Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fee-Fifield-Fo-Fum...I Hear the Thud of an English Drum!

In Ridley Scott's Prometheus, we see in our introduction to the android, David, that he has modeled his own facial appearance and grooming on Peter O'Toole's Lawrence of Arabia, which is confirmed by David, himself, watching the film with wide-eyed admiration.

Symbolism, both implicit and explicit, abounds in Prometheus, and like David idolizing his celluloid hero, another character clearly has copped the look of a pop-culture legend from their distant past: Fifield, the prickly English geologist, undeniably worships circa-1966 Ginger Baker. Apart from Fifield's mohawk and the geometric tattoos gracing the side of his cranium...well, see for yourself how much the fiery redhead resembles Cream's mighty drummer, right down to their patterned shirts:

Ridley Scott never hints whether rock music still exists in the late-21st century—when Prometheus is set—but we know that at least some of Fifield's generation rocks out to the music of their great-grandparents. In fact, Capt. Janek is seen playing an accordion that he boasts "once belonged to Stephen Stills."

Of course, the expedition to LV-223 would have no need of a rock musician, so why not make Fifield the next-best thing, at least symbolically: a geologist, a studier of rocks? ("I love rocks," Fifield states early into the film.)

Fifield even speaks with the same Cockney accent—albeit slightly softer—as Ginger. (This is little surprise, as the actor who portrays Fifield, Sean Harris, was born in Bethnal Green, about five miles from Baker's home town of Lewisham. And for good measure, Harris was born in 1966—just as Ginger was finding superstardom with Cream.)

Abetting the strong physical resemblance between Fifield and Baker, Cream's music—and Ginger's martial, polyrhythmic drumming with it—easily could have constituted the Prometheus soundtrack. Such songs as "World of Pain"; "We're Going Wrong" (perfectly echoing Elizabeth Shaw's anguished realization, "We were so wrong..."); and especially "Strange Brew" (with its "killin' what's inside of you" nod to the deadly black liquid) would have ideally complemented the on-screen horrors of LV-223. As well, several lines of "Tales of Brave Ulysses" paint a more fanciful—yet just as stark—portrayal of the crew's, and the Engineers', downfall: "But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun" and "Carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind" (as we see happen to the sacrificial Engineer in the film's opening scene), among others.

Even after Fifield is grotesquely mutated by the black liquid, he still bears a resemblance to Ginger—not just aesthetically (see unmutated yet still scary Ginger below), but in behavior, as Fifield goes on a psychotic spree, killing several of the crew with his now-superhuman strength...becoming, like the title of Ginger's recent autobiography, a quintessential hellraiser. Baker, though never killing anyone, became legend for his incendiary temper and proclivity for fighting—Fifield's ultimate fate.

Furthermore, Fifield's contentious relationship with similarly doomed crewmate, Millburn, mirrors Baker's thorny relationship with Cream bassist, Jack Bruce. Fifield coldly countering Millburn's offer of an introductory handshake with, "I ain't here to be your friend—I'm here to make money. You got that?" pretty much encapsulates any studio session or moment on tour between Baker and Bruce in their decades-long, barely tolerated association.

And Fifield also shares Ginger's penchant for drug use. As Fifield and Millburn re-enter the chamber with the dozens of vases containing the black liquid, Fifield's helmet fills with smoke, which he more than tongue-in-cheekly concedes to Millburn is not tobacco. Baker has been very candid about his drug use, including long-time heroin addiction, but, as it would be very difficult to inject smack through a spacesuit or snort coke while wearing his helmet, Fifield's cannabinoid tip of the cap to Ginger seems the best way to go.

Now, it may be too much to contend that the mutated Fifield's creepy "sitting position" owes anything to Ginger Baker's signature drum solo, "Toad," but there can be no doubt that, more than 120 years after Cream's heyday, Fifield is paying interstellar homage to the great Ginger Baker.

(Photos from Prometheus copyright 20th Century Fox.)

No comments: