the Little Red Reviewer

movie review: Prometheus

Posted on: June 11, 2012

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.

one disappointment on top of another. But Yay for cheap matinees!

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!”)

I am very disappointed!

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.

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25 Responses to "movie review: Prometheus"

I totally agree with your comments about plot holes etc. – the observation about the male only surgical device (brought on board for sole use by the distinctly female Ms Theron) made me chuckle. I have to say though that, largely down to The Fass, I found the film entertaining overall. Maybe it’s easier to enjoy if you’re not a die hard Alien fan? Definitely not one to be taken seriously or thought too much about, but not a total loss as far as passing a few hours goes, in my opinion.

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I’m a die hard fan, and went in with way too high of expectations.

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Er. actually the medical capsule was brought on board for Peter Weyland, not Vickers at all. Aside from that I’ll say it wasn’t “designed” for male’s so much as “programmed only for males” which are two different things.

I’m an ALIEN fan and I liked it, and the majority of plot issues Red has with the film… can be explained, but I’ve exhausted myself doing so around the internet for the last few days. From here on out I’ll just say “I liked it!” until I write up my positive review.
:D

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Running straight when being chased by a doughnut sized spaceship? All scientists acting like they are addicted to crystal meth? A super magical surgery machine that performs an abortion/c-section despite not really knowing the difference between a stomach and a vagina? And then uses a staple gun to put her back together? The recipient of the surgery running around, jumping and falling over cliffs without collapsing in a puddle of internal bleeding and her own intestines?

I’m almost curious to see how you managed to resolve any of these plot threads in your mind.

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Exobiologist on alien planet, see evidence of aliens who were killed running away from something dangerous, but when he spots a small snake-like creature he goes up to it and says, isn’t it pretty? Deserves everything he gets.

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While I really enjoyed the film, despite the many plot holes, this scene in particular did annoy me. “Aww, isn’t it cute!” Well, no, it isn’t, it looks like a giant, weaving penis with teeth, but you go ahead and pet it anyway.

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lol, I thought the same thing! there was some major tentacle “stuff” happening. . . and yeah, I know H.R. Giger was known for overtly sexual creature design but, ehhh. . . . ehhh. it was a thick wavy penis.

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Every problem with the movie can be put down to the writing. Directing, editing, music, and the acting are good. The plot and characterisation are the weak points which hold the movie back and that is the fault of the two writers assigned to the script. This is an action-adventure which aimed to introduce Space Jockey and it achieved it adequately enough. The plot is okay, nothing more and while its attempts at bringing religion/origins of life didn’t work brilliantly these elements were tacked on to make it different from other films in the Alien franchise. It worked for me, a major fan of Alien and its sequel. I honestly preferred this to the pretentious sequels in the franchise, Alien 3 and Resurrection.

I’m putting together a review of this and I’ll expand on it (and bore people to death) in that but I think you’re being way too harsh.

“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.”

This statement is just outrageous especially if you know how the original film developed. Scott was instrumental in getting the key-players involved, defending the project from budget cuts and orchestrating the look of the film (which is his strength).

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yes, I’m being harsh. and yes, decent writing would have gone a long way towards a better review from me. Doesn’t help either that I went in with obscenely high expectations. And yes, Scott did a great job pushing for the original, because come on, a scifi horror movie? who is gonna want to see that? He cared so much for that film, put everything into it. I feel like he didn’t care as much about this one. Again, it’s me and my super high expectations.

regarding the lesser Alien movies – Alien 3 was terrible. Resurrection was fun and silly, and gets more and more enjoyable upon rewatch.

I’m looking forward to your review, because I suspect that I’ll agree with a lot of what you enjoyed about the movie.

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Just finished my review.

http://genkinahito.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/prometheus/

Hope I don’t bore you to death!

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not bored at all, I appreciated all the background information you gave. I wish I’d been more patient in my review and put those types of details in.

I also really wish I could kick this stupid nostalgia fetish!

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It seems opinion is split between those expecting Alien (completely understandable because that film is perfection) and those going in with little or no expectations. That said some people found it boring as an action film.

I didn’t like Alien Resurrection but 3 is the worst and I think we should all avoid mentioning those awful Alien vs Predator films…

I hope I didn’t come off too strong with my first comment. When I was re-reading the outrageous bit I had an image of me red-faced with steam coming out of my ears and a spinning moustache (not that I have a moustache) :P

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Actually Alien 3 is the best in the series. That was David Fincher really flexing his directorial muscles. And also, it’s how you DO make a religious science fiction movie that’s blasphemous/beatific (as opposed to what Scott does which is to have the character push the big crucifix into the camera every five minutes)

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I agree with everything you have said here. We saw it with a small audience that were mostly old enough to have seen the original films. Guess what we all did when we got to the ‘prequel’ bit? We laughed . . . I don’t think that was the intended reaction :(

Good points: Guy Pearce and Michael Fassbender were both on top form and acting rings around the rest of the cast.

Bad points: Plot holes that you could fly an aircraft carrier through and stupidly stupid characters. As well as the ones you mentioned I particularly liked:

The lead character goes from an English accent as a child to a vaguely Scandinavian one as an adult.

They lose contact with the two guys in the structure during the storm, but the ‘pups’ are still uplinking data. Plus how did those guys get lost anyway, seen as one of them was the geologist in charge of mapping and had a wrist happy thing that he used earlier?

If these Engineers seeded life on Earth why does their DNA match ours? First, they look obviously different. Second, what about all the other life, which has DNA that doesn’t match ours? What about evolution?

Why are pyramids so damned impossible for early humans to build? Have you never watched a small child building with bricks? Why would the Engineers leave messages for us to follow and then try to kill us?

Arrgggghhh!!!!! My brain hurts and my science degree wants me to hit something!

What happened to Ridley Scott: did someone drop him on his head or something?

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“Plus how did those guys get lost anyway, seen as one of them was the geologist in charge of mapping and had a wrist happy thing that he used earlier?”

was mucked up by the sandstorm, of course!! ;)

evolution, shcmevolution. what, are you some kinda smarty pants scientist or something?

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Although I highly doubt they need my sympathy, I feel bad for Ridley Scott and Damon Lidelof. They have spent the past year screaming from the mountaintops that Prometheus is NOT an Alien prequel, and yet now it’s here and what happens – people are pissed that it’s not an Alien movie. And while I understand that’s the not the entire crux of your argument, I definitely see it in there (and even moreso in numerous other negative reviews I’ve read). Personally, I think what Scott was going for here – a completely different story set in the same universe – is much more interesting than what could have been a simple, lame prequel. Not once during any of the original Alien movies did I think “this is OK, but it would be so much better if I just knew where these things came from.” I think something many of this film’s detractors need to ask themselves is this – would you feel as negative about it if the Engineers were NOT the space jockeys from Alien, and Weyland was instead named Smith? If every bit of connective tissue from the Alien films was severed, would you look at this movie differently and perhaps be more forgiving of it? If that’s the case, then it’s again worth pointing out that that’s kind of what Scott was asking the audience to do anyway.

The movie is flawed, to be sure, but so was John Carter, another overly-ambitious sci-fi film I enjoyed. I’ve noticed a trend lately of fans (particularly in the “nerdy” arena) demand perfection from their films. That’s way too high standard to ever hold – in my opinion, the sheer ambition of Prometheus, which poses intriguing questions about what it would be like to meet our creators (and how we will handle it if it turns out they don’t like us) earns it more credit than most other summer blockbusters. I don’t need all the answers given to me as long as the questions are interesting enough that I will want to continue discussing them with friends afterwards (as was the case here). For me, the good outweighed the bad, and although I agree that some of the dialogue was clunky or some of the characters undeveloped, I was drawn in by what the movie was offering more often than not. Plus, perhaps a lifetime of watching horror movies has just left me numb to characters making stupid decisions in these kinds of films (if Cabin in the Woods is to be believed, they actually HAVE to). An heck, a guy deserting his post to score some time with Charlize Theron actually strikes me as one of the most realistic scenes in the film – guys are dumb like that, let’s face it. Also, I’m hoping some of the undeveloped characters will be given a little more face-time in the inevitable director’s cut (something I’ve just come to accept as a given with Ridley Scott films).

Besides, nostalgia colors a lot of what we think, and I think people remember the characters from Alien as being a lot better than they are. There’s really not a whole lot to Ripley other than a survival mentality (she didn’t really become the strong character we really remember her as until Cameron’s sequel), and I’ll be very surprised if, off the top of your head, you could give me more than two or three discernible character traits of Veronica Cartwright or John Hurt’s characters. I’m not trashing Alien, mind you – it’s an amazing film, obviously. I’m just saying, some of the complaints I’ve seen directed at Prometheus can also be levied against Alien, and I wonder if people will recognize that and soften their stance on this new film as time goes by.

Two things you said that I did really disagree with – first, you complained that, compared to the other Alien movies, Prometheus was just “a horror slasher movie.” Please – Scott’s original Alien fits this definition much more than Prometheus. Scott always saw Alien as a horror film (the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre of sci-fi,” as he put it) – in every way it follows the typical slasher template. Prometheus might have horror-esque scenes (like the zombie crew-member attack, one sequence I found out of place and unnecessary), but the larger ideas at play, whether you think they were orchestrated well or not, still set the film more in “epic sci-fi” territory, I think.

Second, you list as one of the silly plot devices “an alien critter who grows to massive size in a matter of hours, even with nothing to eat.” Again, I hate to keep pointing this out, but that is EXACTLY the case in Alien, as well. The xenomorph grows to full adult size before attacking any of the crew members. Cameron’s sequel was where the series actually started showing an interest in the life cycle of these things. But again I ask, does it even matter. Scott seems to view these as more Lovecraftian, and like in Lovecraft, sometimes you just don’t get the explanations. That’s fine by me.

It’s too bad you didn’t enjoy it, but I wonder if you will ever give it another shot somewhere down the line, and try to view it through less of an Alien-prism? Perhaps if the next two films in Scott’s planned Prometheus trilogy are actually made? Once this series is complete and we can fully see just how different of a story it is, maybe then people will be willing to accept it as its own beast.

Oh, and by the way, you should check out the restored workprint version of Alien 3 – it’s a massive improvement, I believe.

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I wish it had never been advertised as anything connected with Alien in any way, and leaving “that scene” at the end as an easter egg, or leaving it out all together. because yes, had it just been another scifi horror flick, I would have enjoyed it as such, I could have enjoyed it as it’s own beast, instead of the bastard humpbacked stepchild of something that shaped my entrance into science fiction.

Was the original Alien a horror movie? Hell to the yeah. But i remember it being a lot smarter. I think that’s what has me so pissed off, that this movie was just so dumb, that the characters said and did stupid things left and right. Is nostalgia rearing its ugly head? more than likely.

Will I give this movie another shot, now that I know what to expect, and what not to expect? Also, more than likely.

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I agree that the final shot (even though I thought it was cool on its own) felt tacked on, and maybe forced by the studio. Same with Rapace’s final transmission. But at the same time, I love that it’s a completely new story in the same universe, sort of in the same way that I’ve always liked how Scott has said he believes Alien and Blade Runner take part in the same universe, or how many of Stephen King’s books take place in the same universe, etc. It just seems to make the overall mythology richer, without having to repeat the same things we’ve seen before (at least not in the same context).

Also, your review never really mentioned what a technical achievement this film was, but I’m hoping you’d at least agree with that. Visually it was a thing of beauty, and made me wish I could install a full 3D IMAX in my home for future viewings.

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It was absolutely a visual and technical achievement! The visual effects were stunning, I couldn’t tell if the critters were CGI or some sort of motion capture), and i didn’t want the Star Map scene to end! and that bit with their music induced computer that was maybe some kind of gene-swapping bio-thing was completely brilliant. I did really appreciate those details . . . but as you can see, I wrote the above while still pissed off. :(

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Ha, ha, roflmao! But did you like it or what?? I just can’t quite decide. I haven’t seen it and part of me wasn’t sure I wanted to – something about super high expectations, etc, etc… Didn’t realise The Fass was in it! Studley dude. Wicked grin. Love that guy. It’s almost worth seeing for that alone. As usual, I have lowered the tone ;(
Lynn :D

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Fass is ridiculously hot! omg, that crooked grin, and that jawline? day. amn. Is there a youtube channel where he just stands there without a shirt on and reads from the phone book and smiles goofily every few minutes? Cuz I could die a happy girl with that on repeat.

and my credibility as an intelligent mature grown up just took a nose dive. . . ;)

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like I said…. lowering the tone!

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