Ridley Scott’s new sci-fi thriller, Prometheus, is one of those movies that finds itself in an interesting conundrum. It’s extremely well made. But it’s just not good.
Not for lack of trying. We already know Scott is a great director and he is rock solid in the chair. The art production and cinema photography are award worthy. The acting is solid. In fact, the acting is a highlight which is amazing considering the cardboard cutouts our hapless thespians are asked to represent.
The script, by Jon Spaihts and Lost writer Damon Lindelof, reads like it was written while playing a drinking game throughout an Alien movie marathon. It hits on all the Alien character clichés. Pretty, tough female lead? Drink! Slimy corporate rep? Drink! Creepy android programmed for nefarious purposes? Drink! Too-likable-to-live alien fodder? Drink! Lone (female) survivor? Drink! Wise cracking black guy? Drink! (Is it just me or is there only one black guy on every space ship? I know the brothers don’t like swimming, but are they afraid of space too? I think the Weyland Corporation has some explaining to do.) There’s also the Weyland connection, egg-like containers, acid blood, morphing aliens growing in your guts, dark and brooding skeletal architecture. There’s even a duplicate scene of the original movie when Ripley refuses to let an infected crewman onto the ship, only this time it’s Charlize Theron (who just keeps getting sexier) playing the role. It all adds up to one hell of a bender.
And it would have equaled a hell of a movie if they had sobered up long enough to put it all into a cohesive story.
If you’re a fan of Giorgio Tsoukalos (and I know you are), you’ll appreciate the two prologues. The first shows a humanoid alien sacrificing himself to pour his DNA into Earth’s waters thereby sowing the seeds of our creation. The second happens – I don’t know – thousands or millions of years later. Scientists climbing around in caves find a pattern of stars that match patterns found all throughout different eras of mankind’s development. Being the curious sorts we are we send a ship to go take a peek and to meet our makers. Enter Prometheus.
Taking place in the year 2093, this whole expedition in futility is funded by an old and dying Peter Weyland, curiously casted with Guy Pearce. I think Guy Pearce is one of the most underrated and under-utilized leading men in Hollywood, and Scott gives him about five minutes of screen time all but unrecognizable under a layer of latex. Is Cliff Robertson dead? Were there no decent older actors available for that gig? Is there some kind of union quota for hiring latex prosthetic experts? One of many why-bother elements in this movie.
The Prometheus’ mission is to search this mysterious planet for signs of an alien race that Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) call “engineers.” They suspect (and later confirm) these beings created the human race using their own DNA.
After a two-year journey the crew of Prometheus is awakened from the now familiar deep space stasis and lands on a barren inhospitable planet. Find some ruins to investigate. Smart people proceed to do dumb things. Chaos ensues. All punctuated by a fairly disgusting self-performed c-section. As mentioned already, only one person survives. Curiously, the alien creators found by our doomed crew also had only one survivor. Those damn aliens never finish a job.
And if I remember my Alien lore correctly it was Predators who brought Aliens to Earth thousands of years ago to hunt and they didn’t look at all like… Actually, I’m not going to try and figure all that out.
Scott claims his film tackles ideas which are “unique, large, and provocative.” Scott obviously had a grand vision for this film, but it felt more like he just threw it together to put his name back on the Alien franchise. I found nothing unique, provocative or deep about this film. Scott spends most of his time wading around in the shallow end of the toddler pool. The most interesting aspect to me was Noomi Rapace’s character Elizabeth Shaw trying to balance her love of science and faith in God in the face of irrefutable evidence we were not His creation. But just like all its subject matter, the film just grazes the surface of something thoughtful and interesting.
The questions answered in this movie were none. The questions ask and unanswered were numerous. Sitting alone in the dark (sigh), the question I asked the most was “Uh, what?” Not just because I have bad hearing. And of course, the ending is begging for a sequel. The movie tagline should have been, “They went looking for our beginning. What they found was a big pile of cash.”
I really wanted to like this movie. I like wise cracking black guys. I like smoking hot, hard ass women. I even like aliens who use us as human jack-in-the-boxes. But in the end, Scott’s vision is just way too little, way too late. We’ve been subjected to gut busting, little mouths popping out of the bigger mouths, acid blood splashing people in the face, and idiots sticking those faces way too close to unknown hatching organisms for more than 30 years. It’s going to take a lot more than Prometheus to make the Alien franchise fresh and new again.
Next Alien reboot I’m staying home. Sometimes, ignorance truly is bliss.
Rating: 6 of 10.
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Jon Spaihts and Damon Linelof
Charlize Theron: Meredith Vickers
Guy Pearce: Peter Weyland
Idras Elba: Janek
Logan Marshall-Green: Charlie Holloway
Michael Fassbender: David
Noomi Rapace: Elizabeth Shaw