Prometheus: An experiment gone boringly wrong

In his heart, Ridley Scott wanted to make a film about the big questions like why are we all here, man? Instead, he made a movie that pokes at some really big questions and then…well, then nothing. That’s it.

Prometheus-Front

As far as I’m concerned Alien movies are defined by three things:

  • The aliens, duh
  • Chestbursting & facehugging
  • Androids

Prometheus, incredibly, lacks the first two! SPOILER ALERT, I guess. Don’t head off to the theatres expecting to see the aliens of yore scampering through the walls melting steel with their acid blood. And chestbursting? Too bad, my friend. Sure, there is “the scene” of which you will speak after you leave the theatre, but it’s forced, weak, and will remind you of a carnival game.

So how do you make an Alien movie with no aliens? Well there are aliens, just not the aliens. In fact, Prometheus begins with a large alien, who (unfortunately) looks nothing like a xenomorph, standing on the edge of a sweeping waterfall eating some soup. As the alien1 downs the contents of his bowl a massive flying saucer flies off into the atmosphere. The soup turns out to be the “disintegrate you down to the building blocks of humanity” kind, and the alien tumbles from the cliff spreading his DNA bits into the water below.

Flash (presumably) forward to 2089 and two archaeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Charlie Holloway, have uncovered an ancient star map that, along with others found in the ruins of earth’s early civilizations, points to the moon of a distant planet. Shaw’s convinced that these maps were left by a race of aliens who created humankind–a kind of open invite to pop in whenever we got the chance / got faster-than-light travel capabilities.

Flash forward, again, to 2093 and the titular Prometheus approaches the moon LV-223. An android named David (Michael Fassbender, Shame) has kept watch on the crew while they’ve remained in stasis to survive the long (well not that long, it has only been four years after all) journey. The crew awaken to learn that 1) they must investigate the origins of life on a distant moon and 2) the trip has been paid for by Old Biff from Back to the Future Part II.2 Well, really it’s been paid for by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, The King’s Speech), trillionaire old guy.

Weyland has put Meredith Vickers (Charlise Theron, Snow White and the Huntsman) in charge, and for her first act of business she sends the crew out into a dark and foreboding alien structure–which, I’m sure, usually turns out totally fine. From here you probably know what to expect: creepy environments à la H.R. Giger, milky white android fluids, and plenty of blood & guts.3 But, unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect Prometheus to do any of these things well.

Maybe this is the destiny of prequels. Maybe it’s impossible for a movie with as much visual and cultural history as this one to strike off and do something new while still paying homage to where it’s been. Maybe director Ridley Scott is old.

In his heart, Scott wanted to make a film about the origins of the Alien mythos, the history of mankind, and the big questions like why are we all here, man? Instead, he made a movie that pokes at all of these really big questions and then…well, then nothing. That’s it. While trying to combine the DNA of Blade Runner with that of Alien(s), Scott ended up creating a confused, chestbursted corpse of a film. He named it Prometheus.

But lucky for you, theoretical guy who’s going to drop ten bones on seeing this movie in the theatres, there are some bright spots teetering on the edges of the truly enormous plot holes. Michael Fassbender continues to be awesome and awesomely cast. Charlize Theron, who plays the same character as she does in Snow White but with less shouting, has the sinister thing locked down. And even Noomi Rapace, who wears an ace bandage bikini for a portion of the film, plays a great successor to Sigorney Weaver.

And don’t get me wrong, the movie is beautiful. Creepy ol’ H.R. Giger has supplied the filmmakers with plenty of excellent source material from which to arrange beautiful/disturbing shots. But no bag of special effects tricks can overcome the slimy tentacles of an utterly confusing plot.

Because, guys, plot is the most special effect.

— ∮∮∮ —

Why you should see this movie

You write Alien fanfic. Actually, if you write Alien fanfic you might be pissed off at this origination story. Search your composition books, you may find something better.

Why you should stay home

Because Alien and Aliens are just a Netflix away.

— ∮∮∮ —

Footnotes

  1. Who looks like us in an uncanny valley sort of way. Actually, he looks like a giant Phil Collins, but if Phil Collins went to the gym a ton. 
  2. It’s time for some #realtalk Hollywood. There’s at least a million actual old people out there. A talented actor like Guy Pearce shouldn’t be forced into oldperson makeup. It’s embarrassing for all of us. 
  3. Hey! What about all the waterfalls, UFOs, DNA, and soup? How does it all fit in? I’m not sure! And neither were the two dozen people standing outside of Movieland trying to convince each other what, exactly, that this movie was about. 
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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

8 comments on Prometheus: An experiment gone boringly wrong

  1. anonymous on said:
  2. Hocabsurdumst on said:

    That’s an interesting theory and may have been what Scott was going for.

    Alas, anonymous, none of that is actually in the “text” of the film. And none of it explains away the many plot holes in the film as presented on screen.

  3. This was better than watching any movie. I’m going to write fanfic about this review.

  4. Bishop's Lower Half on said:

    This review is alla well and good, except for the fact that the reviewer sounds like they did no research into the movie. This movie is not a direct prequel to Alien and is supposed to take place about two or three movies before Alien. If you had read up on it, you would know. As for the plot holes and unanswered questions, in this time of endless sequel cinema, rest assured all will be answered. Besides, this was lightheaded (no pun) better than the star wars prequels, so be glad about that.

  5. jim on said:

    Really boring movie. Another “Hugo”, if you will. People want to be entertained when they go see a movie–on this point alone Prometheus fails miserably. The worst part of this movie is that the story is so stupid and riddled with plotholes that it insults your intelligence and just kills your suspension of disbelief.

    Ridley Scott hasn’t made a good movie since Black Hawk Down. I think part of the problem is that he has not chosen good scripts lately. Visually, Ridley Scott is a genius but movie audiences want a story and characters they can relate to–Prometheus is such a huge disappointment in this respect. Nice visuals but no heart. Prometheus never connects with the audience at any point, and this is a real problem. Even the corny Dances with Smurfs by James Cameron was miles better than Prometheus because audiences could relate to some aspects of the story and characters.

    Honestly, since 1986′s Aliens, there hasn’t been a truly great sci-fi movie. Aliens just hit all the right buttons–great characters, solid plot, great suspense and thrills, and great action. Who can forget Ripley in mum mode kicking the alien queen’s ass? It just connects instantly with audiences–there was no need for tons of meaningless semi-mysterious dialogue like in Prometheus. Everyone understands how ferocious a mum can get when defending her child, people get this instantly. There is nothing like this in Prometheus, just emotionless dialogue and characters doing stupid irrational things.

    Wish that movie directors in general would study Aliens and get back to basics. Seriously folks, this is not rocket science–people just want to be entertained. If you’re going to spend hundreds of millions on a movie, (1)don’t insult the audience’s intelligence and (2)make sure the movie is entertaining. Look at Avengers 2012, not a classic by any means but entertaining and it cleaned out at the box-office.

    Heck, even The Artist 2011 was way more entertaining and thought-provoking than Prometheus–and it was made on a $15 million budget in black and white! If Blade Runner 2 is going to be more drivel like Prometheus, seriously Scott–don’t bother.

    The best science fiction movie in the past 3 years remains District 9–made on a small budget yet was superbly entertaining and thought-provoking. Even “Moon” by Duncan Jones (another sci-fi movie made on a small budget) kicks Prometheus’ ass bigtime.

    Super disappointed and still angry because I had such high hopes for this movie. Scott and the scriptwriters could have gone in so many interesting directions exploring the civilization of the space jockeys and their relationship with the star beasts. I really don’t understand how this movie turned out so bad. Is it thanksgiving already? Because boy, what a turkey Scott and gang served up. Sucks face-hugger eggs so bad! /rant over

  6. Ross Catrow on said:

    @Jim Moon is the best science fiction I’ve seen in a looooong time.

  7. jim on said:

    @ Ross: And it only cost Duncan Jones $5 million to make! Boggles the mind that Scott wasted $200 million+ on what will be remembered as a very bad movie.

  8. Chris on said:

    Prometheus is great. This article is so boring that i couldn’t be bothered to finish reading it.

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