PROMETHEUS - 2012
20th Century Fox
Ratings: USA: R
So how anticipated was this? Ridley Scott wanted to make an ALIEN sequel ever since 20th Century Fox chose to drop him and go with James Cameron. With the wild success of ALIENS, that was clearly a good move. Fox never had a good move in the ALIEN franchise again. Could Ridley Scott turn that around?
From the start Ridley Scott wanted to do a version of ALIEN that dove-tailed
with his fondness for author Erich von Däniken's version of human history in Chariots of the Gods.(?)
After over 30 years 20th Century Fox, convinced that they couldn't do any better and probably hoping they wouldn't do worse (though history says otherwise), gave Scott the green-light in 2009.
Then they didn't.
Then they did.
Trouble was brewing at Fox and the eventual upshot was that Ridley wouldn't exactly be kinda sorta doing a prequel but more of a kinda sorta thing that incorporated ALIEN storyline with some other stuff that... well, it all looked more and more half-assed, but like any fan of the series, I hoped that everything I was reading was marketing red herrings and director Ridley would save the day.
There have been times in my life that I've gone back to a theater to watch a movie for the second time. Not because it was so good, but because it was so unbelievably bad I couldn't believe it.
I couldn't believe that George Lucas so thoroughly gutted Star Wars with the Phantom Menace.
I couldn't believe that M. Night Shyamalan intentionally shot himself in both feet with SIGNS (then committed hara-kiri with THE VILLAGE).
I couldn't believe that George A. Romero cinematically beat himself over the head with a shovel by making LAND OF THE DEAD (and then buried himself with DIARY OF THE DEAD).
I couldn't believe that Steven Spielberg garrotted himself with INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULLS.
Now that you see where I'm going with this, I had to watch PROMETHEUS twice.
The movie begins with uplifting orchestral music courtesy of Ridley's goto composer of the 2000s, Marc Streitenfeld. We see a vast panorama of aerial mountainous vistas. Sometimes we see a massive round shadow traveling across the ground, too large to be anything but a flying saucer.
Eventually, a hooded figure reveals itself to be a very human looking alien. The ultra white, oddly textured flesh and black eyes, gives away the idea that, whatever this is, this isn't actually human. The (gender neutral) creature, gazes away toward the massive grey spaceship hanging in the sky. It opens a container and drinks from it, apparently surprising itself that it just ingested poison. We see a macro close-up of its very DNA blackening, coming apart, and dissolving in its bloodstream. It falls into a body of water and the DNA miraculously repairs itself and floats away. As the creature dies the spacecraft leaves.
O-kay. Not the same as touching a singing black wafer, but we get the idea.
Either intentionally or by treacherous villainy, the alien used its own body to seed the earth with DNA. Entirely unnecessary to kill itself doing that, as this planet (presumably the earth) already has plant life, which means it already has DNA. Perhaps we'll find out later in the movie why it went down this way*.
Next we see a research archeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST, THE MONITOR, SHERLOCK HOMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS) insisting that her partner, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green: 24 [TV], DEVIL) check out what she found in a cave painting.
Next we see the quiet David (Michael Fassbender: 300, CENTURION). David exists on a spaceship and dons a helmet to monitor
the humans in cryosleep. With his helmet he can watch their dreams. David does a lot of things to keep himself occupied. Apparently this is a very long trip. Eventually the crew wake up and he goes about tending to their needs, although there is a pecking order that seems to start at the top with Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron: THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE, ÆON FLUX).
The crew takes over flying the ship to
the planet's surface, under the command of Captain Janek (Idris Elba: 28 WEEKS LATER, THE UNBORN, THOR, GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE). It's while the crew prepares their mission, that everything goes to hell.
At their first meal out of "sleep", Ship's biologist, Millburn (Rafe Spall: SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, GRINDHOUSE), sits at a table and cordially introduces himself to ship's unknown, Fifield (Sean Harris: TRAUMA, CREEP, FROZEN , ISOLATION, RED RIDING: IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD [all]). The reaction? Fifield verbally explodes with threats and intimidation and none of his insane behavior or motivation makes any sense. Was there a position for Ship's Psychotic?
Later on, Fifield - right out of the blue - puts his face within inches of his team leader's face and shouts that he is the ship's Geologist (oh.) and what she is asking isn't in his job description.
Was there a 'Must-be-psychopath' requirement for the ship's Geologist? And at what point will he ever do anything that looks like he's doing his job?
Never, as it turns out.
The script called for a quixotic maniac and a maniac he shall be.
Later in the script the writer figured he should give Fifield a job description, him being on the crew and all. And you know he's the troubled psychotic because he's a Redhead with a Mohawk (which should be a movie title in its own right) and has tattoos on his bald spots.
Bingo! Instant psycho! The audience doesn't even have to think about it. Making a character who looks like Fifield be a rational, intelligent guy (he's a scientist after all) would make him far more interesting, but who the hell wants that?
In truth, Fifield is only the worst of an entire crew of jerks who bitch and snipe at each other to pass for character development (like in the Alien rip-offs of Fred Olen Ray [HYBRID] or Jeff Leroy's ALIEN 3000) and everyone chooses to be a salty pain in the ass to the robot David. You know, the one entity that keeps them all alive? That one. Why everyone wants to be such acidic douchebags is never explained.
Inexplicably and without eventual explanation, Biologist Millburn and Fifield are recreated as instant friends and get lost while escaping... Something. And while lost, we are treated to the most forehead-slapping stupid death scene a presumed XenoBiologist and XenoGeologist could possibly make. I'm talking Syfy Channel, Asylum Pictures bad.
David the bot, meanwhile, decides to wreck the mission by intentionally infecting a crew member with ..."something", and allowing the person to suffer the unknown consequences and possibly infect others. What David's point in that (Ash had a point) is never explained.
Then, for no other reason ever explained in the story, but that they needed a gory action scene to stick to the current Hollywood trendy meme of "the beats" (better than a comprehensible story is "the beats"!), the dead Fifield is resurrected by something that turns him into a mutant zombie.
A Mutant Zombie!
In an Alien movie!
Great Cthulhu what a horribly awkward mess!
The PROMETHEUS' amateur hour script is by Jon Spaihts (THE DARKEST HOUR) and Damon Lindelof (LOST [TV], COWBOYS VS. ALIENS) who apparently were more concerned with sticking to the very letter of the late Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT books than actually writing a good script.
No character has any reasonable motivations for why they do the stupid things they do and all seem intent on destroying the mission for never explained reasons of their own. This isn't limited to the human characters, but to the aliens as well.
The visuals are as nice as you'd expect in a
$200 or so million dollar movie and the Production Design by Arthur Max (SE7EN, PANIC ROOM) doesn't disappoint. The creature designs by Martin Rezard (HELLBOY 2, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS [part 1 & 2]) disappoint greatly. When Stan Winston was hired to re-imagine H.R. Giger's creation for the Alien Queen in ALIENS, he came through like a fireball! Rexard's re-imagined Alien creature comes through like a snail.
Another inexplicable thing is director Ridley Scott's direction. Except for David, the rest of the characters are flat, unappealing, charmless and unsympathetic: they're more robotic than the robot! And Michael Fassbender isn't given a lot to do as David, other than alternate between looking childishly hurt when a human is inconsiderate toward him (constant), or looking all childishly cow-eyed when observing alien technology (constant).
PROMETHEUS is a club-footed flop made by people who should know better. I've seen low budget Alien rip-off movies that were more entertaining than PROMETHEUS.
Luigi Cozzi's CONTAMINATION was more entertaining and his astronauts wore motorcycle helmets!
Harry Bromley Davenport's XTRO was more entertaining even while being whacked out ridiculous as hell. His aliens were seemingly unfathomable nonsense, but the humans all had recognizable motivations.
William Malone's CREATURE was more entertaining and it was made for about 20 times less than ALIENS!
Sean S. Cunningham's DEEPSTAR SIX at least had likable characters and a less goofy Endboss!
Although it's hard to believe that Asylum and Syfy could do worse, PROMETHEUS comes off as a thrown together A.P. boilerplate made for the SyFy Channel, but with a gargantuan budget.
Historically speaking, I should have seen it coming. When I thought 20th Century Fox couldn't do worse than ALIEN³, they puked up ALIEN: RESURRECTION (note that the directors and writers of those two have gone on to do so much better! What does that say about Ridley?). And then, when I thought Fox couldn't do worse than that, they shat out ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM. Now the producers show that they haven't clue one about their most successful franchise to date: A success story still running off the fumes of 1986 and James Cameron's ALIENS.
Like many one time great franchises from the 1970s and 1980s, it's like the new millennium is just a nursing home for the husks of empty old directors and producers, long after their vision and imagination fizzled, to rot away before our eyes. 20th Century Fox actually excreted a spin-off that is a worse movie than many of the low budget cheapies that mimicked the ALIEN storyline.
No, they never do.
Spare me the pathetic defense over the
"look" of PROMETHEUS. I don't go to pricey 3D movies just to gawk like a dumbstruck rube at the purty production values. It's a $200 plus million dollar movie! I know it's going to have good production values!
If you only go to movies to swoon over the scenery, why not visit a fancy mausoleum? NASA has some great ones in Florida and Houston.
So what went wrong? In short, everything and it starts and ends with the story^. Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett's story, ALIEN, left us all talking over 30 years later. PROMETHEUS is proof of the power of that first story! H.R. Giger and Ron Cobb's brilliant set designs (Giger for everything "Alien", Cobb for everything "earthian"), as well as director Ridley Scott's impeccable storytelling, brought it all together. The acting, SFX, and score was all artistic icing on the cake!
There was depth, thought, and a philosophy that students would write term papers about for decades to come. None of that exists in PROMETHEUS, as this movie requires no cerebral heavy lifting. The various mis-step beats, timed to keep our interest, never lead anywhere: they're just one damned thing after the next until the characters, with their unknown or ridiculous motivations, are killed off; often in a variety of bone-headed ways (instead of running away from something slowly falling toward you, how about running out of its path? Duh?!?)
There may be more movies in the ALIEN franchise, but I've been burned enough. I'll wait for the next one to come out on video first. If PROMETHEUS is any indication, the next ALIEN movie will be direct to video.
PROMETHEUS gets one shriek girl. Ridley! Dude! WTF?
copyright 2012 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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