movie review: Prometheus
Posted June 11, 2012on:
First things first:
Have you seen the movie yet?
do you plan to?
If your answers were “No”, and “Yes”, do not read this post. It’s cup runneth over with ridiculous quantities of snark and epically major spoilers. I suppose you could scroll all the way to the bottom and just read the last few sentences for the whole point of the post. But even that might spoil the film for you.
Ridley Scott got me a present. Something he’s been working on for a while. Something old skool Alien fans such as myself would certainly be excited about.
By “old skool Alien fans”, I mean those of us who were weaned into science fiction horror by Ellen Ripley and H.R. Giger. A series of films ripe with suspense, movies you only watch in broad daylight with all the lights on. Sure, the plots are simple (another distress call? didn’t this end really badly for the last ship that answered a distress call?), but the people were smart. They talked about what they planned to do, made contingency plans, found appropriate weapons, and they intelligently went about their business. Thanks to spot on direction and creepy sets, the suspension was through the roof. Thanks to well written dialog and plotting, the films were peppered with lighter moments and small talk, quickly giving depth to characters. This was a film franchise that was all about show instead of tell. Remember that scene with Ripley at the very end of Aliens (granted, that was one directed by James Cameron) when she’s in the nest with the queen? Not a word is spoken, and no words are needed.
So, with baited breath, I opened the gift Ridley Scott had made for me.
This is where the spoilers start, btw. You’ve been warned.
And it was a horror slasher movie.
Prometheus seemed be lacking in many of the things that made the old skool Alien series so good. Characters seemed to talk at each other instead of with each other, no one seemed to have a clue about what was going on, or how to properly conduct a scientific experiement (freeze dried head full of who knows what? hazmat suits are for pussies!). Even worse, the characters who claimed to be professionals of one type or other just seemed to continually do really stupid things.
Such as when Captain Janek and Ms. Vickers leave the bridge to attend to some, ahem, personal business, and the captain doesn’t assign anyone else to babysit the bridge or the comm system. It’s not like there are any crewmates outside the ship who might want to contact anyone in the ship, for any reason, since you know, they’re trapped in a hostile environment or anything. (doesn’t this stupid ship have an ensign closet or something? Also, if your crewmates were suddenly missing, wouldn’t you go through the comm system recordings to see if they said anything interesting like “hey, there’s something neat! I’m gonna go poke it!”)
Unlike my interest in the movie, the glaring issues seemed never ending:
- The pattern of the scripting and direction seemed heavy on the tell, and light on the show, leading to a severe lack of tension and suspense. Good thing David was able to tell Elizabeth that she was in a family way, otherwise she might never have noticed those debilitating cramps. if that conversation had been 10 minutes later, she would have thought she had appendicitis. Or maybe really bad indigestion.
- Going through background information really, really, really fast. We got what felt like 15 minutes of a really bored David, but the writers couldn’t be bothered to give us more than 15 seconds of background for these archeological find. Such a wasted opportunity for a really good montage, you know? maybe through in some decent music?
- Choppy plotting and plain old bad writing. A plot is supposed to go somewhere. Somewhere more interesting than just another whack-a-mole/whack-a-cliched crewmate plot device. It seems like the writers found about five different scripts (one of which was Sunshine, another of which was Event Horizon), grabbed some interesting scenes about random shit, and then mashed it all together. Scenes didn’t seem to connect to other scenes, and I never felt immersed in what was going on.
- Religious science fiction can be done well. This is not the way to do it. That whole aspect of the film left a foul taste in my mouth and the less said about that the better.
- The ending scene that made it a “prequel”, or “in the same universe”. Nope, sorry. It felt completely tacked on and like you were just throwing me a bone. At least you admit I deserve one.
Maybe I’m taking things way too seriously. Maybe Prometheus was meant to be tongue in cheek? A medical surgical gizmo that’s only designed for male patients? Characters leaving the bridge for some hot sex, just as their left behind comrades run into some really scary shit? an alien critter who grows to massive size in a matter of hours, even with nothing to eat? (decontamination. I don’t think that word means what you think it means) Acid that eats through your faceplate, yet infects and then reanimates you a few hours later? Wow, good thing I ducked and covered, otherwise those plot devices would have sheared my head right off.
On the plus side, Michael Fassbender was pretty awesome as the required android. As my other half put it “he uncanny valley’d all over me”. Imma gonna have to go rewatch X Men First Class a few times to rekindle my crush on The Fass.
The first Alien movie didn’t have a ton of money thrown at it. the special effects were mostly plastic models. The actors ad-libbed a lot of the dialog. The first Alien movie was made for love of doing scifi horror right. and 30+ years later it is still one of the smartest science fiction movies I’ve ever seen, and the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. The Alien movies of my childhood felt so intelligent, or maybe I was just a dumb kid.
So, Mr. Scott, do you think I’m stupid? Your new movie seems to be counting on that.
Or maybe the magic of the original Alien movie had nothing to do with you. Maybe the magic was Sigourney Weaver and H.R. Giger all along, and you just happened to be there to take the credit.