Prometheus: A Review
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Synopsis: This movie was visually & technically stunning, but unfortunately, just like I expected, it didn’t have its own identity, and that is what kills it. And then about halfway through it goes full frontal stupid, which made me move it into GODAWFUL status.
The Visuals: It is visually brilliant. Whether CGI, matte painting, or shot on location, Ridley Scott imbues this film with his trademark glorious imagery. The background scenes, the planet, the tech on the Earth ship, the tech on the alien ship, it’s all a joy to behold.
Casting: There are some really good actors here, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce; they did the best they could with the material, and you buy each of them as their characters. Their strong acting skills elevated what still turned out to be poorly developed characters.
The Score: Not the whole score, but parts of it were quite well done. Not nearly as good as Jerry Goldsmith’s score on the original Alien by a long shot, but still pleasant at times.
That’s about it for what was good in this film.
Blessed near everything else. This movie wasn’t about anything.
Plot: THIS MOVIE WASN’T ABOUT ANYTHING.
Let me state unequivocally, that I never have been, nor am I now, a fan of prequels, for several reasons. First & foremost, the tech & special FX of the original or first film can’t help but look dated when you make a film in present time about an earlier time, movie sequence wise. Second, the prequels are pretty much locked into what can and cannot happen, and who can & cannot survive. Lastly, prequels can’t ever be fully judged solely on their own merits as a film.
This is why I knew, I KNEW, from the moment they announced this film, that it was going to be disappointing, because they set it up to fail. There’s absolutely no way it can not be disappointing, because when you build a movie around the world established in Alien, all the audience is gonna care about is, when are the aliens gonna show up? And they never really do, not as we know them. More on that later.
This movie suffered all of the aforementioned prequel problems; its modern look is asynchronous with the look of the 1979 film since it technically happens earlier(remember the big computer room with Mother in it, the way computers looked in the 70′s); next, everything that happens in the movie is foreplay, that we really don’t care about, because again, what we want to see & understand is the aliens. Next, Ridley Scott just straight rips from the first two movies, which is exactly what I knew was going to happen. From the opening credits having the title “Prometheus” fade in the same way Alien‘s title does, to copying lines verbatim(“We are leaving!”), to the land rovers, to the crew, on and on, it was just cobbled together previously digested bits from the first two movies. But the insult to injury is, Ridley Scott saying that “it’s not a direct prequel to Alien” WHEN HE USES VERBATIM LINES FROM ALIEN AND ALIENS.
It also had additional problems:
1) No real new information. It somewhat showed us different parts of the alien lifecycle, but nothing groundbreaking. More on this later.
3) Meandering. Instead of the film picking a focal point and staying with it…it dabbled into so many different themes until, again, its net result was that it wasn’t about anything. It toyed with themes of faith, faith vs. science, creationism, the existential nature of life, human curiosity, immortality, space exploration, the alien origin, but in the end, didn’t remotely PICK one. And there was so much cool tech that I wanted to see explored and explained. But the big kahookie, in what was thee largest fricking finger to the audience in the entire film, was that what should have been the premise of this movie was delivered via freaking throw away lines!!!!!
This movie tells us that the Space Jockey race, whose origins have been an oft debated mystery for over 30 years now, are actually a humanoid race and the progenitors of humanity. Their elephant-like look has been body armor all this time(huge mistake, completely destroys the Space Jockey, just like I knew it would, I hate prequels, did I mention that I hate prequels?). They seemingly spawned humans, because the DNA is an exact match.
Then they pulled a Yahweh Old Testament hissy fit Flood move and decided to scrap it all, because….well, we never find out why. And again, just almost casually, the captain declares that this was actually a military base, stuck out in the middle of nowhere on purpose, for them to manufacture what would eventually become the aliens that we see. It is revealed that the aliens, as has long been speculated, were organic weapons of mass destruction, and that the Engineers were on their way to Earth to unleash them, to wipe humanity out. And somehow, like all good sci fi horror movies, their plans went awry, and the organic adaptable life forms that they created turned on them, and made them all either commit suicide or get facehugged.
But we’re left to infer everything that I just said. We see tentacled creatures, with acid for blood, and super gripping strength, but somehow we’re to understand that eventually the “vases” that were dripping X-Files black oil in the main navigation/hyper sleep chamber would morph into eggs…and that through each life cycle of rebirth, the alien itself keeps changing, and it’s because of the Space Jockey’s tech that it ends up looking the way that it does. Did you catch all that? They created an organic substance that was adaptable, that force feed itself through the mouth into a host, and burst forth from that host having combined its DNA with it. That was definitely established in the films, but again, that means, it’s not new information. And, excuse me, but exactly how long was the Engineer/Space Jockey from the original Alien movie on LV-426? He had indeed become fossilized….so since Prometheus takes place on LV-223, we know that facehuggers and xenomorphs were actually already running loose long before these events.
What we wanted to see was the details. How did they create this lifeform? How did they imbue it with acid for blood? How did they make it take on the characteristics of its host? How did it shrink down to facehugger size? When did it turn on them? How come they didn’t have any failsafes against such a possibility? Why did they change their minds about humanity? What was the Engineer home planet like? This is what this movie should have been about; the details of why the supposed creators of man came to hate us so much that they devised a biological weapon to wipe us out in the most horrible way possible. The job of a sequel or a prequel is to give us the stuff we know, and then present to us new stuff that we didn’t know, which is why Aliens is so popular, because it does exactly that, and does it well.
But instead, in Prometheus we’re left with a hodge podge of plot threads, and a bunch of scenes that serve little to no purpose. What was the purpose of showing Charlie reanimated? Or of Elizabeth giving herself a freaking C-Section for the dolphin octosquid facehugger prototype? This movie really had potential, and ended up being worthy of SyFy channel. I kid you not.
This was Ridley Scott trying to be “mysterious” and it had all the impact of an ugly woman trying to flirt. Epic. Fail.
And why exactly did Space Jockey Powder drink the alien bourbon in the beginning of the film, killing himself and falling over into the ocean? Exactly what purpose did that serve? Was that supposed to be an allusion to the beginning of human life, and how our DNA got dispersed into the primordial ooze?
Characters: Again, Ridley Scott, for a veteran filmmaker, makes a huge cardinal sin/rookie mistake, especially given the fact that both he and James Cameron ESTABLISHED THE FREAKING TEMPLATE FOR THESE KINDS OF MOVIES. We didn’t spend enough time with these characters to care about them, nor did they have easily discernible and distinct personalities. We knew who Parker, Lambert, and Dallas were; we knew(and loved) Vasquez, Hudson, Hicks, Burke, and of course Ripley….who the GROK were these people? Even the android David, played well by Fassbender, didn’t show us anything we haven’t already seen dozens of times before. What a waste of Idris Elba; and Charlize played the cold-hearted corporate tool well, but so? Why should we care? I love Guy Pearce, and I love his work, but he’s kind of wasted here, because we really don’t care about this tottering old man’s quest for more years. And who didn’t see the comPLETEly predictable “twist” of Charlize being his daughter? Come ON man, Vader & Luke put an end to that thread ever having any impact ever again.
In the end…we as the audience just do not care. Sure Fifield was funny, but these people were just set up to die. And then…the captain and token asian guy as well as dashing Italian guy Kamikaze the alien ship on the crazed word of Elizabeth. Happily, with arms raised. Please spare me. Charlize as Meredith had the most normal reaction to everything that was going on. And I hated, and
I mean absolutely HATED Elizabeth Shaw, because I hate extreme science types in sci fi horror films. They never do anything but violate any and all moral & ethical codes, and get everybody killed, but somehow they survive, or at least get killed last. Please go away. And there it is…we loved and rooted for Ripley, and Dr. Shaw in this movie absolutely reaped exactly what she sowed, and deserved every moment of pain. And the absolute & utter Keystone Cop, Three Stoogeish level of unprofessionalism from these “scientists” just made me disconnect. Almost every single thing that they did was marinated in IDIOT juice. From the way they approached the life forms, to taking off their helmets, to making emotional as opposed to protocol based decisions. Ugh. JUST UGH.
David’s seeming duplicitousness is never really explored; what they did with Bishop in Aliens was better, because you were never sure until the end if he was on Ripley’s side or not. David clearly did have a soul, which makes him different than Ash, but David was practiced at playing dumb to appease the humans. That really could’ve gone somewhere….but it didn’t.
Ending: I just can’t. I can’t even. Right about when Elizabeth discovers she’s pregnant, this movie goes to Hell in a handbasket. I was with them up until that point, and then I just wanted to spit at the screen. I can’t even. After Dumb & Dumber die, and Charlie becomes an acne zombie, nothing makes any sense. Elizabeth shouldn’t have been able to do all that she did after that emergency C-section. She just shouldn’t have. And I loved every time the Space Jockey map was on the screen; those effects were just beyond beautiful, but again, all of that just to show that they were on their way to Earth to infect us. It never goes anywhere. I swear I thought that Dr. Shaw was going to be the one in the chair in the Space Jockey armor, but somehow, this woman who should be weakened from blood loss and infection manages to get to yet another Space Jockey ship(stealing Ripley’s lines as she goes). And then….we have no idea what happens to her. The thing that we’ve always wanted to see, the original home planet, is never shown. According to her last words, she never even found it. Her and David Head. Leaving us wondering if David ever reattached to his body and turned on her, as he seemed to want to do.
The Space Jockey that they revived and tried to talk to ends up beheading Fassbutt and knocking over 175 year old Weyland, and then clearly SPRINTING to the other ship to attack Shaw, but she opens up the room where her baby alien is, who has now grown to be…super alien squid! See why I can’t even? So he gets giant facehugged, and then a new creature bursts out of him that’s kind of pre-alien, and….argh. ….So what? I’m sorry, but this:simply cannot be topped. It can’t.
As I mentioned before, Idris and skeleton crew ram the ship…which actually shouldn’t have been able to be completely crippled and downed by Prometheus ramming it, because its armor would’ve been stronger than that. It crushes Charlize, but with her magic main character powers, Shaw survives again! Ugh. Please make it stop.
This movie doesn’t answer any of the questions that we wanted answered. What this movie should have been, is, condensed down to about 20 minutes, and retooled into the first act of an incredible film. A film where the Space Jockeys are actually elephant like and not necessarily our progenitors(because they basically recycled the plot of Star Trek V with that one). We could’ve seen how they came up with this adaptable organic life form, watching their scientists give it its acid blood, watch whatever event made them turn on us, and watch it all go bad as the pre-alien ooze gets loose, and THEN shown us a bunch of new things we hadn’t seen before, maybe have them make it to Earth, definitely have one of us survive to take the fight back to their own home planet. Or, as others have suggested, and I agree with this direction as well, have Prometheus have nothing to do with the Alien franchise at all.
Oh well. Maybe the next film will show Dr. Shaw actually arriving on Space Jockey world. But I still won’t care.
Related Prometheus Reviews:
Red Letter Media (hilarious)