought to cover. But on the whole, the plot is not where the movie falls down.
No, the problem of this movie, and the Magic’s last two seasons, was not the plot. Not really-the real problem was the characters.
The Prometheus is on an expedition that cost trillions of dollars to fund. The vessel is going to explore what it thinks will be one of the most important discoveries of all time. So naturally, for something of this magnitude, you’d hire . . . . the most unprofessional bunch of losers you could find. One of the main characters, for instance, is Charlie Holloway. Dr. Holloway is one of the archeologists who spent years putting together the star-map (from archeological fragments found on earth) that led this haphazard group of misfits to this other planet. This is the most important discovery in the history of mankind, right? This is the sort of thing that doesn’t put you in a journal, this puts you in the annals of history. So, naturally, when Dr. Holloway gets to this planet (after years of hyper-sleep, etc.) he is disappointed that it didn’t turn out just like he thought it would. He behaves like a petulant, selfish child for the next half-hour of the movie. Here’s the character problem: someone who is supposedly this good, who has made these sorts of discoveries, who is a PhD, who has persuaded a company to invest this kind of money, etc., doesn’t become a 14-year old boy when things don’t go his way on a minor issue. And don’t get me wrong-I work in academia, at a major research-1 institution. I spend my day around PhDs. Are they sometimes childish? Yes. Do they behave unethically? Sure. Do some of them treat their classrooms like third-grade playgrounds where they finally get to be the bully (after years of getting bullied in actual elementary school)? You bet your sweet bippy. But, in general, they are serious about their research. And someone who is supposedly at this level is just not going to behave this way. Logan Marshall-Green was the actor who portrayed Holloway, and I read some quotes from him about his character after I’d seen the film. His quotes (find them on Wikipedia) lead me to believe that he has never met a research scientist, nor an archeologist in his life. And he plays his character as a sort of Indiana Jones who suddenly morphs into Vern from Stand by Me. It’s just awful, and totally unauthentic.
I could go on, and describe each of these player character flaws in depth to you. There’s the geologist who apparently has a paranoid/antisocial personality disorder, the biologist whose grasp of the scientific method appears to be “say-loving-things-to-the-alien-organisms-like-they’re-puppies,” the ruthless corporate executive who is so shallow that she’s almost a puddle, the ship’s captain who care about nothing except flying the ship and taking care of the ship, etc. But let’s save time and just talk about the best example: the ship captain. This is a character who cares about one thing and one thing only-so, go ahead, I’ll give you a minute. Think of the one issue on which you absolutely will not compromise, that one thing that is so important to you that you would lose your job for it, that thing which is above all else in your devotion.
Ok, now I, playing the part of Elizabeth Shaw (the other archeologist in the film) will convince you to act against those principles:
“C’mon, man-this is really important.”
Alright, she doesn’t exactly say that. It’s a little longer. But she says very little, and somehow gets this ship’s captain to behave completely against type. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would this character do this? If these people are all scientists, why are they behaving so recklessly? Isn’t there a single person on this crew who is familiar with science? In the future, have all Institutional Research Boards folded? Have we stopped teaching science? Have we stopped teaching common sense? You’d be astounded by the number of times that someone has to say “don’t touch that” in this movie. Who walks into an alien cave, sees gooey stuff, and immediately thinks: “I wonder how that feels?” And don’t get me wrong, I know that it is a horror movie, and we expect this kind of behavior to an extent. But we shouldn’t expect it from everybody in the cast. The only truly believable character in this movie is an Android. Why? Well, because he has an excuse for why he doesn't act like a human being. (I couldn't decide which Orlando Magic personality was the parallel for this. Leave your suggestions in the comments section.)
So what this really comes down to is: Why would you hire this bunch of yahoos? Why employ a bunch of professionals who don’t know how to be professional?
And now we get to the Orlando Magic. Because, here’s the thing, and it’s the only thing that makes this make sense. All I can assume is that this collection of losers was really great BEFORE they got on the spaceship. Think about it, and tell me if you don’t arrive where I did:
1. This is a group of people who were competent before this mission/season.
2. They were hired by an executive who doesn't appear to really know what she/he is doing.
3. They are really overpaid given their performance.
4. While they may be competent as individuals, when compiled as a team they have personality issues that impact their overall performance.
5. There is a lot of slime, mucus, and viscous fluid involved.
OK, so maybe that last one is not like the Orlando Magic. But think about the rest, for a moment. Think about the number of Magic players who appeared to be good acquisitions before they put on a Magic uniform. Duhon’s PER prior to joining the Magic? 11.43. Since? 7. His points per 36 minutes before? 9.7. Since? 6.4. Before Duhon got on the spaceship, he probably knew a great deal about biology-but after two years in hypersleep-well, he’s lost a little bit. Jason Richardson works as well - points = 18.3 and 16.8, free-throw attempts = 1.72 and 1.
Point 2 - They were hired by an incompetent executive. Insert man-beating-horse-gif.
Now, add in the over-paying quotient. Supposedly this mission cost trillions. I don't know what inflation will do to our currency by 2089, but the implication is that this trip was really expensive. And yet, everyone underperforms. Sound familiar? The Magic are still hampered by their financial situation-they are still going to struggle to finance FAs for a little while. The new GM, Hennigan, has alluded to the long-process that the Magic are looking towards. This is both the smart and the expedient thing to do. Smart because it's what we've needed to do all along, but expedient because it's really the only logical path available to the Magic. Seeing as how collusion is illegal and all.
The personality issues are probably the most disheartening part, to me, of the Magic's failures. The reported sniping in the locker room, and the allegiances that formed and dissolved therein, do not suggest professionalism. They suggest a group of men who do not know their roles, in other words-a group of poorly defined characters. This was displayed perfectly in the SVG/Dwight press-conference debacle, which was the greatest black comedy moment in the NBA since Kobe nicknamed himself "the Black Mamba." (Why has that stuck for some people, by the way? He named himself, and it was after dialogue from 'Kill Bill.' That's stupid.) And while no one was implanted with an alien as a result, the consequences were no less catastrophic. (OK, maybe losing in round one of the Eastern conference playoffs is not as catastrophic as having an alien burst out of your chest-but it still hurts like the dickens.)
It's probably time to put this period in Orlando Magic history to rest. I don't see a sequel in the future for Prometheus, and the same should be said for last year's Orlando squad. Like Prometheus, there were some memorable visuals last year, and some horrific sequences that will certainly stand the test of time for afficianados. But that season, like that movie, is thankfully over. Let's all hope that the next Orlando Magic will have some characters that we can all believe in.